Thai Hot (Ornamental)

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 1 inch long, 0.25 inches wide
  • Days to Harvest: 80
  • Plant size: 12 to 15 inches tall, 18 inches wide
  • Scoville units: 50,00 to 100,000 (extra hot)

Almost all peppers are pretty, but this one is actually also deliberately grown as an ornamental regardless of its culinary qualities. However, if you are a fan of hot Thai food, this pepper does double duty for your garden and kitchen. Sample the heat that these pretty peppers savor in your own Thai and Asian dishes. These peppers ripen from green to red, with heat increasing the redder fruits become.

Thai Hot plants make a beautiful ornamental pepper, with plants frequently carrying both red and green fruits. Fully ripe (red) peppers are often dried to make decorative strings or ristras. A ristra also provides an easy way to store Thai Hot peppers for year-round use.

Plants thrive in hot, humid conditions. Plants are prolific, yielding upwards of 50 small fruits that bring strong heat to the table, but many more than that in areas with a long growing season. The compact plants adapt well to growing in 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 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:  24 inches apart. 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 the soil moist, mix compost into planting holes, and mulch around the plants after the soil warms. Fertilize when planting and during the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. These plants are very small with compact branches that 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—from green to red. Remember that ripest peppers (red) 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. Wash your hands before using the bathroom, even if you’ve been wearing gloves.

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 caution 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, drink milk or eat ice cream or yogurt to 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 Thai Hot peppers, wash cutting surfaces, prep tools, and knives carefully before using them to prepare other food.

Use Thai Hot peppers sparingly until you know you can 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 »

  • Sweet onion, Thai basil, squash, and cherry tomatoes to put spicy stir-fry on the family menu.
  • Cilantro, Chili red peppers, sweet peppers, and onions—basic ingredients in a host of Thai dishes

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