Pepper plants (Capsicum spp.) are a bright, fun addition to any garden. They can be ornamentals, tabasco peppers grow straight up on the plant and look cool, as well as edible or used to make a powdered spice or hot sauce.
There are so many pepper varieties to choose from within the sweet and spicy categories. Pepper plants do well in do well in containers, beds, or in the ground.
While all are part of the Capsicum genus, domesticated peppers are typically one of four species – annuum, baccatum, chinense, frutescens, or pubescens. Check out “Different Types & Varieties of Peppers” for more detail.
Life Cycle of Pepper Plants
Pepper Seed Germination
Pepper seeds will germinate in 4-21 days depending on soil temperatures. Pepper seeds should germinate with soil temperatures of 60 degrees above but will germinate optimally with temperatures of around 85 degrees.
In general they will germinate faster in warmer temperatures and slower in cooler temperatures. This is the reason heating mats are sometimes used, to speed up germination.
If heating mats are used they should be removed when 30% or so of seeds have sprouted. While most seeds like warmer temperatures to germinate, seedlings like cooler temperatures to grow in around 55-75 degrees.
After sprouting, pepper plants will grow for about 10 weeks before flowering. During the first 3 weeks of growth a large portion of the plants energy is going to root growth. After that most of the plants energy is going towards foliage and growth above ground.
If pepper plants start to flower before the 10 week mark consider pinching the flowers off to keep the plant in a vegetative growth state. This way the plant will be bigger come harvest time and able to support more peppers.
Flowering & Fruit Production
Somewhere in the 10-12 week point after sprouting pepper plants will start to flower. Pepper plants have “perfect” flowers that have both male and female parts within the same flower. These types of flowers are also called “self-pollinating”.
Cross-pollination of pepper flowers can and does occur. If the cross-pollination happens between two different pepper varieties the peppers taste will not be affected but the seeds within the peppers will have genetics from both varieties of pepper plant.
Check out “Pepper Plant Flower Blossoms, Pollination, & Fruit Setting” for in depth information on this growing stage of the pepper plants life cycle.
At some point most pepper plants will enter dormancy regardless if they are in a climate that can support growth all year round.
Most pepper plants will produce for a period between 4-16 weeks and then need to be dormant for a few months before producing flowers and peppers again. Some pepper plants, like Big Thai, will produce all of their peppers at once.
If temperature highs don’t go above 60 plant growth will stall. At some point at lower temperatures the foliage will die and the plant will be a bare bush.
In northern climates where hard freezes are the norm the pepper plant will need to be brought indoors or the root system will also be killed by cold temperatures and the plant will be no more.
Second Year of Growth
When temperatures warm a pepper plant will begin producing leaves and growing bigger and bushier. At some point it will flower and produce peppers again.
Subsequent Years of Growth & Plant Death
Pepper plants are perennials that can grow for 5+ years. Different varieties of peppers will last longer than others.
Check out “How Many Peppers Grow Per Plant” for more information on how long different pepper plants can live for and how long the different pepper plants will produce for.
Are Pepper Plants Annuals or Perennials?
In their native climate, they can be grown as perennials, but in North America, they are typically grown as annuals, meaning they have only one growing season. In seasonal climates or those that experience spring, summer, fall, and winter, pepper plants will only survive during the warmer weather.
If you live in an area of the US with warmer temperatures year-round, like Florida or Texas, pepper plants may continue to grow for many seasons, flowering and producing fruit for up to three years.
Can I Grow Only One Pepper Plant?
Pepper plants have flowers that are “perfect” flowers, meaning they have both male and female parts within the same flower. Because of this you can grow only one pepper plant and that plant will flower, become successfully pollinated, and produce fruit all by itself.
Please comment below with your thoughts about pepper plants life cycles.