How to Grow Chili Peppers from Seed to Harvest
You want to grow chili peppers at home? Sounds great!
However, before you start growing your own chili peppers, I suggest you read the following article since I explain how to grow chili peppers from seed to harvest in a step-by-step approach.
I also included some videos from other experts so that you get a comprehensive picture of how to grow peppers in the best possible manner.
Without further ado, let’s get right into it!
Chili Pepper Plant Profile
|Size||Around 3 – 5 feet tall and 1 – 2 feet spread.|
|Climate||Chilies grow best in moderate to warm climatic zones with optimal temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Sun Exposure||Chili pepper plants love the sun and you should provide as much sun as possible.|
|Soil Requirements||Chili peppers grow best in acidic soil environments with an optimal pH between 6.2 and 6.8.|
|Country of Origin||Mexico.|
|Growing Difficulty||Easy. Even beginners can get a decent yield growing chili peppers at home.|
|Perennial?||No, chili pepper plants are harvested within the first growing year.|
|When should you start?||You should start growing chili peppers indoors around 2 months before you expect the last spring frost. If you want to start growing chili peppers directly outdoors, make sure to wait until there is no longer spring frost anymore.|
|Expected Yield & Harvest||You can expect to harvest 50 to 100 chili peppers per plant and it will take between 3 and 4 months to grow chili peppers from seed to harvest.|
|What to do with it?||You can use your chilies for chili con carne, soups or various other dishes.|
What Types and Varieties of Chili Peppers can you grow?
There is a huge variety of different chili peppers you can grow at home. I listed the most popular ones for you below:
- Big Jim
- Lemon Drop
- Santa Fe Grande
- Hungarian Hot Wax
If this is your first chili pepper growing project and you have never done it before, I highly recommend you just grab a handful of different chili varieties.
By growing more than one chili pepper type, you get a better impression of the different colors and forms chilies can have and growing a variety of different chili peppers is also more interesting and more fun compared to just growing a single variety.
Moreover, by doing so, you can also figure out which chilies you like most and can continue to grow them in later years.
When should you start to grow Chili Peppers?
You should sow your chili peppers between February and April. I personally recommend you start quite early in the year since chili peppers need plenty of time to grow from seed to harvest.
By starting early, your chili pepper plants will have more time to grow and to develop in a healthy manner and will also get bigger on average.
Of course, this also depends on whether you want to start growing your chilies indoors or if you want to sow them directly in your garden.
If you want to start directly outdoors, you have to wait until the last freeze passed and this is usually between April and May for most moderate climatic zones.
However, I recommend you start growing your chili seedlings indoors since if more of your seedlings will survive and you can also start earlier in the year, which will likely have positive effects on your yields later on.
How long does it take to grow Chili Peppers from Seed to Harvest?
It will take between 80 and 120 days to grow most chili varieties from seed to harvest.
However, please note that there are also some chili varieties that will only take 60 days while others may take as long as 140 days.
The time to grow chilies from seed to harvest not only depends on the chili variety, it also depends on several other factors like the soil mix you provide for your chili plants, the overall climatic conditions as well as your own skill level.
For instance, if you are still a beginner in gardening, chances are that you will make some mistakes that an experienced gardener may not make.
In turn, it may take you longer to grow chilies compared to a gardening expert.
However, don’t feel bad if it takes you a little bit longer than expected. Just enjoy the process.
If it takes you longer to grow your chilies, you can enjoy the growth process for longer. 😉
What is the best Climate to grow Chili Peppers?
Chili peppers grow best in rather moderate to warm climatic zones.
That being said, seed companies developed various chili pepper strains over the past years which are quite resistant to different climatic zones.
Hence, while it is still optimal if you can provide warm outside conditions for your chilies, it is not mandatory.
You can also grow chilies in colder climatic zones, even though it might take you a little bit longer and your yields may also be lower.
What Temperatures do Chili Peppers like?
The best temperature to grow chili peppers is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, this also depends on the chili pepper variety.
Some chili peppers grow well in temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, as mentioned before, chilies are often quite tolerant to different temperatures and if you don’t live in too cold climatic zones like near the North Pole, you will be just fine with growing your own chilies at home.
What Plants should you grow with Chili Peppers?
If you want to learn more about what plants to grow next to your chili peppers, make sure to check out the best and worst chili pepper companion plants.
