Native to the Mexican state of Tabasco, the sauce manufacturer McIlheny has made Tabasco a household name.
Like all C. frutescens cultivars, the tabasco plant has a typical bushy growth, which commercial cultivation makes stronger by trimming the plants. The tapered fruits, around 4cm long, are initially pale yellowish-green and turn yellow and orange before ripening to bright red. Tabascos rate from 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale of heat levels. Tabasco fruits, like all other members of the C. frutescens species remain upright when mature, rather than pendulant.
The tabasco plant can grow to 1.5m tall, with a cream or light yellow flower that will develop into upward oriented fruits later in the growing season. It takes approximately 80 days after germinating for them to become fully mature.
As they are native to the Mexican state of Tabasco, seeds require lots of warmth to germinate and grow best when the temperature is between 25–30°C. If grown outside of their natural habitat, it is best to start seeds indoors and then plant out 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost when the soil temperatures exceed 10°C and the weather has settled.
Tabasco peppers are temperamental when it comes to setting fruit. If temperatures are too hot or too cool and even if nighttime temperatures fall below 15°C it can reduce fruit set. A location that receives plenty of light and heat, with soil that is fertile, lightweight, slightly acidic (pH 5.5–7.0) and well-drained is ideal for growing the plants. Peppers need a steady supply of water for best performance. Growers are careful to make sure that fertilizers and soil are rich in phosphorus, potassium and calcium and reduced in nitrogen as it can deter fruit growth.