What Does "Days to Harvest" Mean?

What Does "Days to Harvest" Mean?

Have you ever looked at your packet of new pepper seeds and noticed the phrase “days to harvest” on the cover followed by a number? Or maybe you noticed this on the shiny label for your new pepper plant? Either way, if you haven’t planted peppers from seed or from a live pepper plant before, this number may sound confusing or superfluous to you – but don’t glance over this.

The days to harvest number provides you, the grower, with how long it may take for your pepper to ripen, whether it be from seed to harvest or transplanting pepper plants to harvest. Each pepper has a different number than others, as some peppers take more time to reach maturity. Once planted into the ground, the countdown to harvesting your peppers begins.

However, keep in mind, the days to harvest is just an average estimate. These numbers generally fluctuate depending on many influential factors to the plant and its environment.

What Does Days to Harvest Mean?

As mentioned before, days to harvest refers to the pepper’s anticipated timeline from planting until you can start picking ripened peppers.

The term days to harvest takes on different meanings depending on which form – seed versus seedling – it’s applied to. For pepper seeds planted in the ground, days to harvest means from seeding to maturity. Whereas, for pepper seedlings that have grown and started indoors, the term starts from the time of transplanting to a pot or garden to maturity.

Another phrase, days to maturity, can also be found on pepper product labels. Both days to harvest and days to maturity mean the same thing and are used interchangeably with different pepper products.

Why Is Days to Harvest Important to Know?

Besides being a number that lets you know, for example, when to harvest banana peppers or when to harvest bell peppers, gardeners use days to harvest to know how long they can grow certain peppers outdoors. This knowledge is useful for a couple of different reasons: 

  • Growing Season
    Growing seasons are calculated in different ways, but according to the USDA, it’s the time between the last frost in the spring and the first severe frost in the fall. If you live in places that have shorter growing seasons, then you might want to start growing pepper plants indoors before you can move them outside. Pepper plants that grow beyond the actual growing season can be killed off by drops in temperature, air moisture, soil moisture, and the changing weather patterns that come with autumn.

  • Planting Multiple Peppers
    Days to harvest also lets gardeners know how many peppers they can grow within that timeframe. Some peppers have shorter maturity times than others; for example, harvesting jalapeno peppers can happen sooner than harvesting Thai chili peppers. Gardeners use days to harvest to help plan what they will grow ahead of the season and if there will be any overlapping peppers growing simultaneously.

Factors Influencing a Pepper's Days to Harvest

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map (2012)

1. Plant Hardiness Zone

The Plant Hardiness Zone map provided by the USDA gives gardeners and farmers an idea of which plants are best to grow in their given region. Not all plants grow in every climate of the country, so it’s important for gardeners to know which plants to grow based on their location.

For pepper plants, you want to know when the last frost date is for your specific region. The further north you live, the shorter your growing season will be. Keep in mind: you should always keep up with the weather as these dates aren’t guaranteed.

Pepper Hardiness Zone Dates (Zones 3-13)

2. Weather

Speaking of weather, it plays a huge factor in growing pepper plants. Temperature fluctuations (low or high temps) affect how the plants flower. The flowers are what produce the fruit, so if your pepper plants are experiencing heat waves or cooler weather while in the flowering process, this can stunt their growth and produce fewer peppers than anticipated. Ideally, you want your pepper plants to grow in temperatures between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Our blog post Solutions on Pepper Plants Not Producing Flowers or Fruit can give you some direction if you're still having trouble with your plants. 

The amount of sun your region gets also plays a role in how long it will take until your peppers are ripe for picking. In general, pepper plants need 6-12 hours of direct sunlight each day to grow and photosynthesize properly.

3. Soil

Other weather patterns like droughts and floods impact the soil that your plants are in. This affects the amount of nutrients in the soil needed for your pepper plant to grow and produce the best that it can. Maintaining the soil of your plant is crucial. If your pepper plants aren’t growing properly, using fertilizer into the soil around the plant can give it the boost that it needs to fully grow. We at Pepper Joe’s offer many different fertilizers for your pepper plants.

How is Days to Harvest Calculated?

The process isn’t terribly complicated, but it does take time to complete. Growers come up with these estimates based on the average time it takes for a certain type of pepper plant to grow and produce ripened peppers.

There’s been a lot of debate on determining how to officially start the countdown of a plant’s days to harvest. Some growers said to start the countdown when the pepper seeds are officially sown into the ground. Others have stated it shouldn’t start until the plant germinates, or when the first leaves have sprouted. For seedlings, the days to harvest countdown shouldn’t start until the transplanting process is complete.

It sounds more complicated than it is. A general rule: start the countdown when the seed or seedling is officially in the ground.

But keep in mind that your days may be different than what the packet states. Consider the factors listed before that can influence your pepper plant’s growth and know that the timeline will likely deviate from the average one.

Pepper Days to Harvest Cheat Sheet

It’s important to understand that one plant has a different pepper harvest time than another plant does. The table below shows some days to harvest dates for commonly grown peppers. You'll notice that days to harvest superhot peppers are higher than others since they generally take longer to grow and mature. 


Days to Harvest (seed time and harvest)

Yellow Bell Peppers

60+ Days

Shishito Japanese Peppers

60+ Days

Jalapeno Peppers

65+ Days

Serrano Peppers

75+ Days

Fish Peppers

80+ Days

Trinidad Scorpion Peppers

80+ Days

Sweet Banana Peppers

90+ Days

Habanero Peppers

90-100 Days

Carolina Reaper Peppers

90-150 Days

Fatalii Peppers

100+ Days

Yellow Scotch Bonnet Peppers

100+ Days

Ghost Peppers

150+ Days


So, the next time you want to know when to harvest Thai chili peppers or maybe when to harvest cayenne peppers, take a look at the days to harvest number on the label of your seed packet or pepper plant. 


Want to learn more about growing hot peppers? Check out our gardening tips and make sure to pick up some pepper seeds to get started!

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