Chillies are not only hot and cause quite some heat when they are consumed, they also require a lot of it for good growth. This concerns both the germination of the seeds and the growth of the plants and fruit, both need a lot of light and heat. If
you want to grow chili peppers from seed, you should choose a good, sunny location and if necessary provide additional heat and plant lighting.
When to sow chili seeds depends on the climate and the variety. A rule of thumb is: the hotter the fruit, the longer it takes until they are mature, and the earlier in the year you should begin their cultivation on the windowsill or in a heated mini-greenhouse. Still, if your chili plants don't show any ripe fruit by the end of summer, either because the summer was too short or too cold, you can also continue to grow them as houseplants with artificial lighting until the fruits reach maturity, as is also possible with tomatoes. Actually, chillies and tomatoes are closely related. Both belong to the nightshade family, both require lots of nutrients - the biggest difference is that chili peppers need considerably more heat than tomatoes.
How big your plants can get depends on the variety and growing conditions, but often are the small seeds will grow into mighty chili shrubs, whose growth is not even finished at two meters height. But there are also smaller varieties, which are perfectly suitable for pot culture on the balcony or even on the windowsill.
We have compiled a short bullet point list with some facts on growing chili plants from seed. It can be used as a general guide for the cultivation of all cultivated chillies from seed.
- Capsicum annuum, such as Cayenne pepper, jalapeño and chiltepin
- Capsicum baccatum, which mainly includes the South American aji cultivars
- Capsicum chinense, the hottest chiles like the habanero
- Capsicum frutescens, with Tabasco, Piri Piri and many Thai chilies
- Capsicum pubescens, varieties of the rocoto tree chilies tree
How to grow chili peppers from seed
- Sowing time in central Europe: mid-February / late March indoors, or 8-10 weeks before the last frosts
- Optimal germination temperature: + 25-28 °C, a sunny and warm location is absolutely necessary
- Germination time of chili seeds: up to 2 weeks. After germination, put the plants in a cooler environment at about + 20 °C
- 2-3 weeks after sowing, as soon as first pair of true leaves has fully formed, the plants should be transplanted. The roots should be shortened in order to encourage healthy root growth.
- Plant out your chillies from mid-May to early June after the last freezing nights. Before you do that, the plants should be hardened off for several days. Don't forget to water them.
- Chili plants need good, loose and well-drained soils with a high humus content. They do not like waterlogging, but also should never dry out completely.
- Chili plants love heat and thrive best in a greenhouse. This does not mean that it is impossible to grow chilli peppers outdoors in temperate climates, but you should choose the warmest and most sheltered spot in your garden to grow chili peppers and provide a protective fleece if required.
- Chilis require lots of nutrients. Provide enough good fertilizer and plenty of water