California Wonder Pepper: Heirloom Sweet Bell Peppers

California Wonder peppers
Since their introduction in 1928, California Wonder peppers have become a standard bell pepper variety renowned for their large sweet fruits, disease resistance, and prolific production.

What Are California Wonder Peppers?

California Wonder peppers are the gold standard in bell peppers. They’re large, juicy sweet bell peppers that start out green and turn a vibrant red, yellow, or orange depending on the variety.


Also called Cal Wonder peppers, California Wonder peppers are an heirloom variety of sweet bell peppers developed in the US by California growers and introduced in 1928. They belong botanically to the Capsicum annuum species.


California Wonder peppers are sweet, non-spicy bell peppers with a Scoville Scale score of 0 SHUs.

California Wonder peppers are one of the largest heirloom bell peppers that home gardeners and commercial farmers can grow for large, juicy peppers.


The average California Wonder pepper is heavy, 4-lobed, blocky-shaped, and about four inches long. The skin of both ripe and unripe California Wonder peppers is glossy and smooth. The walls are thick and fleshy, which makes them succulent and crunchy.

California Wonder peppers
California Wonder peppers are the standard in sweet bell peppers.


Besides being huge, the open-pollinated Cal Wonder peppers are known for their hardiness. They are disease-resistant peppers that stand their ground well against root knot nematodes and tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). However, they are not frost-resistant.

Are California Wonder Peppers The Same As Bell Peppers?

California Wonder peppers are a type of sweet bell pepper or simply sweet peppers, as they are also called. 

Bell peppers are named based on their color and take on names such as:

  • Green bell peppers (these are harvested green before they ripen.)
  • Red bell peppers or red bells
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Yellow bell peppers
  • Purple bell peppers
  • Brown bell peppers
  • White bell peppers

The last three varieties of bell peppers are pretty rare.

California Wonder peppers are also called California Wonder bell peppers, California Wonder sweet peppers, or California Wonder bells.

What Color Are California Wonder Peppers?

California Wonder peppers are available in green, red, orange, yellow, and purple. 

Like other peppers, California Wonders start green and can be harvested green while still young for a fresh, verdant taste.

The other non-green colors are based on variety; they appear as peppers are allowed to ripen on the plants. Unlike hot peppers, which get spicier the longer they stay on the vine, bell peppers pack on even more sweetness as they ripen.

The ripening gives rise to California Wonder peppers with different names like:

  • Golden or yellow California Wonder peppers/California Wonder golden or yellow (these ripen from green to yellow).
  • Red California Wonder peppers/California Wonder red (ripening to a bright crimson red or fire engine red).
  • Orange California Wonder peppers/California Wonder orange (ripening to bright orange).
  • Purple California Wonder peppers/California Wonder purple (ripening to a rare purple color).

What Is The Most Popular Use For California Wonder Peppers?

Because of their sweet, fruity flavor, California Wonder peppers are extremely versatile in any preparation that calls for sweet bell peppers, such as:

  • Stuffed peppers (The large hollow cavities of the peppers are enough room for making stuffed peppers with your favorite meat, cheese, or grain)
  • Chopped into salads when raw
  • Diced into salsas when raw
  • Sliced for dipping when raw
  • Pickled peppers
  • Sautéd
  • Steamed
  • Grilled
  • Cooked into stews, casseroles, and soups
  • As a topping for pizza
  • Fire-roasted

Can You Grow California Wonder Peppers?

California Wonder peppers are amazingly easy to grow commercially or at home. You can buy organic seeds online from retailers like Amazon and other sellers.

California Wonder pepper plants
Prolific California Wonder pepper plants.

Cal Wonder pepper seeds are usually sowed indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last frost date.

Well-drained soil is required to grow the peppers. The sandy or loamy soil must be moist, fertile, well-aerated, and lightweight.

You can enrich the soil with plenty of organic matter like humus or compost manure when planting the seeds and transplanting the seedlings. The transplanted seedlings should be covered with mulch to reduce water loss in warm areas.

Germination takes 6-15 days but can be as many as 21 days, depending on environmental conditions and how the seeds were dried. The ideal temperature range for optimum germination is 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since they don’t do well indoors, you should transplant the young pepper plants into containers or your vegetable garden about 2-3 weeks after the last frost date.

The seedling spacing should be 12-24 inches apart.

Like other pepper plants, California Wonder pepper plants require full sun or warm seasons with at least six hours of sunshine daily. The seedlings should be planted under partial shade to prevent wilting when the weather is too warm.

If you want to grow your Cal Wonder pepper plants in containers, they should be at least 24 inches wide around the top and 18 inches deep to give the plant enough room to develop roots into the soil and have good lateral and vertical growth.

The fruits will be ready for harvesting as green Cal Wonders at around 55 days and as ripened peppers at about 72-90 days after planting, depending on the cultivar.

Are California Wonder Peppers Annuals Or Perennials?

Like most other peppers, California Wonder peppers are perennials. However, most gardeners cultivate them as annuals, as they can be difficult to overwinter even though they are particularly frost-resistant.

Cal Wonder peppers grow as an annual crop in the warm season and as a short-lived perennial crop when cultivated in hot tropical climates.

How Many Peppers Will A Plant Produce?

California Wonder peppers are prolific plants that can produce 13-21 large pepper fruits per plant, according to a 2017/2018 study in Iraq

The study focused on the growth response and fruit production of California Wonder bell pepper plants in different growing mediums and planting container diameters under plastic house conditions.

Pepper plants in a medium comprising sandy soil, peat moss, and chicken manure yielded 18.33 fruits per plant.

Peppers planted in the same medium in containers measuring six centimeters in diameter yielded 21.23 pepper fruits per plant.

The study’s results proved the effects that planting medium and container size has on vegetative growth, fruit size, and fruit yield.

While this sounds like a complicated experiment, you could try it with your own California Wonder pepper plants for extra fun growing them under different conditions!


Peppers have become the meeting point for three of Alex's greatest passions—gardening, cooking and writing. He is happiest watching small plants grow big and heavy with produce, and he can't wait to harvest self-grown fresh produce for his kitchen. When he is not taking care of his pepper plants, you'll find him busy cooking and sampling different peppers as he seeks the next hotter pepper.

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