Dragon Cayenne

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 1 to 2 inches long
  • Days to Harvest: 70 to 75 days
  • Plant Size: 15 to 18 inches tall, 12 to 16 inches wide
  • Scoville Units: 30,000-50,000 (hot)

Whether you grow this pepper for its good looks or its culinary qualities, you won’t be disappointed. Dragon Cayenne produces loads of upright, finger-like fruits that bring sizzle to the kitchen. Peppers ripen from green to red, with heat increasing the redder fruits become (though they’re quite hot even when young and green). Plants frequently carry both red and green fruits at the same time, creating a striking sight in the garden. You can dry fully ripe (red) peppers to make decorative strings or ristras, which provide an easy way to store Dragon Cayenne peppers for year-round use.

These compact plants thrive in long, hot growing seasons, and adapt well to containers. Locate containers away from areas where small children play; these tiny, colorful peppers beg to be picked, and an unwary child could suffer burns.

Plant in spring to early summer, starting about two weeks after the last spring frost. If you like to plant a little early, be prepared to protect plants from possible frost and keep them a little warmer with a row cover.

Plant Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. One plant per 15-inch container. Plants per person: 1 for fresh use; 2 to 4 for making hot sauce or hot pepper jelly.

Secrets to Success »

Water regularly. Peppers need steady watering to develop lots of fruit. To keep soil moist, mix compost into planting holes, and mulch around plants after soil warms. Fertilize when planting and during the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. As these plants are small with compact branches, they probably won't need staking.

Harvest and Use »

Snip stems of individual peppers from the plant, leaving a small portion of stem attached. Rinse and dry peppers; store in the refrigerator. The more peppers you pick, the more you’ll get. Pick at any stage, but remember that ripest, reddest peppers have the most heat. For drying, pick fully mature (red) peppers. Handle hot peppers with care; it’s best to wear disposable rubber or plastic gloves when harvesting or handling fruit. To avoid burning sensations, don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nose, and wash your hands after handling (even if you’ve been wearing gloves).

If pepper juice gets in your eyes or nose, flush immediately with cold water. When the fire is in your mouth, drink milk or eat ice cream or yogurt to help counteract the burn. Do not re-use wash cloths or towels that may have capsaicin on them; launder them to avoid spreading the chemical. After working with Dragon Cayenne peppers, wash cutting surfaces, prep tools, and knives carefully before using them to prepare other foods.

Capsaicin, the compound that produces the heat in a hot pepper, is primarily concentrated in the veins, ribs, and seeds, but sensitivity to it varies. Use Dragon Cayenne peppers sparingly until you know you handle the heat. Chop peppers to season Asian cuisine. You can also preserve the hot flavor in pepper jelly or hot sauce. Dry peppers to grind into flakes or powder you can use to craft a curry blend.

Try These Garden Companions »

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  • Cilantro, Chili Red Peppers, sweet peppers, and onions—basic ingredients in a host of Thai dishes
  • Habanero Peppers, Tabasco Peppers, onions, and tomatoes to blend a flavorful hot pepper sauce.
  • Cilantro, Chives, tomatoes, and onions for creating a spicy garden-fresh salsa.

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