How to grow chillies (2024)

Table of Contents
Hot harvest Top chillies FAQs

In a hellishly hot polytunnel in Bedfordshire, grower Joanna Plumb is laying to rest the myth that chillies are hard to grow. In fact, it pays to be a bit lax: "If you let them wilt and stress the plant out," she says. "It's one way of getting hotter chillies because the plant thinks it's going to die and puts all its energy into reproducing."

Plumb is an expert chilli grower and owner of Edible Ornamentals, growing thousands of chillies every year for everyone from supermarkets to Fortnum & Mason. She's convinced that these hot fruits are a great crop for the style of growing most of us can manage in modern life: chillies are perfectly content in a pot on a sunny windowsill or patio, with fruits that can be picked over a long period and easily stored for the following year.

It's too late to grow chillies from seed this year, but now's the perfect time to buy a couple of plants: if you pick the right variety, you should be harvesting until Christmas. The best ones for growing on windowsills and patios are compact and bushy, such as Apache and Prairie Fire: some of the bigger chillies can grow up to 2m. There are a few simple rules: put them in full sun, water little and often, and remember to feed. If you already have tomato feed, you can use it on chillies, though there is also a specially formulated feed called Chilli Focus. When roots start to show through the base of the container, switch the plant to a bigger pot using multipurpose compost.

Plumb says the most common moan from indoor growers is that their plants have dropped their flowers, but no fruits follow. There's an easy solution to this wrinkle, caused by the lack of insects for pollination: use a small paintbrush gently to rub the insides of the flowers and move pollen from bloom to bloom, mimicking an insect at work. If you have some outside space, the alternative is to give them some fresh air, but it's best to opt for pots rather than planting chillies in the ground. They need a minimum night-time temperature of 7C, so bring them inside in September and they should continue to fruit until December. You may even find you can enjoy a second harvest the following summer. Time outdoors also helps to defeat the chilli plant's main foe, the aphid: ladybirds will soon handle this pest if given the chance. Otherwise, keep a close eye on your indoor plants and gently ruboff any aphid invaders with the tips of your fingers.

Hot harvest

Chillies will be ready to snip off from next month onwards, but there's no need to hang on until all the fruits are bright red. Harvest some while they are green and you'll encourage the plant to keep fruiting. While the UK is fixated with red chillies, in most countries chillies are picked when green. "Achilli when full size and green has maximum heat," Plumb say. "When it goes red, it is as hot, but it goes sweeter, like the difference between a green and ared sweet pepper."

Don't worry if your chillies turn black – this is simply part of the ripening process and the fruits will turn red in a few days. If you end up with more chillies than you can eat, freeze them whole, or purée them and freeze in an ice-cube tray; the thinner-walled varieties, such as Anaheim, are excellent dried – pickperfect fruits and use a darning needle to pierce the thick, green stem with fishing wire or strong thread and string them together. Hang them up in a sunny, airy spot (in front of a south-facing window, say). That way, you'll still be eating chillies when next summer's crop isabout to ripen.

Top chillies

Numex Twilight Spectacular fruits that turn purple, yellow, orange, then red. Up to 1m tall.

Dorset Naga The fabled hot chilli; 3cm-long fruits are traditionally used green.

Hungarian Hot Wax 15cm-long mild fruits ripen lime to red; looks great in a terracotta pot.

Lemon Drop Hot citrus-flavoured lemon yellow chillies, 4cm long.

Prairie Fire Bushy plant ideal for windowsills; small hot fruits go yellow, orange, then red.

Santa Fe Grande Medium hot, 5-7cm, fruit turns yellow, orange, then red.

Anaheim Medium-sized sweet chilli, 15cm long. Tall plants that need plenty of support.

How to grow chillies (2024)


What are the secrets to growing chillies? ›

Chilli plants like growing in situations where the temperature can be easily regulated. If growing outside, select a sunny, sheltered, well drained position. If growing inside, a sunny window sill or conservatory is perfect. Just remember - don't let the soil dry out.

