How to choose and grow chillis


A few simple steps! Choose your chilli pepper as per your heat level tolerance (yeah, heat level we did not mistake it!), prepare the seeds (germination), plant the seeds (transplanting), encourage growth (feeding) and lastly harvest your chilli!


  1. Choose your chilli pepper: Chillies are one of the most wonderful plants to grow, because they come in such a wide variety of colours, sizes, tastes, and spice-levels. Chillies can be either an annual (must be replanted each year) or a perennial (grow back on their own). There are also three general types of chilli: sweet, hot and ornamental. All three types have some level of spice, but sweet chillies are the mildest, ornamental have lovely colours and shapes (but can be very hot), and hot chillies are used primarily for their intense spice and flavour.
  • Chillies range from green, butter yellow, peachy orange, and fire-engine red, to plum and a pitch black hue. The colour doesn’t have a direct correlation to the flavour or spice level of each chilli pepper.
  • Much of the time chili peppers are used for the heat that they have and the extremely hot peppers have become more and more popular with each passing year. The heat level of a pepper is measure in scoville units on a scale where 0 is the heat level of a sweet pepper and 855,000 is the hottest chili, the Bhut Jolokia. In many instances the ratings are simplified to a scale of 1-10 to make it easier to remember. Here are some examples of chilli peppers:
Heat rating Chilli seed varieties
Atomic! Chilli Pepper ‘Naga Jolokia’
Scorching Chilli Pepper ‘Prairie Fire’
Scorching Chilli Pepper ‘Tropical Heat’ (contains Scotch Bonnet)
Very Hot Chilli Pepper ‘Demon Red’
Very Hot Chilli Pepper ‘Pinochio’s Nose’
Very Hot Chilli Pepper ‘Tabasco’
Hot Chilli Pepper ‘Heatwave’
Hot Chilli Pepper ‘Inferno’
Hot Chilli Pepper ‘Summer Heat’ (Jalapeno)
Warm Chilli Pepper ‘Meek and Mild’ (Poblana)


  1. Prepare the seeds: For the best and hottest chillies, start sowing indoors as early as January – the hottest varieties often need the longest growing period. Chillies need plenty of warmth to germinate so invest in a heated propagator for the windowsill or use a warm airing cupboard and cover with a plastic bag. Sow Chilli pepper seeds on the surface of a moist, free-draining, seed compost and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place seed trays in a propagator at a temperature of 18-25C until germination, which usually takes 7-10 days. Once germinated, chillies can be moved to a warm, sunny windowsill or a heated greenhouse. Keep the compost evenly moist but take care not to let it get soaking wet.
  2. Plant the seeds: When chilli seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them into individual 7.5cm (3″) pots of compost and grow them on until all risk of frost has passed and they are large enough to be transplanted in their final positions. You can grow chillies in pots undercover in a warm greenhouse, conservatory, or polytunnel. Alternatively grow chillies in a sheltered, sunny position outdoors. Transplant them into grow bags (3 per growbag) or individually into 2 litre containers. When growing your own chilli plants outdoors, gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions over a period of 7 to 10 days. Once acclimatised, transplant them into well prepared beds of fertile, moist, well drained soil. Space chilli pepper plants at a distance of 50cm (20″) apart. If you are short of space, try growing chillies indoors on a sunny windowsill.
  3. Encourage growth: Use a balanced 15-15-15 fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer refer to the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that fertilizer contains. A 15-15-15 fertilizer has equal parts of all three elements, meaning that the foliage, root system, flowers, and fruit of your pepper plant all receive an equal dose of food. Nitrogen improves the foliage, potassium improves the flowering and overall strength of a plant, and phosphorus improves the roots and fruit.
  4. Harvest your chill: Note the standard size and color—red, orange, yellow, or green—for the variety of chili pepper you chose to plant. Once your peppers reach these specifications, use shears or scissors to snip the stem directly above the pepper. Chili pepper plants can take 90 days after germination to yield peppers that are ready for harvest.
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