My little indoor hot pepper garden

don555(3a)November 13, 2011

I'm in Zone 3, not really pepper-country. Average highs now (Nov. 12) are below freezing, even in mid-summer our average highs are about 75F (24C) with night lows about 50F (10C). I've had some good luck outdoors with hot Hungarian Wax peppers before, but haven't tried much else. This past summer I tried container gardening on our deck with ornamental hot peppers and that worked well, I finished the last of the peppers a few days ago.

I thought it would be good to try some other container-peppers next summer, so bought some seeds from Pepper Joe's plus bought some "Thai bird chilis" from a local supermarket and selected the most ripe chilis to dry and harvest the seeds. I wanted to test what might grow well in containers in cool conditions.

My indoor growing spot is two 4-ft. shop lights in the basement (2 fixtures, 2 tubes per fixture, one cool-white, one warm-white), on for 16 hrs per day. This is all covered with a white sheet to trap heat from the lights. Right now the temp in the covered growing area is about 75F during the day and low 60s at night. As winter sets in the day temp should remain about the same, but the night temp will drop into the mid to high 50's. Here's a pic of the covered set-up:

P.Joe's seed packs contain about 10 seeds per pack and I really bought them for next outdoor season, so was only willing to commit 2 or 3 seeds to test under grow lights this winter.

--My few seeds of "Firecracker Chile" didn't germinate, which is too bad since they are said to be good for containers so would have been good to evaluate.

--The "Charleston Hot Pepper", said to be 15" tall with heavy yields, so also a good container option, had one plant germinate but it was sickly and soon developed mottled brown leaves and was discarded.

That leaves me with just 3 hot pepper varieties. The supermarket "Thai bird chilis", were planted Sep. 8, and had 90% germination, with strong growth. They grow so strongly that I have to clip them frequently to try to force them to bush out. Maybe I can force them to be a bushy indoor plant, but I think they want to be a very tall pepper, so probably not a great choice for indoor or container gardening. Too bad, as they have a nice taste and a fierce heat. Here's how they look on Nov. 12, 65 days after planting (and after numerous clippings):

"Thai Sun peppers" -- Planted Sep. 28, the seed was so tiny that I didn't hold out much hope, but 2 out of 2 germinated. They grew slowly at first, with thin stems, and I sprayed one with a fungicide when it looked like "damping-off" disease might kill the main stem. Right now I think these have the most promise -- they branched strongly without any pinching needed to promote branching, and they are now putting out flower buds, which no other variety is doing. And this is just 45 days after planting the seeds:

Close-up of the buds:

The other variety I still have is "Tobasco". I have two plants, one rather sickly that might be composted soon, and another with more vigour that might be worth keeping:

If I can ask a question... what causes the mottled appearance (and brown spots in more advanced cases) on pepper leaves? I saw this on the Charleston Hot peppers before I ended up tossing them. And it is visible on the Tobasco peppers now:

Is this a disease?... viral, bacterial, fungal? Is it a nutient issue? Is it a cold-intolerance issue? An insect issue (I don't see any insects, even under a 10X loupe). An insecticide issue? (I treat each potted plant with fungus-gnat dust because I have issues with those bugs).

Anyhow, I'll update things in a month or so to let people know how my little indoor garden is doing.

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Don555: Good luck with this project. My season ends a little too early for my taste too. I wanted to make some comments to your post because a couple things struck me. First, was that you have Pepperjoe seeds. Those are what I used last year with good luck. Among other varieties, I also grew both the Charleston and the Hot Hungarian Wax peppers. They were both very good producers. The Hungarians were my favorites last year. And regarding the mottling, most will tell you that it is probably too much moisture. My Charleston however always was a more yellowish or lighter green colored plant along with one of my two Hot Hungarian Wax plants. I had two Hot Hung Wax peppers growing in containers side by side. One almost from the day I put them outside for the summer was very light green to yellowish and sickly looking. It always looked bad compared to it's brother. It lost leaves and seemed droopy all the time but it wound up producing just as many and as big of pods as the other. I still have both of those plants growing as I gave them a Bonsai type trimming and I am in the process of overwintering them along with one of my Ghost Peppers. I would not be too fast to give up on a plant unless you just don't have the room to keep it or unless it is obviously done for. Your plants will likely go through many stages where they look sickly from some sort of affliction. Mine did but with a little care and many times just ignoring the problem seemed the best medicine.

