Every hot pepper lover dreams of growing the ultimate chili fruit. Nothing compares to the nice looks of bunch of red, ripe chili hanging on your healthy plant. These beautiful fruits comes in different shapes, and colors, as well as taste and hotness but are quite easy to grow. Chili (Capsicum) can grow under conditions with exception of extreme cold. Most of them don’t require a lot of space. There are a plethora of varieties to choose from depending on individual preferences and whether you grow indoors or outdoors. Space and climate is also a factor for pepper plants to thrive.
Types of Chilies
There are 5 main species of capsicum:
This is the most commonly cultivated chili species. Common peppers of this species are the bell pepper, jalapeño, cayenne, poblano. To name a few. They range from mild (zero Scoville Heat Units; SHU) to hot (e.g., 50,000 SHU)
Super hot peppers! Slow growing and, from our experience, harder to grow compared to the Annuum types. Examples of Chinense types of peppers are the ghost pepper (bhut jolokia), the carolina reaper, apocalypse scorpion, among many others.
Chilies of the Frutescens species can be quite hot. These peppers are hot! Typically above 50, 000 SHU (30,000 – 70,000) and most of us have tasted the Tabasco sauce. That’s right, the tabasco sauce is made out of the tabasco pepper that is of Capsicum Frutescens.
Peppers of this type can also be anything from mild to very hot. Some common peppers belonging to Baccatum are Bishop’s Crown/Jamaican Bell/Nepalese Bell, and Piquanté.
One of the oldest cultivated pepper species. Here we have to Rocoto type of peppers. We have never experienced any of these peppers.
Choosing the right pepper to grow
You may have found your way to us by asking the question “what chili pepper should I grow?”. This of course, as touched upon earlier, depends on many factors. If you are growing indoors, in containers, you may want a plant that don’t grow that tall. Given that you don’t have that much space. For example, if you are growing your chilies on the windowsills you may not want a pepper 2 m tall. Our tip is to either prune the plants. This way you will get bushy plants and they will produce more peppers.
There are of course also varieties that don’t grow that tall. For instance, the Carolina Reaper plants we have grown in pots did not grow that tall but small and bushy.
Much will also depend on, whether, you want to grow really hot peppers or just mild peppers. Sweet bell peppers are quite easy to grow. Poblano peppers have we been particular successful in growing. The plants grew quite tall but produced a lot of fruit!
How to Grow Peppers
Given the proper climatic conditions, you can grow peppers almost anywhere. If you are growing indoors, the soil should consist of organic matter, compost, and have a sufficient amount of fertilizer and moisture. Note, it is very important that your soil have good drainage. The roots of your plants may rotten and you’re plants will die.
When you should start growing your peppers depends on where you are living. Again, the climate is important here. If you are cultivating your peppers indoors, the amount of light is further important. If you can keep the temperature at a reasonable level during the winter but it is dark… You need to get your hands on artificial lights (LED grow lights, for example).
You can start sowing your chili seeds during the winter/late winter months (e.g., January – Mars), but of course you can start earlier or later. When growing the really hot peppers you should be aware that the seeds need longer to germinate, the plants grow slower, and it takes longer for the pods to ripen.
You can get seeds from peppers you buy at the supermarket, special online shops dedicated to selling pepper plants, and from most of the garden stores we’ve been to.
Here’s a step to step guide on how to grow chilies (including what you need).
- Get seeds, soil, and containers (e.g., pots)
- Germinate your seeds by putting them in lukewarm water for 24 hours. This will soften up the coating and get them to germinate a bit faster. We typically use the paper towels method. It is quite cheap and simple. After your seeds have been softened up, put the seeds in paper towels and spray them with water. Keep the moist towels somewhere warm (24 Celsius) and make sure they are moist. After 2-3 weeks you should see a sprout.
- Now you should put them in your perfect soil mix. Mix in some vermiculite and perlite (10% each) in your soil as this will increase drainage and keep the soil moist. Put your seedlings in your small pots (5cm diameter). You can start adding fertilizer when your plants have their first true leaves (about 3-4 weeks after planting them in the pots).
- Transplant your plants into larger pots when the tip of the leaves reach out to the edge of the pot. Our chili growing tip here is that you should not put them into too large pots. This will make the plant focus on making roots instead of growing above the soil.
- Keep feeding your plant with fertilizer and transplant it as it grows bigger. It will take about 120 days until you have fruits.
That was it. Our small tips on growing hot peppers. We also suggest that you get your self a heat mat to speed up the germination process, make a nice soil mix with a lot of good “food” for your plants (e.g., vermiculite, perlite, and bone meal/bat guano). Add some nice LED grow lights and you will get nice plants and hot chilies!
When the season is over you can bring your peppers inside (or keep your indoor grown peppers). That is, they can be over wintered.