What do you need to grow Chili Peppers?
While growing chili peppers is rather straightforward, there are still some things you need to get for it. These include:
- Growing bed (to grow your chili pepper seedlings)
- Chili pepper seeds
- Flower pots (only necessary if you don’t have a garden to grow your chili peppers)
- Fertilizer (alternatively, you can also make your own organic fertilizer for which I give you the instructions below)
- Potting soil
- Slug fence
- Watering can
- Garden shovel
- Sticks and cord to stake your chilies
- Compost (optional)
- Passion and patience for growing chili peppers 😉
What Yield can you expect when you grow Chili Peppers?
If you grow chilies at home, you can expect to harvest between 50 and 100 chilies per plant.
However, if you have never grown chilies before, you will be likely on the rather low end of the range since you will make some mistakes that just prevent you from getting higher yields at the beginning.
However, over time, you will get much better in growing chilies and can increase your yields substantially. Therefore, don’t be discouraged if your first chili yield will be rather limited.
Don’t forget that chilies are quite spicy and that your chili harvest will therefore last for a pretty long period of time, even though it might not be that high in actual numbers 😉.
Why should you grow your own Chili Peppers?
While it is usually much more convenient to just get your chilies from your local store, growing chillies at home can have many important advantages.
For me, it is just quite a lot of fun to see my chilies grow. It is not really about the actual harvest, it is about the process itself.
Hence, growing chilies is just a nice hobby for me and I love spending time growing my own plants at home.
Moreover, by growing your own chilies, you will have full control over the whole growing project.
While potentially harmful substances are used in conventional agriculture, you can grow your chilies in a fully natural manner at home.
In turn, chances are that the chilies you produce will also be much healthier compared to the chilies you can get from the store.
Additionally, by growing your own chilies, you can also get more aware of how our food is actually produced and how much work is involved in it.
We often just get our food from the store without even knowing how it had been produced.
Consequently, we often also don’t value the food from the store too much.
In contrast, if you grow your own food at home, you will put in plenty of work and chances are that you will value your food much more and also produce less food waste in your daily life.
As you can see, there are many important benefits from growing your own chili peppers and I highly recommend you do so, especially if you have never grown chilies at home before.
Growing Chili Peppers: Step-by-Step
1. Select a Site for your Chili Peppers
Now that we answered some basic questions regarding growing chilies, we can now get into detail for the actual growing project.
The first thing you have to decide in this regard is where exactly you want to grow your chilies.
In fact, site selection is one of the most important tasks for making your chili growing project successful.
Do Chili Peppers like Sun or Shade?
Chili peppers love the sun and whenever possible, you should grow your chili peppers in a spot with full sun in your garden or on your balcony. Of course, it is also possible to grow chilies in a half-shady environment.
However, please note that your chilies will not grow that well and that also the yields will be lower if your plants don’t get sufficient hours of sunlight.
Hence, just make sure to choose the sunniest spot possible and you are good to go.
What are the Soil Requirements of Chili Peppers?
Chili Peppers grow best in environments with a soil pH between 6.2 and 6.8. However, it doesn’t really matter much if the pH is a little bit lower or higher.
In fact, by just using potting soil from your local garden center, you will be just fine.
You can also add some compost or some soil from your garden to your soil mix and you can provide a decent growing environment for your chilies.
Just make sure that the soil is loose enough and also well-drained so that no water puddles occur, which may potentially let the roots of your chili plants rot.
How much Space do Chili Pepper Plants need?
I recommend you plant around 5 square feet of space for each chili pepper plant you want to grow.
Of course, the more space you give your chili plants, the better they will grow since they will get more sunlight and nutrients.
Hence, especially if you have a big garden and space is not a problem for you, feel free to give your chilies even more space than mentioned above.
Should you plant Chili Peppers in a Pot or in your Garden?
Both options are perfectly fine. While it is possible to grow chilies in a pot, I suggest you still grow your chilies in your garden since your plants will simply have more space to develop and the conditions in your garden will also be more natural compared to growing chilies in a pot.
Of course, if you don’t have a garden, you will just have no other choice than growing your chilies on your balcony.
In this case, at least make sure that you use a big pot so that your chilies can get sufficient nutrients and can still grow in a decent manner.
