Growing chili: at the very beginning (crash course part 1)

Chilies are propagated by seeds (generative propagation). In order to be able to harvest in summer and fall, you must grow chili in time, because from planting to maturity peppers need 60 to 90 days, depending on the variety, some Caribbean even more than 120 days. The cultivation should therefore be done in February or March. At this time in our climate, of course, frost is still threatening, especially since the seeds like to have it particularly warm when germinating (22 ° C or more). Since outdoor sowing could be done only from May, the ripening would start too late and possibly endangered by early autumn frost. Apart from the seeds and various growing accessories, you will need a warm, bright place for your chili pepper cultivation, for example a windowsill with a radiator underneath.
A first rough overview of the further process is shown in the following schedule:


Ideally, planning and preparation for growing chili peppers should begin long before you start growing them. At the beginning there are some considerations. For example, which varieties to grow, where to get the seeds from and how much space can be diverted from the garden, patio or balcony for pepper plants. Make sure you have someone to take care of your pepper cultivation if you are on vacation.

The quantitative aspect should not be underestimated: seed packets usually contain 20 to 100 seeds and it is not difficult to grow 100 plants or more in a mini-greenhouse. But do you have enough space for all the adult plants?? As a guide, you can assume that each plant needs a radius of about 30 to 45 cm.

An important consideration, by the way, is what you plan to do with the fruit from your chili pepper plants. There are varieties that are best processed fresh; others are better suited for drying, pickling, or freezing. And if you’re flirting with sweet peppers: Here are varieties that have been bred for high yield, interesting colors or heavy fruit. You may also be interested in attractive splashes of color in the garden or in using them later for decorative purposes. The "long winter days" are therefore ideal to get catalogs from seed suppliers, procure seeds and get the other accessories. A good selection of different seeds can be found here.

Unless you can work with containers or window boxes that can be brought into the warm when there is a risk of frost, you should concentrate on varieties that mature in 50 to 70 days. However, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit, as this is the best way to find out which varieties suit you and thrive best in your climate.

When the time comes to start growing, you will only need a few accessories, apart from the pepper seeds, actually only growing trays, one or more mini-greenhouses and growing soil. And before you really get started, a little germination test (see below) provides certainty as to whether it is worth the effort to grow a particular seed.

Seeds – where from?

The most important utensil you need is, of course, chili seeds. There are a number of ways to obtain them.

Nurseries and plant markets – Here you can get seed bags from different commercial seed suppliers. Don’t be put off by the label "Paprika": Although mostly associated with sweet peppers in this country, this name is often used in Germany as a collective term for all peppers; small below it is the actual name of the variety, for example De Cayenne (hot) or Lombardo (Cayenne-like, but milder).

Click here for chili cultivation products in the Pepperworld Hot Shop

Specialty seed mail order companies, nurseries and plant markets offer a wide range of sweet bell pepper varieties but usually only a few chili varieties. For this reason, the Pepperworld Hot Shop was expanded a few years ago to include its own seed department, where interesting and sometimes very rare varieties are available. In addition, there are various herbs that are often needed in the Hot&Spicy kitchen for the authentic taste, z. B. Epazote, Cilantro and Lemongrass (depending on availability).

F1 seed – what is it?

Some varieties have the abbreviation F1 on the seed bag behind their name. This is so-called hybrid seed. F1" is the name given to the first offspring of a cross between the father and mother lines. In the F1 generation you can get varieties with specific characteristics, e.g. B. higher yield, uniform maturity, or resistance to certain pests or diseases, for example. Already in the next generation ("F2"), however, the offspring already split back into their parent traits, d.h., only the F1 seed provides the advantages of breeding. Seeds taken from these fruits, not. This does not always have to be tragic, the F2 or a later descendant can look the same, have the same pungency in the case of chili, but lack z. B. resistance to a certain mold or other properties that are not noticed at first sight. Since F1 seed is very costly to produce, it is often more expensive or more difficult to obtain.

Vacation souvenirs – If you travel to Southern Europe (for example Spain or Portugal), the USA or the Caribbean, look out for nurseries (in the USA they are called nurseries) and get seed bags.

Many chili varieties can of course be bought fresh in their native growing areas, so you should keep an eye out for fruit and vegetable markets. Choose a ripe, but not yet shriveled pods. Cut the fruits as soon as possible (protect your hands, wash them well afterwards)!), remove the seeds, clean them from any pulp and place them on a piece of paper to dry (avoid bright sun and temperatures above 35 °C, otherwise the sensitive substance will burn or dry up). After drying, put the seeds in a bag folded from newspaper, which should also be labeled with the variety and date. If the seeds were not yet completely dry, the residual moisture can escape in this way; airtight, still damp seeds could mold. At home, the seeds are stored in a dry, airtight and cool place.

