When growing chillies, choosing a variety that suits your location and climate is essential. These tropical plants require a warm, sunny spot with plenty of warmth for fruit to develop.
Start by sowing seeds indoors in late winter or early spring. These need to be sown at least 6 weeks before the average final frost date for your area, or at least as early as January if you have a heated propagator.
Sow Chilli Seeds Indoors
If you’re growing chillies indoors, sow the seeds in small pots or seed trays. Press them about 1cm deep into ordinary compost and water well. Place the containers in a propagator or a warm room, such as an airing cupboard.
Chillies prefer temperatures above 28C and don’t do well in cold conditions. A heated propagator is ideal but a warm, sheltered windowsill is also fine.
To get the best start, sow two seeds per pot and keep the compost moist but not soaked. Germination should take about three weeks.
Once the seeds have germinated and the first green leaves appear, move them into individual small pots (around 8cm to start with) – they like space. When the plants are a couple of inches tall, transplant them into larger pots.
Once your chilli plants are established, it’s time to transfer them to a sunny position outdoors. They do best in a greenhouse, polytunnel or conservatory but you can plant them out in milder areas once the risk of frost has passed.
Sow Chilli Seeds Outdoors
Chillies are usually grown from seed, which is the best option if you have limited space outdoors. They need a long time to grow, so sowing them early can be a key step in getting a bumper crop.
Sow chilli seeds outdoors in a greenhouse or sheltered area, with plenty of light and warmth to get them off to a good start. Alternatively, sow them indoors in heated propagators or other warm areas like airing cupboards.
Once the seeds have germinated, it is best to water them regularly until they are established. Depending on the variety, chilli plants should reach full height within about 80-120 days of sowing.
Once chilli plants have reached their full height, they will need staking. This is especially true of tree chillies, which need support and partial shade to produce fruit.
Sow Chilli Seeds in a Pot
Chillies are easy to grow, so long as you give them the right conditions. They are a great crop to sow at the end of winter, allowing you to pick fresh fruit in July (depending on the variety).
Sowing chilli seeds is easy and can be done either indoors or outside. It is important to keep the soil warm (a heat mat, a mini greenhouse or window sill) and to provide a consistent amount of light.
If you are unable to provide this you may consider investing in a grow lamp to help your seedlings develop. This will be particularly useful if you are growing early in the season (February and March) when light levels are low.
Sow your chilli seeds in a small pot (about half the diameter of a ping pong ball) and keep them in a sunny, warm spot. After a few weeks, they should have germinated and grown their first leaves.
Sow Chilli Seeds in a Bed
Chillies are a hardy and easy crop to grow, but you must ensure you choose the right soil for your chillies. They require a well-drained, fertile soil and a sunny spot in your garden or polytunnel.
Once the plants are a decent size, transplant them into larger pots or into grow bags. Alternatively, move them outside in a sheltered spot once all risk of frost has passed.
As the chilli plants grow, water them regularly but sparingly. Don’t over-water, as this can cause the plant to become stressed and result in increased capsaicin production.
If you’re growing in a pot, be sure to have a drainage layer and hole in the bottom for excess water to drain. It’s also a good idea to mulch around the base of your chilli plants, as this will help keep the soil moist and suppress weed growth.
You can also plant your chilli seeds in a bed, as long as you use a well-drained, organic soil and are prepared to nurture your chillies through their growth.