Growing chillies is easy and fun!
What do you need?
This cultivation advise is provided as a general indication only. These are not definitive growing instructions and may need to be adapted to your local soil and environmental conditions.
It is best to sow chili seeds in spring or even earlier. Chili plants are, like tomato plants, warm season crops.
Sow the chili seeds in moist potting soil and cover them with a maximum of 0,5 cm of soil and spray some water on it. Don’t sow to deep. Otherwise the seeds do not have enough energy to reach the surface.
Chili seeds germinate best at a temperature of 24-30 degrees Celsius (76-86 degrees Fahrenheit). If the temperature is too low, they will not germinate and stay dormant.To accelerate the germination process before sowing it is possible to soak the chili seeds for several hours or overnight in water, to soften the outer seed case.
The seed trays, you can buy in garden centers, often have a lid. This will create a humid environment which the seedlings love. You can also use ordinary flower pots and cover them with cellophane. Make a few small holes in the cellophane using a needle for the supply of oxygen. Do not forget to label the chili seeds to know which variety you’ve sown. It’s a pity to wait for months to finally be able to identify your chili plant. Place the seed tray or pots on a warm spot.
That can be in the sun, in a heated room or near a radiator to ensure optimal conditions for germination. There are also heated propagators for sale that accelerate germination. At this moment there is no need for light, but only for heat, moisture and oxygen. Keep the soil moist but not wet, otherwise it’s possible that the seeds may rot. Prevent fungi by ventilating the system occasionally. Fungi can kill the seeds and the seedlings.
Germination can also take place in a paper towel. Make the paper towel moist and place the seeds inside. Fold it double a few times and put it in a sealed container or plastic bag on a warm spot. After one or two weeks the first seedlings will appear. Sometimes it takes a even longer. For beginners, the seeds of the Capsicum Annuum species are a good choice. These germinate and grow faster than other species. The Capsicum Chinense varieties germinate slower. Seeds from this species may take 3 weeks or even longer to germinate. So don’t despair immediately!
The seedlings are sensitive to their environment and now not only benefit from heat, moisture and oxygen, but mostly of light. The plants love high light conditions. If there’s not enough light in your house a plant grow light may be a good investment.When the seedlings have formed a second set of leaves you can repot them. Remove the plants and their root ball out of the soil without damaging the roots and put it in a larger pot with soil. Now the plant has more space to grow. You can repeat the repotting when roots are appearing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pots.
Once the plants are strong and big enough, you can put them outside or in the garden (around May in northern Europe) when the weather is nice. Be aware! The plants should be hardened off, which means that they have to get used to their new environment (different light, wind, heat). You can consider to put them outside for a few hours and later take them inside again to slowly acclimate to the new environmental conditions.
Do not put them directly in the sun to prevent sunburn. If the plants have grown significantly and tend to hang down, you can support them with bamboo sticks. For a good fruit setting a night temperature between 16 and 24 degrees Celsius (60-76 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and autumn is best. If you have planted in pots, you can put the plants inside when the nights are getting colder.
In summer the first flowers will appear on the plant, the first sign of the chili peppers. You can feed the plants with a fertilizer, like liquid tomato fertilizer, to grow full fruits. After pollination of the flowers the pepper will grow. The flowers will drop and the pepper emerges. Pollination will be taken care of naturally by bees and other insects. Optionally, one can consider to use hand-pollination (when growing indoors for example). With hand-pollination you will move pollen from one flower to the other by using a finger.
Give the chillies time to mature and harvest them when they are ripe! Some varieties are best eaten in the green stage, but often they are at their best when they just changed color. You can use them fresh in the kitchen, but you can also preserve them in many different ways.
Time laps of the growing of a seedling
Instructional video for growing peppers
Instructional video for growing peppers 2