If you are living in a country where it’s winter right now: it’s time to start to germinate your chili seeds! In fact, you could have started your chili plants a couple of weeks ago.
If you preplant your pepper plants in December it will give the plants a lot of time to develop fruit with great taste and heat. In this post me and Grim will provide tips on what chili pepper varieties you can germinate as early as December now and which can wait to next year (January, for instance). If you want to learn a lot about growing chili peppers go and read the Chili Life blog! Here you will find guides relevant to what I write here. For example, you can learn everything from the best way to germinate chili seeds, and how to mix the best soil for chili peppers to how to use chili peppers (e.g., chili recipes), and watch beautiful photos of peppers! It’s a must watch!
In many ways, December also start the next growing season. December is the month for dreams and planning of the upcoming summers seed sow plants. Many of the very earliest chili varieties can also with advantage be started from seed already now. If you do this, you will give your super hot chili plants the proper time to develop and bear fruit until next summer!
If you started this late season (or last season) you may still harvest your peppers and can read about Preserving Chili Peppers.
Heat, Light, and Transplanting
Chili seeds germinate at different speed, all depending on which variety you are growing. Common to all chili varieties is that they germinate best at a temperature of between 25 and 30 degrees. See also this excellent guide for germinating seeds in general. But hey! As a Christmas gift we publish 2 posts today. Grim wrote an excellent short guide on how to germinate chili seeds.
When the seeds have sprouted, place the plants slightly cooler, still around 20 degrees. It’s also now you should add light your using grow lights. This well make the seedlings grow strong. We do not want too long and rickety plants, right? We’ve used both fluorescent bulbs and LED grow lights.
Transplant your chili plants a couple of times so that they get enough space for their roots to grow strong. You should be careful when you transplant into a new pot as the chili plants roots are sensitive. See the short guide to cultivating your own chili peppers for some brief information on growing capsicum plants.
Different chili species grow at different speeds
There are several species of chili, including Capsicum annuum, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum pubescens, Capsicum frutescens, and Capsicum chinense. Most chili varieties are possible to start from seed as early as in January and as late as in March. However, there are some varieties that can be sown already in December. They need a bit more time to grow, so that they have time to develop their flavor and heat. Of these five species chinense are good start preplanting already in December. Why? Well, because they grow much slower compared to the other chili species. From our experience, the seeds germinate slower, the seedling grow slower, and the fruits ripen slower. On the other hand, varieties from the species baccatum, for instance, can be started in January – February. Annum varieties can be started anywhere in period January – April.
Here’s a video on how to germinate chili seeds:
5 Chili Varieties to Sow in December
Apocalypse Scorpion Chocolate
Apocalypse Scorpion Chocolate (Capsicum chinense) with its beautiful chocolate brown color, comes from Italy. It is probably a hybrid between a Trinidad Scorpion and a 7-pot type of pepper. Apocalypse Scorpion Chocolate has a great taste and strength. The plants can be up to 120 cm high and produces long, wrinkled fruits that looks like scorpions. The fruits are first green to become chocolate brown when ripen.
Carolina Reaper (Capsicum Chinense) is one of the world’s strongest chilies. It has with the strength of a way over over a million Scoville Heat Units (i.e., mean 1,569,3839 SHU). The variety was developed by Ed Curie (PuckerButt Pepper Company). It has a fantastic flavor and aroma! The fruits ripen from green to orange or red. The plants will grow more than one meter high, with large leaves and golf-sized fruits with tremendous heat!
The fruit’s appearance seems to vary a lot of t.o.m on the same plant so it is possible that the Carolina Reaper need another few generations of cultivation in order to become completely stable.
Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost Pepper
The Bhut Jolokia (Capsicum chinense) is onne of the world’s hottest chili peppers.
It has been measured at over 1,000,000 SHU. The Bhut Jolokia is a variant of the Naga Morich and comes from India and Bangladesh. This chili, slow-growing and may need to 120 days from planting to maturity. The plant will meter with lots of wrinkled and red incredibly hot chili, which will be approximately 5 cm long.
The name “Ghost Pepper” is said to come from a facial expression as if you’ve seen a ghost when you eat the Bhut Jolokia.
Habanero (Capsicum chinense) is a classic chili pepper with over 300,000 SHU. This well-known chili variety comes from Mexico and provides plenty of small wrinkled red bell pepper-like fruits. The plant can grow about 90 cm high and the fruit goes from green to brilliant red at maturity.
Chilies You Can Start Later
Jalapeño Giant (Capsicum annuum) is one of the largest Jalapeño type peppers and is perfect when you want to have an extra large chili to fill with goodies for the grill or the oven.
The variety is moderate in heat and keeps the 4,000 – 8,000 SHU. Jalapeno Giant can get fruits that grow up to 12 cm long, with a fat shape. The color goes from dark green to deep red at full maturity.
The shell is thick and juicy, which together with the taste and the heat makes the Jalapeno Giant to a perfect allround chili in the kitchen.
Jalapeños are perfect to eat as a green, but becomes sweeter and stronger the more they’ll mature to red.
The plants can grow more than one meter, and produces a good harvests relatively early. Therefore, this is a very good chili pepper to start later.
Jalapeños are good in salads, to burgers, grilled or as a spice in Mexican cuisine. Grim’s favorite is Jalapeño poppers!
Taka no tsume
This amazing chili, of Capsicum annuum origin, comes from Japan, where it is widely used as a seasoning.
In the western world, it has become popular for its decorative growth habit and is marketed with numerous names. Hahong Koch’o, Poinsettia, Japanese Hot Claw, Eagle Hot Claw to name a few.
Taka no tsume plants will grow about 50 – 60 cm high and the chili pods are long with 5 – 7 cm.
The fruits grow in dense upward groups and it can sometimes seem as if it grows more pepper fruits than the leaves. When ripen the color of the peppers goes from green to deep red and with the great amount of red fruits. This makes Taka no tsume perfect as a decorative houseplant.
It is not only beautiful but also has a special aromatic taste, and a heat of up to 50,000 SHU.
Taka no tsume is a chili that is a good fit to dry and use as a powder or chili flakes in cooking.
Cayenne Long Slim
Cayenne Long Slim (Capsicum Anuum) is a high yielding and hot chili. The heat of a Cayenne pepper is around 50,000 SHU.
The plants are relatively small, about 60 cm, but produces a lot of 10 – 13 cm long burning spicy fruits.
Pods turn from green to red when ripen. The fruit is suitable to dry and can be used as a spice in chili dishes.
What if I germinate my chili seeds later?
Even if some of the hottest chili varieties happy to come down in the earth in December to have time to fully develop, don’t worry. You can start your peppers later. However, this will result in that you can look forward to a slightly later harvest. That is, if you sow them in January or later your peppers will mature later! Then it’s just to keep our fingers crossed for a warm and wonderful summer. Plenty of heat and sun do to the chili time to develop that fantastic heat and flavor when it is time to harvest in the fall.
If you want to read about more interesting chili varieties to grow at home:
That was it! Merry Christmas guys! Hope the next chili season will be great!