Growing Ghost Pepper Plants
in the Northeast Florida Landscape
( Capsicum chinense )
Ghost peppers are quickly gaining popularity for their ‘super hot’ fruits. These peppers measure anywhere from 850,000 to over a million scoville heat units! THAT’S HOT!
Take extra care when harvesting your Bhut Jolokia/ Ghost peppers from your plant (I always wear disposable gloves anytime I am handling these super hot peppers) In fact, these peppers are so hot I take my dehydrator outside when drying my beautiful and bountiful ghost pepper harvest, and open my kitchen windows and turn on the fan when I make ghost pepper hot sauce so I don’t choke the kids out in the next room!
Origins, and Use of Ghost Pepper / Bhut Jolokia for Northeast Florida vegetable gardens:
Bhut Jolokia ghost pepper plants originate in India. These super hot peppers are perfect for people who want to push the boundaries of hot with their homemade creations. I myself, just throw one into the chili pot, deseeded of coarse, and one or two into my hot sauce recipe and add some other milder peppers like Datil, Habanero or even sweet red bell peppers to make up the bulk of the peppers needed for recipes. They are loads of fun to experiment with in the kitchen and turn any mundane recipe into a dare devils idea of a good time!
Whether you’re a seasoned “chili head” or an all out chicken like me, there’s a place for ghost peppers in your northeast Florida garden! Give ghost peppers a try, they are so easy to grow and have a bountiful harvest!
Planting Season for Ghost Pepper plants / Bhut Jolokia in the Jacksonville, St. Augustine , and the surrounding areas of Northeast Florida:
Bhut Jolokia or Ghost pepper plants can be planted as soon as the weather warms in spring. Recommended planting times for our region are late February to early March through April and again in July and August. Ghost Peppers are considered a warm season crop, they are frost sensitive and should only be planted in frost free months in Northeast Florida vegetable gardens, or they can be brought indoors, or placed on a porch, or patio to keep the frost off during the winter season to help extend the harvest.
Start your peppers in late January indoors or February outdoors from seed and late February to March from S & J Nursery transplants. Growing season for Ghost peppers in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area garden is February to the first frost.
Sun Exposure for Growing Ghost Peppers / Bhut Jolokia in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Ghost peppers can be planted into a full sun location, but I find they do best in sun with a bit of afternoon shade in the Northeast Florida, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine area gardens. I plant mine away from other pepper plants in an area that receives sun all morning but after about two in the afternoon is partially shaded from a few palm trees planted nearby and fully shaded by the house after about 4 PM in the hot summer months.
Soil Preferences for Ghost Pepper Plants / Bhut Jolokia Peppers in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida areas:
Ghost Pepper / Bhut Jolokia peppers will do best in the Northeast Florida garden when grown in soils that have been generously amended with compost.
Be sure to plant into well drained soils that do not remain water logged after heavy rains.
Peppers make great container plants!
Care of Ghost Pepper / Bhut Jolokia Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Watering Your Ghost Pepper / Bhut Jolokia Peppers:
Newly planted Ghost peppers will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted from seed or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Once your Ghost Pepper / Bhut Jolokia pepper plants are established and growing, be sure to keep the soil moist by watering at least once per week if rainfall is scarce. When plants are bearing fruits, start watering twice a week.
Mulching Your Bhut Jolokia / Ghost Pepper Plants:
For maximum growth potential mulch plants generously- this will help conserve moisture.
Fertilizing Your Ghost Pepper / Bhut Jolokia Peppers:
Feed every two to three weeks with an all purpose fertilizer like 6-6-6.
Or for an organic approach, try amending the soil generously with compost when planting and fertilizing on an as needed basis with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed (kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water if you see the leaves starting to show signs of yellowing.
If your pepper plants look like they could use a boost, give them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Ghost Peppers/ Bhut Jolokia pepper plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Ghost peppers can be harvested when skins are still green, but to get the full ghost pepper experience you are going to wait until they have ripened to the nice shiny red and wrinkled peppers you will come to know and love! Remember to WEAR GLOVES! Then when you take your gloves off remember to wash your hands several times with water and soap to remove any oils from the pepper that may have gotten through a tiny hole after handling. Remember, these peppers are called ‘super hots’ for a reason, and it’s not because they are so cute! Ghost peppers are hot, so handle them with care. Keep those hands away from your face and eyes!