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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Specialty Hot Peppers

Other Common Names Include:

Hot pepper, chili pepper – often named for various types and species (e.g. habanero, Szechuan, pablano, cayenne)

Latin Name: Capsicum annuum, Capsicum chinense

Plant Family: Solanaceae

Close Relatives: Bell peppers, eggplant, tomato, potato, tomatillo, goji

Uses and Markets: Culinary (e.g. salsa, chutney, and marinades).  Specialty peppers are frequently consumed in equatorial countries around the world. Uses are specific to different regions and, in some cases, varieties.      

Habanero pepper Szechuan peppers
Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes

Agronomic requirements of specialty peppers are similar to those of bell peppers. For general agronomic requirements for peppers consult the OMAFRA Vegetable Guides.

Propagation method

Transplants from seeds.

Greenhouse Seeding/Propagation Dates

5-9 weeks before transplanting.

Field Seeding Date:


Field Transplanting Dates

Late spring, after risk of frost.

In-row spacing

45 cm

Between row spacing

100 cm

Optimal Soil temperature at planting



The Ontario recommendation for nitrogen is 35kg/ha pre-plant and 35kg/ha side-dressed after first fruit set.  Broadcast and incorporate the recommended preplant nitrogen, along with the required phosphate and potash, prior to planting. Side-dress the remainder of the nitrogen after first fruit set. For fertigation scheduling consult the most recent version of OMAFRA’s vegetable production guide.  Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

Well-drained soil; all soil types.

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit

Peppers respond well to plastic mulch, row covers and drip irrigation.

Optimal Temperature Range

21 - 35°C

Temperature sensitivity

Frost sensitive

Irrigation requirements

Irrigation beneficial under normal Ontario conditions.

Days to harvest

60-75 days after transplanting, depending on variety.

Specialized equipment


Harvest Scheduling

Multiple harvests from the same planting. 

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Hand harvest

Quality parameters/grades

No established grades. Quality is determined by the market.

Additional Harvest Notes

Different markets prefer different size/maturity. Market research is essential prior to growing specialty peppers.

Post harvest
Special handling/curing:

After harvest, wash fresh market peppers in chlorinated water (100-150 ppm chlorine), to eliminate fruit rotting organisms.

Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): 90-95%

Temperature: 7-13°C

Air Exchange: N/A

Duration: 14-21 days

Specific pests observed on this crop in Ontario (observations based on limited experience with this crop)

Insects and Invertebrates: Cutworms, tarnished plant bug, wireworms, aphids, European corn borer, pepper maggot, mites, stink bugs

Diseases: Damping-off, root rots, foliar blights (e.g. Alternaria, Botrytis, Anthracnose), powdery mildew, bacterial spot, bacterial soft rot, bacterial wilt, verticillium wilt, viruses (e.g. Cucumber mosaic, tomato spotted wilt), white mould (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum), nematodes, phytophthora blight, Pseudomonas


Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).

Insects and Invertebrates: Brown marmorated stink bug



*Indicates pests commonly mentioned as causing significant damage or economic loss to this crop in other regions.


To date the following pests have been the most significant in Ontario: bacterial and fungal blights, European corn borer, pepper maggot.  This plant is closely related to traditional varieties of pepper, and all pests of traditional peppers in Ontario are potential pests of specialty hot peppers, although their level of susceptibility may differ. For a comprehensive guide to pests and disorders of peppers in Ontario refer to Ontario CropIPM. It is important to note that not all pest control products registered on conventional bell peppers are registered on specialty peppers.  This crop is in Crop Group 8-09: Fruiting Vegetables Group, subgroup 8-09B: Pepper/Eggplant Subgroup and subgroup 8-09C: Nonbell Pepper/Eggplant Subgroup.  For more information on Crop Groups, refer to the Pest section.  Always refer to product labels, and follow all directions specified on the label, before applying any pest control product.  For more information, consult an OMAFRA specialist. For pest control products registered on this crop refer to OMAFRA Publication 838 Vegetable Crop Protection Guide.

Additional Notes


Ontario Research Projects Used to Create This Profile
  1. Bilal, A. and M. Brownbridge. 2010-2012 World crops project. Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, unpublished.
  2. Elford, E., Filotas, M., Todd, J., and S. Westerveld. 2009. Non-traditional crops demonstration garden. OMAFRA Simcoe Resource Centre, unpublished.
  1. Howard, R.J., Garland, J.A., and W.L. Seaman (eds.). 1994.  Diseases and pests of vegetable crops in Canada: an illustrated compendium.  Canadian Phytopathological Society and the Entomological Society of Canada.
  2. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. 2010. Vegetable production recommendations. Publication 363, Queen’s Printer for Ontario, Toronto.
  3. O’Sullivan, J., Grohs, R., and R. Riddle. 2004-2007 Vegetable Production Research Reports: Beets, Pickling Cucumbers and Peppers. University of Guelph, Dept. of Plant Agriculture, Simcoe, unpublished.