If you love spicy food, you should try growing the Habañero. The Habañero is one of the hottest peppers globally, measuring 100,000 to 445,000 Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) on the Scoville scale.
The habañero pepper plant is fertile. You can harvest several pepper pods in a single pod. There are also several ways you can use Habañero Peppers:
- Create a habañero hot sauce
- Use habañero Peppers in your stir-fried dishes for the extra heat
- Dehydrate the hot peppers to make chili powder
- Pickle the hot peppers
- Mix a couple of habañero slices into your vodka
- Make habañero pepper gummy bears
- Save the seeds and grow more Habañeros
Habañero Peppers are easy to find in grocery stores, although they are less spicy than those you grow. Nevertheless, they still pack a lot of flavor and heat.
Habañero Peppers are not just about their intense heat. These peppers boast of many benefits to your body.
Habañero Peppers are rich in capsaicin, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Diets rich in these nutrients, which the Habañero Peppers contain, can help prevent some serious medical conditions.
The capsaicin content of Habañero Peppers is responsible for treating many ailments.
Here are some of the benefits of eating habañero peppers while your throat and tongue are on fire:
- Reduces Blood Pressure. The capsaicin content of habañero Peppers promotes the insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) which helps reduce blood pressure.
- Lowers your Cholesterol Level. Eating Habañero Peppers can lower your bad cholesterol due to their capsaicin content.
- Prevents Cancer. The capsaicin and the vitamins A and C content of habañero Peppers can prevent cancer by stopping the harmful effects of free radicals in your body and hindering the growth of cancer cells, especially prostate cancer.
- Reduces Weight Gain. Capsaicin can control your weight because it can increase thermogenesis (the process that raises and lowers your body temperature) in your body. An increase in thermogenesis increases your metabolism and, thus makes you burn more fats.
Much rewarded from any health benefits is enough reason to accept the challenge of eating habañero Peppers. Start slowly by adding a tiny bit of pepper to your taco.
Consult your doctor before eating Habañero Peppers, especially if you have chronic heartburn, digestive system problems, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The Habañero is a prolific plant. You can harvest dozens of peppers from one plant. It comes from the Capsicum Chinense family known for producing the hottest peppers in the world.
This plant typically grows to be 4-5 feet tall with some growing to 7 feet tall. The plant can grow taller than most Chiles such as the Jalapeno or Cayenne pepper.
The unripe fruit of the Habañero is green. The mature peppers may be red, pink, orange, brown, or white. The mature fruit can be 1 to 2 inches long.
The Habañero is believed to have originated from Cuba. About 1,500 tons of pepper are harvested in Cuba every year. habañero Peppers are vital ingredients in the cuisine of the Yucatan peninsula.
The Habañero is also known to be grown in Belize, Costa Rica, and in the states of Texas, California, and Idaho in the US.
Oval leaves and deep, glossy green color. The plant is a bit taller than it is wider. The plant is also typically bushy and has a long growing season.
Growing the Habañero allows you to have freshly picked habañero Peppers at your home.
Tips to Grow Better Habañero Peppers
The habañero grows best, in most parts of the United States, when started indoors. You can plant or transfer them outdoors after the last frost.
Here are a few tips in growing your habañero to ensure you get spicy and hot peppers.
1. Pick the Right Habañero Seeds to Grow
Habañeros come in different varieties, and different Habañeros produce extremely different results. It can be fun and exciting to experiment with the many varieties of Habañeros and watch them change shape and color as they grow.
You can choose to grow several varieties of habañero at the same time. The growing process will almost be the same regardless of variety.
Here are some of the Habañero pepper varieties. The color, pod size, and heat level can vary.
Chocolate Habañero. This hot pepper has a huge 300,000 SUH. It has a lantern-shaped fruit that looks ornamental at 2-inches long.
Orange Habañero. Typically has between 100,000 and 350,000 SHU.
Yucatan White Habañero. Has a SHU of 100,000 to 350,000. This plant produces a lot of small white pods and comes with a jelly bean shape.
Mustard Habañero. Comes with approximately 150,000 to 325,000 SHU. The plant is stocky and can grow to one meter high.
Caribbean Red. This is one of the hottest varieties of the Habañero. It has 350,000 to 400,000 SHU.
Big Sun Habañero. This is a large, yellow habañero. It has a fruity flavor with extreme heat. It has a 250,000 to 350,000 SHU.
