The 25 Best Types of Peppers for Novice Gardeners to Grow
Add a little—or a lot—of spice to your menu with peppers grown in your own garden. Choose from some of the most popular, most familiar, hottest, and mildest, or experiment with a new variety.
In their native territory of tropical America (including Central and South America and Mexico), peppers are a perennial shrub. However, these frost-tender plants typically are treated as annuals in northern climates. Grown by pre-Columbian civilizations, pepper fruits have been a staple of cuisines as well as an important source of spices and medicines in equatorial America and as far away as Asia.
Today, there are numerous types of peppers that range in size, color, and varying degrees of “heat,” as measured on the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) scale, a tool for quantifying the spiciness or pungency of different peppers.
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1. Bell Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
One of the most familiar pepper types, the sweet bell pepper produces thick, mild fruits that grow to be green, yellow, or red and are high in vitamins A and C. Their crunchy flesh is tasty when eaten raw in salads or as part of a crudités platter, but they can also taste great in cooked or baked dishes.
Bell peppers have a long growing season, preferring full sun and well-draining, loamy soil, with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. They’re ready to harvest in 60 to 90 days.
Scoville heat units: Because bell peppers lack capsaicin, the active component that produces heat, they have a SHU rating of 0.
Our Recommendation: Burpee Great Stuff Sweet Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $7.51.
This variety produces large, disease-resistant peppers in abundance.
2. Banana Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Sweet Banana’)
Another sweet variety, the banana pepper is duly named for its physical resemblance to its namesake, with curved, yellow fruit. Often called sweet banana pepper for its flavor, it’s a mild, medium-size variety that is actually one of the types of chili peppers, but without heat. It’s commonly used in salads and sandwiches and on pizza.
The plants grow 18 to 24 inches high and sometimes require staking. They like rich, well-draining soil, full sun, and balanced or low-nitrogen fertilizer. Harvest is in about 70 days.
Scoville heat units: This sweet pepper usually ranks at 0 SHU, but can rate as high as 500 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Instant Latch Sweet Banana Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $6.95.
These non-GMO heirloom seeds grow fruit that reaches about 6 inches at maturity.
3. Poblano Pepper (Capsicum annuum var. annum ‘Poblano’)
This fairly large, deep green, heart-shaped pepper may be familiar to those who eat chile rellenos. It dates back to Olmec times in Mexico, around 1400 BCE. Mildly spicy, it is still used in many Mexican dishes. When dried, poblanos are known as anchos, which have a rich, raisin-like sweetness that makes them popular for use in sauces.
Like other peppers, poblanos like rich, well-draining soil and full sun. Shrubby plants reach only 2 feet tall, but produce a lot of fruit that’s ready to harvest in 65 days.
Scoville heat units: Mild to medium, poblanos are considered a step up from banana peppers, at 1,000 to 2,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Instant Latch Ancho Poblano Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $6.95.
This non-GMO, heirloom variety has a good germination percentage, and the fruit grows to about 4½ inches in 75 days.
4. Anaheim Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Anaheim’)
Sometimes called New Mexico green chile, Magdelena peppers, California chiles (because they are botanically chiles, not peppers), the Anaheim pepper is named for the California city where they’ve been grown commercially since 1894. The well-known New Mexico variety is a relative of the Anaheim modified for heat and flavor. This mild, medium-size pepper is one of the most common in the United States for recipes. Varieties grown for red chile are dried and strung together to make ristras.
Anaheim peppers like sandy, loamy soil, full sun, and lots of heat, with temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As one of the hot pepper types, they require 80 days to reach maturity.
Scoville heat units: Comparable to a poblano, the Anaheim pepper is generally mild, but has some hot varieties, so it rates 500 to 2,5000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Anaheim 118 Hybrid Hot Pepper Seeds at Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. for $5.99.
This hybrid has improved performance over other varieties, producing large, uniform fruit with good flavor.
5. Jalapeño Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Jalapeño’)
One of the types of green peppers frequently used in cooking due to its popular flavor, the jalapeño is a medium-size mildly hot chili pepper originating in Mexico. Chipotles are simply dried and smoked jalapeño peppers. The peppers can grow up to 6 inches, but typically are harvested when they’re between 2 and 3 inches long.
Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and produce 30 to 40 bright green peppers in about 80 days. If left on the vine, they turn red and have a slightly fruity flavor.
Scoville heat units: Jalapeños range from 2,500 to 10,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Mild Jalapeño Pepper Seeds at Ferry Morse Home Gardening for $2.19.
This variety has a high germination rate, is easy to grow, and features a good flavor without a lot of heat.
6. Serrano Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Serrano’)
The Serrano pepper, named for the mountains in Puebla and Hidalgo, Mexico, where it originates, has a flavor similar to the jalapeño, but is considerably hotter. It’s also smaller, about 1 to 4 inches long, and can be green, red, brown, orange, or yellow. The smaller the fruit, the hotter it is. It’s not the best pepper for drying, but works well in salsa, sauces, and relishes, and can be roasted.
Plants reach 5 feet tall and produce up to 50 pepper pods at a time. They prefer temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scoville heat units: This little pepper has a rating from 6,000 to 23,000 SHU, with a smaller size generally indicative of a higher rating.
Our Recommendation: Serrano Chili Pepper Seeds at Ferry Morse Home Gardening for $1.99.
This variety has a high germination rate and has top flavor while still green or just starting to change color.
7. Habanero Pepper (Capsicum chinense Habanero Group)
Popular for its tropical citrus flavor, the habanero is so hot, cooks should wear gloves when handling it. This small Peruvian pepper dates back 8,500 years; today, it’s used in sauces, powders, and rubs, thanks to a hint of smoke flavor mixed with citrus tones. Available in red, orange, dark brown, and nearly black, the pepper grows to only 1 to 3 inches long, with smooth skin on its pod-shaped form.
Plants require deep but infrequent watering and row covers to protect them from too much sun, which dries and cracks the fruit. The hotter the pepper, the longer the growing season. These are ready to harvest in 90 days.
Scoville heat units: Ranked as one of—if not the—hottest chili peppers, the habanero ranges from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Habanero Pepper Seeds at Ferry Morse Home Gardening for $2.19.
The 25 seeds in a packet have a high germination rate and can up the heat ante for home cooks.
8. Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Cayenne’)
Most often seen in its dried and ground form as a spice added atop pizza or as the main ingredient of chili powder, the cayenne pepper is a slender, tapered chili about 2 to 5 inches long. The peppers start out green and ripen to red hot.
Originating in French Guiana, cayennes are one of the types of red peppers. This subtropical to tropical plant likes well-draining soil, full sun, warmth, and a long growing season. Fruit typically ripens in 70 days.
Scoville heat units: The cayenne pepper is comparable to the serrano pepper in heat at 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, although some varieties are bred to be hotter.
Our Recommendation: Gardners Basics Cayenne Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $5.95.
These non-GMO heirloom seeds are easy to grow and have excellent germination rates.
9. Cherry Pepper (Capsicum annuum Cerasiforme group)
Earning their name due to their resemblance to cherries, cherry peppers are small (up to 2 inches), round, and red. They have a sweet, succulent flavor. Their firm skin makes them good candidates for pickling, but they are also used to flavor cured meat, as a substitute for pimento peppers, or as sandwich toppers. They are also commonly made into poppers.
Hailing from Central and South America, the cherry pepper plant prefers full sun, well-draining soil, high humidity, and warm temperatures. They ripen in 75 to 80 days.
Scoville heat units: Cherry peppers rate similarly to jalapenos at 2,500 to 5,000 SHU, but some varieties can rate as low as 500 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Burpee Large Cherry Hot Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $7.66.
These seeds have a good germination rate and produce large cherry peppers.
10. Shishito Pepper (Capsicum annuum var. grossum)
This Japanese pepper that’s so trendy at restaurants and farmers’ markets is easy to grow at home. The name Shishito, which means lion’s head, comes from the pepper’s blunt tip that looks lionesque. The pepper’s thin skin makes it good for pan searing, frying, grilling, and eating as an appetizer, although Shishitos also make a nice addition to pizza or other dishes. Mostly mild, the odd Shishito can be spicy. The riper the pepper, the spicier.