Don't over water, use good draining soil and don't use too much fertilizer. Growing indoors seems to allow the most maladies to affect peppers. They really seem happier outside. But like you, it takes a good head start to get a fully matured and producing plant up north.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 8:23PM
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Thanks for the encouragement and insight. Yes, maybe I've been a bit generous with the water, I'll cut that back and see if it helps. My eagerness to dump plants that seem in trouble is that I worry that maybe the sluggish plants are succumbing to some sort of disease, and the easiest way to control its spread is to dump the infected or possibly-infected plants. I've still got more than 6 months to go until our last Spring-frost date, so these plants will be my only garden for awhile.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 3:05AM
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I have tried a few attempts at growing veggies indoors including a variety of hot peppers. Some with better success than others, but always fun nontheless. I currently have 3 "Red Savina Habaneros" 1 "Jamaican Yellow Bonnet" 1 "Bhut Jolokia" and 1 "Hot Purple Pepper" growing in my dining room. They were in my garden this last season and i'm more or less "wintering" them. Sorry if you mentioned this in your post but what kind and how often are you fertilizing kinda looks like your yellowing could be from nutrient burn or lack of nitrogen. Also how is the humidity and airflow on your table. Most pepper plants like little to no humidity, in this air circulation is crucial to growing any plants indoors. Oh and be careful when your night temps drop drastically in the winter for this could cause bud loss sometimes even loss of small fruits.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 6:19PM
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Hmm, I'd recommend NOT clicking on that link in the post immediately above this -- I did, and it took me to some sort of money or currency exchange site, nothing pepper related.

JS101: You are certainly into the hot ones!

RE: your questions: I have 2 plants of 3 varieties - "Thai Sun", "Tobasco", and some very hot pepper from a local grocery store that I ripened and collected seeds from - "Thai bird pepper" for lack of an official name.

Humidity isn't usually an issue here in winter because the outside air is cold, so when the furnace brings air inside and heats it to room temperature the relative humidity plummets. However, we bought a new furnace last spring, with the "humidifier option" precisely because the winter air is so dry inside, so you are right, I should watch the humidity this year, especially since there is no air circulation under my enclosed grow lights. On the positive side, we are getting a shot of winter weather here, it is -15 C (5 F) outside right now, and I measured the humidity tonight as 61% relative humidity upstairs, and 56% under my basement grow lights, using the same sensor. So I think humidity is OK now, but something I should monitor as the plants get bigger and use more moisture.

BTW, the sickly mottled plant looks better since my last post - not sure if this is due to cutting back seriously on the watering or from giving an extra shot of fertilizer, but I'm thinking watering might be the main reason.

Oh, and my two Thai Sun plants have each had their first blossoms now, one yesterday (Sunday) and one today!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 3:13AM
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You mentioned above that you have "no air circulation under your enclosed grow lights". This is not good. If it isn't affecting your plants negatively now, it likely will in the near future. You need good air circulation when growing indoors. It helps prevent a wide variety of plant maladies such as fungus's, insects and molds. It also helps to "harden" your plants. Without any air movement, the stems will become very weak after they get bigger and prone to falling over from even slight breezes or distubances or simply due to their own weight. Blow a fan over them for at least a few hours a day.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 4:42PM
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Sorry about the faulty link. I'm new to the site and didn't realize it was going to create a link when I typed that in. I also wondering what light cycle you were using. I grew an indoor hydro orange habanero and I used an 18 hrs light cycle and had lush green growth for a few months. But soon as it started to bud I moved and didn't have anywhere to setup in my new place.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 6:20PM
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Jon, it wasn't your link I was referring to, there was another post below yours last night (now removed) that was kind of garbled and ended with, "Here's a link that might help", but the link took me to some money exchange/chat site. I saw that the same person posted another link in the thread on identifying a pepper plant, and that post is now gone too. Not sure how posts are removed or changed here, sorry that it now makes it look like I was referring to a link by you.

My light cycle right now is 16 hours. That seems to work OK for most plants I've grown under lights, but it's interesting to know that 18 hours has worked well for you. I'm not sure if there is an upper limit... plants above the Arctic Circle get 24 hours of light in summer and they grow fine, but they aren't peppers.

