Are you waiting for your peppers to shift to vibrant red, only to find them stuck in the green stage? Many gardeners find themselves in this situation.
Peppers change color as they ripen. Green pepper is technically unripe but still used in many cuisines and sold on the shelves. But if you are like me, you like red peppers the most, that are the sweetest and juiciest of all.
There are a few different reasons why your peppers won’t turn red. But most commonly, it’s simply not their time yet. Your peppers will take longer to turn red when it’s often cloudy or cold. Peppers prefer warm temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F (21 and 26 C) and 6 to 12 hours of direct sunlight per day.
But there are other things that peppers like and dislike that may contribute to their greeny look.
In this article, I’ll walk you through them and solve the question of “Why green peppers aren’t turning red” once and for all. Let’s bite in!
Why aren’t my Peppers Turning Red?
Sometimes, they may just take a little longer to ripen and become shiny red. Other times, there may be something wrong with the environment they are growing in. And let’s not forget that there’s a possibility that you accidentally chose a green variety of pepper that will never turn red.
Let’s take a look at all the possible causes one by one and fix your issue!
1. It’s not their Time Yet
Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to waiting for your peppers to change color. Peppers, like many fruits (yes, they’re fruits), have their own natural ripening timeline.
So, when do red peppers turn red? On average, it can take anywhere from 60 to 90 days for peppers to fully ripen. They’ll start off green and gradually progress through shades of yellow, orange, and finally, red.
But before the whole color-changing process happens, peppers will reach their grown size. After your pepper looks big enough to be eaten, it can take another 2 weeks to change color.
Because of that, smaller varieties of peppers will turn red faster than larger ones.
Ripening Stages of Peppers
Standard bell peppers undergo different stages from youth to maturity. All these stages are accompanied by changes in the visual and flavor of the fruit.
All peppers start as a Green Pepper. Green pepper is crunchy with little to no sweetness. It’s technically immature and unripe but perfectly edible. They are often used in the “hot kitchen” for stir-frying or roasting.
Peppers will slowly change color, and the carb content will rise. This stage can be characterized by yellow color. Many people prefer yellow peppers, as the sweetness is quite not there yet. They are perfect for both cooking and eating raw.
I find not much difference between fully ripened peppers and orange peppers. I’d say that orange peppers offer an ideal level of sweetness with citrus tones in the background, which are not present to that extent in red peppers.
Once the pepper reaches its peak of flavor and sweetness, represented by red color, it takes only about a week or so to overripe. An overripened pepper is soft, and as the flesh softens, the skin begins to wrinkle. It quickly loses its crunch, and the flavor becomes less desirable. It may also start to rot.
2. You Selected a Variety that is not Red
All peppers, regardless of the variety, start as green. Some will eventually change to darker or lighter shades of red, while other varieties can become purple, brown, or stay green forever.
Peppers like jalapenos or blitz peppers will stay green even after fully ripen. While varieties like brown holland or islander can change to a completely different, unexpected color.
This is especially common when buying seed off Amazon or other retail places, where everyone can become a merchant. There’s nothing easier than to interchange some seeds with other variety that comes cheaper.
Something similar is happening with black strawberries. Black strawberries do not exist in nature nor as a genetically modified variety. But you can find dozens of merchants selling seed for those. But, by the time the customer realizes that he got different seeds, it’s too late, as it takes a month to grow.
If you want to learn more, you can check my whole article about Black Strawberries.
So no, all peppers do not turn red. But the most common bell papers are the ones that do.
3. Unfavorable Environmental Conditions
As with any other plant, when the conditions are deviated from the ideal, the plant begins to struggle. Peppers are fairly easy to grow, they are not too picky. My mum even grows peppers in containers on the balcony.
They can deal with pretty much any temperature higher than 65°F (18°C) and are even one of the most drought-tolerant plants. But temperatures that are too high or lack of water can delay their ripening, making them stuck in the green stage for weeks.
In this part of the article, let’s take a look at the most common environmental issues when it comes to growing peppers.
Peppers are a warm-weather crop that prefers temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F (21 and 26 C), ideally. But as I said in the previous section, any temperature will do as long as its higher than 65°F (18°C).
However, prolonged high temperatures can cause a few things. It can indeed accelerate ripening, but it’ll also increase evaporation not only from the soil but also from the surface of the peppers, leading to shriveling and wrinkling.
One interesting thing can also happen when it’s too hot outside. Higher temperatures can intensify the heat levels in spicy peppers. Capsaicin, the compound responsible for spiciness, tends to accumulate in response to environmental stressors like heat.