2. Plant Chili Pepper Seeds
After the planning phase for your chili pepper growing project has been finished, it is now time to get into the real seeding process.
Should you buy Chili Pepper Seeds or Seedlings?
The first thing you have to decide in this step is whether you want to buy chili seedlings or if you just want to grow your own chili pepper seedlings.
I personally always advocate for growing your own seedlings since it just completes your growing experience and you should just not miss out on this first important step.
Hence, instead of just getting your seedlings from your local garden center, you should grow your chili peppers from seed to harvest to see the full lifecycle of your chili plants.
Especially if you have never raised your own seedlings, I definitely recommend you do so now since you will learn a lot and can also use this knowledge to raise various other seedlings instead of having to buy them from the garden center.
Growing your own chili seedlings from scratch is not difficult at all and I will show you how to do it step-by-step in the following.
Should you buy Chili Peppers Seeds or produce Seeds by yourself?
Before you can start growing your chili seedlings, you also have to decide whether you want to produce your own chili seeds or if you want to start out with chili seeds from a seed company.
While both options are fine, I personally like to just grab my favorite chili varieties from my grocery store and extract the seeds from them.
For that, you just have to cut your chilies into halves and you will see the seeds in the inside of the fruit. It’s really simple to extract your own seeds from chili plants.
However, if you don’t want to bother with it, just get some seeds online or from your garden center and you are good to go as well.
How to plant Chili Pepper Seeds
Now that you got your chili seeds one way or the other, it is time to start sowing them. For that, just fill your growing bed with soil and place your chili pepper seeds onto the soil surface.
Make sure that you leave at least 5 inches of space between each seed into each direction so that your seedlings can grow in an optimal manner and don’t have to compete for sunlight or nutrients.
Also make sure that you plant more seeds than you want to get chili seedlings from since some seeds will simply just not germinate.
I suggest you plant 2 chili seeds for every chili seedling you want to grow to be sure to reach your goal.
For instance, if you want to grow 10 chili seedlings, I recommend you plant 20 chili seeds.
After placing all of your chili seeds onto the soil, make sure to cover them with an additional soil layer of around one inch in height and place your growing bed in a warm and bright spot inside your home so that your seeds can germinate in the best possible manner.
Water your growing bed on a regular basis and don’t let the soil dry out.
Apart from watering your plants, it is now time to wait a while until you will see the first seedlings reaching the soil surface.
How long does it take to see the first Chili Pepper Seedlings?
From my experience, it takes around one to two weeks until you see the first chili seedlings after you planted the seeds in your growing bed.
Yet, please note that this doesn’t mean that all chili seeds germinate at the same time. Instead, it can take quite a while until you see the full results.
However, after around one month, I would no longer expect to see any new seedlings and if you haven’t produced enough chili seedlings at this point in time, you should plant some more seeds in your growing bed to get additional seedlings as soon as possible.
How to protect your Chili Pepper Seedlings indoors
Your growing bed will offer enough protection for your chili seedlings and as long as you leave your growing bed indoors, you will not have to take any additional protective measures. There is one caveat to this.
If you have pets, you may want to make sure that your chili seedlings are safe from them and that you place your growing bed at a spot in your home where your pets will not be able to reach it.
When should you transplant your Chili Peppers Seedlings?
Now that your chili seedlings get bigger and stronger every day, it will be time sooner or later to transplant them outdoors into your garden or into pots on your balcony.
However, before you do so, make sure that your chili seedlings have a minimum height of at least 4 feet.
Only then will they be resistant enough to deal with the harsh conditions outdoors.
Moreover, also make sure that the overall climatic conditions are suitable to transplant your chilies.
You should be sure that there will be no freeze anymore during the growing season before you transplant your seedlings outdoors.
If both criteria are met, you first have to prepare your growing site.
For transplanting your seedlings into your garden, make sure to dig one hole of around 5 square feet in space and one foot deep for each chili plant.
After digging those holes, make sure to fill them with potting soil from the store.
You can also add some compost or mix the soil from your garden with the potting soil.
Make sure that you loosen the soil enough so that your chili roots can develop in an optimal manner and also that excess water can run off and doesn’t cause any water puddles.
After preparing your growing site accordingly, you just need to transplant each chili seedlings into one spot.
When you are finished, just water your seedlings and you are good to go.
