In this page, Kay answers some of your common chilli growing questions. We will expand on this page as more questions are asked.
Where should I grow my chilli plant?
There are various options for growing chillies in the UK.
A greenhouse or polytunnel is the best place to grow chilli plants as they provide maximum natural light and heat both of which chillies need.
Alternatively if you have a conservatory you can grow a chilli plant in either a large pot or grow bag.
You can also grow a number of chillies as pot plants in doors and there are many compact varieties which are perfect for this. They are decorative as well as being edible.
There are only a few varieties of chillies that can be grown outside in a warm sheltered spot in the garden or in a pot on the patio or balcony. Look for plants with this symbol. Depending on the summer and which part of the UK you live you may have some success but we would ideally recommend growing a compact variety in a pot indoors.
Do I need to feed my chilli plant?
We recommend feeding your chilli plant once a week just before or when the flowers start to form. If you feed too early you will encourage lots of young sappy growth which will only encourage aphids.
We use a combination of nettle and seaweed feed. We have a guide of how to make your own nettle feed on our projects page HERE
It is just as bad to over feed your chilli plant as it is never to feed it, therefore do not think that by feeding it more often or more than the recommended manufacturers recommended amount your plant will grow bigger quicker as it can have detrimental consequences.
Why do the flowers on my chilli plant keep dropping off?
This is a common problem if you are growing your plant indoors as a pot plant or in an enclosed environment such as a closed green house where there is little wind or movement of the flowers as they form.
Chillies are self pollinating – therefore they do not need insects or the wind to pollinate the flowers in order for fruit to form. However occasionally when the flowers are formed the stamen (male part of the flower) does not touch the pistil (female part of the flower) therefore they are sterile and drop off. If this happens with your plant either give it a regular gentle shake or move it outdoors on a warm breezy day to help nature and insects pollinate the flowers for you.
Why do the leaves keep falling off my chilli plant?
If the bottom leaves on your plant are turning yellow or falling off this is a sign of over watering your plant. Therefore cut back and keep the compost moist but never waterlogged and never sitting in a dish of water.
If the top leaves are falling off and turning yellow this could be a number of reasons – shock (just after potting on) temperature changes (being moved from a warm environment into a colder one or sudden change in day time temperatures) lack of nutrients especially if there is veining on the leaves.
Do I need to re pot my chilli plant and how big should the pot be?
Normally you will either purchase a chilli plug plant or a plant in a small 7cm or 9cm pot. Therefore your chilli plant will need potting on.
Ideally you need to re pot your plant just before you see the roots protruding through the bottom of the pot and definitely before your plant becomes pot bound (when the plant has been in the same pot for so long that the roots are all matted and circling around the inside of the pot)
If you are going to plant your pot into the ground in your green house or tunnel you may only need to re pot once. If you are keeping your chilli as a pot plant and depending on the eventual size of your plant you may need to re pot several times. Always do this in small stages by choosing a slightly bigger pot than the one your chilli is in, if you choose a pot too large you will encourage mould and disease to settle in the compost around the side of the pot and chillies are happier when they have a little room in their pot but not too much.
How long will my chilli plant live?
Chillies are perennials which means they normally last for more than two years, they have a growing season (Spring/Summer) and a dormant season (late Autumn/Winter) before re shooting and growing again the following Spring.
However this applies to plants grown in their natural climates and not in a green house in the UK.
If you wish to keep your chilli plant over the winter you will need to bring it in doors and keep it as a house plant and give it the same attention that you would any tropical plant over the winter. Minimal watering and plenty of warmth away from cold draughts and not left behind the curtain next to a cold window in the winter away from the central heating in the room.
When should I expect to get chillies on my plant?
Depending on the variety your plant should begin producing fruits from June through to November/December depending on the amount of sun we get in the Spring and Summer. Some of the extreme varieties may not begin producing fruits until July/August and these may not ripen until the Autumn.
The fruits can be picked at any stage – green to red. They are classed as ripe when fully red unless you have a variety that ripens to a different colour (orange as in Habanero Orange) Chillies are generally much hotter when they are fully mature and the heat is hotter nearer the stalk where the seeds and seed membrane is found. Therefore do not be fooled into thinking you have a mild chilli if you have only nibbled the end especially if it is a long tapered variety.