How To Grow Chillies
Originating in Mexico, and claimed to be one of the oldest cultivated crops, Chillies have become a widely popular addition to many cuisines worldwide. Growing your own chillies from seed at home can be very rewarding, and by following our simple chilli grow guide tips, you are bound to have great success!
Varieties: Devil's Brew, Habanero Giant Red, Pepper Cayenne, Razzamatazz, Shake, Hot Thai Bird's Eye, Jalapeno, Mezcla Americana, Scotch Bonnet, Sunstrike, Black Olive, Fire and Ice, Hungarian Hot Wax and Big Jim.
Super Hot Varieties: Carolina Reaper, Bhut Jolokia (Ghost), Bhut Jolokia (Ghost) Chocolate, Butch T Scorpion, Moruga Scorpion Chocolate, Moruga Scorpion Yellow and Moruga Scorpion Red.
When to Sow
Chilli thrive in warm Spring and Summer temperatures. For areas with a short growing season or when growing Super Hot Chilli varieties consider starting seedlings indoors for early Spring transplants.
Soil Preparation and Location
Chilli can be grown either in pots or soil that is fertile and well draining. Full sun is needed to ripen the fruit on these plants. Incorporate plenty of garden compost into the soil. Chilli prefer a slightly acidic soil of 5.5-6.5. Adding manures will assist in lowering the pH.
Chilli seeds require ideal conditions in order to germinate. A steady warm soil temperature of minimum 20 degrees Celsius is ideal. Ensure the night time temperatures do not drop below this level if you are sowing outdoors.
The Mr Fothergill's Superhot chilli's can often require even warmer soil of 22-26 degrees which is why it is advisable to sow inside a mini greenhouse placed on top of a heatpad. Read more about growing Super Hot Chillies here.
The seeds should not be buried too deeply as this will also affect germination (5mm is ideal). Some gardeners choose to soak their seeds in warm water for a few hours prior to planting. Ensure seeds are kept moist but not left too damp. Sowing in seed trays or punnets is advised as this generally means environmental conditions can be kept stable. They can then be transplanted into the final growing position when large enough to handle.
Care and Nutrition
During seedling stage ensure your plants are kept well fed with a weekly application of liquid fish emulsion. Once planted into prepared soil or a pot apply some slow release organic fertiliser. Side dress every 4-6 weeks to top up the fertiliser. When plants begin to flower they will benefit from a liquid feed that is rich in potassium every fortnight.
Ensure your plants are kept out of strong winds as the branches may snap. Some plants may require extra support so attaching them to some bamboo stakes is beneficial. If any branches do snap simply prune them off to allow new growth to form. Ensure beds are kept weed free and well mulched as this will minimise pest and disease issues.
Pests and Diseases
Fortunately due to their spicy nature chilli's are prey to few pests. Aphids may become a problem on young seedlings and enjoy the fresh leaf growth. These can be controlled with an organic horticultural oil based spray. Contact your local garden centre for suitable options.
Along with aphids plants may then experience sooty mould, a black sticky fungus that can develop after insect attack. It does not pose immediate risk to plants but overtime can reduce photosynthesis as the leaves become coated. Once the pest issue is addressed the fungus can simply be wiped off the leaves with a mild soapy water.
In areas of Australia that are known for fruit fly infestation using exclusion netting on your crop will be beneficial. Opt for a fine insect mesh that is suitable for excluding smaller insects such as fruit fly. If you find any fruit that has become soft and when opened contains maggots discard immediately to prevent further pest issues.
Plant your Chilli with Tomato, Basil, Spring Onion, Chives and Marjoram
Rotate crops alongside Potato, Tomato, Capsicum, Eggplant
How to Harvest
Chilli's can be very irritating to the eyes and skin so it is advisable to wear gloves when harvesting your crop. Gently pinch off the fruit that is the desired colour. Jalapeno are picked when green and the desired size. Ensure you do not pull too hard on the stems of the fruit as it can snap branches. Plants can become quite bushy so ensure you search through the plant and remove any old fruit to prevent attracting pests.
Tips and Tricks
Germination time may vary across varieties. With super hot chilli's including the famous Carolina Reaper germination can take extra long so start the seedlings much earlier in the season indoors. One germination trick that some horticulturalists recommend is soaking the seeds in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution for half an hour prior to planting. The peroxide is said to oxygenate the seed which signals a growth response.
Super Hot Chillies
For specific growing advice for Super Hot Chillies, check out our Grow Guide here.