It’s hard to go anywhere there’s food and not see a member of the genus Capsicum or one of its hybrids or cultivars present.
The fruit of these plants is used extensively in salads, spicy foods, and spices. They’re also one of many garden plants you can take a mostly hands-off approach with.
However, there are a few rules to follow if you want to get the most out of your pepper plants, and one of these is proper spacing.
Why Is Proper Spacing Important?
Proper spacing isn’t just a concept someone invented for fun. When you properly space your plants, they’ll be far happier.
However, improper spacing can lead to several problems, especially the following:
One of the most obvious problems with improper spacing is how it affects your crop yield.
Below ground, the roots may begin competing for resources.
Meanwhile, things can get even worse above ground.
The density may mean plants get less sunlight, resulting in stunted growth and smaller yields.
It’s one thing to talk about minimal spacing, but there’s not enough conversation about having too much space between plants.
When growing peppers in a container, excess spacing will mean your plant’s roots cannot absorb water at the outer edges of the soil. This can lead to fungal infections that attract pests and harm your plants.
Growing peppers in the garden mean less fungal growth risk, but it has a very different drawback.
Whether you have a small garden or several acres, spacing your peppers too far apart will result in an inefficient garden.
Depending on how far you space the plants, this could mean one less row available or a huge loss of space.
This is why it’s important to pay attention to the range given for spacing and aim to stay within that range.
Another problem with spacing your plants too far apart is the risk of weeds. Weeds will quickly fill in the gaps and steal nutrients from your plants. This can result in several problems, affecting crop yields and overall health.
Overcrowding your plants can also be risky.
Grouping raises humidity, but if there’s nowhere for that dampness to go, this can lead to fungal infections if the levels get too high.
Water from rain or dew may also fail to properly dry on deeper leaves within the cluster, resulting in a higher risk of fungal infections or rot.
But there’s also a much higher risk of spreading pests and disease.
When one plant becomes infected, it’s easy for pathogens and plant pests to spread from one plant to another in a very short amount of time.
Depending on the type and severity of the infection or infestations, you can lose some or all of your crop.
A Note On Starting Peppers Indoors
While it’s possible to plant peppers directly in your garden, most growers prefer to start them indoors to get an earlier yield.
This means you will be planting the seeds in flats approximately 8 weeks before it’s time to transplant them outdoors.
There’s no hard or fast rule here, but you will want to think out your seedlings after they get their first set of leaves if planting multiple seeds in a single large flat.
How Far Apart Should You Plant Peppers?
The proper spacing range for peppers is 12” to 18” inches, measured from one stem to the next.
You can space each row 30” to 36” inches apart when doing rows, although you won’t need rows in a small garden.
However, another fact that should be noted is that different species of peppers prefer different distances.
As a general rule, the bigger the pepper plant will be at maturity, the bigger the spacing you’ll want between plants.
Here are a few species and their preferred spacing distances.
These are big peppers, and we’re not just talking about the fruit.
With a mature height of 3’ to 3.5’ feet tall, you’ll want to space these plants 15” to 18” inches apart, measured from stem to stem.
This equates to a radius of 8” to 9” inches per plant, where there should be no overlapping, as the plant itself can grow up to 18” inches wide.
If you’re planting your crops in rows, you will want to aim for 30” to 36” inches between rows.
Bell peppers can be grown in a 5-gallon container.
With a mature height of 2’ to 3’ feet tall, these plants have a little more leeway than bell peppers and can be spaced 12” to 18” inches apart.
If growing in a container, aim for one that’s 3 to 5 gallons.
Putting bell peppers to shame, a habanero plant can reach an impressive 4’ to 5’ feet tall, although they’re closer to 3’ feet in colder climates.
Give these plants some extra room to grow, aiming for 18” to 24” inches of spacing.
As with bell peppers, they can also grow in a 5-gallon container.
One of the most popular hot peppers, this plant will only grow to around 1 to 3’ feet tall.
Depending on how big the cultivar or variety you have is expected to grow, space the plants 12 to 18” inches apart.
As with cayenne peppers, you can grow these in 3 to 5-gallon containers.
Of course, there are many more peppers out there to enjoy than the ones listed, but you should now know the relationship between plant height and spacing.
You can use this knowledge to estimate the spacing needed for any pepper plant.
For example, a plant growing to 1’ foot tall can be spaced 12” inches and need no larger than a 3-gallon pot at full maturity.
Plants that are 2’ feet tall will need 15” inches of spacing and no larger than a 4-gallon container.
3’ foot-tall plants will need 18” inches of spacing or a 5-gallon container.
4’ feet means 21” inches, and 5’ feet is 24” inches of spacing needed.