On the other hand, cold temperatures can stop the whole ripening process. The enzymes responsible for ripening rapidly slow down when the temperature drops to around 50°F (10°C), delaying the peppers’ color transition or stopping it altogether.
Have you ever tried to stretch after being in a cold room? Peppers, too, experience a similar resistance to change. Cold temperatures can lead to reduced water absorption by the plant, resulting in a lackluster and sometimes tough texture.
Lack of Sunlight
Sunlight is more than a source of warmth; it’s a catalyst for the ripening process in peppers. If your plants don’t receive sufficient sunlight, their growth and also ripening process can be delayed or disrupted.
Sunlight triggers the accumulation of sugars in peppers, influencing both color and flavor development. Peppers need at least 6 to 12 hours of direct sunlight per day. That’s also why we plant them usually in late spring when the days are longer and temperatures are higher.
If there was a prolonged period of rain or the sun was hidden behind clouds, it could extend the ripening time significantly.
Paradoxically, too much sunlight can also hinder their development and growth. In the middle of summer, the planet is at its peak in terms of the amount of daylight. During these days, especially smaller pepper plants can be more vulnerable to too much light.
Providing some shade during the hottest parts of the day can be beneficial for pepper plants, especially during scorching summer months.
Lack of Water
Adequate water is essential for the transportation of nutrients within the plant. When water is scarce, the flow of nutrients slows down, impacting the peppers’ ability to develop their desired color. This can result in prolonged periods of greenness, delaying the ripening process.
This will affect not only the peppers’ color but also their texture and flavor. Without sufficient hydration, the peppers can become leathery and tough.
Additionally, stressed pepper plants parched from lack of water shift their focus from ripening to survival. This can lead to reduced flowering and fruiting, so the plant will ultimately bear fewer, if any, peppers.
Peppers prefer being dry to being too wet. Make sure the soil is dried out before watering again. Water a lot, but less frequently, once in two weeks, should do the trick.
Nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and calcium are like the building blocks of the pepper’s transformation. Each nutrient plays a specific role in cellular functions, color development, and overall plant health. Deficiencies can lead to slowed enzymatic reactions, delaying color transition and affecting the quality of the peppers.
Additionally, nutrient deficiency can ultimately lead to chlorosis. Chlorosis refers to the loss of chlorophyll—the pigment responsible for the vibrant green color in plants. When chlorosis sets in, the green hue of peppers can fade prematurely, leaving them looking pale and lackluster.
So, in the end, your peppers will not only be stuck at the green stage but can also start to fade out.
If that’s what’s happening, consider using a balanced fertilizer that includes the necessary macro and micronutrients. A cheap soil testing kit from your local gardening store can help you with that.
When pepper plants are crammed too closely together, they find themselves in competition for all the resources that can cause peppers not to turn red, like sunlight, water, and nutrients.
Additionally, it also reduces air circulation, which can create a humid environment welcoming to all sorts of diseases and pests.
Make sure your peppers have at least 15 inches (40 centimeters) between each other. If you are planting a pepper plant in a container, choose one that’s big enough to fit all the roots comfortably.
How to Encourage Peppers to Ripen
To encourage peppers to ripen and turn red, you have to give them an environment in which they can focus on ripening.
When the pepper plant is stressed for whatever reason, it will slow down all kinds of processes, including the ones responsible for ripening. The key, thus, is to provide them with an optimal environment and enough nutrients.
To sum up, the ideal conditions are:
- The ideal temperature for peppers is between 70 and 80 degrees F (21 and 26 C). If the temperature is dropping way below during the night, you should cover your plants. The same works the other way around. When the sun is too scorching, consider covering your peppers.
- Ensure your peppers receive between 6 to 12 hours of direct sunlight. Too much sunlight is usually not the issue. But if your pepper plant is planted in a shaded space, consider replanting.
- Let the soil dry up before watering. I usually water peppers every 2 weeks and during the hottest summer days once a week.
- Offer a balanced fertilizer that includes essential nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. You can get a soil tester kit to find out what your peppers are missing.
- Give your peppers the gift of space.
Will a Green Pepper Turn Red After Picking?
Yes, green peppers can turn red even after being picked. However, this can take a longer time than if left on the plant.
But there are too many things that can go wrong during that time.
Once the pepper is picked, it will naturally start to lose moisture and start to wrinkle. If the environment is too humid, this won’t happen, but it can start to grow mold.
Also, when you pick unripe pepper (green), it’s not fully developed yet. The color can change during that time, but the result won’t be perfectly the same. For instance, the walls of green pepper are thinner, and you may not get the same taste.