One thing I love about gardening is watching each plant progress through its various life stages- so satisfying! And once I learned about the different maturation stages pepper plants go through (specifically banana peppers!), I had a much better idea of a harvest timeline.
There are seven banana pepper plant stages from the beginning to the end of the growing season:
- Planting the seed
- The seed germinates
- True leaves emerge
- Flowers appear
- Pollination by insects
- Fruits form
- Harvest time
In this post, I’ll go through each of these banana pepper growth stages so you can grow your own peck of peppers with no problem at all.
Banana Pepper Plant Stages: Overview
A banana pepper plant will typically reach harvest phase about 60-75 days after planting seeds for sweet yellow varieties. For hot red varieties, the ripening process takes more time, usually up to 90 days. If you’re not quite sure when to pick your peppers, check out my photo timeline of what a ripe banana pepper looks like.
Environmental factors can also affect the growth/ripening process, with these being the most common issues:
- Excessively hot or cold temperatures
- Inconsistent watering being the biggest issues
- Not enough sunlight (banana peppers need 6+ hours daily)
Stage 1. Start with a Seed
If your climate is mild enough, you can seed peppers outside. Peppers at large are not frost tolerant, so the best time to plant them outside is after your last frost date has passed and your weather forecast is warming up. They germinate better if the soil temperature is at least 70 degrees.
For most of us, however, it’s more practical to seed peppers indoors 6-10 weeks before your last frost date.
I’ve covered the seed-starting process in more detail in our post on saving and growing pepper seeds, so stop by to learn more. But here’s a quick breakdown of how to seed banana peppers in a seed tray:
- Fill the cells with a layer of moist potting soil. Press the soil down firmly with your fingers, and then fill the space with another layer of soil.
- Use your finger to poke the middle of each cell to make an indentation.
- Drop a pepper seed into each indentation. Use your fingertip to gently press a thin layer of the soil from the edge of the indentation on top of the seed.
- Mist the soil surface with a spray bottle until it glistens, then repeat. This waters the seed in without washing it away.
- Cover the seed tray with the humidity dome. If necessary, turn on grow lights and position them close to the top of the dome.
Stage 2. The Seed Germinates
Germination is the scientific term for the moment when a seed breaks open and sends out its first little green feeler above the soil.
Your indoor seeds should germinate within 10-14 days of seeding, but your outdoor seeds may take up to 25 days.
The pepper seed will grow two cotyledons, or seed leaves. Seed leaves are a type of leaf, but they look and function differently from the pepper’s characteristic true leaf, which comes next.
Stage 3. True Leaves Appear
A true leaf is technically a leaf with vascular tissue. While seed leaves are generally round or elongated no matter what type of seed, the size and form of true leaves are specific to the particular plant species.
For a banana pepper, the true leaf is pointy and long, almost arrowhead-shaped, and a deep emerald green.
Stage 4. Flowers Develop
Banana pepper flowering occurs a few weeks after the first set of true leaves appear. By this time, the pepper will grow a tall stem (up to 18 inches) and a full set of beautiful, glossy true leaves.
You will then notice several pendant-like nodes growing out of the stem– these are the beginning of the flower buds. Each flower has its own sub-stem that attaches it to the main stem. The flowers open facing down and out, at the bottom of the pendant.
You might notice that banana pepper flowers look a lot like tomato or eggplant flowers, only they’re white in color. That’s because all three of these plants are cousins and belong to the nightshade family Solanaceae.
Stage 5. Pollination Occurs
Pollination is essentially the plant form of sexual reproduction. Pollen from a male flower gets transferred to the female stigma, which transports the pollen to the ovary where the fruit begins to grow.
Stage 6. Banana Pepper Fruits Begin to Grow
Now, on to what we came here for- the banana peppers begin to grow!
The fruits will replace the flowers, growing in the same pendant-like manner from the sub-stem.
The fruits will start out green and stubby, but over time they will grow into the pointy-ended, mellow yellow pepper we all love.
Stage 7. Banana Pepper Fruits Ripen- Ready for Harvest!
Now comes the harvest, typically about 60-90 days after planting the seeds. Depending on when exactly you seeded the peppers, you’ll be able to start harvesting them in July or August right up until frost.
When you harvest peppers on an ongoing basis, the plant will continue to produce more fruits.
Here are some clues that your banana peppers are ready to pick:
- The pepper is 4 to 8 inches long.
- The skin has all changed from green to pale yellow for sweet banana peppers, or red for hot varieties.
- The sides are firm.
- The sub-stem that holds the fruit to the plant gives way easily with a twist. If it does, use garden pruners to cut away the stem instead of trying to pull it off the plant.
- When the pepper falls to the ground by itself.
Frequently Asked Questions about Banana Pepper Plant Stages
I hope this post has given you a better idea of how your banana peppers mature and grow into that tasty, kicky treat we all know and love.
I always thinks it’s fun to watch the various banana pepper plant stages progress and keep track of where my peppers are at the given moment. The beauty and order of creation never ceases to amaze me!
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any pickling recipes or pepper varieties to try? How about any growing tips or mistakes to avoid? Let us know in the comments below!