Find out how to grow the freshest, tastiest chillies at home and save yourself time and money!
To ensure a reliable crop, chilli peppers need a warm, sunny position outside or they can be grown in a greenhouse, grow frame or covered structure. Very hot chilli varieties are definitely better under cover, as this helps develop the intense heat, taste and flavour.
Although they can be grown in well-prepared, moisture-retentive soil, they usually crop better and more reliably if grown in containers.
The following are all good reliable varieties of chilli: Apache, Cayenne, Demon Red, Etna, Fuego, Habanero, Hungarian Hot Wax, Jalapeno, Joe's Long Cayenne, Prairie Fire, Super Chili, Thai Hot Dragon. One of the hottest chillies you can grow at home is Dorset Naga, which is extremely hot.
You can sow seeds from February to April. It is usually better to sow as early as possible, even January if you're growing very hot chillies, as they need a long summer to crop well.
Sow seeds at 18-21C (65-70F) in pots of good seed sowing compost. Transplant the seedlings individually into 9-10cm (3-4in) pots when two true leaves have formed, and grow them on at around 16-18C (60-65F).
Gradually harden off the plants for 10-14 days before planting outside.
Plants are ready to put into their permanent cropping position once the roots fill the 9-10cm pots.
Pot them up into 20-23cm (8-9in) pots of good compost in late April (if growing in a heated greenhouse), mid-May (unheated greenhouse) or late May/early June if growing outside. They can also be grown in growing-bags, but will need very careful watering.
Pinch out the growing tip when plants reach about 15-20cm (6-8in) high to encourage bushy growth and better cropping. You can also pinch back the sideshoots if lots of smaller chillies are needed.
Water regularly and feed with a balanced general feed, switching to a high potash feed when the first chillies have set.
Mist the foliage regularly, especially under cover, with tepid water to discourage red spider mite and to improve cropping.
Pick the fruit as needed when it has reached a good size. You can either pick them when they're green (when the flavour is quite mild) or leave them on the plants until they have turned red, which develops a stronger, hotter flavour.
Harvest your chillies by snipping the top of the stalk with sharp secateurs.
Frequent harvesting of the fruits allows the chilli plant to devote it energies to developing more fruit.
Chillies can be dried or frozen for later use. Dried chillies make an interesting alternative for Festive Decorations.
Find out more fun facts about chillies with our Chilli Infographic. Do you have a favourite chilli variety? Do you have any top chilli growing tips? Share them with us on our Facebook page or Tweet us!