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Heirloom Hot Pepper Varieties for Florida1

Contact: Phillip Williams 2

Hot peppers are members of the Capsicum genus of the nightshade family Solanaceae (Rhodes 2009). Hot peppers are native to Central and South America where they have been part of the human diet since about 7500 BCE (Bosland 1996). Hot peppers were named by Christopher Columbus who mistakenly thought they were related to Piper nigrum or black pepper because they had a similar pungency. Columbus returned to Spain with the spice, and its popularity rapidly spread throughout Europe, India, China, Korea, Thailand, and Japan.

Hot peppers are known for their pungent flavor. The pungency is caused by the compound capsaicin, which is measured in Scoville heat units (Wright 2010). A pepper with more capsaicin will have a higher Scoville heat unit. Bell peppers have a Scoville unit of zero, while the hottest peppers have a Scoville unit greater than 1,000,000. The pungency level is genetic, but it can be influenced by environmental stress. A hot pepper from the same variety grown in hot, dry conditions would have higher capsaicin and a more pungent flavor than a hot pepper grown in cooler, humid conditions.

A hybrid hot pepper is bred from two genetically different purebred varieties to produce fruit with desirable characteristics (Culbert 2011). While hybrids are known for their vigor and characteristics, such as their adaptability to environmental stress, disease resistance, and growth uniformity from plant to plant, heirloom hot peppers were selected for their superior flavor and eating quality. A hot pepper is considered an heirloom when the variety has been in use for 50 to 100 years, and it is open pollinated and "true to type," which means seeds will produce offspring that are identical to the parent plant (Wright 2013). Unlike hybrid plants that are not consistent from generation to generation, heirloom seeds can be saved and regrown the following year.

Heirloom hot peppers are closely related to other vegetables in the family Solanacea, such as potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, and eggplants. Many diseases for these vegetables can affect heirloom hot peppers, making them susceptible to these diseases. Bacterial leaf spot caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria is the most common, and it is characterized by small, water-soaked or greasy spots on leaves and small, light green, and raised spots on fruit that enlarge and turn scabby (Pernezny and Kuchark 2011). Viruses, such as pepper mottle, potato virus Y, tobacco etch, and tobacco mosaic virus, are common problems. These diseases create stunted plants, fruit and leaf malformation, mottling, and leaf mosaics, but identifying these viruses in the field is difficult and must be done in a laboratory (Mossler, Aerts, and Nesheim 2012). To prevent the spread of diseases use clean transplants, control weeds and insects, such as white flies and aphids, avoid overhead irrigation, and reduce handling of the plants while they are wet.

Heirloom Hot Pepper Varieties—Here is a guide of the popular pepper varieties used in Florida (Table 1). The popularity was assessed from a survey among seed suppliers, which include Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Burpee, High Mowing Seeds, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Tomato Grower Supply Company, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed Company, and My Patriot Supply. When organic seeds were available, the USDA logo was inserted. The relative Scoville rating, which measures a pepper's pungency, was also included when it was available.

Table 1. 

Figure 1. Aji Dulce
Figure 1.  Aji Dulce
Credit: Reimer Seed

Figure 2. Caribbean Red Habanero
Figure 2.  Caribbean Red Habanero

Figure 3. Cayenne Long Red
Figure 3.  Cayenne Long Red
Credit: Burpee

Figure 4. Fish
Figure 4.  Fish
Credit: Burpee

Figure 5. Hungarian wax hot
Figure 5.  Hungarian wax hot
Credit: Burpee

Figure 6. Poblano
Figure 6.  Poblano
Credit: Burpee

Figure 7. Santa Fe Grande
Figure 7.  Santa Fe Grande
Credit: Burpee

Figure 8. Serrano
Figure 8.  Serrano
Credit: Burpee

Figure 9. Tabasco
Figure 9.  Tabasco
Credit: Burpee

Figure 10. Thai Red Chili
Figure 10.  Thai Red Chili

Figure 11. Aji Amarillo
Figure 11.  Aji Amarillo

Figure 12. Aji Colorado
Figure 12.  Aji Colorado
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 13. Anaheim
Figure 13.  Anaheim
Credit: Burpee

Figure 14. Ancho 101
Figure 14.  Ancho 101
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 15. Bhut Jolokia or Ghost
Figure 15.  Bhut Jolokia or Ghost

