How to Grow Ghost Pepper Plants

Grow the Fiery Ghost Pepper at Home

Mature ghost pepper fruits hang from a ghost pepper plant.

 KLH49 / Getty Images

Add a little spice to your garden this year (or a lot!) with ghost pepper plants. Native to northeast India, ghost peppers are hybrid chili peppers that have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304. In 2007, the ghost pepper was named the hottest pepper in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records, but it has since been succeeded by the Infinity Chili and the Carolina Reaper. With a few tips and tricks, you can learn how to grow one of the world’s hottest peppers for yourself.

Botanical Name Bhut jolokia
Common Name Ghost pepper, ghost chili pepper, ghost chili, naga jolokia
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 4 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH 6.0-6.8
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 8-11
Native Area India
A ghost pepper plant stands in front of lush green foliage, several ghost peppers with various stages of ripeness hang from the branches.
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How to Grow Ghost Pepper Plants

Ghost peppers are a relatively hard pepper to grow due to its requirements for high temperature and humidity. It grows best when in conditions similar to that of its native habitat, India, which experiences several months of intense heat and humidity during the summer. In North America these conditions are often hard to replicate outdoors, so many gardeners choose to grow ghost peppers in controlled conditions indoors or in a greenhouse space. 

Sensitive to changes in their environment and easily susceptible to shock, ghost pepper plants like a strict care regimen. But when grown properly, they can be bountiful plants. A healthy ghost pepper plant can grow up to 100 peppers.

Light

Ghost pepper plants need plenty of bright, direct sunlight. During their four- to five- month growing period, ghost pepper plants require consistently hot, bright sunlight If growing ghost pepper plants indoors, supplementing the light with grow lights will be necessary. 

Soil

Loamy, well-drained soil is best for ghost pepper plants. If growing ghost pepper plants in containers ensuring the potting medium is well-draining is of utmost importance. When growing ghost peppers in the garden, add some organic matter into the soil at the beginning of the growing season, especially if the soil is sandy.

Water

As a good general rule of thumb, wait for the top two inches of soil to dry between watering ghost pepper plants. In extremely hot conditions, this can be frequent. In milder conditions, waterings may be more spaced out. Once you develop a watering schedule that works, stick to it. Irregularities in the watering schedule can shock ghost pepper plants.

Temperature and Humidity

Ghost pepper plants are extremely particular about their temperature and humidity conditions. They must have a growing season of longer than three months, in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity. Four to five months of extreme heat and humidity is ideal. 

Rapid temperature changes and cold periods can cause ghost pepper plants to drop their flowers or fail to thrive. For these reasons, ghost pepper plants readily grow in greenhouse conditions - which provide adequate humidity and temperature for them.

Fertilizing

Fertilize ghost pepper plants immediately after planting, and then twice more throughout the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. Although it may be tempting, do not fertilize ghost pepper plants more often than that as they are very sensitive to over-fertilization.

Harvesting Ghost Peppers

As ghost peppers ripen they will turn from green to bright red. They need a long growing season, and can sometimes take up to 160 days from planting to reach harvest. Ghost peppers reach full maturity when the chiles are bright red, with a slight wrinkle to the skin. They can be harvested at any point if desired but will be spiciest if harvested when fully mature. This is because the compound responsible for the spice in ghost peppers, Capsaicin, increases in concentration until the peppers reach full maturity. 

Always wear protective apparel when harvesting ghost peppers, and be careful to avoid touching your face or skin after handling the hot chilis. Gloves and long sleeves are recommended when handling ghost peppers.

Growing from Seeds

Ghost pepper seeds take about 35 days to germinate in moist, warm soil kept between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (27-32 degrees Celsius). Before planting, soak the seeds in hydrogen peroxide for a minute to increase germination success. Plants should be grown at least 24-36 inches away from one another. 

Due to the demands for heat and moisture to germinate, ghost pepper seeds are most easily started indoors and grow readily in greenhouse conditions. Use full sun fluorescent grow lights to maintain temperature and humidity when started indoors.

Common Pests/Diseases

Ghost pepper plants are susceptible to a number of common pests and diseases when grown outdoors and when grown indoors. Some of the pests most likely to afflict a ghost pepper plant include aphids, spider mites, slugs and snails, and thrips. Common bacterial and fungal diseases include anthracnose, bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, and pepper mosaic, among others. The best way to keep a ghost pepper plant healthy is to conduct regular inspections of the plant and catch any infestations early.