How to Grow Chillies

I don’t tend to grow Chillies here at My Tiny Plot. Firstly, because I don’t have a greenhouse and secondly because I’m not a huge fan of spicy food. So I was very happy when the Chilli King offered to write a short post on how to grow Chillies. And here it is:

Growing Chilli Peppers is easier than most people think. Even in the relatively cool UK climate Chillies can be easily grown providing all the spice you need to get you through the cold winters!

There are literally thousands of varieties of Chilli plants out there to choose from. Below is a small selection of varieties you’ll find in most shops that sell seed or plants.

The main image above is a Jalapeno – A thick-walled pepper of medium heat often used as a pizza topping. Great pickled.

Above is a Cayenne Pepper – Long, thin and red. Medium heat. Best eaten either fresh or dried and crushed into flakes.

This is a Habanero/Scotch Bonnet Pepper – These are intensely hot but also flavorsome Peppers used a lot in Caribbean cuisine. Best eaten fresh or made into hot sauces.

Naga/Bhut Jolokia – Thin and slightly shriveled these are amongst the hottest chillies in the world. User very sparingly in cooking!

Caring For Chilli Plants

If you can then keep them in a greenhouse then do so (they’ll love the heat) however Chilli plants will do equally well outside in a sunny spot. Treat them much as you would a Tomato plant. They like heat and lots of light but are easily damaged by cold spells of weather.

Now we are in June it is probably too late to start off your Chillies from seed. If you haven’t already planted some (ideally you should plant your seeds indoors in March) then buying small plants from the garden centre is your best option. Their increasing popularity over recent years has meant that most garden centres now stock many varieties, both seed and plants.

Chilli plants prefer well-draining soil as they don’t like having their feet wet so always water from the top. I water once every other day on average, waiting until the soil is visibly dry on the surface before watering. I tend to use regular potting compost mixed with a couple of handfuls of Vermiculite that helps to retain nutrients and some (but not too much) moisture around the roots

So long as they get lots of light they should grow fairly quickly. Lack of light can cause leggy plants which may mean they need pinching out to encourage sideways growth. When they start to flower feed them twice a week with half-strength Tomato feed. Pollination shouldn’t be a problem if your plants are outside however if growing indoors you may find flowers simply dying and dropping off caused by the lack of insects pollinating the flowers. To combat this you can easily pollinate by hand by very gently rubbing your little finger inside all the flowers on each plant every couple of days.

All varieties of Chilli can be picked and eaten at any stage of growth. Most varieties tend to ripen from green through brown to red with the flavour becoming sweeter the nearer to red they are. As with Tomato plants, picking fruit will encourage the plants to produce more.

Another common misconception about Chillies is that they are annuals. In-fact most varieties can be successfully over-wintered by pruning right back and moving inside in mid Autumn. While not every plant will make it through the Winter, those that do will mean you get a good head start on the next year. From my experience Chilli plants tend to produce heavier yields in their second or even third years.

Author Bio:

James runs The Chilli King, a site dedicated to growing chillies. For a more in depth article, be sure to read his piece on growing Chilli plants.

If anyone out there has specialist knowledge in one particular type of vegetable or fruit and would like to guest post, then drop me a line.

14 Comments on “How to Grow Chillies

  1. I didn’t know about over-wintering into a 2nd or 3rd year so that’s really interesting and definitely worth a try. I’m growing cayenne, jalapeno, scotch bonnet and fresno supreme this year as I’m a chilli addict!

  2. Hi!
    I’m growing halebinaros for the first time and now my poor little plant is covered in bugs!!! I have it in full sun and it’s been growing fine but these bugs suddenly showed up. I have the plant near my tomatoes but the bugs haven’t migrated there….yet. How can I get rid of them? Is it possible to do it without chemicals?

  3. How much do you prune back for overwintering?

  4. I wish I had known about overwintering them; I had a really good plant last year and would have cut it back and moved it into the shed/greenhouse if I had known! I will do that next time.

  5. Oh sister – come on and use peppers. I could almost drink salsa straight. Have you ever had them stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and baked until the bacon is cooked? I will assume you are not a fan of Mexican food. I’m in the American southwest and chilies are essential.

    Peppers are terrifically healthy.

    Viva los chilies.

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  8. I have tried to grow both sweet pepper and chili peppers (love them both!) but have simply given up as aphids love them even more than I do.

    Squidging doesn’t work as there are always replacements.

  9. Melisa – What kind of bugs are they? If they are aphids try mixing a couple of drops of washing up liquid and spray the plant.

    lee – For over wintering I prune back leaving about 3-4″ of stem. There are more in depth over wintering article on my site if you want more info/help.

    Susan – Try my washing up liquid tip above. Failing that buy a ladybird next box for your garden. Also planting marigolds nearby can help as they attract hovver flies (aka aphid killers!)

  10. Hello!!
    I’m growing lot of chilli peppers varieties, I think I’ve almost 40 different ones!!
    I didn’t like spicy a lot, but I liked the shapes and colors of the chillies!!! Now I can eat more spice, too!!
    Thank you for this post, it was really interesting!!
    Greetings from Italy!

  11. So cool to see that James’s post proved useful. I didn’t know about overwintering them either. Great idea.

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  13. Could someone help please? I have a prolific chilli plant which has suddenly developed problems. All the new leaf growth at the axils have turned black, dried out and died off. There is NO new leaf growth anywhere. The leaf axils are all covered with round black scars where the leaf shoots have all died off. Also, the leaves have gotten smaller and smaller over time (this is the plant’s second year). I try not to overwater, and put in quarter-strength feed in all its water, so that it has small amounts of food constantly. Its last harvest was about 30 chillies, but with an unusually high number of stunted and ‘unwaxed’-looking chillies. Up till the last harvest it was doing marvelously. I’m desperate!