Peppers are a fun and relatively ‘hands-off’ crop to grow. There are many types you can choose from with fruits that range from sweet to super hot. When growing peppers in raised beds, in-ground gardens, and containers, it’s important to have the right pepper plant spacing. Seedlings planted too close together can result in reduced yield and those planted too far apart waste valuable garden space. Below you’ll learn the proper spacing for pepper plants so you can give your seedlings a strong start to the growing season.
Why spacing between pepper plants matters
Spacing pepper plants at the appropriate distance is the smart way to kick off the growing season. Below you’ll discover why you need to consider giving pepper varieties the right amount of room between plants.
Reason 1: Overcrowding plants reduces plant health
Overcrowded plants are more prone to insect and disease issues which in turn affects plant health and growth. When plants are plagued by pests or plant diseases expect yield to be affected. If peppers are planted too close, they’ll grow into their neighbors. This reduces air circulation around the plants and the foliage won’t dry off as quickly after watering or rain. Wet foliage is an invitation to disease.
Reason 2: Overcrowding plants reduces yield
Not only do insect problems and plant diseases affect yield, but so too can tightly packed plants that have to compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Peppers need a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight to produce sturdy, healthy plants. Tightly packed don’t get enough light to grow into large plants. In a short season climate like mine a variety with a long maturity period needs ideal conditions and the right spacing to have a chance at maturing its fruits.
Pepper plants also need a consistent supply of water and nutrients. I deep water the peppers in my garden beds weekly if there has been no rain. Container-grown peppers dry out quicker than garden plants and need to be watered two to three times a week depending on the weather. I also feed pepper plants every 2 to 3 weeks with a liquid organic fertilizer.
Reason 3: Planting peppers too far apart affects garden productivity
Planting peppers too closely causes problems, but planting them too far apart can also be an issue as it reduces overall garden production. How? Because you’re not maximizing your growing space. Empty space between plants is not only unproductive, but also encourages weeds. Plants spaced the right distance apart shade the soil and reduce weed growth. I mulch pepper plants with straw or shredded leaves after planting to further reduce weeds.
How to plant peppers
Start peppers from seeds sown indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost date or purchase them as transplants from a local garden centre. Hot and sweet peppers are heat-loving vegetables so don’t plant them outdoors until the soil temperature has warmed to at least 60 F (15 C). Before transplanting hardened off peppers seedlings, give them a good watering. I use a long-handled watering wand set to a gently spray. If you can, transplant on a cloudy or drizzly day to reduce transplant shock. Carefully pop the seedlings out of their pots or cell packs. Seedlings grown in peat, fiber, or coir pots can technically be transplanted without removing the pot, but I always peel it away as it takes a long time to break down and can impede plant growth.
Carefully tuck each young plant into the soil, planting it at the same depth it was in its container. Try not to disturb the root ball. Gently firm soil around the plant and water well to help it settle in. I transplant my hot and bell pepper seedlings outside about 1 to 2 weeks after the last frost date. Prolonged cold temperatures can damage tender pepper plants and set back the plants. If the temperature dips after planting, cover bed with row covers or mini hoop tunnels.
Where to plant peppers
The ideal site for peppers offers full sun and fertile, well-draining soil. Pepper plants aren’t heavy feeders, but amending the soil with compost prior to planting is beneficial. Peppers also thrive when grown in pots. I love planting hot peppers in fabric or plastic containers on my sunny back deck, or in hanging baskets. Varieties with cascading growth habits, like Pot-a-peno, a jalapeño that grows about a foot tall but up to 18 inches wide, are good choices for baskets.
Spacing for pepper plants
Your spacing strategy depends on how you grow your pepper plants. There are three main ways to grow peppers:
- Row planting in an in-ground garden – When planting peppers in rows you’ll need to consider the space between each plant as well as the space between the rows.
- In raised beds – Because raised beds allow intensive planting you can fit a lot of plants in a single bed. In my raised beds I plant peppers in a grid, not in rows to maximize space. You can plant in rows if you prefer.
- Plant in containers – Peppers make excellent container plants. Depending on the size and shape of the container you may have space for just one pepper or multiple plants per pot.
Pepper plant spacing
Below you’ll find advice on plant spacing for the most common types of peppers like bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and super hot habanero peppers. I’ve also offered spacing tips for growing in containers as well as garden beds.
Bell pepper plant spacing
Bell pepper plants, as well as other types of sweet peppers, typically grow taller than hot peppers like jalapeño and serrano. Most bell varieties grow up to 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and 15 to 18 inches wide. Because of the mature plant size my bell pepper plant spacing is 18 inches apart, stem to stem. Rows should be 30 to 36 inches apart. If planting bell peppers in containers opt for a fabric or plastic pot that holds at least 5 gallons of growing medium.
Jalapeno pepper plant spacing
Jalapeños peppers are one of the most popular types of hot peppers grown in home gardens. The deep green fruits provide a medium-hot kick to many dishes and each plant can yield several dozen peppers. These are productive plants and grow 1 to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. Space jalapeño peppers 12 to 18 inches apart and rows 24 to 36 inches apart. To grow jalapeños in pots select a container that holds at least 5 gallons of potting mix.
Cayenne pepper plant spacing
Oh boy I love cayenne peppers! I typically plant a half dozen plants so we have enough fruits for fresh eating as well as drying for hot pepper flakes. Like jalapeño and shishito peppers, these plants grow about 2 to 3 feet tall. I plant them in a grid and space each seedling 12 to 18 inches apart. When planting cayenne peppers in a container choose one that holds 3 to 5 gallons of a high quality growing medium.
Habanero pepper plant spacing
Super hot peppers like habanero peppers as well as ghost and scotch bonnet peppers can grow quite large. This, of course, depends on your geographic location and in warm climates habanero pepper plants can grow 4 to 5 feet tall. In my northern garden my habanero plants generally grow about 3 feet tall, but they do produce larger plants than jalapeño or cayenne peppers. For that reason I space habanero peppers 18 to 24 inches apart. Habanero plants grown in pots should be given a container, like a standard plastic bucket, that holds at least 5 gallons of potting mix. If up-cycling a container like a bucket be sure to add drainage holes before planting.
Should you stake pepper plants?
Staking peppers is an important part of growing healthy plants. The branches of pepper plants can be brittle and suffer damage in high winds, particularly when they’re heavy with ripening fruits. To reduce the risk of plant damage I stake seedlings as soon as they’re planted and use a tomato cage, bamboo stake, or another type of support for each plant. Every couple of weeks I secure the new growth to the stake or support using plant clips, lengths of twine, or plant ties.
For further reading on growing peppers be sure to check out these articles:
- Learn how to grow shishito peppers
- 12 science-based companion plants for peppers
- How to prune pepper plants to increase yield
- Growing hot peppers in gardens and containers
- Learn how to grow fish peppers
Did this article help you learn more about pepper plant spacing?