If you have read our guide on growing tomatoes in the UK, you know how to determine whether your climate is suitable (basically, if it gets enough sun and warmth) to grow these American hot-climate species outside or in a greenhouse, and even if you can grow them at all. Chili-pepper plants, although from a different genus of plants (the genus Capsicum, and not Solanum), belong to at least the same family: the nightshade family of the Solanaceae. As such, they share a lot of similarities in their requirements, so we’ll give a quick review to them without going into as much detail, as the soil and climate necessities of these fiery plants are the same of their cousins, the tomatoes.
When growing chilies, consider:
The varieties: some are way, way hotter than others. From Grow-Mate we recommend picking a variety that you have tried already, to make sure that you don’t end planting chilies that turn your tongue to a crisp (or, if you are a real spiciness connoisseur, chilies that are maybe not as hot as you’d like them). Unlike tomatoes, there are no greater differences in the shapes and habits of different chili peppers: they are all small bushes, and perennial when the climate allows it. Here in the UK you’ll most likely have to grow them as annuals, unless you have a particularly well-heated greenhouse.
Chili pepper plants can start their growth in trays like these, but will need some clearing up as they grow older, leaving only the strongest individuals. They grow well in pots once they are adults!
The planting and growing: easy, though their growth to maturity takes way longer than with tomatoes! It’s much better to start your seedlings indoors since February or even January, as they will take a long season to grow and mature well. A really spicy chili pepper needs to be growing since very early in the year until around October, so it has the chance to mature in the plant and develop the full extent of its flavor.
The care: also very simple, and in this case easier than tomatoes, since these bushy plants produce a tough central stem from which they will develop on their own without any need for extra support. It’s a good idea to pinch them, though, after they reach around 30 cm of height, to stimulate fruiting and prevent excess production of leaves. The only real problem that you can face while caring for chili peppers that grow in otherwise adequate conditions is a disease. If you think that your plants may have caught one, here’s a guide from the Pennsylvania State University that should help you identify the most frequent ones, so you can do further research on specific organic treatments for your plants.
A chili bush should be kept small and productive, like this one. If you were to grow them as perennials, you could theoretically let them grow loose, but the colder climate of the UK requires harsher measures to keep your plants productive.
As always, however, the key to growing healthy plants is a healthy soil. As a smart-minded gardener, feed your plants and build up your soil with the aid of organic fertilisers like our own, with their myriad scientifically-proven advantages over non-organic fertilisers.