- Sun: Full sun
- Harvest Size: 1 to 2 inches long, 1.5 inches wide
- Days to Harvest: 95
- Plant size: 24 to 36 inches tall, 18 inches wide
- Scoville units:: 100,000 to 300,000 (extreme)
Turn up the heat in your garden—and kitchen—by growing habanero peppers. These fruits rank among the hottest peppers: 100 times hotter than jalapeños. Plants bear heavily in summer heat and humidity; anticipate harvesting dozens of peppers per plant, depending on how long your growing season is. In our Alabama test garden, where we harvest from June through October and growing conditions are ideal, we pick over 200 peppers per plant. The small, lantern-shaped fruits add color to the garden, turning from green to orange as they ripen.
Habanero plants grow well in containers. Use caution, however, to keep plants away from where children play. The colorful, cute fruits attract attention and beg picking. Grabbing the fruits can release capsaicin, which can burn skin.
Peppers are very cold-sensitive. Plant in spring to early summer starting anytime about two weeks after the last spring frost. If you like to plant a little early to start harvesting earlier, be prepared to protect plants from possible frost and keep them a little warmer with a row cover.
Plant spacing: 18-24 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart; 12 to 18 inches in intensive gardens. One plant per 18-inch container. Plants per person: 1 for fresh use; 2 to 4 for drying, freezing, or making jelly.
Secrets to Success »
You'll get more peppers if you water regularly. To help soil stay moist, mix compost into planting holes, and mulch soil around plants. Fertilize when planting and during the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Stake plants as fruits start to form or use small tomato cages to support the branches.
Harvest and Use »
Cut peppers from the plant with a sharp knife or clippers, leaving a short stem on the fruit. Rinse and dry peppers; store in the refrigerator. The more peppers you pick, the more you’ll get. Pick at any stage—from light green to orange.
Handle hot peppers with care; it’s best to wear disposable rubber or plastic gloves when handling fruit. To avoid burning, don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nasal areas while working with hot peppers. Wash your hands before using the bathroom, even if you’ve been wearing gloves.
Capsaicin, the hot compound in a hot pepper, is mostly in the veins, ribs, and seeds, but sensitivity to it varies. Use care until you know how you’ll react. If pepper juice gets in your eye or nose, flush immediately with cold water. When the fire is in your mouth, eat ice cream, yogurt, or milk to counteract the burn. Don't re-use washcloths or towels that may have capsaicin on them; wash them first to avoid spreading the heat.
After working with habaneros, wash cutting surfaces, prep tools, and knives carefully before using them to prepare other food.
Use habanero peppers to season hot sauce, dips, or relishes. Pickle or create spicy hot pepper vinegar. Chop fresh peppers into salsa or use to spice meats, soups, and casseroles. Craft a sweet and spicy paste or relish by blending habanero peppers with apricots, mangoes, or peaches. Preserve the hot flavor in pepper jelly, or dry habaneros to create a sizzling spice.
Try These Garden Companions »
- Cilantro, tomatoes, and onions—all the ingredients you need for creating a spicy garden-fresh salsa.
- Jalapeño pepper, Poblano/Ancho pepper, Tabasco, onions, and tomatoes to blend a signature hot pepper sauce.
- Low growing flowers such as petunias and marigolds—colorful-fruited peppers look great tucked into flower beds.