When to Pick Cayenne Peppers (& What to Do With Them)

By: Chenell - Lead Writer and Gardening Advocate

Cayenne peppers are one of the easiest peppers to grow in the garden. And picking them is no different. They are delicious and can be used in so many ways!

Cayenne peppers are not as spicy as habaneros and the heat doesn’t last as long, which is why I love growing cayenne peppers. Harvesting cayenne peppers are the right time is ideal for making sure you get the flavor you’re wanting.

But if you’ve never grown them before, how do you know when to pick cayenne peppers?

Cayenne Pepper Snapshot

Scientific Name: Capsicum annuum ‘Cayenne’

cayenne peppers

Other Names:

  • Guinea spice
  • Cow horn peppers
  • Aleva peppers
  • Bird peppers – the name for the smaller varieties of cayenne
  • Chili pepper plant

Time to Harvest: 70-80 days

Best Soil Type: Well-drained soil, but do well in most soil types

Temperature Requirements: They do best above 70 degrees, and don’t tolerate under 55 degrees for multiple days

Pepper Size: 3-6 inches long

Height: 2-4 feet tall

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 – 50,000

When to Pick Cayenne Peppers

cayenne pepper plant

Cayenne peppers are ready to harvest around 70-80 days, or around 50 days after flowers appear and are pollinated.

You’ll know they are ready if they turn bright red while on the plant.

Stages of Ripeness for Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers go through various stages of ripening. Similar to the bell pepper, they start off green and move through different color variations.

cayenne pepper ripening

Green Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers will start out as green when they first form on the plant. While you can eat the green pepper, they won’t have the same flavor or spiciness as their red counterparts.

But if you like a more mild pepper, go ahead and try one!

green cayenne

Red Cayenne Peppers

When the green peppers turn bright red, it’s time to harvest cayenne peppers!

This means you can enjoy the bright red peppers for their vibrant color, or use the ripe peppers to make your favorite spicy dishes!

Orange Cayenne Peppers

If you leave them on the plant long enough, they will begin to turn orange or yellow-orange. As with other peppers, the spice level increases as they turn past the coveted red stage.

How to Harvest Cayenne Peppers Off the Plant

Depending on the variety of cayenne pepper, you can expect to harvest around 20-30 peppers from cayenne pepper plants! 1-2 plants will yield enough cayenne peppers for a family of 2-3, unless you’re like me and LOVE this stuff 🙂

how to pick cayenne peppers

Harvesting cayenne peppers is quite simple. Once they’re ripe you can generally pull the pepper off the plant with very little force.

Make sure to pull from the stem, not the pepper itself. If you pull from the pepper, you risk the chance of pulling it off the stem, and it will be a little harder to dry.

Sometimes the peppers aren’t easy to pull off, so I’d recommend cutting them with some sharp pruning shears (these are the best ones I’ve found).

Make sure to cut them high enough on the stem that you have enough room to hang them from the stem if you plan on drying them out to create a cayenne powder or red pepper flakes.

How to Use Cayenne Peppers

There are plenty things you can do with cayenne peppers. Here are a few of my favorite:

  • Red pepper flakes – you can dry your peppers and crush them up into flakes
  • Cayenne pepper powder – similar to red pepper flakes, but you can throw this in the food processor and grind it down to a powdered form.
  • Homemade hot sauce – did you know some of the main hot sauce brands use cayenne peppers to make there sauce? I also put that sh** on everything!
  • Spicy ketchup – cook down the peppers with some garlic and brown sugar, then add ketchup to the pot and let cook on low heat for around 2-3 hours
  • Pizza toppings – I chop up cayenne peppers and add the slices to my pizza along with some freshly pruned basil – so good!
  • Keeping animals out of the garden – a lot of animals are NOT fans of sniffing cayenne pepper (neither would I!), so sprinkling it around your garden can help keep away squirrels, deer, rabbits, and more!

There are so many more options, here are some more great ways to use cayenne peppers.

How to Store Cayenne Peppers

You have a few options for storing and preserving your peppers. You can grind them into powder or red pepper flakes

  • Drying cayenne peppers – you can do this by air drying them for 2-3 weeks, or you can pop them into your dehydrator for around 6 hours.
  • Freezing cayenne peppers – you can freeze the peppers whole as well. Then once you’re ready to use them just pull them out and get to it! This works great for creating dried cayenne powder — just make sure you thaw them and dehydrate them after removing from the freezer

Do Cayenne Peppers Ripen on the Plant?

Yes! Cayenne peppers will fully ripen on the plant. When they’re ready, you can keep picking off peppers and eating them, or you can harvest them for some great recipes!

How to Grow Cayenne Peppers from Seed?

If you want cayenne peppers but don’t have any plants in your garden, you can grow them from seed. Just make sure you plant the seeds indoors and keep them warm.

They will need about 2-4 weeks until they germinate. Keep them watered, but don’t let the soil stay too wet.

Harden off the plants and transplant outdoors once the weather is above 60 degrees at night. Planting cayenne peppers is pretty straightforward, just make sure the container or hole you’re planting them in covers all of the roots.

How Long Do Cayenne Peppers Last?

Cayenne peppers don’t last very long at all. Once picked they should usually be used within a few days. You can preserve them for longer by drying them out and storing them

Do Cayenne Peppers Have Seeds?

You bet they do! There are quite a few seeds inside of cayenne peppers actually. If you want to remove the seeds, I’d recommend using a spoon to get them out. You can also save the seeds and use them to grow more pepper plants next year!

Do Green Peppers Turn Red off the Plant?

Yes! As long as they started turning a little red on the plant, they will continue to ripen off the plant. This process will vary depending on how ripe the cayenne pepper is, but can range from 2-5 days.

Common Varieties of Cayenne Peppers

Some of the most common cayenne peppers include:

  • Red Flame
  • Red Rocket Cayenne
  • Carolina Cayenne
  • Red Ember

If you love spicy peppers, but don’t want super hot peppers, you should absolutely try growing cayenne peppers.



Hi - I'm Chenell! I lived in the city for almost a decade, but after moving to the suburbs in 2020, I decided the logical millennial thing to do was to learn how to grow my own avocado toast. That's what this site is all about. 🥑

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