How do I increase the growth of my chilli plant? ›

Temperature and humidity. Chilli plants can usually cope with a minimum night temperature of 12°C (54°F), but will grow better if kept above 15°C (59°F). However, temperatures over 30°C (86°F) can reduce fruiting, so in hot spells keep the greenhouse well ventilated and put up shading.

How long do chillies take to fully grow? ›

There is a great variance in the number of days taken for a particular variety to reach maturity. Some can produce ripe fruit in 60 days from sowing and others take as long as 120 days. Remember that varieties such as Habaneros take 100 or more days (3 1/2 months) from potting on to reach maturity.

What makes chillies grow faster? ›

Make sure to start your seeds early, keep them warm, and use season extenders or indoor lights to help them grow faster until the warm weather comes to stay. Make sure to grow them in full sun, too, as peppers need lots of sun to grow big and strong.

Are chillies difficult to grow? ›

All of the readily available chilli varieties are very easy to grow and quite trouble-free. In fact, you'll likely get a great crop without even trying!

What is the easiest chilli to grow? ›

Capsicum annum

This variety of chilli is the easiest to grow. Most common chillies belong to this variety: Bell Pepper (paprika), jalapeño, cayenne pepper, Serrano and all 'waxed' peppers. The flowers are creamy white.

Do chillies need a lot of water? ›

Chillies are nearly always thirsty, so water them once or twice every day as long as the soil is dry. Keep them in well-draining pots, as leaving them to sit in too much water could make them rot, ruining your hard work.

Do coffee grounds help chilli plants? ›

You can simply sprinkle the coffee grounds themselves on the soil or add to the irrigation water. Coffee grounds contain essential nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. It also attracts worms, which help to break down the organic material and loosen the soil at the same time.

Is Miracle Grow good for chilli plants? ›

Grow Your Hot Peppers From Seed

Plant in loose, well-draining soil amended with compost or garden soil, like Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil. To prevent transplant shock, consider applying a starter plant food such as Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution.

How to make chilli plants bushy? ›

Pinch out the growing tip when plants reach about 15-20cm (6-8in) high to encourage bushy growth and better cropping. You can also pinch back the sideshoots if lots of smaller chillies are needed. Water regularly and feed with a balanced general feed, switching to a high potassium feed when the first chillies have set.

What is the best fertilizer for chillies? ›

Fertilising and Harvesting Chilli

Apply OCP eco-seaweed and OCP eco-aminogro every 2-3 weeks to encourage strong, healthy plants that will produce lots of chillies. Avoid fertilisers that are high in nitrogen as this produces too many leaves and less fruit.

Do chillies come back every year? ›

As chillies are sensitive to frost, they are usually grown as annuals. But this does not have to be the case because chillies, unlike tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) for example, are perennial plants. Kept in the right spot, chillies can even bear fruit all year round.

Should you prune chilli plants? ›

Super hot chilli plants such as the 'Carolina Reaper' and 'Bhut Jolokia' need to be pruned every now and again and more specifically, pruned for surviving the Winter in temperate climates such as in the UK.

How do I grow chillies in my backyard? ›

The Best Way to Grow Chillis

Begin by sowing and germinating the seeds during the winter. Use moist, aerated starting soil to allow the seedlings to grow properly. Then, transfer the seedlings to a pot or a garden with high-quality potting soil. Water daily and watch them fruit and mature over 3 to 6 months.

Can I grow chillies from fresh chilli seeds? ›

Here's how to grow your own chillies from seed: Start your seeds off indoors - they need plenty of warmth to germinate. Fill a seed tray or some 10cm pots with moist seed compost and flatten down. Sow a few seeds on top and cover with a fine sprinkling of vermiculite or compost.

How many chilies do you get from one plant? ›

Chillies are extremely simple to grow at home, and don't require any fancy gardening equipment. Since a single plant can give you upto a hundred chillies, they're a perfect addition to the kitchen garden, especially since they grow really well in containers and planters!

Can you grow chillies indoors all year round? ›

Chili plants in the house. In the winter months, chillies grow in many breeders' homes. All seeds are germinated on the windowsill or plants from the last season spend the winter in a bright room. If you don't have a garden or balcony, you can grow chili plants all year round indoors.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated:

Views: 6640

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.