Compact plants grow about 2 feet tall, producing a heavy crop of 2- to 4-inch fruit in about 60 to 65 days. They are traditionally harvested while green. Plants can benefit from some support in late summer.
Scoville heat units: This wrinkly, usually mild pepper rates 50 to 200 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Seedz Shishito Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $7.88.
These heirloom pepper seeds have a high germination rate and typically produce plants with an abundance of fruit.
11. Scotch Bonnet Pepper (Capsicum chinense ‘Scotch Bonnet’)
Don’t be fooled by the name; this Caribbean pepper is a relative of the habanero and among the hottest around. Its name derives from its resemblance to the Scottish Tam o’Shanter cap—or a lantern. Other names include Bahama Mama and Jamaican Hot. Only an inch or two in length, bright yellow, orange, or red in color, Scotch bonnet has a sweet, fruity flavor with hints of apple, cherry, and tomato. It’s used in island dishes such as jerk chicken.
Plants are easy to grow, preferring well-draining soil, full sun, plenty of water, and staking for support. Harvest is typically in 80 to 90 days.
Scoville heat units: Scotch bonnet is one of the hottest peppers, rating 100,000 to 350,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper Seeds at Botanical Interests for $4.29.
This heirloom pepper grows well in containers and is sweetest (and hottest) when harvested at peak redness.
12. Ghost Pepper (Capsicum chinense ‘Bhut Jolokia’)
Also known as Bhut Jolokia, Ghost pepper comes from Northeastern India and is one of the hottest edible peppers in the world. From 2007 to 2011, Guinness recorded this one as the world’s hottest pepper. Actually a small chile, it’s usually red or orange and is about 2½ to 3½ inches long. Its skin can be bumpy or smooth, and is thinner than that of other chiles. Half of its heat is in the flesh of the fruit. Ghost pepper’s slightly smoky flavor makes it a favorite ingredient in chutney and curry.
The plants prefer temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above, with full sun and well-draining soil. They have a long growing season of 110 days, and will grow best in hotter zones or with the help of a greenhouse.
Scoville heat units: With a SHU score of 855,000 to 1,041,427, Ghost peppers should be handled with care—and gloves.
Our Recommendation: Ghost Pepper Seeds at Park Seed for $3.95.
This seed has a high germination rate and Park Seed provides plenty of helpful information about growing these peppers.
13. Fresno Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Fresno’)
Often confused for red jalapeños, Fresno peppers are hotter, but sweeter, with a fruitier and smokier flavor as they mature. Usually harvested green at around 70 to 80 days, Fresno peppers have more flavor when green and more heat when red. Growing to 2 to 3 inches, they are slightly curved and have glossy, smooth skin. They’re ideal for salsas, stews, dips, and other dishes.
The plants grow 18 to 30 inches and prefer full sun and well-draining soil.
Scoville heat units: One way Fresno peppers differ from jalapeños is in heat; they range from a milder 2,500 to 10,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Fresno Pepper Seeds on Park Seed for $3.95.
This seed has a high germination rate and Park Seed provides a lot of growing information for Fresno peppers.
14. Piquillo Peppers (Capsicum annuum ‘Piquillo’)
This mild, sweet Spanish pepper curves and narrows to a point at the end of the pod in such a way that it resembles a bird’s beak, which explains its name. Only 2½ to 3 inches long, it matures to a vibrant red in about 85 days on plants that grow to 3 feet tall in full sun.
Piquillo peppers have a succulent sweet flavor with smokey, tangy undertones. With thick walls like bell peppers, they can be cooked in the same way, but have a sweet crunch when eaten raw, and can be roasted or included in sauces and other dishes.
Scoville heat units: Piquillo peppers are sweet and mild, with just 500 to 1,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Sherwoods Seeds Spanish Little Beak Piquillo Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $6.99.
These heirloom seeds grow true.
15. Tabasco Pepper (Capsicum frutescens ‘Tabasco’)
The Mexican pepper used to make the famous hot sauce that bears its name is a small, bright red pepper when ripe (in about 80 days). They are sweeter and fruitier when fully ripe.
