How to Grow Chillies

An easy step by step guide.
A beginners guide to growing chillies from choosing the right variety to getting the biggest crop. Check the other sections of this guide for a Chilli Plant Care Plan, Nutrient Guide and what to do when things don't go according to plan in the section on Pests, Problems Diseases.

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  • 7. Flowering and fruiting

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    Your chilli plants will produce chillies on each of their sidestems so the more sidestems you have, the more fruit your plant will produce. Once your plants have produced their main side shoots, pluck out the growing tips to encourage more sidestems.

    Chillies are insect-pollinated but that failing, they will self-pollinate, so a gentle shake of flowers will help ensure that they set. Once your chillies start to flower, switch to a high potassium feed such as a half-strength tomato feed or dedicated chilli feed.

    If you want a bumper crop of pods, feed at the suggested rate. However heat-stressed plants will produce a smaller crop of superhot pods. Feed at half the suggested rate and let your plants almost dry out, watering them a little as they start to wilt.

    If watching plants grow from seed to bear flowers and fruit does not get you hooked on chillies, the heat and flavour of your own fresh pods is sure to. Fresh off the plant, their flavour is fresher, fruiter and more intense.

    Happy growing!

  • 6. growing on from plant size

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    After another 4-6 weeks, plants will be outgrowing their pots and ready for their final positions. Roots will have filled the pot. Again, using a free draining compost/coir mix, carefully pot on into a minimum 7 litre pots. Chinense plants in particular will grow much larger in bigger pots so if you have the space, go up to a large bucket size.

    By this stage an unheated greenhouse should suffice. This is obviously dependent on the weather. Chillies don’t like the cold and shouldn’t be left unprotected if the temperature is going to go down below 10ºC.

    In the summer months, hardier annuum chillies can be placed outside in a sheltered spot or on a warm patio. Acclimatize them slowly, bringing them in at night for the first week or whenever the temperature threatens to drop. Chinense varieties prefer the shelter of a greenhouse.

    Where necessary, use a cane to support the plants as they grow. Carry on feeding chillies with a dedicated chilli feed or seaweed extract at the suggested rate. A weekly foliar spray of Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulphate) will encourgage leafy growth. Keep the compost moist, plants well spaced and make sure there is some ventilation.

    Keep a careful check of any pests in the greenhouse, as they are better dealt with before an infestation starts. Check the underside of leaves and soil top. Yellow sticky paper traps are very cheap and can help keep a track of this. Note any yellow or mishapen leaves and check the defficiency guide for what this indicates.

  • 5. growing on from plug size

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    Four to six weeks after germination, plants can be potted on very carefully, avoiding too much disturbance to the roots of other seeds that may still be germinating. If you have planted into Coir Pellets, you will avoid any disturbance at this stage.

    Plant into 9cm pots, using a free-draining compost, again a 50/50 mix of coir and compost is ideal. Chilli plants do well in warm, sunny places so a heated greenhouse, conservatory or sunny windowsill is ideal.

    Keep a close eye on your young plants, making sure they do not dry out. Feed them weekly with a seaweed or dedicated pepper feed.

  • 4. propagating seed

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    For best results, place in a heated propagator or a seed tray with clear lid in a warm place. Around 25-30ºC is ideal and this will significantly increase germination and speed it up. In a heated environment, you should start to see some action in 7-10 days. Germination can be erratic, especially with chinense varieties and you may see seedlings emerging for several weeks.

    When the seedlings start to appear, introduce some ventilation to your propagator or seed tray. Be careful not to let the temperature drop too much at night, as plants are very vulnerable to the cold. Keep the compost moist but not wet. Overwatering is the biggest cause of chilli plant problems.

  • 3. planting chilli seeds

    The easiest and most effective method of planting is to use pre-formed Coir Jiffy pellets. Soak them until they have swollen to size and put two seeds into each one, just below the surface. Remove the weaker seedling later.

    If you are planting into pots, fill with a free draining compost mix. Peat is fairly disastrous for chillies as it is too cold and wet. A good mix is a 50/50 blend of coir and compost. Fill one pot per seed type to about 2cm below the rim, firm down the compost and soak thoroughly.

    Place the seeds with a good space between them so that you do not harm the roots when you come to potting on and cover them with a fine layer of sieved compost.

    Use separate pots or trays for each variety and don’t forget to label them or you’ll spend several frustrating months not knowing which is which.

  • 2. Preparing to Plant

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    Get Ready to Plant

    The best time of year to start planting chilli seeds in the UK is January to early March for long season chinense varieties and February to April for shorter season annum, frutescen and other species. This is essential if you want your chillies to ripen by the end of the season.

    Preparing Seeds

    Germinating chilli seeds is quite easy so if you follow these instructions carefully, you should have a good rate of success. Soaking your chilli seeds overnight in warm water will increase the speed of germination and the success rate.

  • 1. choosing the right chilli plant

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    With over 4,000 varieties of chilli worldwide, ranging from the mildest heat to pods that will blow your head off; from easy to grow and prolific plants to varieties that need a heated greenhouse or conservatory and some considerable care to bring to fruit; beautiful ornamentals and some of the weirdest crops bred by man. As a general rule of thumb …

    Chinense chillies; belonging to this species are the hottest pods on the planet. All of the extreme chillies Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpions, Seven Pots, Morugas, Bhuts and Nagas belong in this group as well as a whole range of pretty hot chillies such as Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets. These are the most difficult plants to grow. If you are growing in the UK, you will need a greenhouse and a bit of time and knowhow to care for these plants. If you haven't planted chinense varieties by the end of February, either get hold of plugs or plants or choose a different variety.

    Annuum chillies; generally, annuum chillies are much easier to grow than the chinense. Although all chillies would prefer a greenhouse, some varieties of annuum will bear fruit outside if you have a sheltered, sunny spot. Cayennes, Jalapeños, Pimiento de Padron all crop well outdoors, as well as a number of ornamental chillies such as Numex Twilight. Annuum varieties will flower from mid summer and you can expect chillies from July until autumn. There are some pretty hot varieties but none that compare to the extreme heat of the chinense pods. However, if you are a beginner, don't have a greenhouse or just want an easy life with a more guaranteed crop, annuls are for you.

    Other species; Rocotos are alone in the pubescen species, with their hairy leaves and round, black-seeded pods. These are difficult to get going, and very susceptible to stunted growth if not cared for properly. However, if you can get them to a good size, they will flower and fruit prolifically. A number of chillies from the baccatum species are becoming increasingly popular, such as Aji Amarillo, Aji Lemondrop and Brazilian Starfish. You will need a greenhouse to protect these plants from the British weather but given that, they are easy to grow and crop prolifically from quite early in the season.

About Us
Founded by Sarah Hunt in 2008, World of Chillies is an online chilli shop specialising in chilli plants, seeds, gifts, dried chillies and sauces.

We are dedicated to the pursuit of everything that is hot and great.

We stock an extensive range of chilli plugs and plants varieties from around the world. VAT reg 223 1269 42


Hastings, East Sussex, U.K.
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