How Much Sun Do Bell Peppers Need for the Best Harvest?
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Bell peppers are a perfect taste of summer- they’re crisp and juicy with a distinctive sun-kissed taste (that’s my opinion anyway!). To get large, tasty fruits, bell peppers need plenty of sunlight to grow- but figuring out what that actually means can be confusing.
How much sun do bell peppers need to grow? Like all pepper varieties, bell peppers are sun-loving plants that need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Bell pepper plants grown in 8-10 hours of sun daily tend to produce the best harvests.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the definitions of sunlight exposure, what they mean for your bell peppers and whether they’ll grow in any other conditions. I’ll also share my best tips for getting a bumper bell pepper harvest this year.
Let’s get started!
How Much Sun Do Bell Peppers Need?
Bell peppers are true warm-season crops, and they thrive in 6+ hours of direct sunlight each day. I’ve done some experimenting with where I grow peppers of all kinds in the past, and I’ve found that the ones that get sun from about 9AM to 5PM do the best.
I have an unusual backyard layout where I grow my peppers- it’s a roughly 2-foot wide strip of sunny ground right in front of a wooden fence. But that’s all I need; I always grow bell peppers in containers, and that’s more than enough room.
So even if the only sunny spot you have is a patio corner or your front porch (I’ve done that too!), bell peppers will be perfectly happy there.
If your plants are in an ideal spot that gets good sun, each plant can produce up to 10 good-sized bell peppers per growing season. To make the most of the space you do have, choose plants that make good companions for pepper plants.
I’ve also tried growing peppers in a partial shade raised bed that got morning sun with afternoon shade. These peppers weren’t growing well, and they were the only plants to be ruthlessly attacked by aphids. I believe that the plants were weakened by the lack of sunlight, making them vulnerable to pest attacks. Unfortunately, I ended up pulling the plants.
How Many Hours of Sunlight Do Peppers Need?
After proper watering, I’ve found that sun exposure is the most critical element that determines if my plants do well or struggle.
I wanted to cover a quick breakdown of what the light levels actually mean:
- Full Sun: At least 6 hours of unobstructed sunlight daily. Along with bell peppers, a few other plants that love full sun are tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, corn, bush/pole beans, pumpkins, and squash.
- Partial Sun: 4-6 hours of direct light daily. Partial sun could have either morning shade or afternoon shade, but not both.
- Partial Shade: 3-4 hours of sun daily, with plants in afternoon shade. Many people think that partial shade is essentially the same as partial sun, but they are different enough to be two separate things: Partial sun is mostly sunny, and partial shade is mostly shady.
- Full Shade: Less than 3 hours of sun daily. The sun exposure in full shade typically occurs during the morning hours, when the rays are gentler, and the afternoon sun is totally shaded out.
To figure out how many hours of sunlight your peppers are getting, intentionally keep tabs on their sun exposure throughout an entire day. Observe the plants several times during the day, and record what you see. You might be surprised at how a tree or the house shadow can shade out what seems to be a sunny patch at certain times of the day.
And don’t forget about seasonal changes. I’ve found that the sunny backyard strip I mentioned starts to lose a couple of hours of sunlight towards the end of August as the sun stays closer to the horizon.
Figuring out exactly where the sunlight hits your garden throughout the day is called sun mapping. There are quite a few apps that can help, or you can do it by hand by drawing a simple diagram or taking photos several times in one day. This video from Gardener Scott provides a great demonstration of how to plan your sun mapping:
That’s another reason to grow your bell peppers in containers- you can move them to chase the sun if needed!
Can Peppers Get Too Much Sun Exposure?
Peppers will take all the light they can get. But not all light is the same, especially when combined with drought or high temperatures.
During a hot, dry weather pattern, sunscald is a real danger. This usually shows up as pale yellow splotches or black spots on bell peppers. Sun damage usually happens when the leaves wilt from heat or lack of moisture, so they can’t adequately shade the fruit.
There are a few ways you can avoid sun scald during a heat wave:
- Water the plants daily, in the early morning hours if possible. This keeps the leaves hydrated and healthy.
- Mulch the plants with 2-3 inches of (untreated) grass clippings, aged wood chips or compost. This helps retain soil moisture and insulate the roots from extreme heat.
- Provide shade in the afternoon. This could be an umbrella or a homemade structure with shade cloth.
Growing Peppers Indoors: Can You Do It?
With the proper indoor set-up, you can absolutely meet pepper sun requirements and successfully grow bell peppers indoors. You’ll have the best results from a ventilated grow tent and full-spectrum grow light. Oklahoma State University Extension Office recommends LED grow lights, and I agree- I’ve found them to work well.
If you’re lucky enough to have a sunroom that’s not shaded by large trees, you should have enough natural light to work with.
But what about a large, sunny window- is that enough light to grow peppers? The answer is no, more than likely. Even if it’s big, a single window just isn’t enough for sun-loving plants like bell peppers. Plus, the light is coming in at just one angle (from the front)- it’s not surrounding the plant like lighting from above does.
However, I will always encourage experimentation. So if you have a window that gets direct sun for 8+ hours a day (a south-facing window in the northern hemisphere and a north-facing one in the southern hemisphere), why not give it a try? You can also supplement with a full-spectrum grow light for 8-12 hours daily.
Can Peppers Grow in Shade?
No, bell peppers will not thrive in either partial or full shade.
As sun-loving plants, I don’t recommend trying to grow your bell peppers in anything less than partial sun. And even in part sun, you’ll probably get fewer and smaller bell peppers compared to full sun.
What Happens If Peppers Don’t Have Enough Sun
It takes a lot of energy for a pepper plant to produce fruit. The plant gets that energy by producing sugar through photosynthesis, and sunlight is the catalyst for photosynthesis to take place. So if your peppers aren’t getting enough light, they won’t be able to generate much energy. When that happens, you likely won’t see your pepper plant flowering, let alone producing any fruit.
If your plants are in anything less than partial sun, you’ll likely end up with tall, spindly stems reaching for whatever light they can get. There won’t be very many leaves, and probably no flowers. And where there are no flowers, there is also no fruit.
Another problem with shady areas is that soil tends to stay damp. While peppers love lots of water, they need well-draining soil- not ground that stays consistently boggy.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pepper Sun Requirements
We all want the best bell pepper harvest possible- and my experimenting with different lighting convinced me that sun exposure plays a huge part in that. Take some time to determine how much sun exposure your pepper plants will get each day, give them what they need to the best of your ability, and enjoy that delicious harvest!
I’d love to hear from you! Are you still wondering how many hours of sunlight pepper plants need or if your garden is sunny enough? Maybe you’ve got some first-hand experiences in pepper growing that you’d like to share. Either way, there’s no better way to learn than from one another, so please let up know your thoughts in the comments!