These 2-inch fruits grow on bushy plants that can reach 5 feet tall. They prefer full sun, well-draining soil, and warm temperatures of at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to being the key ingredient in tabasco sauce, these chili peppers can be used in salsa or dehydrated to make chili powder.
Scoville heat units: Tabasco peppers have 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, making them a very hot pepper.
Our Recommendation: Harley Seeds Tabasco Hot Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $4.79.
These non-GMO heirloom seeds have a high germination rate and are a U.S. product.
16. Basque Fryer Pepper (Capsicum annuum “Gorria”)
From the Basque region on the border of France and Spain comes a sweet pepper known as the doux des Landes (sweet from Landes, or southwest France). With a flavor ranging from robust and smoky to sweet and fruity, the Basque Fryer pepper is delicious when eaten raw, roasted, or sauteed in a variety of sweet sauces and dishes, such as the Basque recipe Piperade.
Fruit grows on large, bushy plants that reach 3 feet tall, and is ready to harvest in about 70 days.
Scoville heat units: This long, sweet pepper has a SHU rating of 0.
Our Recommendation: Refining Fire Doux de Landes Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $3.99.
Doux des Landes Basque Fryer peppers are rare and seeds can not only be hard to come by, but are typically slow to germinate.
17. Padron Peppers (Capsicum annuum ‘Padron’)
Spaniards have a saying about this tiny, flavorful pepper from their country: some are hot, some are not. Most are not. Padron peppers are known as sweet, mild, and slightly nutty. Bright green to yellow-green, they have thin skin, an elongated shape, and are about 2 to 4 inches long. Often fried, which releases their sweetness, the peppers can also be grilled.
Plants reach 2 feet tall and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They’re usually ready to harvest in 80 to 85 days.
Scoville heat units: The small Spanish Padron pepper is mild, rating just 500 to 2,5000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Padron Pepper seeds at Grow Organic for $3.99.
These organic Padron Pepper seeds from California produce well and can range from mild to hot.
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18. Rocoto Pepper (Capsicum pubescens)
On the outside, this Peruvian pepper resembles a small bell pepper in green, red, orange, or yellow. But Rocoto peppers are much hotter—and they’re actually a different species, with black seeds, purple flowers instead of white, and hairy leaves. Hot as a habanero, the rocoto pepper has a crisp, fruity flavor with tones of apple and tomato. Its flesh is thick and juicy, making it a candidate for stuffing, sauteing, salsa, or using on pizza.
Domesticated 5,000 years ago, the plants are tall and vining, preferring partial shade and cooler temperatures; they can even survive mild frost.
Scoville heat units: The hottest rocoto peppers are yellow, but all colors rate somewhere from 30,000 to 100,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Red Rocoto Pepper Seeds at Pepper Joe’s for $4.99.
Rocoto seeds can be hard to find. Pepper Joe’s provides information and support for growing these rare peppers.
19. Piri Piri Pepper (Capsicum frutescens ‘Piri piri’)
Imported to Portugal from Africa, Piri Piri peppers are small and elongated, resembling Thai chilis. Like them, Piri Piri peppers pack plenty of heat. Also known as African Birdseye or African red devil, Piri Piri is one of the hottest peppers outside the Capsicum chinense species.
Small, bushy plants produce an abundance of small red fruit that points in all directions, and are generally ready to harvest in 80 days. Often used in sauces, marinades, and wet rubs, it adds a citrusy, herbal flavor.
Scoville heat units: Piri Piri peppers bring the heat, with 30,000 to 100,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Click and Grow Smart Garden Piri Piri Chili Plant Pods at Amazon for $9.95.
These pepper pods are large and designed for indoor growing.
20. Cubanelle Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Cubanelle’)
Known as the Italian Frying Pepper, the Cubanelle is slightly sweet and crunchier than most bell peppers, with a vibrant light green color and a shape like a banana. Considered mild, it can sometimes bring mild heat. Its thin skin, which is slightly wrinkled, makes it good for frying, but it’s also used in salads, general cooking, in yellow mole sauce, and on subs or pizza.
The peppers mature in about 62 to 70 days on plants that reach 2 feet tall and prefer full sun and well-draining soil.
