How to grow chilli peppers

Chilli peppers are known for their hot flavour. Mainly used as a spice, they can be powdered, dried or cooked. Growing chillies in a home garden is very easy.

Homegrown chillies can add a lot more to the taste of the recipes than the ones bought from the supermarket. 

Chilli peppers are something that everybody should have a go at growing because of their ease of cultivation and abundant production.

There are multiple varieties of chilli peppers and you can choose from the hotness, flavour and colours. Depending on the variety, they can be planted either in a greenhouse or outside, directly exposed to the sunlight. 

Chilli peppers not only taste great, but they are also healthy. They can provide you with Vitamin C and A, iron, magnesium etc. Here in this article, we will help you understand everything you need to know to grow chilli peppers.

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Table of Contents

Getting Started

Since chilli peppers grow a bit slowly, gardeners usually plant them indoors a few months before transplanting them outside. Though chilli peppers require moist soil as they grow, it is essential not to overwater the plants. Some varieties of chilli peppers need at least six hours of sunlight during the early phase. For plantation, use any kind of pot or container that has a sufficient drainage system. Pots that are 12 inches deep can be perfect for the fully grown chilli pepper plants.

watering chilli plant indoors

Chilli Pepper Varieties

While some chilli peppers are extremely hot and spicy, some are mildly sweet. Depending upon the type and maturity of the plants, the growing conditions may vary. Here are some common chilli peppers that one can grow in the garden:

Thai Hot Chilli

Originating from Thailand, these are very hot chillies. Usually, they grow up to 2 cm long. Hot Thai chillies are green in colour at first and then turn red when they ripen.

Apache Chilli Pepper

These 7-inch long bullet-shaped hot peppers are ideal for patio growing. The plant needs full sunlight and light soil. The colour of Apache peppers varies from red to yellow and green.

Fuego Chilli Pepper

It is a hybrid cayenne pepper that can tolerate the cold more than other variants. These are usually 6-7 inches long and have a typical tapered shape.

Chilli Pepper Loco

These bright red and purple coloured peppers have a small oval shape. They are as spicy as cayenne peppers. Any pot, container or hanging basket can be ideal for these plants.

Hungarian Hot Wax

Long and pointed, these bright yellow peppers can be either mild or hot depending upon the seed quality. It is one of the best variants to grow in the UK.

Prairie Fire

This multi-coloured plant produces green, purple, yellow and red chillies that are quite hot and rich in flavour. These are grown for both cooking and ornamentation purposes.

Ghost Pepper

Also known as bhut jolokia, these chillies are usually 2-3 inches long and 1-inch wide. Originating from India, it is the hottest chilli pepper in the world.

Want to know if chilli peppers are fruits or vegetables? We wrote an article that will settle your curiosity!

Hungarian Hot Wax chilli

Sow Chilli Seeds

Sowing chilli seeds indoors is better as it helps the gardener control the temperature according to the needs of the plants. These are the steps to be followed while sowing seeds:

  • To start with, apart from the seeds, one needs seed compost and a small pot.
  • Fill the pot with the compost and then sow a few seeds on top.
  • Cover the pot with a layer of vermiculite as it will protect the seeds.
  • You can label the seeds if you are cultivating more than one variety.

Many people sow chilli seeds in seed trays and then transplant them once the seedlings are ready. Placing a plastic cover on top of the pot or tray can ensure proper humidity or moisture while the seeds are growing. If the place for cultivation is a greenhouse or an indoor environment, the pots or trays should be kept outside during the day to ensure full sunlight. Watering the plants moderately is essential.

Once the seedlings are 1 inch tall and healthy, they are ready to be moved to individual pots. You can easily get seed packets at farming stores, garden centres, nurseries or online stores. If there is no place or time to sow seeds and look after them daily, you may buy chilli seedlings or young chilli plants from the market.

When to Sow

Late winter to early spring is the best time to sow chilli pepper seeds in the UK. Most gardeners sow chilli pepper seeds in the months of January, February and March. Depending on the variety of the chilli seeds, they take time to mature. While some plants can mature and produce fruits within 60 days, others may take longer.

Composting

Soil-based fresh compost is more suitable for sowing chilli seeds. When the healthy seedlings show up and are being moved to separate pots, you can use multi-purpose compost. Many people make organic compost with mushrooms and other ingredients, which work best in keeping soil fertile and moist.

chilli seeds

Grow Chilli Plants

While plants are grown indoors or in the greenhouse, they need warmth and surface watering. In the germination phase, when the seeds transform into seedlings, the ideal temperature is 21-32 degrees. Many people consider buying a heated propagator that is thermostatically controlled. However, it is not mandatory as plastic covers can also help in controlling temperature.

