There are many bell pepper colors but a prized shade is the red pepper. They are sweet, high in nutrients, and rich in antioxidants.
Are you new to growing red peppers and find yourself wondering why your bell peppers don’t turn red? Join the club. Many of my vegetable garden readers ask me this same question.
Red bell peppers are appealing to look at, and also sweeter and more nutritious than their green counterparts. It is timing and maturity that gives you that lovely red color!
Once you understand the factors that influence the color change in peppers, you will be more successful in getting the desired shade in your plants.
Keep reading to learn some tips for ripening red peppers and find out why they sometimes won’t turn red.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you purchase through an affiliate link.
The different bell pepper colors
I once asked a gardener friend “what is the difference between sweet red peppers and green peppers?” They jokingly replied “about two weeks!”
Green bell peppers show up in your garden first and are the least ripe. As they mature, they start to turn other colors. This may be yellow, orange, red, or even purple or brown.
Green bell peppers
Immature bell peppers start as green and this color is most commonly found in grocery stores. They have a slightly bitter taste and a firmer texture.
Do green peppers turn red? The answer is mixed.
There are some varieties of bell pepper will stay green for the pepper’s lifespan, but most green bell peppers that you see in the grocery store are just red bell peppers that have been picked early and are unripe.
Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are fully ripe and have a sweeter, and fruitier flavor than the green variety.
As the pepper ripens, the green color transitions to a vibrant red, indicating a higher sugar content and nutritional value.
Yellow bell peppers
Like the red peppers, yellow bell peppers are also fully ripe, and their flavor is milder and slightly sweeter than green peppers.
As they mature, the green color turns into a bright yellow hue.
Yellow peppers work well in salads, casseroles, and as a colorful addition to any recipe.
Orange bell peppers
Orange bell peppers are a variation of red peppers, and their taste falls between red and yellow peppers in sweetness.
As they ripen, the green pigments change to a vibrant orange color.
Orange bell peppers are versatile, look great when stuffed, and can be used in various dishes, both raw and cooked.
There are also some less common colors of bell peppers, such as purple and brown.
Purple bell peppers
Purple bell peppers, also known as lavender bell peppers, will be a colorful addition to your meals. They have a slightly fruity and sweet flavor, similar to other bell pepper varieties.
Purple bell peppers typically start as green and gradually develop a deep purple color as they ripen.
These peppers are great raw, stuffed or in pasta or pizza dishes, where the color will shine.
Brown bell peppers
Brown bell peppers are a result of a natural genetic variation. They are also known as chocolate bell peppers, have a slightly sweeter and more intense flavor compared to green bell peppers.
Use them as you would any of the other peppers – raw, in salads, stuffed or roasted.
In addition to the color of peppers changing, their flavor and nutritional content also changes, making each color a delightful addition to your recipes.
Why won’t my bell peppers turn red?
Bell peppers may fail to turn red (or any of the other colors) due to several reasons. Early harvesting, insufficient sunlight, and extreme temperature conditions can all lead to a stalled color development.
Harvesting peppers too early can keep peppers green
I once asked a gardener friend “what is the difference between sweet red peppers and green peppers?” He jokingly replied “about two weeks!”
The reason for his response is because the common cause of peppers failing to ripen is harvesting them prematurelywhile they are still green.
For red bell peppers plants to develop red fruit, they require more time on the plant to fully ripen and reach their optimal sweetness.
How much time? Most colored pepper varieties need 100+ days to ripen the the desired color. (There are exceptions. Some early ripening varieties only need 85-90 days.)
Also, certain bell pepper varieties may naturally have a delayed or limited red color development, since they favor other colors like yellow or orange.
You can shorten the growing period by starting seeds indoors in late winter to get a jump start on spring.
Lack of sunlight affects ripening
Insufficient exposure to sunlight can also hinder the ripening process, since sunlight plays a crucial role in the production of pigments responsible for the red color.
When peppers are exposed to sunlight, they receive a signal to produce these pigments responsible for their color transformation. This includes the production of carotenoids, such as lycopene, which give red bell peppers their distinctive hue.
When sunlight is limited, the ripening process can be delayed. The pepper plant may continue to grow and develop, but the color change may progress at a slower pace or the pepper may simply stay green.