Peruvian White Habañero . This habañero variety has a heat punch of 100,000 to 350,000 SHU. Similar to other common habañero variety, the white habañero has a slightly smoky and fruity flavor.
Peach Habañero . This habañero pepper is longer than other habañero s. It becomes peach when matured and has a hot, fruity flavor. It packs 200,000 to 350,000 SHU.
Red Savina. This habañero variety was once named the hottest chili pepper in the world. It has a SHU of 200,000 to 580,000.
Whichever habañero seed variety you pick; you will be following the same growing guide.
2. Decide where to Grow your Habañero
It is recommended that you grow your habañero outdoors six weeks after the last frost. This pepper plant thrives best in temperatures above 650, preferably closer to 800.
Habañeros are usually not as productive when grown in areas with cooler summers. If you live in these areas, you can still grow habañeros by planting the seedlings where the plants can have sunlight reflected onto them by a fence or wall.
If you live in a state that is not an arid sub-tropical area, start growing your habañero seeds indoors and later transplant them outdoors after soils become warm.
You can move your habañero outdoors when it has already grown about six mature leaves. It is recommended that you plant your habañero at least 18 inches apart.
You should also cut holes in black plastic mulch and place it around your plant. This also reduces the weeds growing in your plant and keeps the soil warm. It also lessens the water requirement of your plant.
You can also grow your habañero in containers or pots indoors or outdoors. The ideal containers are 5-gallon containers or higher.
Never use a smaller container as they can hinder the growth of your Habañeros. You should also grow one Habañero pepper plant per container or pot.
You can choose to grow your habañero in any of these containers:
5-Gallon Buckets. This is an inexpensive and simple option. You will need to drill holes in the bottom and around the sides of the buckets. This will allow your plant to drain excess water and have better airflow.
Earth Boxes. These are outdoor container gardening systems with built-in watering. These are best used in small-space gardens.
An earth box is a kit that includes fertilizer and a watering system. Some earth boxes also include potting soil.
Grow Bags. These are fabric pots that are available in various sizes. They are breathable allowing easy air pruning of the roots of your plant.
Air pruning promotes better growth because it encourages better asorption of nutrients and water.
It also prevents “root bound” (occurs when the roots of a plant have occupied the space of the entire pot often creating and circling a thick web of roots).
3. Choose the Right Soil
Choose well-draining soil with a pH of between 6.2 and 7.0. Adding mulch to the soil will keep your plant warm and reduce water consumption.
If you are growing your habañero in a container, a good quality potting soil will provide good airflow and retain moisture better. Garden soil or mix should also be labeled as being ideal for containers to ensure the soil is not too dense.
Fill container three-fourths full with your potting mix. Water the soil but make sure it does not have a drenched texture (you should be able to make a ball with your soil and it should hold its shape).
If you are using an Earth Box, follow the directions included in the growing kit.
Make a hole in the center of your container making sure it is deep enough to hold your habañero up to its lowest leaves.
When growing from seeds, it is recommended that you use two types of soil: one type of soil for starting the seeds indoors and another type of soil when transplanting your plant outdoors.
Both types of soil should differ in texture, nutrient content, and aeration qualities.
Soil for Starting Seeds
Use a fertilizer-free seed starting soil mix. This type of mix is a combination of coco coir, sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite to create a highly aerated and moisture-retaining mix.
This type of soil mix is ideal to get the seedling to start strong. The soil mix will also stay moist and allow the plant’s young root system to easily grow.
The seed starter soil is good only for the first three or four weeks of the life of your Habañero. It does not contain too many nutrients so you need to start fertilizing when the seeds begin to sprout.
Soil for your Mature Plant
When your habañero reaches its mature growth stage, you need to change to a potting soil with a sandy or loamy texture. This type of soil does not contain fertilizer.
4. Sow the Seeds Indoors
Staring your seeds early allows them to have a longer growing period. If you start sowing your Habañero in April or May, your habañero seeds would end up having an underdeveloped plant.
It may also result in unripe peppers and lower yields.
Early March is ideal for sowing your habañero seeds indoors if you are a Northern hemisphere gardener.
Transplant your habañero outdoors after eight weeks after or during the last frost day.
If you live in an area with a warmer climate, you can move your plant outdoors earlier. Remember that, the longer the growing period of your Habañero, the better the harvest.