Scoville heat units: Although it can sometimes be a bit spicy, the Cubanelle pepper is considered sweet, with 100 to 1,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Cubanelle Sweet Pepper at John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds for $4.45.
These pepper plants are very productive and the fruit is versatile, with a sweet taste and mild heat.
21. Pimento Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.)
Similar to bell peppers, the pimento pepper is a small, sweet, heart-shaped red pepper with a thick, juicy wall that makes the fruit a good choice for roasting or dipping. It’s often used to stuff olives and cheese; its dried version is used in paprika. The pepper has a succulent, sweet, mild flavor.
Fruits mature in 80 to 100 days to about 3 to 4 inches long on small plants (up to 2 feet tall) with full sun and well-drained soil. They’re suitable for container growing.
Scoville heat units: Pimento peppers are sweet and mild, with 100 to 500 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Homegrown Seeds Sweet Pimento Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $6.99.
These heirloom seeds have a 95 percent germination rate for the plants, which produce a versatile fruit.
22. Mirasol Chili Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Guajillo’)
Named for the way these bright red peppers grow pointed upward, toward the sun (mirasol means “looking at the sun” in Spanish), Mirasol chili peppers offer mild, spicy flavor with an undertone of fruitiness. They add heat to salsa, chili, or other dishes. They’re one of the main chilis used in mole sauce. Their dried form is called guajillo, with a tangy, fruity flavor.
Green and red fruit grows to 3 to 5 inches on plants that reach 2 feet tall in full sun and well-draining soil. They mature in 80 to 90 days on small plants that reach only less than 2 feet tall; thus, they make great ornamental plants and can easily be grown in containers.
Scoville heat units: The Mirasol Chili pepper has medium heat with 2,500 to 5,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Mirasol Mosco Pueblo Chile Seeds at Sandia Seed Co. for $2.49.
These Colorado seeds produce flavorful chiles, excellent for red chile sauce.
23. Thai Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Bird’s Eye’)
This possible Mexican native is widely grown in South or Southeast Asian and used in Asian cuisine because it adds a lot of heat, although there are 79 varieties with varying levels of heat. Red or green, these small, thin chilis grow 1 to 2 inches and are often used in chili powder and curry.
The plants like hot weather, moist soil, and full sun. Fruits mature in about 130 days.
Scoville heat units: Thai peppers are known to be fairly hot, rating 50,000 to 100,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Burpee Big Thai Hybrid Hot Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $6.90.
This is a large variety that’s difficult to find in stores.
24. Pepperoncini Peppers (Capsicum annuum ‘Friggitello’)
Pepperoncini peppers look like banana peppers, but are a little tangier. Also known as Sweet Italian, Tuscan, or golden Greek peppers, they are mostly mild and sweet, with a bit of heat and a little bitterness. Often pickled or used on pizza or in salads and antipasto platters, these small (2- to 3-inch) peppers ripen to red, but are mostly found with yellow-green, wrinkled skin.
Plants like warm temperatures, full sun, and well-draining soil. Fruit matures in around 70 days. As peppers turn from yellow to orange, they begin to lose flavor.
Scoville heat units: Little yellow pepperoncini peppers are sweet and mild, rating 0 to 1,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Sherwood Seeds Pepperoncini Pepper Seeds at Amazon for $6.99.
This is a classic heirloom pepper that is easy to grow.
25. Bulgarian Carrot Pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Bulgarian carrot’)
Also known as Shipka’s pepper, the Bulgarian carrot pepper features bright orange, glossy, thick skin. It has a fruity flavor with a moderate amount of heat. That and its thin, crisp, flavorful pulp make it a good choice for salsa, chutney, and roasting.
Fruits of 3- to 4-inch length grow prolifically on plants that reach up to 2 feet. Plants produce best in full sun, with moist, rich soil, and warm temperatures. Straight or slightly curved, the tapering fruit is dark green until it ripens, when it turns orange.
Scoville heat units: Bulgarian carrot peppers rank between a poblano and a serrano pepper at 10,000 to 30,000 SHU.
Our Recommendation: Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Seeds at Sandia Seed Co. for $3.99.
These heirloom seeds were imported from Bulgaria and are very flavorful.
The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on 12/29/2022.