Figure 16. Big Jim
Figure 16.  Big Jim

Figure 17. Black Hungarian
Figure 17.  Black Hungarian
Credit: High Mowing Organic Seeds

Figure 18. Bulgarian Carrot
Figure 18.  Bulgarian Carrot
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 19. Chiltepin
Figure 19.  Chiltepin

Figure 20. Chinese Five Color
Figure 20.  Chinese Five Color
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 21. Chocolate Habanero
Figure 21.  Chocolate Habanero

Figure 22. Craig's Grande Jalapeño
Figure 22.  Craig's Grande Jalapeño
Credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Figure 23. Datil
Figure 23.  Datil

Figure 24. Early Jalapeño
Figure 24.  Early Jalapeño
Credit: Burpee

Figure 25. Espanola Improved
Figure 25.  Espanola Improved

Figure 26. Fatalii
Figure 26.  Fatalii

Figure 27. Filius Blue
Figure 27.  Filius Blue
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 28. Goat Horn
Figure 28.  Goat Horn
Credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Figure 29. Habanero Red Savina™
Figure 29.  Habanero Red Savina™

Figure 30. India Jwala or Indian Finger
Figure 30.  India Jwala or Indian Finger

Figure 31. Italian Pepperoncini
Figure 31.  Italian Pepperoncini

Figure 32. Jalapeño
Figure 32.  Jalapeño
Credit: Burpee

Figure 33. Jalapeño M
Figure 33.  Jalapeño M
Credit: Burpee

Figure 34. Jimmy Nardello's
Figure 34.  Jimmy Nardello's
Credit: Burpee

Figure 35. Lemon Drop
Figure 35.  Lemon Drop

Figure 36. Lemon Yellow Habanero
Figure 36.  Lemon Yellow Habanero
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 37. Leutschauer Paprika
Figure 37.  Leutschauer Paprika
Credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Figure 38. Long Purple Cayenne
Figure 38.  Long Purple Cayenne
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 39. Mustard Habanero
Figure 39.  Mustard Habanero
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 40. Numex Big Jim
Figure 40.  Numex Big Jim

Figure 41. Numex Conquistador
Figure 41.  Numex Conquistador
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 42. Padron
Figure 42.  Padron
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 43. Pasilla Bajio
Figure 43.  Pasilla Bajio
Credit: Burpee

Figure 44. Purple Jalapeño
Figure 44.  Purple Jalapeño

Figure 45. Red Cherry
Figure 45.  Red Cherry
Credit: Burpee

Figure 46. Red Mushroom
Figure 46.  Red Mushroom
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 47. Ring-O-Fire
Figure 47.  Ring-O-Fire
Credit: High Mowing Organic Seeds

Figure 48. Scotch Bonnet
Figure 48.  Scotch Bonnet

Figure 49. Tam Jalapeño
Figure 49.  Tam Jalapeño
Credit: Reimer Seeds

Figure 50. Thai Burapa
Figure 50.  Thai Burapa
Credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Figure 51. Thai Yellow Chili
Figure 51.  Thai Yellow Chili
Credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Figure 52. Tunisian Baklouti
Figure 52.  Tunisian Baklouti
Credit: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


Bosland, P.W. 1996. Capsicums: Innovative Uses of an Ancient Crop. p. 479-487. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in New Crops. ASHS Press. Arlington, VA.

Culburt, D. 2011. Heirlooms – and Other Seedy Words. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Mossler, M., M. J. Aerts, and O.N. Nesheim. 2012. Florida Crop/Pest Management Profiles: Bell peppers. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Pernezny, K. and T. Kucharek. 2011. Some Common Diseases of Pepper in Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Rhodes, D. 2009. Vegetable Crops. Purdue Univ., Dept. of Hort. Landscape Architecure. Hort 401.

Wright, S. 2010. Hot Peppers and Specialty Sweet Peppers. Cooperative Extension Service. Univ. KY, College Agri.

Wright, S. 2013. Heirloom Vegetables. Cooperative Extension Service. Univ. KY, College Agri.


1. This document is HS1244, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2013 by Monica Ozores-Hampton, former associate professor, Horticultural Sciences Department. Revised January 2017. Reviewed July 2020. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Contact: Phillip Williams, assistant professor, vegetable horticulture, Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Southwest Florida REC, Immokalee, FL 34142.

Publication #HS1244

Date: 11/19/2020


  • Program Area: Plant Systems
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