Capsicum chinense "Bhut Jolokia," commonly referred to as ghost pepper, is one of the hottest peppers on record, weighing in at over a mind-boggling 1 million Scoville heat units. Commonly grown as an annual but hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 12, these spicy specimens grow like any other pepper plant in the Capsicum genus. Ghost peppers do not require special pruning during the growing season; however, some light pruning increases production by eliminating excess, non-fruiting foliage.
1 Wipe down the entire surface of the bypass pruners and garden shears with cotton balls or a clean, dry cloth soaked with isopropyl alcohol. Repeat this process between each use and after cutting away any diseased foliage.
2 Snip or pinch off the first blooms of the season to allow the plant to grow more robust before peppers begin to develop. According to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the first blooms of the season can stunt the growth of the plant, decreasing yield later in the season.
3 Pinch off any suckers that form at the base and up the length of the main stem and in the fork where flowering branches meet the main stem. This allows nutrients and moisture from the soil to reach the growing peppers instead of being wasted on excess foliage.
4 Cut or pinch off any damaged or dead leaves and branches as close to the base as possible. Apply gently pressure, as pepper plants are quite fragile.
5 Cut fruits from the plant at the top of the stem, using pruners or garden shears. Twisting or pulling fruit from the plants can cause damage to surrounding branches or pull the entire plant from the soil. Wear rubber gloves when handling the fruit or plant.
Items you will need
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Cotton balls or clean cloth
- Rubber gloves
- Bypass pruners
- Garden shears
- Add stakes during planting to provide extra support as the peppers grow. Unstaked pepper plants may break under the weight of the setting fruit and are more susceptible to wind damage.
- Check ghost pepper plants several times a week for signs of disease or insect damage. Leaves, fruit and branches damaged by insects can be removed individually; however, if the plant shows signs of wilt or viral disease, the entire plant should be removed and destroyed by burning.
- In warmer, Southern climates, pruning in late summer can extend production.
- Keep children away from growing or harvested ghost peppers.
- Wear garden or rubber gloves when working with hot pepper plants. The oils from the fruits and even the foliage can irritate skin and eyes.
- Excess pruning may stunt plant growth or kill it completely.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Disinfection of Horticultural Tools
- Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis: "Bhut Jolokia"—The World’s Hottest Known Chile Pepper is a Putative Naturally Occurring Interspeciﬁc Hybrid
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Capsicum Chinense
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service: Pepper
- Pikes Peak Urban Gardens: Growing Great Tomatoes, Peppers and Cukes
- Purdue University Department of Botany and Plant Pathology: Fruiting Vegetables
- Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images