My Best Tips for Growing Chili Peppers From Seed

My husband loves super hot chilis. The hotter, the better. So as a gift to him (and a challenge for me) I am growing some of the hottest peppers I could find. Read to the bottom for the list of chilis I am growing this year.

Growing from store bought spices

My husband, Mark goes crazy for dried chilis at the Mexican markets. He usually buys one of each bag no matter how many different varieties they have. So you can imagine we have many different bags of dried chilis in the cupboards. Back in January when I was looking into different types of chilis to grow, the first place I went shopping for seeds was our very own cupboard. I figured that if I could get any of these chilis to germinate I could A) save a bit of cash and B) try some new varieties out that I more than likely was not going to be able to find for sale at our local garden centre.

Guajillo chili pepper

Growing store bought guajillo chili peppers. These hot peppers I will definitely not be able to buy at our local supermarket.

Seed selection

When picking seeds to grow from the dried store bought chili peppers, I selected the ones that looked the least ‘dried’ or ‘toasted’. I figured that the ones that were furthest away from the heat source in the drying process would have the most chance of germinating, so I picked the lightest-coloured chili seeds in the packs.

Paper towel method for germination

I started my chili pepper seeds in early January. It felt great to have a garden-related task in the middle of winter while snow was still on the ground outside. I have not had much luck with getting my chili paper seeds to germinate in little pots before, so this year I decided to try a new method. I sprinkled a few chili pepper seeds on damp paper towels and put them in separate Ziploc bags that I labelled with the chili variety. I put all the Ziploc bags in a large envelope and left them on our heated bathroom floor for a few days. Close to your furnace, on a heat mat or on top of a fridge will probably work fine as well. Any place where there is a bit of heat, just not direct sun.

I prepped some pots with seed starting potting mix and crossed my fingers the chili seeds would sprout. A couple of days later I checked on the seeds inside the bags. A few had sprouted! I carefully put the seeds that had germinated into its own cell in the seedling starter trays, and did my best to put the seed on a angle in the potting mix as opposed to lying it flat. Some people say there is a greater risk of seeds rotting if they lie flat, so with the bigger seeds I always try to put them on an angle.

Some of the paper towels needed a spritz of water before I put them back in the Ziploc bag and back on the heated bathroom floor. I checked on the seeds every few days and kept on transferring the ones that had germinated to the seed starter trays that were ready. Describing this process makes it sound like it was a very cumbersome ordeal, but in January you’ll take anything you can get to satisfy your gardening fix.

LED Grow Lights

Once you have transferred the germinated seeds to the pots, the best thing would probably to put them under a grow light. I do not have mine set up in the new house (yet), so I put mine in a south-facing window. The seedlings did ok, but I am sure they would have thrived under some LED lights. Oh well, next year.

Chili pepper seedlings

At this stage LED grow lights would have been the best option, but my south facing window worked out just fine.

Fertilizing

After a month I figured the seedlings could probably do with some fertilizer. I know that there are lots of goodies for the plants in the seed starter mix, but I decided to give the seedlings a boost with a tiny bit of Miracle-grow tomato fertilizer. The plants sure seemed to like that! They grew like crazy and started to flop over. Every couple of days I would spin the trays 180 degrees so the plants wouldn’t lean too much to one side reaching for the sun, but man, these tall plants sure made it a challenge to move the trays around.

Transplanting my chili plants

By June, the chili plants I had grown from seed were getting really tall and kept on falling over in our windowsill. They were definitely ready to be planted out. Only problem was that our June here was very cold. I wanted to wait with the transplanting until the night temperatures reached at least 50 F (10 degrees C). It wasn’t until the middle of June that I finally planted my 24 chili plants out into the the raised beds and by then some of the chili plants were flowering and starting to set fruit.

My chili seedlings ready to be transplanted.

I put a little epsom salt, miracle-grow tomato fertilizer into each planting hole before I put the seedling in. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if the added epsom salt and fertilizer made any difference, but the plants did grow fast and had lots of flowers. And despite the slow start to the summer, the chili plants are doing really well and are producing lots of chili peppers.

Below is a list of the chili varieties I am growing this year:

2017 Chili Varieties

Yellow and Red Scotch Bonnets

Ghost Pepper

Chocolate Habanero

Guajillo*

Cora*

Kashmiri*

Serrano

Santa Fe

+Some from a pack of mixed seeds a friend gave me, so unfortunately I don’t know the varieties.

*seeds saved from dried store bought chili peppers

Preserving your chili peppers

If you are growing chili peppers as well this year, I hope you have a bountiful harvest. If you want to save some chili peppers for the winter there are many was you can preserve them: Chili peppers can be dried, fermented, pickled or simply just frozen – read about how simple it is to freeze your chili peppers here.

Overwintering my chili plants

This year I will try to overwinter my chili plants. I spent so much time babying these plants that I am not ready to say goodbye to them at the end of the season. I have never overwintered chili plants before, so that will be an experiment for me. They will need to be moved indoors and under grow lights, so that is an incentive for me to get my grow lights set up.

Which chili peppers are you growing this year? Please share in the comment section below.

 

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