You need to take certain steps to ensure you give the habañero seeds the best chances of germination.
- Make sure to use a seed starter mix as your soil.
- Moisten the soil.
- Bottom-water the seedlings making sure the soil is moist but not soaked.
- Plant two or more seeds per container at about a depth of 1/8-1/4 to ensure ideal germination. Planting any deeper will make the seeds struggle to properly surface.
- The soil should have a daytime temperature of 80 – 900F and a nighttime temperature of 70-750 You can keep temperatures consistent with a heat propagation mat.
- Under normal conditions, your habañero seeds will germinate within 7-9 days. Some seeds could germinate in as early as four days with a seed heating mat.
- It is also recommended to use grow lights to help the seeds germinate indoors.
5. Provide your Habañero with Sufficient Sun
Make sure your plant gets at least 8 hours of direct sun a day. Six hours of sun is okay but eight hours is the best.
Move your plant to a shadier location or use a light cover when your plant’s leaves start to sunscald (beige lesions seen on the leaves) due to too much direct sun. Sunscald happens during really hot days.
6. Correctly Water your Habañero
Water your habañero only when it becomes dry. Too much water may cause the peppers to have a bitter taste. In some instances, too much water may cause your plant to die. Your plant is dry when the pepper leaves wilt.
Over-watering can also cause stress to your Habañero. On the other hand, under-watering can also cause some problems.
To avoid over-watering:
- Water often only during hot or dry weather.
- Make sure your container or pot has enough drainage.
- Refrain from watering your plant if its surface is already damp.
Always check the moisture level of your plant to avoid under-watering. Watering only when your plants are dry or “stressing” your plant produces hotter peppers.
Be careful, though because “over-stressing your plant can cause severe damage.
Habañeros Grown in Buckets or Grow Bags. Water your plant once a week. Water the top layer of the soil until water runs out of the container’s drainage.
Avoid spraying water over the leaves and stems of your plant when the sun is out to prevent them from burning. Check the weight of your container after watering to check if the containers are dry again.
Habañeros Grown in Earth Boxes. The Earth Box has a built-in watering feature that keeps your plant hydrated from the bottom. Fill the tube with water and your watering is done.
In summary, water your Habañero, water deeply but infrequently to avoid over-watering and under-watering. Slightly decrease water frequency once the pepper fruits start showing up.
7. Use the Right Fertilizer
Picking the right fertilizer for your habañero can be a daunting task especially if you are new to growing hot peppers.
All-purpose fertilizers for vegetables work fine in growing healthy-looking plants, but you want to make sure your plant produces the best hot peppers.
Follow a simple fertilizing regimen to ensure your habañero produces a lot of peppers.
Choose a fertilizer that contains a sufficient amount of nitrogen. Nitrogen can help your young plant develop into big, healthy plants.
Begin fertilizing with an 11-3-8 fertilizer (11% Nitrogen (N), 3% Phosphorous (N), and 8% Potassium (P) about one week after your habañero s begin to sprout.
Start at ½ the strength of the fertilizer to ensure a strong leafy growth. Start fertilizing in Mid-March.
Switch to a fertilizer with lower nitrogen content once your nitrogen plant begins to flower, so the fruits become the priority and allow the formation of habañero pepper pods. This is in about mid-June.
The aim of your habañero is to grow the best peppers and not to grow a leafy bush, so make sure to choose the right fertilizer.
Follow the normal instructions on the fertilizer package once your plant is at least 4-5 inches tall.
Keep in mind that too much nitrogen can damage your Habañero. Bringing down the nitrogen levels of the fertilizer you apply to the plant will keep the flowers from falling off. It also ensures your plant will produce a lot of healthy peppers.
8. Pruning Increase Yield
Pruning means trimming off portions of your Habañero to stimulate its sturdiness and shape. Start pruning young Habañeros that are about 6 inches tall.
To prune your Habañero, use a sharp pair of scissors (not your fingers) to trim the central shoot at the node of the base.
Your aim is to cut across the stem without damaging it. This is known as the topping technique because you are cutting off the top of the habañero .
Within a few days after pruning, the habañero will recover and grow new shoots. Your plant will then grow outward and not lanky and tall.
Pruning will also remove low branches known as the technique of overwintering.
