Fertilizer For Hot Pepper Plants

Fertilizer helps your plants grow big and healthy by supplying them with the nutrients they need. This is critical for seedlings indoors and for mature plants outdoors. Some of us only get 8 or so months to grow as many peppers as we can, and fertilizer helps us yield bigger harvests.

The Life Cycle of Hot Pepper Plants

The goal is to provide the right kind of fertilizer during the different stages of the plants growth.

When your seedlings develop their second or third set of leaves, the focus should be on increasing the plants overall size. Then, when your plants start to develop flowers and buds the focus shifts to supporting and maximizing fruit production. Towards the middle of the season we want to make sure the plant stays healthy and prevent ailments like blossom end rot. There are special fertilizers for all of these stages.

Let’s Talk About NPK

Every fertilizer has an NPK rating expressed in numbers with dashes, like “5-1-1”, always listed in order of NPK. Here is a simple breakdown in my own words.

grow big npk
NPK of FoxFarm’s Grow Big fertilizer

N – Nitrogen – (6) This helps the plant grow big and green. Most helpful during the beginning stages of plant life (for our purposes here).

P – Phosphorus – (4) Helps with root development and flowering/fruiting.

K – Potassium – (4) Helps with disease control.

What Kind of Fertilizer to Use For Hot Pepper Plants

Granular, liquid, all natural, chemical, organic, NPK. What about smell? There are a lot of fertilizers on the market. Some people like to switch up their fertilizer and apply different products at different times, others (like me) apply one general product with a good set of NPK values throughout the entire season.

Fertilizing Hot Pepper Seedlings

If you’re using FoxFarm’s Ocean Forest, Happy Frog, or other soils that already contain fertilizer, be careful about adding extra fertilizer!

(I personally don’t add any extra fertilizer when using these products)

While indoors, I prefer a fertilizer that does not smell. I like to use organic whenever possible but you will find that organic fertilizers are often made up of digested animal products. This means there will likely be a foul and offensive odor permeating throughout your house for 2-3 months. Can you live with that?

I have used this product on the left. It smells a bit like bile and has a decent Nitrogen rating for early-on growth. You can get it on Amazon and it’s usually readily available at Home Depot too.

A lot of people like the Alaskan Fish Fertilizer (5-1-1), also plentiful at the two locations mentioned above. Pay no attention to the sudden outbreak of feral cats around your house.

Grow Big by Fox Farm is a popular choice for indoor fertilizer due to having great NPK values for early plant development and it also has zero odor. You can use this for both containers and the double-cup method.

Although FoxFarm prides themselves on using only the finest natural ingredients, Grow Big and Tiger Bloom are not certified organic. Their Big Bloom is, however.

How to Apply Fertilizer For Hot Pepper Plants

For FoxFarm products, please watch the video below. For other brands, I’d stick to the recommendations on the label.

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Fertilizer for hot pepper plants outdoors

Once the plants are transplanted outside, I usually wait 1-2 weeks before adding fertilizer (up to one month if your potting mix already had fertilizer in it). I use a granular based fertilizer for the rest of the season.

I like the Espoma Garden-tone granular fertilizer. It’s organic, has calcium, readily available at the big box stores, and is relatively inexpensive. I feed my entire garden with this stuff once per month. It has an NPK rating of 3-4-4 which is all-around balance that applies a good supply of phosphorus and potassium to support fruit production and disease resistance (thanks to the added calcium).

Regardless of what fertilizer you choose, make sure you read and follow the application instructions on the back of the bag.