Growing Chillies

By Andy McIndoe

If you are going to have success growing chillies in more temperate regions it is important to get a head start. You can either sow seeds early indoors on a windowsill, or in a heated greenhouse or conservatory, or you can buy plants in mid to late spring. Chillies are not frost hardy so you cannot put them outside until danger of frost has passed. If you can plant them out or move them outdoors in pots when they are already growing nicely you will get a far better crop throughout the summer and into autumn.

Red chilli plant  (2)

I favour growing them in pots because not only can I get them started early in the conservatory, I can also bring them indoors in early autumn and they will often keep going well into winter. Only the other day a lady was telling me that she had kept her chilli going right through the winter in the house. It had lost a few leaves, but was already starting to bloom.

That’s one thing you have to watch out for if you grow chillies indoors: they do need pollinating. The tiny flowers may be white or purple; if they drop without setting it is usually because they are not being pollinated.

Chilli flower

Suttons offer a great range of chilli plants that enable you to try something different, however hot you like it. By the way the heat of a chilli is measured on the Scoville scale. This is a measure of the pungency or spiciness of a chilli or any other hot food. The measure is scoville heat units – the higher the number, the hotter the chilli.

Here are a few favourites from Suttons:

Chilli ‘Basket of Fire’

Chilli Basket of Fire

A bushy chilli that is ideal for a patio pot, hanging basket or container. Compact plants with plenty of foliage produce loads of fruits that mature from deep purple, through cream and orange to bright red. You should get all colours on the plant at the same time and plants are tolerant to cooler weather, so should go on fruiting well into autumn.

Chilli F1 ‘Apache’

Chilli 'Apache'

Neat, compact plants with emerald green leaves and plenty of shining green fruits that mature to red, crisp, fleshy and medium-hot. A reliable variety as you would expect from an F1 hybrid.

Chilli ‘Joe’s Super Long’

Chilli 'Joe's Super Long'

A vigorous chilli plant that will grow to 90cm (3ft) in a large pot. This hot cayenne type chilli produces long slender pods that start green and mature to deep red; good for drying.

Chilli ‘Vampire’

Chilli 'Vampire'

Blackish leaves, purple flowers and long ‘fang-like’ fruits give this chilli its name. The chillies are dark green maturing to blood red and they’re hot! Scoville heat rating 14,000: that’s spicy. It is a striking plant when grown as an ornamental in a patio pot.

Chilli ‘Peruvian Lemon Drop’

Chilli 'Lenon Drop'

‘Lemon Drop’ is a hot lemony chilli producing emerald green fruits ripening to lemon yellow. Good on a hot sunny patio, but better in a greenhouse or conservatory.

Chilli ‘Piri-Piri’

Chilli 'Piri Piri'

A small hot red chilli used in the preparation of piri-piri sauce: good with chicken and prawns. It grows to a maximum of 60cm (2ft), often nearer half that height.

Grafted Chilli F1 Medina

Chilli Medina 
De Ruiter

This is a strong growing chilli with 15cm (6ins) fruits that ripen from green to scarlet. The plants have been grafted onto vigorous rootstocks which produces superior performance. They will start to crop earlier and go on for longer. They will be more resistant to disease and irregular watering. They will grow and crop well in cooler conditions outdoors; however they do excel in a greenhouse or conservatory.

Growing Chillies

I think chillies are at their best in individual terracotta pots on the patio if growing outdoors. Alternatively you can grow the more compact varieties, such as ‘Basket of Fire’ in a raised bed or VegTrug. In individual pots they look great grouped with bright summer bedding subjects such as marigolds and nasturtiums; these also help to attract insects for pollination. Basil is also a good subject for companion planting.

Pot one chilli plant in a minimum 30cm (12”) flowerpot using a good quality growing medium; ideally one with added loam based compost which helps with water and nutrient retention. As soon as chilli plants start to flower feed weekly with a liquid tomato fertiliser. Make the solution a little weaker than recommended for the first few applications.

Position your chilli plants where they will get plenty of sunshine: they like it hot!

Look out for insect pests such as spider mite if conditions are hot and dry. Misting the foliage with water in the early morning or evening helps to prevent this.

Pick your chillies regularly. A build up of ripe fruits on a plant slows further fruit production.

Chilli 'Habanero Big Sun.

To see the full range of chilli plants and grafted vegetables including tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and sweet potatoes visit

My garden school_grafted

Andy McIndoe

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