How to Grow Capsicum Annuum
Capsicum annuum is a vegetable plant that produces ornamental and culinary fruit. Many cultivars are available, including bell peppers, sweet peppers and hot peppers. Capsicum plants are native to tropical areas and cannot survive in cold conditions. They are grown as annuals in most areas of the United States. They may, however, be grown as perennials in tropical regions where temperatures remain between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Capsicum annuum take a bit of effort to grow, as they must be started from seed. The fruit is ready for harvest after about 120 days.
Start Capsicum annuum seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before the final frost. Fill small peat pots with a high-quality seed-starting mix. Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep in the soil, and then place the pots in a sunny location with a consistent temperature of between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water the Capsicum annuum seeds immediately after planting to settle the soil. Continue to water once per week or enough to keep the soil consistently moist until growth emerges. Reduce watering to once every two weeks after germination to harden the plants and prepare them for transplanting.
Plant Capsicum annuum seedlings outdoors two to three weeks after the last frost when the soil has warmed. Choose a planting location with full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Dig planting holes of equal size to the peat pots, and then set the pots directly into the ground. Space plantings 12 to 24 inches apart.
Water plants immediately after planting to settle the soil and encourage growth. Continue watering about once a week to keep the soil uniformly moist. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches at each watering.
Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the base of Capsicum annuum plants once they have become well-established, after about three weeks of growth. The mulch layer will conserve vital moisture and control weeds that may compete for nutrients. Use bark mulch, hay or leaves.
Feed Capsicum annuum using 3 tablespoons 33-0-0 NPK fertilizer per 10 feet of row once the first fruit reaches about 1 inch in diameter. Side-dress by applying the fertilizer to the ground several inches to the side of the plants. Fertilize capsicum once every two to three weeks using a high-phosphorus fertilizer after the fruit has completely set and continue until harvest time.
Harvest Capsicum annuum fruit when they are full-sized, firm to the touch and green or yellow in color. Cut the stems while harvesting instead of pulling, or you may break the brittle branches of the plant. Store peppers in the refrigerator for two to three weeks or freeze to increase the lifespan of your yield.
Tips and Warnings
Germination of Capsicum annuum seeds will not occur if plants are consistently exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For the best results, do not allow the temperature of the newly planted seeds to drop below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Lack of light during the germination process will produce leggy, underdeveloped capsicum transplants. Do not plant Capsicum annuum where eggplant, potatoes or tobacco have been previously grown.