How to Grow Scotch Bonnet And Other Hot Peppers In Temperate Climates.

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If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked (email + FB + Twitter) how to grow Scotch Bonnet and other hot peppers, I’d be writing this from my villa in Bequia, overlooking the turquoise Caribbean sea. Unfortunately I’m still stuck in Canada where it can get insanely cold and the growing season is very short.

I use a LOT of insanely spicy peppers in many of my recipes and I’m quite successful at growing them during the short Canadian summers. So such requests does not come as a surprise. To be honest, I’d be worried if I didn’t get such emails as it would be an indication that people are not interested in my work.

While peppers such as Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and Bhut Jolokia are native to more tropical type climates, with these tips you’ll be able to grow a bumper crop of scorching hot peppers even if you’re based in a zone 6+ as I am, in Canada.

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  • If you’re starting from seeds you’ll need to start a couple months in advance, so you’ll have seedlings in time to go into the garden when it’s frost safe.
  • I much prefer to get plants from local nurseries as they tend to be stronger and better equipped to handle being outdoors
  • If there’s still a risk of frost, cut 2 liter pop bottles at the base and use as individual shelters for the plants at night or cover with a plastic tarp
  • PH is key! Employ the use of a soil test kit to determine the PH of the area you’ll be planting the pepper plants (even if you’re doing container gardening). You’re looking for something between 6.0 and 6.8 for optimal results. Adjust accordingly with ground limestone if it’s low and sulfur or peat moss to lower things.
  • Well drained and aerated soil
  • Add a four inch layer of compost to the soil and till well. I would recommend working the soil to about 8 inches deep to help with root growth and drainage.
  • Plant in full sun (at least 6 hours per day)
  • Make sure the soil is moist when you first add the seedlings and dig the holes as deep as the container they came in (and a couple inches wider). Plant about 3 feet apart.
  • Place some colloidal phosphate and compost in each hole before the seedlings go in.
  • DON’T over-water when you see blossoms. However being too dry can result in flower drop (keep moist)
  • Feed with compost or fertilizer (organic?) during the growing season.
  • Great companions plants are beets, garlic, onions, parsnips, radishes.
  • Keep the area well maintained from weeds as to not have competition for nutrients from the earth. I would recommend mulching to keep weeds under control.
  • MY MISTAKE! In the past I used a fertilizer (I do organic now) which was high in nitrogen. This creates leafy plants with little actual fruit.

Usually it take about 60-90 days from the time the plants go in before harvest sets in. I would recommend wearing gloves when you harvest, as such hot peppers contain organic chemicals called capsaicinoids which can burn the skin and eyes. And be sure to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling them.

Looking for recipes to preserve your harvest? Check CaribbeanPot.com for numerous fiery sauces and condiments.

Do you have any tips on growing Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia and other hot peppers? Please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.

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4 Comments

  1. June 25, 2016 / 5:57 am

    Greetings Chris

    I live in N.California and scotch bonnets, scorpion, etc do not exist here. Bewilders me why but I work for one of the largest produce stores on the peninsula and our buyer has never been able to find them.
    I am thinking of ordering seeds and just wondering if you think they will grow on my patio. But I can get a spot in the community garden. Any recommendations of where to order the seeds?

    • chris
      June 26, 2016 / 3:12 pm

      I’ve never planted from purchased seeds, so I don’t know any store to recommend. I do know though, when I start from seeds they take very long from germination to seedlings strong enough to plant. But I live in Canada and not blessed with that cali sunshine

      • Cristina Hess
        July 2, 2016 / 6:13 am

        Score! Made a deal with one of the farmers we buy from to grow them for me. So if they are to succeed or fail in Cali, at least they were at the hands of a professional:) But a scotch bonnet is not a habanero and wanted to know if there is a vastly different flavor profile other than HEAT between the two! I’ve been using the habanero for my Haitian recipes even though we have hotter peppers, it just kind of looks like a scotch bonnet. All the Caribbean restaurants from here to Oakland are serving up Jamaican. So been trying real hard to re create all those great dishes from Haitian chef’s always get in Florida.

  2. Tricia C.
    August 22, 2016 / 12:52 pm

    Hi Chris,

    First of all, “Living the Irie Life”, I couldn’t resist the tagline. The ackee and saltfish recipe brought me here because that’s my #1 favourite dish of all time and I can never resist checking out someone else’s recipe. However, “evryting else a cyatch mi eye”. Great website.

    We keep our scotch bonnet tree in a planter so it can come inside during the winter (I’m in Markham, ON). I find I don’t have to do too much to keep it going. Just water and lots of sun and it’s been very very generous to us this year. However, we got this tree from a family friend that sells them when they’re about 12″ tall.

    Richter’s Herbs has Chocolate Scotch Bonnet pepper seeds that I’m eager to try. I’ll be using this article as my guide.

    Keep those great articles coming!

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