Note: Special breeds from seed suppliers are sometimes subject to plant variety protection, which prohibits the import and/or commercial propagation and distribution of the seeds (usually such breeds are the result of years of research). And if you want to trade internationally with pepper friends: In many countries, the import of plants is subject to approval. In the case of complete plants, especially with the soil, previously unknown pests or diseases can be introduced, which in the worst case can cause problems for local agriculture.

Germination test

For seeds offered commercially in this country, the seed manufacturer usually provides a germination guarantee; minimum qualitative requirements are determined by the Seed Marketing Law. Of course, a germination guarantee applies at best for the period limited by a printed expiration date, after which the germination capacity decreases year by year. How germinative home-grown seeds are depends, among other things, on the degree of ripeness of the fruits used and on the storage of the seeds (preferably cool, dry and dark).

Especially with older seeds, the germination test provides clarity as to whether cultivation is still worthwhile.

Depending on the variety and temperature, chilies need about 10 to 30 days to germinate. Poorly germinated seeds are therefore an annoying waste of time. In order to save the effort of cultivation in this case, a small germination test can help in advance. To do this, put a few layers of household paper in a plate and moisten it well. Place rows of seeds to be tested about 2 cm apart. Stretch transparent household foil over the plate and drill a few holes with a toothpick – ready is the test greenhouse! Place it in a warm place, for example near a radiator. Since the seeds of almost all chili peppers look identical, it is best to make notes about the varieties laid out for testing. As the germination test also takes one to two weeks, it is best to carry it out in good time before the planned start of sowing, usually around the beginning of February.

Chili seedlings in the test

Of course, it is optimal if almost all test seeds form germs. 100% of the seeds – due to their nature – rarely sprout. With all values above 75%, good results can be expected in cultivation. When growing, simply use a little more seed than planned. If less than half of the seeds of a test variety germinate, you should try to get new seeds; if none of the seeds germinate, you can usually save yourself the effort of growing these seeds.

However, there are some varieties that require a bit of experimentation to germinate. For example, PC-1 needed at us uniform ca. 29°C. Galapagos chili seed germinated only when the seed was soaked overnight in lukewarm guano solution (on the islands this wild variety is spread by birds). See also our article: "The secret of getting seeds to germinate".

More on the subject:

Growing trays and soil

As already mentioned, the cultivation of chilies must be done protected and at a uniform temperature and humidity. Ideal for this purpose are "indoor greenhouses", which consist of a plastic tray and a transparent top with adjustable ventilation. For beginners, growing stations are recommended, which are a nice starter package for the upcoming hobby gardener on the subject of Growing Chili offer. In the Pepperworld Hot Shop you will find two models with very good ratings.

Peat pots (for example "Jiffy"), which you buy in tablet form and let swell in water before use, are recommended for growing. Use one pot for every 2 to 3 seeds or give each seed its own pot and avoid the risk of damage from singling.

peat-spring pot in a mini-greenhouse

According to Romberg, Jiffy pots contain everything a seed (or a cutting) needs: Sphagnum peat as a basis for healthy growth, dolomite lime to regulate the pH value, and a balanced mix of nutrients to accelerate germination and root formation.

Trimmed "multi-pot plate" in the mini-greenhouse

Alternatively, you can also use humus-rich loose growing soil, which can be purchased in bags (e.g., a bag of potting soil). B. from Euflor). Such soil is rich in humus and contains little fertilizer. This is very important so that the delicate seedlings do not "burn". If you are using used pots or trays for growing, rinse them thoroughly first to avoid introducing plant diseases. If you’re not careful, molds in particular spread quickly in the humid mini-greenhouse climate.

If growing soil is used, it should be sterilized to kill weed seeds, insect pests and mold spores. This can be done in a fireproof container at 200°C for 30 minutes in the oven (be careful, stays hot for a long time!!) or ask your gardener many nurseries sterilize soil for their own use.

Here it goes to exciting products in the Pepperworld Hot Shop around the topic of growing chili:

About the author


Harald – The UR Pepperweltler. Without him, PEPPERWORLD wouldn’t exist and the rest of the gang might be out of work. Unbeaten in chili passion and chili knowledge. Continues to act as our joker from the Chili Wonderland Italy.

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