Jalapeno peppers are not only delicious but also versatile chilies that can be added to any dish. And, thankfully, these plants are not difficult to grow! So if you love growing vegetables in your garden to have a fresh supply of produce, you should definitely consider adding this popular chili pepper to your collection.
To increase your chance of successfully growing your own jalapeno plant, it is important to have some basic understanding of its growth cycle. There are six jalapeno plant stages that every grower should know about: the seedling stage, adolescent stage, growth stage, maturation stage, flowering stage, and fruiting stage. The plant requires different care at each stage, so you need to understand these changes if you want to reap good yields at the end of the growing season.
How long does a jalapeno take to grow?
Planning to grow your own jalapeno plants in your backyard? The good news is that this variety of bell pepper is known to grow pretty quickly and can produce ready-to-harvest fruits from as early as 65 days, depending on the variety. For most peppers, though, the typical harvest time is around day 70 to 80.
These tasty chilies grow in hardiness zones 9 through 11, which means they do best in warmer climates. If you grow the peppers annually, you can expect a harvest around late summer to early fall. Or, if you have an indoor garden, you can grow them year-round as long as you provide them with the correct lighting, temperature, moisture, and nutrient-rich soil.
One thing to keep in mind is that jalapenos are quite sensitive to cold temperatures – even the slightest frost can damage the fruits. Thus, you need to protect your plants during the winter if they are planted outdoors, by covering them with frost blankets to prevent frost damage.
What are the different jalapeno plant stages?
1. Germination and seedling stage
All plants, whether they are vegetables or flowers, follow the same pattern of growth, from seed to maturity. At week zero, the jalapeno seeds begin to germinate with the help of soil nutrients, a bit of moisture, and proper temperatures. The plants become active for the first time, and with the right growing conditions, they will begin to sprout and develop true leaves. The whole process from seed germination to the seedling stage generally takes about three weeks.
Now, growing jalapeno seedlings require close monitoring since they can be extra sensitive to temperatures, moisture levels, and lighting. Jalapenos, just like their other pepper cousins, need warmth to stimulate the growth of roots. Make sure the seedlings are grown at temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit and receive 12 to 16 hours of direct sunlight every day. Grow lights also work if you cannot provide sufficient hours of sunlight. We recommend setting artificial lights at 12 to 24 inches above the leaves. Keep the soil moist but avoid overwatering it.
After one to two weeks of sprouting, you may apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer reduced to a quarter or half strength. Avoid using the full dosage as the tiny seedlings will not need that much fertilizer at this growth stage.
2. Adolescent stage
At week three or four, you should notice the seedlings producing a set of true leaves. At this point, your jalapeno is in the adolescent stage of its growth cycle. This is the perfect time to transplant the seedlings from their seed trays to larger containers. You can use a standard potting mix as your plants are now ready to absorb more nutrients.
Applying fertilizer at full strength during this growth stage will be more beneficial to your plants. Either granular or water-soluble fertilizers work perfectly fine for bell peppers.
As for lighting requirements, the 16 hours of sunlight exposure should be maintained as the plants begin to grow taller and stronger. Keep the soil moist but not overly saturated.
3. Growth stage
Jalapeno plants enter the growth stage starting at week four to eight. This is where the young plants begin to produce characteristic foliage and a stronger root system. At this stage, the growth speed of your jalapenos is evident as the plants become more established.
To support their growth, your young jalapeno plants must be transplanted to their second larger container (if you have not done this previously) to accommodate new growth. Most importantly, feed your plants with nitrogen-rich fertilizer to encourage the growth of green foliage. Nutrient-deficient soil can trigger yellowing of the leaves.
If your young jalapenos are growing pepper flowers, trim them off using a sterilized pair of scissors. Pruning your plants this way will force them to focus all their energy and resources on growing a more extensive root system.
Lastly, continue feeding your plants with full-dose fertilizer and placing them in full direct sunlight (or grow lights).
4. Maturation stage
Jalapeno plants should reach maturity within two to four months after germination. At this stage, transplanting them into their final containers is recommended as you prepare them for the outdoor environment – a process known as ‘hardening off.’
The maturation stage of your plants greatly affects their yields, so make sure to provide them with lots of nutrients and appropriate lighting. It is also recommended to plant the jalapenos in a container with a minimum size of three gallons so they can grow as full and large as possible.
Peppers, in general, do best in soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5, so do check the soil regularly using a soil pH meter. Also remember that jalapenos can grow about two to three feet and will need enough space for their roots and foliage, so plant them about 18 to 24 inches apart from each other. As for water and fertilizer requirements, continue as before for the best yields.
5. Flowering stage
The flowering stage is the next phase of the jalapeno’s growth cycle. By this time – about two to four weeks after they have been transplanted outdoors – your plants should start producing flowers. Expert growers recommend cutting off any premature flowers so the plant can continue growing more leaves and stems.
Since your plants are now at the flowering stage, they no longer need to receive high-nitrogen fertilizer. Instead, you can add a phosphorus-rich fertilizer (like Neptune’s Harvest) to your plant care regimen. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that helps growing plants absorb more energy from the sun. The increased energy store will ensure proper fruit development and continued growth for a higher yield.
Jalapeno plants produce white, bell-shaped flowers, often in groups of two or three. At this time, your pepper plants are ready for pollination to produce fruits.
If you notice a few flower buds dropping off, do not panic – this is normal. You should only worry if your jalapeno flowers are constantly falling off, as this is indicative of plant stress. Some of the common causes of dropping flowers include poor pollination, overwatering, and exposure to high temperatures. Make sure to monitor these factors if you think your jalapenos are losing too many flowers.
6. Fruiting stage
The fruiting stage is the last part of the jalapeno growth cycle. When the flowers are successfully fertilized, the petals begin to drop off and give way to the development of the fruits and seeds. During this time, the flower’s ovary turns into a fleshy pericarp that eventually thickens and swells into a fruit. The pericarp encloses a few locular chambers that house the pepper’s seeds. Once they are mature and ready to harvest, the fruits should be about three to five inches long and firm to the touch.
Once again, jalapenos in this growth stage will not need high-nitrogen fertilizers, since they will not need much support for foliar growth. Instead, they will need support for healthier flowers and fruits, meaning they will benefit most from a high-phosphorus fertilizer.
When you see your jalapenos producing light green fruits, congratulations! Your patience and hard work have paid off, and you will have fruits ready to harvest in the coming days.
Jalapeno peppers normally turn from light green to dark green as they ripen. If you want to keep your peppers green for your salads, then harvest them at this time. Otherwise, the ripening process will continue and the fruits will turn black and finally bright red, which is the last stage of the ripening process.
For the best yields, it is recommended to pick your peppers as soon as they turn the desired color. Leaving the peppers unharvested will inhibit the development of the younger fruits and cause smaller yields. By harvesting the ripe peppers, you are allowing your plant to allocate more energy to the production of further peppers before the growing season ends.
Lastly, keep your jalapeno plants well cared-for, even after the harvest, so that they will continue growing new flowers and peppers in the future. Provide them with lots of direct sunlight and rich, moist soil to keep them happy and thriving!
Witnessing the different growing stages of your jalapeno plants can be exciting – right from the seedling up to the fruiting stage. Hopefully, through this article, you have gained a sufficient understanding of the growth cycle and are ready to grow this beautiful spice in your own garden!
Image: istockphoto.com / xiao zhou