Esox07, yes the enclosed grow area definitely poses some risks, but it's a trade off of evils. It is old bedsheets that enclose the lights and they don't seem to trap noticeable moisture (humidity is 52% under the lights right now). The white sheets help reflect more light onto the plants, plus they raise the temperature (my main reason for covering the space). It is 75 degrees by day at the plant-table surface (presumably a bit warmer by the tops of the plants), but only 65 degrees outside the covered grow area now. Frost penetrates the ground up to 4 feet deep here in winter, so it's only going to get colder in the basement over the next months. I plan to trim the plants to keep them short (for even lighting) so hopefully the top-heavy issue won't become a problem. Your concerns are definitely valid but I'm thinking that uncovering the plants and blowing cold air on them might be even worse.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 7:15PM
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don555- I think you should at least put a couple little fans on the table inside of your tent. Then you could maybe open the back of your tent between the light and the wall. It could be more like blowing air out then in.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 9:09PM
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I'm really hoping that I'll be okay with the lazy approach of just letting them be as is. I should probably have stated earlier that this isn't my first time trying this - last winter I grew 4 "Explosive Ember" hot peppers under this same set up, planting the seeds in October or November and growing them under my tented-lights until mid-April, when I moved them out from under the lights to a sunny window to make room for some Spring bedding plants.

The Explosive Ember had a nice bite to them when fresh, but as the peppers matured and dried in the early summer they seemed to lose a lot of their heat. So I'm trying some hotter varieties this winter. And the Explosive Ember were small "container-size" plants, probably similar to the Thai Sun I'm growing this winter, but the other 2 varieties I'm trying this winter are more vigorous so will pose some new challenges, which is the whole point of this :-)

Anyway, here's one of the 4 peppers I grew under my lights last winter, photo taken in mid-April just before I moved them from the growlights to a sunny windowsill. I'm just hoping to do this again, with different peppers. Failure would probably only encourage me to try harder next winter :)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 3:21AM
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Wow that's pretty impressive. Maybe the sheet material is allowing enough fresh oxygen to penetrate to keep from suffocation. I had a friend give me some seeds this last summer that he just called them "Hot Purple Peppers" but it looks a lot like that plant here. It looks kinda poopy now but I have my peppers just sitting on my dining room floor that has a 1 east and 3 south facing windows.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 9:21AM
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It's been a month since the pics at the top of this thread, so here's an update, with pics in the same order. There are two plants of each of 3 varieties. Below are the supermarket Thai bird chilies. They might not appear a whole lot different than the first pic, but they have actually grown quite a bit and have been moved from 2" to 4" pots. The problem is that they want to grow tall and narrow, and I want them short to keep them manageable under lights. So I keep clipping, clipping, clipping. One of them had set a lot of flower buds but then the branches rapidly grew taller so I cut all those branches off (except one branch on the left-hand side that wasn't growing as aggressively, where you can see a bud about to bloom):

Next are the Thai Sun peppers. These are doing the best, they've flowered and are setting lots of small peppers. They got moved from 2" pots a month ago to 6" pots now:

Here's a close up of some of the Thai Sun fruit:

Finally, here's the Tobasco peppers, definitely the slowest of the bunch, still in 2" pots like last month. I've pinched these once to force them to bush out, but it looks like they have a naturally bushy form so I probably didn't need to pinch them. Not sure why these are slower, they just are I guess. Cutting down on water, as recommended, seems to have helped them, thanks.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 3:46PM
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My little Kitchen 7 pot

I've got to put a couple more LEDs on the ceiling.
That window has film on it and not enough light gets in.
Thats why I had to put the shop light over the plants in that window.
Plant has about 30 pods on it now with more buds that look like they might put out some new pods too.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 5:40PM
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pics were there before....

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 6:59AM
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Whoa! How tall is that plant? I wanted to grow a "pepper tree" for Xmas next year, I chopped my Hinkelhatz way down, only about a 5 gal pot (and dealing with aphids). How large a pot would I need for a 6-7 ft plant?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 9:04AM
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Habanero de arbol orange


15 gal. and #15 pots.True 15 gal. ones are best.
Indoor plant is 4ft tall.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 10:54PM
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I'm speechless. I see from other posts that you've grown these peppers 12'x12'. We count ourselves lucky here if peppers get 2'x2'. You've got trees, not plants.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 1:49AM
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The orange one was probably 12 - 14 ft tall X 12 ft wide before I trimmed it down so I could easily pick the pods.
That pic is of it before the mites killed it.

The red one is probably a ft. taller now,not much wider.

The red one was 1 of 3 plants I got at the nursery labeled as Habanero De arbol-orange pods.
Don't know if it's a throwback mutation or a cross.
There is a couple other tree shaped chile plants out there too.
Cabai Tree Chile , Chile Negro De Arbol , Black Chile Grande or Verde-I forget which.
Several others.

You have no trade list or E mail...I have seeds...

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 2:47AM
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Holy crap, Don is right. Thats a pepper TREE! O_O

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 2:25PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

Hello Smokemaster, it is an old thread but I would like to know something about your big tree. Are all the habanero chilies big like your tree? I like that big, it is awesome how old is it?



    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 6:02PM
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