Chillies or chilli peppers come in a range of sizes, shapes, colours, taste and heat strength giving you the opportunity to grow to your own preference. They are also an attractive, colourful plant to add to your mix of growing projects.
Despite needing warmth and sunlight, they can be sown as early as January-February in a propagator or slightly later; March-April time if you are unable to offer a warm enough environment indoors.
Just a few seeds in compost, in a seed tray or small pots is all that is required until the seedlings have grown through the soil and then you can remove from the propagator, or remove any clear coverings. They should be kept in a warm and sunny position and watered regularly. Seedlings should be kept at minimum temperatures of 18c and 12c at night.
Once the chilli plants have grown its first pair of leaves, it will be time to thin out and re-pot into bigger pots until the time comes when they will require a large pot as their final growing place or plant two or three in a grow bag by cutting a hole to plant them in 2/3 equal spaces.
You may opt to buy a small chilli plant and grow it on if you are late in sowing or you live in a cooler climate.
Chillies will thrive better in a greenhouse or indoors, in the warmth and sunshine however they can be hardened off and planted out during May-June if your location and weather is suitable. Particularly for hotter chillies, keep them under glass.
Like tomatoes, your plant's productivity will do better with pinching out as they grow and when flowers appear, they will benefit from some high in potassium fertiliser/feed.
As your plants grow bigger, they will require some cane support also.
It helps your plant to reproduce if you pick chillies regularly to encourage regrowth. As your chillies grow and ripen, they will become hotter as they change colour and are more mature. Even if they are left hanging until they are shrivelled looking, you can use these dried in cooking. So, to begin with, you may have green and milder chillies with a fresh flavour and then as later ones mature, they will change to red in colour and have more of a fiery taste. Even small ones will give a nice 'kick' to your spicy cuisine.
You might want to try a few tricks to get hotter chillies - sow early with a 'hot' variety of seeds, by reducing the watering, misting them, keeping them inside for added heat and humidity, 'stressing' them - by snapping off stems, fruit and leaves that will reduce the yield but produce hotter chillies. Avoid feeding them.
You can eat chillies fresh, raw or cooked in curries and spicy dishes as well as dried for flakes in cooking or ground. You can also make chutneys and sauces. You can save the seeds as well to plant next time.
When handling chillies, ensure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards to avoid hot stinging sensations if you rub your eyes or touch anywhere sensitive!
You may also be interested in our Peppers page.