How To Grow Pepper Plants In Canada
Have you ever wondered how to grow pepper plants in Canada? Or maybe you’re wondering if those delicious bell peppers can easily be grown in Canada as well. This gardening in Canada article is going to look at how to grow peppers in Canada.
If you are new to this blog my name is Ashley and I am a soil scientist. I am located in a Canadian Zone 3 and a USDA Zone 4. I write articles, make YouTube videos, Instagram & Facebook posts all designed for Canadians and Cold Climate gardeners using science-based methods. If you are looking for anything specific be sure to let me know in the comments down below.
Starting Pepper Seeds
When it comes to seed starting a hot pepper plant the secret is heat. This can come in the form of using an Insta pot on yoghurt mound for 72 hours or a simple heat mat. This added heat is going to result in faster germination rates and overall better germination rates. You will want to start the seeds 8-12 weeks prior to the last frost date.
It’s not uncommon for pepper plant seeds to rot in our seed starting mixtures. This route is often caused by a lag in germination and ultimately decomposition of the seed. To help counter this you’ll want to add heat in some form to the seed starting set up. This is particularly true when you grow pepper plants in Canada.
The set up for heat does not need to be special. Simply placing the seat starting tray over top of a register for approximately one or two weeks will help. You can even give heat from above through a heat lamp or incandescent bulb.
For more on seed starting substrate check out this article.
Keep in mind that hot pepper seeds take longer to germinate than a bell pepper.
Here are some of my favourite pepper seeds to grow in Canada:
Classic Bell Peppers – Mild, large, 3-4 fruits
Habanero Peppers – Spicy, plentiful
Hungarian Cheese Peppers– Mild, plentiful, mini bell peppers
Hot Hungarian Wax Pepper – Medium spicy, plentiful, large
Jalapeños Pepper – Plentiful, hot
Mad Hatter – Sweet & Mild
Cayenne– Hot, used in spices
Topping Pepper Plants
The topping of a pepper plant is common for those of us looking for a bushier plant. The process of topping the plant results in more branches and more fruit. It simply means removing the top of the main stem and causing a branching effect.
Keep in mind however that topping can delay the time in which you receive fruits. A lot more energy needs to be exerted in order to grow double the branches. If you have a particularly short growing season I do not recommend topping.
I’m in a Canadian zone three located in Saskatchewan. I do not top my peppers and instead let them grow as a single stem. The exemption to this rule is if I have a overwintered pepper plant. This means a pepper plant that is well-established and therefore only have to focus on fruit development.
Transplanting Pepper Plants Outdoors
When it comes to transplanting peppers outdoors you want to follow the same process of hardening off. I’ve described this both in videos and an article so be sure to check those out if you were unsure as to what hardening off is.
Pepper plants grown in Canada always do best in pots. This is why I only ever plant my pepper plans in pots. There are a few reasons why pepper plants do better in containers than in the ground. If you want to succeed when you grow pepper plants in Canada this is your answer.
In containers pepper plants receive more heat. This means both the soil temperature is generally higher. Plus the pot can be moved if the ambient temperature declines. Peppers do not like to get below 10°C. This includes nighttime temperatures. This is why we grow pepper plants in containers, it allows us to move our pepper plants indoors or into warmer locations if temperatures begin to dip too low.
When a plant is in a container we are able to force it to flower through limiting its water. When we limit the access to water we cause the plant to panic. Less panic results in the formation of flowers which is what yields are fruits. The plants main goal is succession planning, if they are stressed they produce flowers.
Pepper plants are grown in containers they bottom out or become root bound. This again is not a bad thing when you’re in a cooler climate. This root bound effect causes the plant to become stressed and produce flowers. If pepper plants are grown in the ground they send out roots and all directions to grab water and nutrients. This excess water and nutrients means the plant is not stressed enough to produce flowers.
Fertilizer for pepper plants grown in Canada
As with any fruiting and flowering plant you want to aim for a bloom formula. These Formulas generally have higher levels of both Bothrus and potassium. Bloom formulas allow the plants to produce flowers and fruits with less stress. The lower levels of nitrogen me and the plant will not focus just on foliage growth.
If you choose to use an all purpose fertilizer you may find you end up with more greenery than you want. This is because there is no phosphorus or potassium to support the flower and fruit development.
How to get bigger & more peppers
The best way to get a bigger pepper is to limit the number of peppers being formed. The best way to do this is through choosing only 3 to 4 flowers per plant. The excess flowers and fruits should be removed. The removal of the excess fruit will allow the pepper plant to focus solely on the fruits you want.
If you’re looking for more peppers on the pepper plant you will want to do a few things. Obviously topping will provide you with more pepper plants which we discussed above. The other method would be to remove the peppers once they are fully formed. This immediate removal of the old peppers will trigger the plant to produce more flowers. It’s not uncommon for a jalapeño plant to produce fruit and flowers for a few months.
Common Pests & diseases with pepper plants
One of the most common issues with pepper plants is the black mushy spot on fruits. This is what we call blossom end rot and it is common when plants are grown in containers. This is caused by a lack of magnesium and calcium. It’s likely that the nutrients is not lacking but rather your soil pH is not correct.
To help counter this issue consider adding lime to your potting soil medium. For every gallon of pot you have one tablespoon of lime can be added. You will want to add this lime to the potting soil mix when you go to plant the peppers. This will make any magnesium or calcium in your soil mixture or fertilizer more bio available.
Overwintering Pepper Plants In Canada
Overwintering pepper plants in Canada is totally possible. The process is relatively simple and requires no special equipment. Allow the pepper plants to stay outdoors until your nighttime temperatures begin to freeze. Once the threat a frost has begun you can bring the pepper plants indoors.
Once the pepper plants are brought inside you will want to transplant the pepper plant into a smaller container. Find a container that holds only the root ball of the pepper plant. This is important because access soil will contain both pests and increase the water holding capacity.
The increased water holding capacity may result in route rot and anaerobic environments. The pests found in soil can include things such as thrips, mealybugs, fungus gnats etc. Once you have found a smaller container, try adding things such as nematodes to help reduce the threat of pests. These little critters in combination with fresh potting soil will be helpful.
The next step is trimming and leaf removal. This is particularly important if you do not have a grow light to support the pepper plants all winter. Cut back the stems so that they are only 2 inches long from the main stem. You may even consider cutting back the main stem itself. This trimming will cause a larger plant in the next growing season.
Next you’ll want to strip the plant of all its leaves. This again will help ensure that no pests are being brought indoors. This will also be much easier to manage because the plant will go into dormancy.
For the remainder of the winter you want to give a small watering whenever the soil feels particularly dry. We want to avoid something called a permanent wilting point. Pepper plants are not meant to go completely dry and therefore we do need to supply a base level of water. Overwintering will give you head start next year when you grow pepper plants in Canada.
Have you ever wondered if growing hot pepper plants in Canada is possible? Or maybe you’re wondering if those delicious bell peppers can easily be grown in Canada as well. This gardening in Canada article is going to look at how to grow peppers in Canada.