How to Grow Ghost Peppers

By Susan Landis-Steward , last updated January 15, 2012

The ghost pepper, also known as bhut jolokia chili, originated in India and is believed to be the world's hottest pepper. Ghost peppers are difficult to grow and are not a good pepper for beginning gardeners. They take a minimum of five months to grow from germination to harvest and need an environment with a great deal of heat and humidity. If you decide to give them a try, make sure you understand their growing habits and requirements.

Start your ghost pepper seeds indoors a minimum of 10 weeks before the frost free date in your area. If you live in a northern climate with a shorter growing season, start the seed 12 to 14 weeks before you plant to put them in the garden. Use sterilized soil or a light well-draining soil like a peat-based soil, and keep the soil moist but not wet during the germination season. Do not use potting mix.

These plants need a temperature range between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Put your seed tray in a large plastic bag to help retain moisture and hold heat in. Use seed propagation mats to maintain temperature or place the seeds in a warm spot such as on top of a refrigerator or freezer. You can also set them on top of a heating pad. Do not place them in direct sun as the mini-greenhouse environment and the sun can burn the seeds.

Before planting the seed, soak them in water overnight or in a bleach solution for 20 minutes. If you choose the bleach option, mix three parts bleach to two parts water. Make sure the bleach has no fragrance or sodium hydroxide added to it.

Transplant your young pepper plants into three or four inch pots as soon as the second set of true leaves begins to form. About two weeks before you plant to put the plants in the garden, harden them off by exposing them to the outdoors for increasingly long periods of time. Make sure both air and soil temperatures are consistently warm before setting your plants out.

Plant your ghost peppers 24 to 36 inches apart, and keep the soil moist but not wet. Add mulch to keep the soil moist and to prevent weeds. You may need to provide extra water during hot dry spells.

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