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General information and discussion about cultivating peppers.

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Old January 5, 2017   #1
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Chicago
Posts: 115
Default What Pepper Varieties Grow Best In Zone 5B

Howdy all?

I live in the Chicago suburbs and I love peppers almost as much as I love tomatoes. I have tried growing some sweet peppers a couple of years ago and have had very limited success. I think I did not choose varieties suited to the kind of weather and climate we have on the Chicago area.
So I am turning to the experts here in hope of some hints as to what grows best in my area.
I also did not know if peppers had heirloom and hybrid varieties. Can someone please help me figure theses things out?
I am also extremely interested in growing Jalapenos as I love hot food.
A gentleman that had a plot next to mine had a huge harvest of Jalapenos and made me extremely jealous. I want to have a few plants that can give me plenty of hot peppers. I know that I can just go and buy them at the local grocery store. However there is no sense of achievement when one just walks into a store and spends money to buy vegetables. Growing my own food gives me an immense pleasure and it is not about the money at all. It is about learning and waiting and nurturing a plant. It is also about spending quality time with my younger daughter that loves hanging out with me and helping me take care of my plants.

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Old January 6, 2017   #2
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: In the snowy desert of SE Idaho
Posts: 45

There are both heirloom and hybrid pepper varieties, also open pollinated (OP), which means you can save seeds from it and it should grow the same type of pepper. All heirlooms are open pollinated but there are also OP varieties that were developed too recently to be considered heirloom.
More important than your zone is how many days you have in your growing season ( between the last frost in spring and the first frost of fall) and how hot and humid/dry your summers are.
My growing season is only 93 days, very dry, and the weather swings from freezing to 90 degrees in about a week. So peppers can be a challenge. I have the best results from growing them in self watering containers and I do best with peppers that mature quickly.
I have consistently great results with:
Turkish cayennes
Tam jalepenos

For sweet peppers:
Jimmy nardellos
Sweet banana peppers
Albino bullnose
Iko Iko
Hungarian red
Purple bell
Sweet cherry red
Sweet chocolate
Corno di torro Rosso ( the yellow version never does as well as the red for me)

I also have had success with growing peppers from seed saved from some of those little sweet snacking peppers from the grocery store. High mowing has picnic peppers that look like these. I might give theirs a try this year.

Hope this helps

Last edited by gardenmermaid; January 6, 2017 at 12:20 AM. Reason: Spell check is the opposite of helpful when typing veggie names
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Old January 6, 2017   #3
rhines81's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Zone 5A, Poconos
Posts: 798

Jalapeno, Northern Bell, Poblano, Cayenne and Anaheim have been my most prolific and earlier peppers, but most any pepper can be grown in 5B if started early enough.

We usually do not plant out here until Memorial Day week, but the weather sometimes doesn't cooperate and we don't plant until 1st or even 2nd week of June. It can all be over by mid-September, so as said above short growing season areas are best suited to fast maturing peppers.

If you start from seed in early March you should be picking peppers from early August into September. In general (very general), sweet peppers are 60-80 days and hots are 70-100 days. Some varieties will take 100-120 days if the weather starts to get too cool.

4-6" pots will generally work to grow them out until transplant, but I am going to try growing my habaneros this year in 5 gallon buckets and start them in mid-Feb because those always seem to be the end of season hold outs.
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Old January 6, 2017   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Vancouver Island
Posts: 4,457

If you have never grown peppers before, you don't have to try and start them right from seed. Peppers can be a bit tricky to start and I think it might be easier and more successful as a new pepper grower to buy some nice healthy big seedlings from a good garden centre in your area.
Once comfortable and growing these to harvest, then have a go from seed if you want.
If seed starting peppers is what you want to master, for a Zone like yours there are lots That would do well, look especially at some European varieties maybe for your shorter cooler season than the long season Mexican and South American ones.
King of the north is a good green pepper, Tollies sweet Italian is a nice frying pepper, lots of paprikas, cayennes and wax peppers since you like some spice.
From my experience in a northern garden, European peppers did better for me in general. And there is a lot of variety.
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Old January 6, 2017   #5
dmforcier's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 3,790

Jalapeño (and there are many jalapeño varieties) can be prolific and are fun to grow - to a point. They set fruit quickly, grow good-sized pods, then take forever to ripen to red. Which is why the ones you get in grocery stores are still green -- the commercial growers can't afford to wait (plus a ripe jap is closer to a soft jap). Jalapeño Grande is fun but not prolific.

Also try Scotch Bonnets (warm to medium), Grenada Seasoning (good munching peppers), Poblano, Anaheim, Cubanelle, pretty much whatever they have at the big box stores (which are almost all from Bonnie Plants). I've never been a fan of Cayenne, unless one plans to make flakes or powder.

Try the shotgun approach. Peppers are tough, and will surprise you.

Stupidity got us into this mess. Why can't it get us out?
- Will Rogers

Last edited by dmforcier; January 6, 2017 at 11:14 PM.
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Old January 6, 2017   #6
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: MA/NH Border
Posts: 4,563

I'm in 6a (but very close to the 5b line). I grow most of my smaller and hotter peppers in three or five gallon plastic grow bags from seeds I start in late February/early March.

