How to Use Hot Pepper Spray for Plants in Your Garden

The rabbits love your garden as much as you do! This hot pepper spray for plants is a safe, cheap and effective way to keep pests out.

Use a spritz of hot pepper spray every day to keep the rabbits away. Yep, if you’re looking for the solution to rabbits nibbling at your green leaves and growing strawberries, it’s time to turn up the heat.

Hot pepper spray for plants acts as a safer, more sustainable and natural alternative to traditional pesticides—and it doesn’t hurt that it’s cheap to make. It only requires pantry ingredients, is safe for the environment and will make sure your garden flourishes.

How Hot Pepper Spray for Plants Works

Hot peppers include a compound called capsaicin, which is responsible for the burning feeling when you eat spicy foods. The hot pepper spray leaves behind a hot layer, so when rabbits come to peruse your beloved garden, they’ll find the spicy, capsaicin-coated leaves unappealing and leave your plants alone.

The spray will deter critters like rabbits, deer and squirrels (and even bears and larger pests), without harming pollinators, like bees or butterflies. Plus, hot pepper spray can kill off the bugs you don’t want hanging around your plants, like spider mites and cabbage worms!

Here are some other tips on getting rid of the worst garden insects.

How to Make Hot Pepper Spray

Making hot pepper spray for plants requires two common ingredients (one of which is water). You can also add garlic if you like—it will provide an additional antibacterial and pest-deterring oomph. You can even grow your own hot peppers for this DIY hack.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • Fresh or dried hot peppers (the best is cayenne; jalapeno and serrano are other popular options), equivalent to 10 cayenne peppers, chopped finely. If you don’t have hot peppers, use 3 to 5 tablespoons of hot pepper flakes or 2 tablespoons of hot pepper powder
  • 6 cloves garlic, optional

Directions

  1. Simmer your hot pepper and garlic (if using) for about 10 to 15 minutes—this will draw out the heat so your spray is more effective.
  2. Add in the water, stir and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. This will infuse the water with the spiciness of the peppers.
  3. Remove from heat. Leave the pot covered and let cool for at least 24 hours to increase potency. Strain through a colander or cloth into a spray bottle.
  4. To help the liquid stick to the plants, add a few drops of natural dish soap or olive oil. The spray will be most effective if used within 2 to 3 months.

How to Use Hot Pepper Spray

To use hot pepper spray for plants, fill a spray bottle with your solution and spritz leaves, veggies and fruit. You can also apply it to birdseed—it will keep squirrels away without bothering the birds.

If possible, try to spray in the early evening when foliage is drier. Pests may be more likely to snack at night, and this will keep them at bay. Avoid spraying early in the morning, when plants are damp with dew, or during the hottest part of the day. The combination of the hot pepper spray and sun could harm your plants.

Here are other ways to deal with common vegetable problems and pests.

To get the most bang for your peppers, reapply consistently, about every 3 to 4 days. And reapply whenever it rains or you water your plants—this will wash the spray off.

Just remember that this stuff works because it’s strong! Avoid getting it in your eyes or on your skin (don’t use it when it’s windy), and use rubber gloves and eye protection when mixing it together and spraying. And make sure to thoroughly rinse all produce that’s been sprayed before eating to avoid a surprise dose of heat.

Ready for some homegrown food? Here’s how to beginners can start their first veggie garden.

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Kim Bussing
Kim Bussing is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for publications including Reader’s Digest, Modern Farmer, Clean Plates and Vice, among others, and she is working on her first novel. She is always on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll.