How to grow chillies from seed
This how-to guide will look at what is needed to grow top-draw chillies in your home! As we grow chillies from seed in the UK, we will investigate what you need to keep your chilli plants thriving in the cooler climate.
If you are growing chillies from seed and live somewhere with warmer climates, you can germinate your seeds without needing a heat mat, greenhouse or polytunnel. Let’s learn how to grow some chillies in the UK without further delay!
What you will learn
- How to successfully germinate chilli seeds
- How to transplant your chilli seedlings
- Looking after your chilli plant
- Harvesting chillies from your chilli plant
- What is the best soil mixture for growing chillies
- How long does it take to grow chillies
How to grow chillies from seed (step by step)
Planting your chilli seeds
- Prepare the soil for planting the chilli seeds. The perfect mix to start chilli plants is 70% organic compost and 30% fine sand.
- Moisten the soil before planting your chilli seeds. You can then sprinkle the chilli seeds on the surface, covering them with a fine layer of the potting mix you made earlier & gently pat down.
- Leave in a warm area without direct sunlight & they will germinate in 8 – 12 days. Keep soil moist during germination but do not overwater.
- When the chilli plants have three to four true leaves, they are strong enough to transplant, usually around 25 days.
Transplanting your chilli plant
- Prepare a pot ready for transplanting. The ideal mix for chilli plants is 50% garden soil, 30% organic compost & 20% Coco coir peat.
- Using a trowel, gently try to remove the plant with its root ball intact. Doing this helps reduce shock. We are particularly interested in keeping the tap root safe.
- Dig a hole big enough for the chilli plant’s root ball with your hand and carefully place a plant in the hole. Cover and pat down so the chilli plant is secure. After transplanting, always water your plants to help reduce transplant shock.
- Keep the newly transplanted chilli plants out of direct sunlight for two to three days to recover. Only water the plants when the top three to four centimetres of soil is dry to avoid overwatering.
Caring for your chilli plants grown from seed
- Pinch off the new growth at the top when the plant is around six inches tall. Doing so will force the plant to grow outwards and produce more fruit. Feed your chilli plants with organic compost every few weeks to improve harvest yield.
- After around 40 days (depending on variety), the chilli flowers should start to produce chillies! Remember to feed with organic compost every two weeks and try not to overwater the chilli plants.
Harvest your chilli plants.
- After fifty-five days of growth, your chilli plant should be abundant with fruit. One plant can provide over one hundred chillies when cared for properly.
- At this point, they will mature, chillies will change colour, and you can harvest them when fully mature or even when they are not fully ripe. You can experiment and find your perfect level of spice and flavour!
- At around 72 days, the fruit on your chilli plants should be in full swing and maturing nicely into its true colours.
Tips for growing chilli plants from seed
- Plant multiple seedlings in the same pot for better pollination
- Leave six to seven inches between each chilli plant in containers. If planting outdoors, then around one to a half feet apart.
- Chilli plants love the sun and require at least six hours of sunlight for optimal growth. During the summer in the UK, chilli plants will be ok, but you should try to grow them indoors or in a greenhouse or polytunnel.
- Bees and insects will help pollinate your chilli plants. However, chilli plants are also self-pollinating. A simple shake of the plant will help the plants pollinate themselves, especially if you have multiple plants close.
- Always wear gloves when handling chillies or wash your hands after handling them.
Common questions about growing chilli plants from seed
We will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding growing chilli plants from seeds in the UK.
Are chilli plants perennial?
Yes, chilli plants are perennial, just like their cousins, pepper plants. In the tropics, where chilli derives from, there are no winters meaning plants like chillies will grow happily for several years.
However, in the UK, a chilli plant will die back during the autumn and winter days due to a lack of sunlight. To be productive, a chilli plant needs at least 5 to 6 hours of good sun. Unfortunately, northern winters are hard for chilli plants to survive in.
Can I grow chillies from fresh seeds?
Yes, you can grow chillies from fresh seeds or dry them to grow later on. It is important to ensure the chilli you are taking the seeds from is mature, as they have a much higher success rate when germinating.
How long does it take to grow chillies from seed?
The average time it takes to grow a chilli plant from seed is around 80 days, with some varieties fruiting within 60 days and others taking up to 120 days to produce fully mature chillies when planted from seed.
How do you germinate chilli seeds?
There are several ways to germinate chilli seeds, but we stick by one simple rule for all plants – the less interference, the better, as it is less stress on the chilli plant.
We find the best way to germinate chillies is to:
- Sprinkle them into seedling pots filled with the ideal mix mentioned above.
- Cover them lightly with the same soil mix & water to settle in.
- Leave the seeds somewhere warm and out of direct sunlight & you should see germination taking place within eight to twelve days.
- Remember to keep the soil damp.
Do I need to dry chilli seeds before planting?
No, you can use fresh chilli seeds straight away! Plant them following the step-by-step guide for growing chilli plants from the seed above.
How do you save chilli seeds for next year?
To save chilli seeds for the following year, you need to dry them.
- Take fresh seeds and place them on a paper towel
- Store the paper towel and chilli seeds somewhere dry and out of direct sunlight for up to 2 weeks.
- Seeds are dry when they snap in half cleanly and easily without bending.
How do you overwinter chilli plants in the UK?
If you want to keep your chilli plants going over winter in the UK, then you must do two things.
- Keep the temperature between 10c & 15c.
- Make sure the room has good lighting.
These two things will ensure your chilli plants survive the cold northern winter. Whilst the plant will not produce any chillies during the winter months, you can be sure it will be ready and waiting for the spring to start again.
Do chilli plants need full sun?
Ideally, yes, chilli plants are sun-loving plants and need as much as possible. A chilli plant’s minimum exposure to good sunlight is 6 hours daily.
How often do you water chilli plants?
Chilli plants are from close to the equator and are used to wet weather with dry spells. Water your chilli plants when the top five centimetres of topsoil are dry. Doing this will avoid overwatering the chilli plants.
Chilli plants can be grown from seed easily at home. You can even grow chillies from seed in the UK during summer, especially if you have a greenhouse or polytunnel. If you have sun or a good light source, you can grow hundreds of chillies per plant. Start with the chilli in your fridge by sowing fresh seeds into a potting mix.