Growing peppers is famously challenging in our climate. The cooler winters and shorter summers create a constant balancing act between vegetative growth and fruit development. However, if you get the balance right you can easily plan how many pepper plants you’ll need to grow per person
In this article, I want to talk about typical yields per plant, and how that translates through to pepper plants per person, as well as some basic care tips to ensure you get more reliable yields from your peppers and chilies.
Planning pepper harvests
The single biggest variable with pepper harvests is the type of pepper you grow. It might seem like common sense, but the bigger the pepper, the fewer fruits per plant. Small peppers like chilies, can produce up to fifty fruits on a single plant, and easily see you through the year with one harvest.
Bigger peppers, like red bell peppers, can often produce just four or five fruits per plant. However, you can increase your yield by over-wintering young plants for a more reliable harvest next summer. If you can get peppers through the seedling stage, you just need to find the right place in the garden.
You can grow peppers outdoors, but they do better in a greenhouse. Try to isolate them from tomatoes if you can, as peppers share many common diseases with them. Other than that, just find somewhere bright, and warm, and keep them well watered!
How many pepper plants do you need to feed one person?
Deciding how many pepper plants to grow per person depends entirely on what you intend to use them for. Sweet peppers or bell peppers produce less than chilies but are a more versatile ingredient. In terms of yield weight, three sweet peppers can be the same as thirty small chilies too.
In reality, if you’re eating one meal per week with peppers as the main ingredient, you should aim to have at least three or four plants per person.
How many chili plants per person?
For chili fans, one plant is often enough for a full year’s harvest. Fifty small, heat-packed chilies can be harvested regularly, which helps to ripen more. What’s more, they freeze brilliantly, and can then be grated into sauces for a fresh chili kick at any time of year.
How many sweet pepper plants per person?
Sweet pointed peppers sit somewhere in between. Full-sized fruit generally means fewer fruits but better flavor, so limit the flowers on each plant to about 5-6, to ensure your plant puts its effort into a few special peppers, rather than a dozen small ones.
We eat a lot of sweet pointed peppers here, so grow about ten plants each year, which feeds two people for one meal per week.
How many bell pepper plants per person?
If you eat a lot of bell peppers, you’ll need a lot of bell pepper plants. While some varieties can yield 10-12 fruits, most gardeners will get about three or four peppers per plant. For the average home, that means growing at least twelve pepper plants.
Thankfully, most varieties are short and grow exceptionally well on greenhouse staging, so don’t take up much space.
Pepper yields per plant, by variety
If you know the type of pepper you want to grow, check out our yield table below, which has a rough guide to the average fruit size, as well as overall yield, so you know what to expect for a typical plant in an average year.
|Pepper variety||Type||Fruit size (ounces)||Yield per plant (LB)|
|Beauty Bell||Sweet Bell||4oz||2.5lb|
As a rule, bigger peppers produce fewer fruits, but there are some higher-yielding peppers like California Wonder, which produce large fruit, and lots of it!
What are the best pepper plants to grow at home for reliable yields?
Once peppers have germinated, the biggest challenge is regular pollination. Peppers produce flowers in sequence, so an initial flush will produce a few competing fruits. As these begin to ripen, remove them, and your pepper should flower again, producing a second flush of fruit in a week or two’s time.
There is no benefit to growing just one type of pepper, so aim to grow a few different varieties to spice up your kitchen habits. We usually grow a few dozen plants here, and mix and match varieties to ensure staggered harvests and food for the winter larder.
This year, we had two chili plants, twelve sweet pointed peppers, and ten bell pepper plants. We grow so many because the climate, and shaded aspect, in our garden limits how much fruit each plant can produce, but they are packed into a small greenhouse. In brighter, sunnier gardens, aim for twelve plants in total on a simple shelf. One plant per pot.
How to grow peppers for better yield
Planning pepper harvests, like anything else, starts with a seed. One seed will produce a single, bushy, pepper plant, that can yield anywhere from 3 to 50 fruits. But, caring for pepper seedlings can be challenging. They hate humidity but need moisture. They need to be started early (spring, or even fall) but can struggle with shorter days.
To get around the challenges of pepper seedlings damping off, it’s often easier to buy a healthy pepper plant from a local nursery. After that, all you need are reasonably bright warm conditions, and your peppers will thrive. Feed them as you would tomatoes (weekly after flowering) and water them whenever the soil surface is dry to the touch.
How to harvest peppers for better yields
A single pepper plant will continue producing peppers until the first frost, but they will stop ripening in early fall in Zone 9 or below. As soon as your first pepper is ripe, remove it and store it in the fridge.
Continue removing peppers and chilies as they ripen. This will speed up the ripening of others, resulting in bigger, more regular harvests per plant per person, than waiting for all to be ripe at once.
In cooler parts of the country, peppers can be hard to grow, but growing them indoors, in greenhouses, and over-wintering young plants will help you plan ahead, and trigger flowers and fruit slightly earlier in the season next year.
Knowing how many pepper plants to grow per person is very much up to you, but we’d suggest growing one chili plant per person, and a mix of two or three different pepper varieties as a minimum to get a few good meals from your garden each year.