• Growing Chilli Plants in the UK


    Sowing Seeds
    In the UK, chilli seeds need to be sown early in the year, and grown on in a greenhouse or poly-tunnel also they can be grown outside in a sunny spot during the height of summer. Germination can be very variable between varieties and can take as much as five weeks. Patience is often required.

    Soil-based Composts
    For best results use soil-based seed and potting-on composts - chillies really appreciate good drainage.

    Warmth and Surface Watering
    Germination speed and percentage is greatly improved by applying warmth to the seed compost. Placing the seed pots/trays in a warm environment or on a simple heated tray will work well. With the seed compost at 27-32°C (80-90°F), you should see good results. Seed's will still germinate down to 21°C (70°F) but germination will be slower and more erratic. If the temperature drifts towards 38°C (100°F) germination will be quick but there will be a lower success rate.
    Try to use surface watering with a spray bottle rather than watering from the base, surface watering has less effect on the temperature of the compost. Don't over water, this will lead to disaster.

    When to Sow
    Sowing seeds during February and March is most common in the UK, but you can leave it later if desired. There is a great variance in the number of days taken for a particular variety to reach maturity. Some can produce ripe fruit in 60 days from sowing and others take as long as 120 days. Try different varieties over a couple of years, you will soon learn the variations. Varieties such as Habaneros can take 100 or more days from potting on to reach maturity. So these need to be started in good time or the fruit will never ripen.

    Germination
    For best results sow seeds about 5mm deep and in small pots, with a number of seeds of the same variety in each pot. Keeping each variety in its own pot is a good idea because germination time varies greatly. As soon as the majority of the seeds in a pot have emerged and are showing two well formed leaves, and certainly before they become leggy, they should be transferred into 3 inch pots. Hold the seedlings by the leaves, and not the stems. Note that some seedlings may need a little gentle help getting free of the seed pod. If you have the propagator space you can sow directly into 3 inch pots.

    After Germination
    At this stage they should be moved to a site where they will get plenty of sunlight; ideally to a heated greenhouse or warm conservatory ( I use my greenhouse, which is soon full). Continue to keep them warm, moist and well ventilated. They can stay in a 3" pot until they are 3 to 6 inches high.

    Potting On
    When the plants have about 5 pairs of leaves they should be potted on into larger pots. I grow most of my plants in large tubs in my greenhouse, at times it is a struggle to get inside. Otherwise pot on into 9 to 12 inch pots depending on the variety. You can use smaller pots for compact ornamental varieties. As the summer sun intensifies, you may need to provide some shade, for example, lining your greenhouse or painting with greenhouse paint.

    Fruit Setting
    Try to keep the plants below 36°C, don't feed them a lot of nitrogen and don't let them dry out. That should help prevent blossom-drop and pod-drop. Larger varieties may need support with a cane. Ornamental varieties can be moved to a bright position in the house or to a patio once they are well established. Most chilli plants can be treated as perennial house plants, but they may need some pruning in the spring. They respond well to this.

    Over wintering
    Most chilli plants can be treated as perennial house plants, but will need some pruning in the winter. Some varieties are better suited than others, smaller hot varieties like Serrano and Twilight, and Prairie Fire fair better than the bigger fleshy plants such as Poblano and Anaheim. Basicly give them a good trim, treat them well and they will live on.