9. Transplant your habañeros Outdoors
Transplanting entails moving your Habañero from a smaller to a larger container. You will typically have to transplant your plant twice during the growing season. You can transplant only once if you planted the seeds in a large container.
Prepare a new pot or container:
- Fill up your new pot or container with pre-moistened potting soil.
- Dig out the center deep enough to allow the entire root system of your plant to fit in.
- Move your plant to its new pot.
- Cover the root system of your plant with fresh soil.
- Gently compact the soil.
- Water your plant making sure its roots receive plenty of moisture.
You can move your habañero outdoors after the last frost date (the usual date of the last light freeze in spring and the first light freeze in fall). I
If you live in the Northeastern US, this should be around May 15. You can check the last frost date in your area on almanac.com.
Be sure to allow your plant to transition before moving it outdoors.
Transitioning is the process of slowly allowing your plant to adapt to the climate outdoor (direct sunlight, wind, etc).
To allow your Habañero to transition outdoors, place it in a shady area in your garden for a few hours each day.
Increase your plant’s outdoor time over the next 7 to 10 days.
After about five days, expose your plant to the morning sun.
Never immediately expose your plant to direct sunlight.
10. Harvesting your Habañero Peppers
The color of your Habanera Pepper upon maturity depends on its variety. The common habañero Pepper, though is orange. The Caribbean Habañero s and Red Savina are deep red at maturity.
The Peruvian White Habañeros will be pale white, and Chocolate Habañero s will be dark brown.
Make sure to research what color your habañero variety will be at maturity so you can harvest the peppers at the right time. Make sure, though, you have harvested all mature peppers before the first frost.
Always use a sharp knife or shears to harvest your peppers. Pulling off the peppers from the plant with your hand can injure the branches.
You can start picking Habañero Peppers when they are green and firm. You can also harvest the peppers during the end of the growing season when the peppers are color red.
This should be about after two to three months after planting.
Habañero Peppers are good regardless of whether they are harvested green or red.
After harvesting your habañero Peppers, you can store them in a cool place for up to 3 weeks. As mentioned above, there are many things you can do with your fresh habañero Peppers.
Possible Problems With Your Habañero
Your habañero is not prone to pest infestation. You, however, still need to look out for signs of aphids and slugs in your plant.
These pests can be removed by spraying a mixture of soap and water or insecticide in most instances. You may also use neem oil (a natural pesticide found in the seeds of the neem tree).
Spray your habañero once every two weeks of your choice of treatment. The curling of the plant’s leaves is often the sign it has been attacked by pests.
Most insects and pests that get your Habañero are easy to control.
Blossom end rot is another issue you need to manage with your Habañeros. Blossom end rot, as its name implies, is when the bottom of your plant rots.
Blossom end rot develops in your plant due to calcium deficiency. Your plant needs calcium so the pepper fruit can form cell walls. I
If your habañero has calcium deficiency or if the pepper fruit grows too fast limiting the plant’s capability of supplying enough calcium, your plant will develop blossom end rot.
Your habañero s calcium deficiency is often caused by any of these:
- The soil lacks calcium content.
- Excess potassium
- Excess nitrogen
- Excess ammonium
- Excess sodium
- Large amounts of water after a period of drought
You can minimize blossom end rot through deep watering during the blooming period. Be careful, though, not to over-water your plant because it may wash away the nutrients in the soil.
Your plant may also develop fungal diseases. Over-watering may also cause your Habañero Peppers to have a bitter taste.
You can also eliminate the fungal infection in your plant through deep watering.
Final Thoughts on How to Grow Better Habañero Peppers
If you are a lover of hot chilis, the Habañero Peppers are not just about the satisfaction of eating one of the hottest peppers in the world. But they are very hot.
The Habañero Pepper can bring out the best flavors of your recipe. You can also opt to eat them in various forms. Many are not aware, though, of many health benefits of regularly consuming habañero Peppers.
The Habañero is a good starter pepper plant if you are new to growing peppers, and have a high heat tolerance in your palette.
The Habañero pepper has developed quite a reputation among pepper lovers. If you have a green thumb, growing habañero Peppers is a great way to have a continuous supply of these extra-hot peppers, especially when they are not available in your area.
It is easy to plant and care for a Habañero. You can start growing your plant indoors and transplant it outdoors after a few weeks.
Although it is one of the peppers with a long growing season, you can start to harvest and enjoy your homegrown habañero Peppers after only three months.