I've had no problem with Jalapeños and Serranos to the green stage--just a few made it to red.

Scotch Bonnets and Habaneros do very well with the bulk of the harvest staring in late August/early September.

Shish-ito produced a ton of peppers starting in July and going strong almost into October.

Lemon Drop/Aji Limon and Red Cayene load up early and also keep going into early October.

I reserve raised bed space for the larger peppers such as NuMex Big Jim and Aneheim that I roast, peel and freeze, and a long Italian "hanging" pepper I dry and use for Italian Paprika. These take the full season to mature so they are not ones I can expect to pick and eat as we go through the season.

So far the only ones I tried that did not have time to mature to a usable state were Aji Amarillo and Aji Amarillo Grande.
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Old January 7, 2017   #7
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: central utah
Posts: 231

There are different kinds of 5b zones. In mine the biggest problem for peppers is the daily temperature swing. Even during July and August the night temps dip into the 50's and sometimes 40's. This makes the average pepper plant discouraged to say the least.

Many expert gardeners who live in other parts of the country don't have to think about this.

I always look at the source of the variety; if it comes from the south or from asia, it's not a good bet. Best sources are from Russia, North U.S., Canada, etc.
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Old January 7, 2017   #8
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Metro Detroit, Michigan
Posts: 917

One variety that has done well for me and is my go-to sweet pepper is Elephant Ears. I think it is also called Donkey Ears. They are large meaty sweet peppers and my substitution for the bells. For a little bite, I grow Ancho/Poblanos. I get a lot of production out of those varieties even in my more northern gardens. The Anchos are readily available to purchase as plants, since as KarenO said, it takes a lot of bottom heat to get peppers rolling. I am trying paprika peppers this season.
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Old January 7, 2017   #9
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 255

Some parts of Chicago are very similar to my climate, if they get the cool lake breezes. I would second the recommendations for Sweet Chocolate and Elephant Ear... very prolific, and ripen early. Melrose is another short DTM pepper, fairly thin walls, but sweet & crunchy ripe, and high yielding.

For hot peppers, Beaver Dam would be my best recommendation; large thick-walled peppers borne abundantly on compact plants, and a short DTM. I have also had good results with the heirloom Italian Cheese.

There are two varieties that ripen slowly, but would give you early loads of immature peppers. Cubanelle is a large sweet "frying" type, and bears very heavily - so heavily that support would probably be necessary. Pelso is a hot pepper that is white immature, borne upright, and has an early, heavy set on very compact plants.
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Old January 9, 2017   #10
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Virginia
Posts: 48

Originally Posted by mouka_f_slouka View Post
Howdy all?

... I am also extremely interested in growing Jalapenos as I love hot food.
I've probably grown 10+ varieties of jalapeno over the years and my favorite, by far, is Biker Billy by Burpee. It is an F1 hybrid. Large, meaty, hot and prolific.

P.S. The peppers in the basket at the above link are NOT representative of a Biker Billy. Not quite sure what they are.
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Old January 9, 2017   #11
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Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: Cold hardy zone 4b-5a, Heat zone 4-5, Sunset zone 43
Posts: 146

I grew Jalafuego Jalapeño peppers last year, they were VERY prolific, in fact I still have the plant that did the best in a pot in my utility room under lights. I brought it inside to grow the last ten peppers a little larger and riper. I must have had 40 or more peppers over the summer/fall and I started the seeds very late for zone 4b! Its an F1 and I got my seeds from Botanical Interests. They're also larger than the standard Jalapeño peppers I've grown so perfect for stuffing and grilling. Its a variety I will be growing every year i think.

I also never had much luck with growing peppers until I started growing them exclusively in pots. I think they like the extra heat on their roots.
I've found too that with hot peppers especially in this zone I have to have large plants to put out to get a decent harvest. I will be starting my hot peppers 16 weeks from last frost this year to get a jump on things. (Someone else does that and pinches the tops after six leaves to get a bushy plant. I'm going to try it!)

I'm still figuring out sweet peppers. Pinot Noir F1 is delicious, pretty, and does very well for me in pots. Sweet banana does well too. I've just ordered Roumanian Rainbow and Yum Yum mix to try this year along with Pinot Noir. I'm going to try starting them at 14, 12, and 10 weeks from last frost (eggplants on the same time frame) for a jump ahead and to see what works best. 10 weeks is what I usually do and in a long warm fall that does okay but I think older plants will do even better. I'm also going to try moving one of each kind of pepper indoors under lights (maybe prune them back a bit?) because second year plants of most peppers are supposed to crop earlier and more heavily.

Hope some of that helps.

Edited to add: I grow my peppers and eggplants on a concrete patio next to my driveway. The more heat the better it seems! Also that helps with cold nights. I was picking peppers until November this year.
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Last edited by MissMoustache; January 9, 2017 at 03:50 PM.
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Old January 21, 2017   #12
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Zone 5b - Blue Springs, MO
Posts: 72

Criolla De Cocina Pepper has consistently been the earliest pepper in my 5b garden. It is versatile too. Good peppery flavor and not bitter.
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