The habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense) is one of the hottest peppers you can grow in the garden. A hot habanero pepper is fifty times hotter than a jalapeño pepper. A ripe habanero pepper may be red, orange or yellow. Use gloves and eye protection when handling hot habanero peppers.
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Plant in the Right Location
Habanero pepper plants produce the most peppers when grown in full sun, which means exposure to at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. However, in the hotter parts of the southwestern United States, the fruit of the habanero pepper plant is susceptible to sunscald, so some shade may be needed during the hottest part of the day. The best way to prevent sunscald is to have healthy disease and insect-free plants with healthy foliage to shade the fruit.
Plant in the Right Soil
The best soil for growing habanero peppers is a well-drained soil, amended with lots of organic matter such as compost, rotted leaves or rotted manure. Adding a layer of mulch around the pepper plants' root systems controls weeds and prevents moisture loss from the soil. The soil pH should be near neutral, in the range of 6.0 to 7.0.
Fertilise habanero pepper plants with a balanced garden fertiliser, one where the fertiliser ratio numbers on the package representing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the same, such as 8-8-8 or 13-13-13. Apply the fertiliser according to the directions on the fertiliser label. Do not over-fertilise, or the plants will produce green growth at the expense of pepper production.
Plant at the Right Time of Year
Habanero plants are very sensitive to cold temperatures. Do not plant pepper plants outdoors if nighttime temperatures may drop below 10 degrees C. Be prepared to cover the plants for protection when you expect cool nights. Habanero pepper plants need daytime temperatures between 18.3 and 29.4 degrees C for best pepper production.
Give the Plants the Right Spacing
Habanero pepper plants need good spacing to grow to their full size, so space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Rows should be at least 3 feet apart.
Insect and Disease Control
Prevent cutworm damage by adding cardboard collars around the bottom of new transplants. You can pick off most other insect pests by hand in early morning before the dew dries.
Habanero pepper plants are susceptible to some of the same diseases as tomatoes. Be sure your hands and tools are clean when handling pepper plants to prevent the spread of disease.
Warm and wet soil kills habanero pepper plants as easily as drought, because soil-borne fungal disease thrives in wet soil.
Provide even moisture during the growing season. The soil around the habanero pepper plants should be evenly moist, but not wet or waterlogged. Water the base of the plants to avoid splashing water on leaves, fruit or blossoms, which can spread fungal diseases. If plants are wilting after they are watered, withhold water for a few days.
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