Bell peppers are large fruit that typically measure 3×4 inches. Compared to other types of peppers that can yield 100 peppers per plant, bell peppers will yield a smaller number per plant but the yield in weight should be similar.
The main factor in how many bell peppers to expect from one plant is the size of the bell pepper plant. A bell pepper plant can vary big time in size depending on how much time the plant has had for vegetative growth before fruiting. Expect anywhere from 2-30 bell peppers from a single plant.
The main cause of low bell pepper yields is a lack of growing time. Bell pepper plants are warm weather plants and areas that have short growing seasons are just missing the mark. A bell pepper plant started outside with only 3-4 months to grow and produce fruit are likely to only grow to about 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide and produce only a couple bell peppers.
The best way to avoid this is to start plants indoors for 8 weeks or so and give the plants this extra time for vegetative growth. By doing this the bell pepper plant should be able to reach 2-3 feet tall and around 2 feet wide and produce 5-10 good sized bell peppers in a season.
After transplanting the bell pepper plants outside watch the plant carefully for flowering. If the plant produces any flowers within 4 weeks after transplanting pick the flowers off so that the plant stays in a vegetative growth state. After four weeks if it starts to flower let it be.
To start bell peppers or anything else indoors I recommend Cow Pots. Cow Pots are made by a third generation dairy farmer and are green and add nutrition to the soil.
Bell peppers are scientifically classified as Capsicum annuum, but contrary to that classification they are perennial plants that can live for 2-5+ years. To get a plant that produces the most amount of bell peppers possible you’ll need to overwinter the plant. There are two ways to do this, with supplemental lighting and without.
Without supplemental lighting you’ll want to leave the plant outdoors while temperatures drop and take it in just before the first frost. By doing this you get the plant to start entering a dormant state naturally. Heavily prune the plant to 1/2 or 1/3 of its size. The plant will enter a dormant stage and become bare and naked of leaves like a tree in the winter time. Once spring comes around break it out of its dormant state by giving it more light and higher temperatures. If successfully overwintered the plant will pick up where it left off and produce more bell peppers for a longer and earlier fruiting period.
To get the absolute most bell peppers per plant you should overwinter the bell pepper plant with supplemental lighting. This should produce a 6×6 foot behemoth plant after a year of growing that will produce 30 or more bell peppers in a season. A little bit of supplemental lighting should keep the plant growing minimally and you don’t need to prune it back much. A more serious indoor light can keep the bell pepper plant flowering and producing peppers all winter.
If you really wanted to push the limits on production per plant and have a pot big enough to do so I think you could take it quite a bit further. In greenhouses bell pepper plants are grown in a “V” system where they are topped once and have two main stems. The two stems are run up lengths of twine and regularly grow over 10 feet tall. Here’s a super in depth article on greenhouse bell pepper production.
How Long Do Bell Peppers Take to Grow?
Bell pepper seed companies tend to list days to maturity for bell pepper transplants that have been started indoors for 8-10 weeks. Grown from a transplant most bell peppers will have green bell peppers that are full size and ready to pick after 60 days and will reach full ripeness and their final color within 90 days. Bell pepper plants grown from seed will take 120-150 days to harvest.
Almost all bell pepper varieties start out with immature green fruit that grows in size until it reaches around 3×4 inches. After the bell pepper reaches its full size it will take about 3 weeks for it to turn color and become fully ripe. After flowering starts expect around 7-8 weeks for fully mature and ripened bell peppers to appear.
Do Bell Pepper Plants Keep Producing?
This topic is tough to find accurate information on. Commerically, I found no evidence of bell pepper plant production year round. The cost of supplemental lighting and pests would be the biggest deterrent for this. They might be doing this in areas closer to the equator with good sunlight year round.
In the video towards the top of the article the grower is definitely having success growing his bell pepper plant indoor with great vegetative growth and a decent amount of pepper production when he wants it. He states in the video above that he usually likes to keep the plants in vegetative growth while indoors. It seems like he would do this by giving them different light schedules or by pruning off flowers. I’ve watched a few of his videos and didn’t figure out how he does this. He’s a little bit of a mad scientist.
The video below is a great video where the grower states that he does get peppers from the same plant multiple times but that he needs to trim the plant to create new growth that stimulates new fruit production. So he trims the plant back aggressively and then harvests about every 3 months. He also grafts different pepper varieties onto one plant.
Increase Bell Pepper Yields
- Start Bell Pepper Plants Indoors – This is common practice with bell peppers and a must to increase yields. In areas with a short growing season outside of only 3-4 months the 8-10 week start indoors can lead to 2-3x yields at the end of the growing season. Make sure to pick flowers off of the bell pepper plants in the first 4 weeks of transplanting it outside to keep it in a vegetative growth state during the early outdoor season.
- Hand Pollination – By hand pollinating you’re doing what you can to give each and every flower the best shot at becoming a fruit. Bell peppers have what’s called “perfect” flowers, meaning a single flower has both male and female parts. Plants with “perfect” flowers are self-pollinating. Still, there are causes for low pollination. If your peppers are in an area where they are sheltered from the wind the lack of branch movement can cause low pollination. To hand pollinate, take a paint brush and swirl it around the inside of the flower or you can use this thing.
- Big Enough Pot for Potted Plants – For potted bell peppers give them a pot with 12 inches of depth and at least 3 gallons of dirt to grow in. Smart Pots are top of the line.
- Prune Plants – If you know that you want to keep the plant for multiple years plan on topping the plant once or twice to give it 2 or 4 main stems and a real bush build. If you decide to keep the plant late in the season it’s not a big deal and pruning as a whole around the plant will direct growth back into the existing structure and branches and make a bushy plant with thick branches anyways. Prune the bottom of the plant completely 6-12″ from the soil to discourage disease. Later in the season when bell peppers are near their full size you’ll want to take off leaves that are blocking direct sunlight from the peppers to hasten ripening.
- Avoid Extreme Temperatures – The right temperatures for bell pepper plants is 65-85 degrees. Regular temperatures above 90 degrees can cause flower drop and no fruit and temperatures below 60 can do the same. If you have a heat wave coming be sure to water more regularly and you might want to try and shade the plants with a tarp during the hottest hours of the day. For cool temperatures a clear row cover can increase temperatures by 10 degrees.
- Provide Good Soil – To improve your soil organically add compost to it every year when you’re done gardening for the season. Call your local city government and you should be able to access huge amounts of compost piled up from the city collecting leaves and grass clippings. Adding compost to the soil makes it more loamy. Sandy soil drains to freely and doesn’t retain water or nutrients; clay soil gets compacted and doesn’t drain well. Loamy soil has the right texture to allow water, roots, and air to pass through it freely but still retain moisture and nutrients. Beyond giving soil better texture compost also adds nutrients to the soil. To check your soil PH and nutrient levels you can do an inexpensive soil test. Jack’s Classic is a great standard all purpose fertilizer. It measures 20-20-20 and is water soluble. You can just use half the recommended amount and make it 10-10-10. Organic Plant Magic and Garden Tone are good all purpose organic fertilizers.