How to grow Chilli Peppers

Learn how to get the most out of your allotment by reading information on each plant and the tools and equipment you might need.

Chilli Pepper growing guide

Planting Months

February - April

Harvest Months

July - September
Chilli plants with small young chilli fruits

Planting guide

Chillies or Chilli peppers are part of the genus Capsicum, which is a part of the nightshade family Solanaceae, which include tomatoes.

Peppers are usually divided into 2 groups - sweet or bell peppers and chillies. .

There are many varieties of chilli plants and most varieties can be treated as perennials and grow from season to season, although they need to be brought into the warmth and stored carefully over winter. Watering will usually be less and some chillies will benefit from pruning. .

Choosing the right chilli usually involves looking the Scoville scale, other choices might involve the size of the plant, particularly if you have limited room. There are many to choose from. .

Chillies can be relatively easy to grow given the right conditions. You can grow chillies from seed or from a young plant bought from the local garden centre or occasionally a supermarket. They are a species which is native to South America, particularly Mexico, although many new varieties have been developed since being introduced to the wider world. They are best grown in warm conditions which can be a sunny windowsill, greenhouse or polytunnel, although they can also be grown outside in a sunny and protected spot. .

When thinking about growing chillies it is essential to look at how long it takes to grow a particular variety. They have a long growing season (60-120 days), especially if you are starting from seeds. With some varieties like Habanero, you may need to plant your seeds in January to have a successful harvest. If you are buying young plants, you can start later. You will need to read the information on the seed packet you give yourself the best chance of success. .

Seedling advice

Growing from seed - chilli seeds need a temperature of 18-25oC / 64-77oF so a heated propagator is best. If you don't have a propagator you can plant your seeds in a seed tray, cover it over with polythene and place it in a sunny spot on a windowsill. It is best to start your seeds in January to February, or even March, depending on the variety. To start your seeds, fill your seed tray with seeding compost and sow your seeds on top. Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite and water. Keep the compost moist and avoid overwatering at this stage. An alternative is to use coir pellets - these come as round, dry disks and will need to be soaked before planting the seeds. The pellets will expand in the water and you can plant the seeds into the top of the module by creating a small hole, planting the seed and covering it over. These can be good to use as it is easier to transplant the seedlings to pots when they have grown enough. .

Transplant the seedlings onto 7-9cm pots when the first true leaves have formed. The first 2 leaves are known as Cotyledons or seed leaves and help the seedling to grow. As the plant develops you can transplant them into larger pots as they grow bigger, usually when they have half a dozen pairs of leaves. Once the chance of frost has gone usually around mid-late May you will be able to transplant the plants into 25cm pots / 2 litres, in grow bags or in the ground. Do not rush this stage as the plant have a long fruiting season so you will not miss out. Checking the chances of frost in your area before you do this will help you to decide the best time. .

Growing and harvest advivce

When the plants which are 20-25cms / 8-10ins tall start to stake them up with a thin bamboo stick or cane. You may want to pinch out the top leaves once they have established themselves in their final home. This can encourage more bushy plants and more fruit production, especially the smaller varieties. .

Water them regularly throughout the growing season although avoid overwatering, but do not let the plants dry out. You will also need to feed them every 2 weeks or so with a potash fertiliser such as tomato feed. Start feeding the plants once the first flowers have formed. In hot and dry weather keep misting your plants as well to keep the humidity around the plant. If you are growing your plants indoors where there are few insects, you may also need to help the flowers to pollinate by using the tip of a small brush. .

The fruit will be ready from about July onwards, depending on when you started, the more you pick the more fruit will grow. Some plants can have many weeks of fruiting until the weather starts to get colder, usually around October. Chilli fruit can change their colour as they ripen. For instance, the Hungarian Hot Wax will start of with a yellow colour and ripen to a red colour, although most people pick the fruit at the yellow stage. .

Hopefully, you will have an abundance of fruit and will be thinking about how store the chillies for future use throughout the year. The most common way is to dry then either on a flat dry surface (do not forget to keep on turning them) or stringing them up and letting them air dry. Another but more expensive way of drying chillies is to use a dehydrator. Chillies freeze well, just put clean chillies in a freezer bag and pop them in. They will come out soft but will retail the flavour of the outside. Another way is to slice them up, place them in a jar and cover them with oil. .

Chilli problems.

Blossom-end rot, the fruit will start to go brown at the end. This is caused by poor watering regime. Just ensure that the soil does not dry out or overwater by regular checking. Red Spider Mite - these can be avoided by misting your plants regularly. Aphids of Whitefly - these can be treated biologically or physically.

