Pepper Plant Fertilization: How and When to Do It

Using the appropriate fertilizer is important for success when growing pepper plants. Are you using the right ones?

There are countless fertilizers on the market these days. But not all of them are created equal. Some do not use quality ingredients, while others do not have the proper nutrient ratios. Finding a proper fertilizer and using it correctly can go a long way in helping your pepper plants grow robustly and yield large harvests. 

Peppers, like other vegetables, need nitrogen for strong plant development, phosphorus for increased energy storage, and potassium for disease resistance.

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  • Miracle-Gro Shake N’ Feed Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food
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  • JR Peters Jack’s Classic Tomato Feed
small and round red bell pepper

The Ideal N-P-K Ratio

To make it easier for buyers to compare fertilizers, all fertilizer products must carry some standard information. On every label, three huge digits appear above or below the product name. The N-P-K ratio of the fertilizer is made up of these three values. It shows the percentage of three plant nutrients in order: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) (K).

When fertilizing your peppers, look for a 5-10-10 fertilizer. This has half as much nitrogen as phosphate and potassium.

Nitrogen promotes growth, whereas phosphorus promotes root and floral development. Potassium strengthens the plant’s resilience to disease. Excessive nitrogen fertilizers may inhibit peppers from blooming, decreasing the plant’s ability to yield fruit. This occurs because the plant will divert its energy to growing foliage instead of developing its flowers and fruit. 

Add Nutrients a Few Weeks After Transplanting

Moderation is essential when it comes to fertilization. Pepper plants should not be fertilized for several weeks after transplanting, especially if the fertilizer contains a lot of nitrogen. This could result in a lot of green growth and very little fruit production.

Apply fertilizer to your garden or container a few weeks before transplanting the pepper plants. It’s fine to actively start to fertilize the plants once they begin to bloom. After that, you can continue to fertilize every other week or monthly. 

planting seedlings of pepper plants

Additional Tips

When putting granular fertilizer on peppers, make sure the granules do not come into touch with the plants. This could cause the plant to burn or have other detrimental consequences. Instead, spread the granular fertilizer in a circle around the plants and thoroughly water them.

Spraying a water-soluble fertilizer on top of the plants is not recommended. Diseases thrive on moist leaves, branches, flowers, and fruit. It’s best to concentrate your efforts at the plant’s base.

It is a good idea to apply a layer of mulch around the plants after fertilizing peppers. Grass clippings and chopped-up leaves are great as mulch. A layer of mulch applied to the soil helps to keep rainwater from evaporating. It will also help with weed control.

Mulch is rarely used with container crops.

Make sure your pepper plants are staked as well. Fertilizing your pepper plants will aid in the growth of larger peppers. This can make the plants top-heavy and the plants can lose their ability to stand upright on their own over time.

For plants growing in a row, place stakes between each plant. Tie many parallel threads between each stake to provide the plants the support they need to stand tall. A stake and zip ties should suffice if you only have a few potted plants.

Check out our growing guide for more information on growing pepper plants.

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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