Here are the five essential steps that one needs to follow while growing chilli pepper plants:

Step 1: Transplant

The best time to transplant the seedlings is when the roots can be spotted through the drainage holes of the pots. It can take up to two weeks for some chilli varieties whereas others may need longer to develop. The method and tools of transplantation are similar to sowing seeds except for the plastic coverage.

Step 2: Water the Seeds

You should water the chilli plants properly as they need more water than a lot of other vegetables. The chilli seedlings or plants should be watered twice a day. Lack of water will make the compost very dry, which will affect plant growth. Overwatering can also be dangerous as it will make the compost too loose. Mulching the surface will keep the soil moist.

Step 3: Pruning and Staking

Once the seedlings are about 8 inches tall, it is time for staking. It is essential to provide strength to the tender plants through staking and you can use a thin cane to give that support. During this phase, the plant can grow up to 1 foot tall. You should pinch out the shoot tips occasionally to promote branch growth, which will result in more fruits.

To give a better shape to the plants, pruning might be required. You can use a scissor to carefully prune out some side shoots without damaging the main branches. Pruning is necessary when the plants grow too tall in an indoor environment. When pruning is done correctly, it allows the regrowth of the plants and fruits.

Step 4: Fruit Setting

Once flowering starts, the plants should be kept at a temperature below 35 degrees. Hence, keeping the plants outside is not a good idea if the temperature is below that. Keeping the plants indoors can lead to a lack of humidity but it can be controlled by using a mist spray. When the fruits start to show up, the best food for the plant is a high-potassium liquid fertiliser, which can be used once a week. Watering should be done regularly to prevent the drying of the fruits.

Step 5: Planting out

If you plant chilli peppers, you should have a sheltered spot to shift the small plants when it’s too cold and windy. Chillies can grow outside in the hot weather as they need the brightest, warmest and sunniest spots to grow healthy. If you have been growing chillies indoors, late May or early June is the best time to plant them out as the temperature remains moderate in this season. Planting chillies out in spring will promote fruit and flower production.

planting chilli seeds

When to Harvest Chilli Peppers?

Between mid-summer to autumn is usually the perfect time for harvesting chilli pepper plants that are grown indoors like a greenhouse or in the sunny windowsill. While growing outdoors, the plants get ready for harvesting a bit late, by mid-August. To harvest chillies, you should pick them when they are young and green. Otherwise, they will turn red and get overly spicy. Also, leaving the fruits to ripen will hinder the flower growth, which will ultimately lead to a loss of harvest.

At the end of the growing season, all the chillies should be plucked to promote further growth of the plant. There are multiple uses of harvested chillies. Fresh chillies are used for cooking while the leftover dried chillies are often used for preparing pickles and chilli flakes.

Overwintering Chilli Peppers

Overwintering is the process of keeping plants warm during the cold winter. Chilli plants need warmth and proper shelter to survive through the colder months. Placing them inside a greenhouse or finding a warm sunny windowsill for the plants would be the best idea. If you find a sunny spot, you can take them out during the day along with the other plants.

Want an in-depth guide on how to overwinter chilli plants? Have a read of this article that will cover everything that you need to know.

overwintering chilli peppers

What variety of chilli plants is the easiest to grow?

Among all the varieties mentioned above, Apache Chilli Peppers are the easiest to grow and they can be the perfect choice for beginners. They usually take two weeks to germinate and about 100 days to be harvested. The fruits are mildly hot and sweet, which is a great combination for people who can tolerate moderate spice. The size of Apache makes it easier to grow in the kitchen or anywhere in the garden.

Can chilli plants be sown in spring?

Though chilli plants can be sown before spring, the best time for sowing is early or mid-spring. If sown in spring, you don’t have to use heated propagators or other equipment required for heating the plants in the colder months. Another advantage of sowing in spring is that the fruits will come earlier due to the warm weather and exposure to sunlight.

What pot size is the most suitable for chilli plants?

For the first transplant of seedlings, a 3-inch sized pot is ideal. As the plants mature, you may need larger pots depending upon the variety and size of the plants. Usually, chilli plants do not need bigger pots than some other vegetables. Modern containers and hanging baskets are also ideal for some chilli plant varieties.

hanging baskets for chilli peppers

How to control spider mites on chilli plants?

Spider mites are often visible on chilli plants and as a gardener, you must check the plant condition regularly. To control and prevent spider mites, you can make a solution of water and a mild dishwasher to spray on the plants. We also recommend using a solution of water and alcohol to wash the mites off by spraying them gently on the affected areas. Also, keeping the atmosphere humid can be helpful in preventing the growth of spider mites of chilli plants.

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Oliver Wright

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