Chilli Pepper growing guide

Chilli plants with small young chilli fruits

Planting Months

February - April

Harvest Months

July - September

Chillies or Chilli peppers are part of the genus Capsicum, which is a part of the nightshade family Solanaceae, which include tomatoes.

Peppers are usually divided into 2 groups - sweet or bell peppers and chillies. .

There are many varieties of chilli plants and most varieties can be treated as perennials and grow from season to season, although they need to be brought into the warmth and stored carefully over winter. Watering will usually be less and some chillies will benefit from pruning. .

Choosing the right chilli usually involves looking the Scoville scale, other choices might involve the size of the plant, particularly if you have limited room. There are many to choose from. .

Chillies can be relatively easy to grow given the right conditions. You can grow chillies from seed or from a young plant bought from the local garden centre or occasionally a supermarket. They are a species which is native to South America, particularly Mexico, although many new varieties have been developed since being introduced to the wider world. They are best grown in warm conditions which can be a sunny windowsill, greenhouse or polytunnel, although they can also be grown outside in a sunny and protected spot. .

When thinking about growing chillies it is essential to look at how long it takes to grow a particular variety. They have a long growing season (60-120 days), especially if you are starting from seeds. With some varieties like Habanero, you may need to plant your seeds in January to have a successful harvest. If you are buying young plants, you can start later. You will need to read the information on the seed packet you give yourself the best chance of success. .

Seedling advice

Growing from seed - chilli seeds need a temperature of 18-25oC / 64-77oF so a heated propagator is best. If you don't have a propagator you can plant your seeds in a seed tray, cover it over with polythene and place it in a sunny spot on a windowsill. It is best to start your seeds in January to February, or even March, depending on the variety. To start your seeds, fill your seed tray with seeding compost and sow your seeds on top. Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite and water. Keep the compost moist and avoid overwatering at this stage. An alternative is to use coir pellets - these come as round, dry disks and will need to be soaked before planting the seeds. The pellets will expand in the water and you can plant the seeds into the top of the module by creating a small hole, planting the seed and covering it over. These can be good to use as it is easier to transplant the seedlings to pots when they have grown enough. .

Transplant the seedlings onto 7-9cm pots when the first true leaves have formed. The first 2 leaves are known as Cotyledons or seed leaves and help the seedling to grow. As the plant develops you can transplant them into larger pots as they grow bigger, usually when they have half a dozen pairs of leaves. Once the chance of frost has gone usually around mid-late May you will be able to transplant the plants into 25cm pots / 2 litres, in grow bags or in the ground. Do not rush this stage as the plant have a long fruiting season so you will not miss out. Checking the chances of frost in your area before you do this will help you to decide the best time. .

Growing and harvest advice

When the plants which are 20-25cms / 8-10ins tall start to stake them up with a thin bamboo stick or cane. You may want to pinch out the top leaves once they have established themselves in their final home. This can encourage more bushy plants and more fruit production, especially the smaller varieties. .

Water them regularly throughout the growing season although avoid overwatering, but do not let the plants dry out. You will also need to feed them every 2 weeks or so with a potash fertiliser such as tomato feed. Start feeding the plants once the first flowers have formed. In hot and dry weather keep misting your plants as well to keep the humidity around the plant. If you are growing your plants indoors where there are few insects, you may also need to help the flowers to pollinate by using the tip of a small brush. .

The fruit will be ready from about July onwards, depending on when you started, the more you pick the more fruit will grow. Some plants can have many weeks of fruiting until the weather starts to get colder, usually around October. Chilli fruit can change their colour as they ripen. For instance, the Hungarian Hot Wax will start of with a yellow colour and ripen to a red colour, although most people pick the fruit at the yellow stage. .

Hopefully, you will have an abundance of fruit and will be thinking about how store the chillies for future use throughout the year. The most common way is to dry then either on a flat dry surface (do not forget to keep on turning them) or stringing them up and letting them air dry. Another but more expensive way of drying chillies is to use a dehydrator. Chillies freeze well, just put clean chillies in a freezer bag and pop them in. They will come out soft but will retail the flavour of the outside. Another way is to slice them up, place them in a jar and cover them with oil. .

Chilli problems.

Blossom-end rot, the fruit will start to go brown at the end. This is caused by poor watering regime. Just ensure that the soil does not dry out or overwater by regular checking. Red Spider Mite - these can be avoided by misting your plants regularly. Aphids of Whitefly - these can be treated biologically or physically.