How To Grow Chillies

How To Grow Chillies - Ripe Chilli

Growing chillies can be an exiting. Their fiery taste adds sparkle to many recipes, and provides the gardener with a warm satisfied feeling inside too – at having overcome the challenge of growing a tropical plant in UK conditions.

Chillies grow best in warm environments. If you have a greenhouse, plastic growhouse, conservatory, or polytunnel, these are ideal environments. However, some varieties are suitable for outdoor growing – ideally in full sun, sheltered from any cooling wind, and against a heat retaining, reflecting wall.

The key point to bear in mind is that the warmer and sunnier the growing position, the hotter the taste of the eventual chillies. Read our how to grow chillies guide for more information

How To Grow Chillies – Planting

How To Grow Chillies - Sowing

Chillies are relatively slow growing, so germination needs to take place in a warm environment in late winter – ideally February or March. This is to ensure that the plants are mature enough to ripen their fruit in the short UK summer months of August and September. If you miss the time to grow from seed, consider purchasing young plants instead (see chilli plants available on Suttons Seeds).

Sow the seed on the surface of damp soil and cover with a light sprinkling of soil or vermiculite. I prefer to loosely wrap the pots with cellophane to help retain heat and moisture. Place in a warm light spot indoors, a sunny windowsill is ideal.

The seeds can take a week or two to germinate. If using cellophane, this should be removed as soon as you see the shoots emerge.

How To Grow Chillies

Chillies are grown in a similar way to tomatoes. It is important to keep the soil moist and feed once the plants are in flower. You can use the same feed for tomato plants on chillies.

Unlike tomatoes their is no complicated pruning regime to follow. You may want to pick the first few chillies whilst still green to encourage more flowers to set (they will turn into ripe chillies).

How To Grow Chillies - Potting On

If you intend to grow your plants outside, do not transplant them until all risk of frost has passed and the weather has turned warm. For security, I like to transplate two plants per pot, and then remove the weakest plant once they have become established.

How To Grow Chillies – Harvesting

How To Grow Chillies - Green Chillies

The searing heat of chillies is largely contained in their pith and seeds. It is advisable to wear gloves when harvesting chillies and to always wash your hands thoroughly after preparing them to eat – if you rub your eyes whilst chopping chillies it can be very painful.

How To Grow Chillies - Harvesting

Nearly all chillies transition from green to red or purple and can be eaten at any stage. Different varieties of chillies are sometimes bred to be eaten at certain stages or colours – this can be checked at time of purchase. In general, as chillies turn red they become sweeter and hotter.

How To Grow Chillies – Varieties

How To Grow Chillies - Habanero

Chilli Habanero


Extremely hot but small fruits - similar in shape to the square peppers found in supermarkets, but much smaller. Orange when ripe. Relatively difficult to grow unless you have space in a greenhouse or conservatory.

See varieties on Suttons Seeds
How To Grow Chillies - Chilli Jalapeno

Chilli Jalapeno


A very popular to grow variety, easier to grow than a habanero, and slightly less hot to eat (more palatable!). Grow into long pearl shaped fruit - red when ripe. Excellent eaten fresh (stir fryed), frozen, or dried.

See varieties on Suttons Seeds
How To Grow Chillies - Tree Chilli

Tree Chilli


Perennial tree that can grow up to 4m in height, and best of all, has some degree of cold tolerance. Produces chillies as hot as habanero, small and round in shape. Can be eaten green, or once mature, red purple. Ideal for growing in pots - move to a sheltered location in winter. In mild areas, on a protected site, it may be possible to leave outdoors once the tree is over one year old.

Read more on Suttons Seeds.

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