It’s important to ensure that pepper plants receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Placing the plants in a sunny location and avoiding unnecessary shading can help maximize the chances of achieving fully ripe, vibrant red bell peppers.
Weather extremes can delay ripening of peppers
Extremely hot weather and very cold temperatures can both play a factor in bell peppers that won’t turn red.
In very hot weather, pepper plants get stressed and their metabolic processes slow down. The plants will then use their resources to survive rather than to ripen their fruits.
Cold temperatures, especially those near or below freezing, can stop the ripening process altogether.
This happens because the enzymes responsible for pigment production become less active in very cold weather, preventing the color change in the peppers.
Frequent changes between hot and cold weather can also disrupt the ripening process. Some fruit may ripen and other will remain green!
To mitigate the effects of weather extremes, gardeners can take some precautions. Providing shade and ample water during heatwaves can help protect bell pepper plants from stress.
What can I do to make sure my bell peppers turn red?
While there is not much that we can do about Mother Nature’s need for time, there are a few things that we can do to ensure our peppers become red, not green.
Be patient to get vibrant bell pepper colors
Patience is a virtue when it comes to red peppers! Allow your bell peppers to completely mature on the plant. Red peppers are fully ripe versions of green peppers, and they need more time to develop their vibrant color and sweetness.
Avoid harvesting them prematurely while they are still green.
Choose the right variety of peppers
There are several varieties of red bell peppers known for their relatively quick ripening compared to other types. If you’re looking to grow red bell peppers that ripen faster, consider these varieties:
- Yolo Wonder: This popular variety is known for its early and consistent fruiting. It produces medium to large-sized red bell peppers and matures relatively quickly compared to other varieties.
- Carmen: These peppers are sweet Italian-type peppers that turn from green to red. They are prized for their early and abundant yields, making them an excellent choice for those seeking quick red peppers. These peppers are sweet even when green!
- King of the North: This variety is valued for its ability to produce early and turn from green to red quite rapidly. It is known for its hardiness and is suitable for cooler climates.
- Ace: Ace peppers are known for their early maturity and reliable red color. They are a popular choice among gardeners for their consistent performance.
It’s important to note that while these varieties tend to ripen faster, the actual ripening time can still vary because of factors such as growing conditions, climate, and local climate patterns.
Consistent watering helps peppers to ripen sooner
Incorrect watering can slow down the ripening of peppers. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Compost added at planting time helps the soil to drain well.
Inconsistent watering can stress the plant and lead to uneven fruit development. Mulching around the plants can help retain soil moisture.
Peppers should generally be watered at the base of the plant, near the soil level, rather than watering from above. Drip irrigation can help with this.
Watering at the base allows the water to reach the plant’s roots directly, promoting efficient absorption and reducing the risk of wetting the foliage, which can also lead to various issues such as bottom end rot which can also affect tomatoes.
Be careful of too much fertilizer
Use a balanced fertilizer to provide essential nutrients for plant growth. However, take care in its use.
Excessive nitrogen can encourage more leafy growth at the expense of fruit development, so choose a fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content.
Will ethylene gas promote the ripening of peppers?
Ethylene is a natural plant hormone that plays a crucial role in the ripening process of various fruits. It is a volatile gas that is released by certain fruits during their ripening stage.
When exposed to ethylene, many fruits and vegetables will undergo specific physiological changes that lead to ripening.
While ethylene gas can be used to ripen certain fruits, it is not an effective method for ripening bell peppers once they have been harvested.
The color of bell peppers is primarily determined by their maturity at the time of picking.
Share this post about peppers not ripening on Twitter
If you enjoyed learning about the bell pepper colors and why they don’t turn red, be sure to share the post with a friend. Here is a tweet to get you started:🌶️ Discover the mystery of peppers that won't turn red! 🌶️ Wondering why your peppers won't ripen? 🤔🚫 Uncover the reasons & learn helpful tips on The Gardening Cook. #Peppers #GardeningTips #RipeningProcess #BellPeppers… Click To Tweet
Pin this post about bell pepper colors
Would you like a reminder of this post about why bell peppers won’t turn red? Just pin this image to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
You can also watch our video on YouTube!
- Heavy card stock or glossy photo paper
- Computer printer
- Load the heavy card stock or glossy photo paper into your computer printer.
- Choose portrait layout and if possible "fit to page" in your settings.
- Print the calendar and add to your gardening journal.