In case you want to grow your chilies in pots instead, just fill your pots with potting soil from the store and place each chili seedlings into one pot.
Water them and place your pots at a sunny spot on your balcony.
What kind of Protection do Chili Peppers Seedlings need outdoor?
After transplanting your chili seedlings to the harsh outside world, it is time to protect them accordingly.
While you could use some chemical substances for that, I am not a big fan of doing so at all.
Those chemical substances are often quite harmful to our environment and I like to make my growing projects as natural and eco-friendly as possible.
Hence, I recommend you use slug fences instead. Even though the concept behind slug fences is rather simple, they are quite efficient since they not only deter snails, but also some larger animals.
Consequently, instead of using chemical protection, make sure to rely on slug fences instead and you will be good to go.
3. The Chili Peppers Growth Process
Now that you successfully transplanted your chili peppers outdoors and protected them properly as mentioned above, it is time to wait a little bit so that your chili plants can become even bigger, stronger and finally produce crops you can harvest.
While most of the manual work is already done, there are still some things to consider for the next weeks and months of your chili growing project which I discuss in the following.
Should you prune your Chili Peppers?
While you can prune your chili pepper plants, there is no real need to do so.
In fact, as long as you provide sufficient space and nutrients for your chili peppers, they will grow in a decent manner without pruning them at all.
In fact, pruning is kind of unnatural and I’m a fan of just letting nature do its work instead.
Consequently, in my opinion, you should not prune your chili peppers and if you really want to do so, be careful and don’t exaggerate it since you can do more harm than good with it.
Do you have to pollinate your Chili Peppers Plants by Hand?
If you grow your chili pepper plants outdoors, there is no need to pollinate them by hand since there will be many insects around that will do the job for you. Hence, you can just relax and let them do the work for you 😉.
Should you stake your Chili Peppers?
Staking chili peppers can be a good idea. In fact, if you stake and stabilize your chili pepper plants, they will be less vulnerable to heavy winds and the chances for them to survive outdoors will be much higher.
Hence, just place a bamboo stick next to each plant and anchor it in the ground.
After that, just use some cord and tie each chili plant to one stick and you are good to go.
I suggest you make one tie for every half foot in height to stake and stabilize your chilies in an optimal manner.
4. The Chili Peppers Harvest
After following all the steps in this article, you can expect pretty decent chili yields in late summer or early fall.
When should you harvest your Chili Peppers?
For most chili varieties, it is pretty easy to determine the optimal harvesting time since you just need to have a look at the color of the respective chili.
When the target color is reached, just pick them and you are good to go.
The only difficulty occurs when your chili variety produces fruits that will actually stay green even at harvesting time.
In such a case, you will have to rely on your intuition and harvest them when they reached a decent size.
If you are not sure whether your chilies are ripe or not, just harvest one crop, cut it into halves and see how it looks like.
If it looks like the chilies you can get from your grocery store and if it already has developed some seeds inside, you can be pretty sure it’s ripe.
How to store your Chili Peppers?
The best ways to store your chilies are either to dry them or to put them into your freezer.
Both options are perfectly fine and you will be able to use your chilies for many months or even years since they will have a quite long shelf-life.
What should you do with your Chili Peppers?
You can use your chilies for all dishes you want to make a little bit spicier.
For instance, you can use them for chili con carne or also to add some spice to your soups.
However, make sure that you only use a tiny bit of your chilies for your dishes since a little bit too much could destroy your whole meal. 😉
Chili Peppers Plant Care Tips
After giving you a step-by-step approach on how to grow chilies from seed to harvest at home, I still have to provide you with some general information for your chili growing project.
How often should you irrigate Chili Peppers?
While your chili peppers will not need too much water while they are still young, their water demand will increase once they get bigger and once outside temperatures get hotter.
For instance, on hot summer days, you will have to water your chilies on a daily basis. Of course, this also depends on the rainfall outside.
If it rains quite a lot in your region, you will often not have to irrigate your chilies since mother nature will do the job for you 😉.
If you are not sure whether your chilies need water or not, you can just have a look at their leaves.
If the leaves of your chili plants start to hang, this is a clear indication that they need water.
Moreover, you can also just dig a small hole next to your chili plants and see if the soil is still wet or not and water your chilies accordingly.
At what Time of the Day should you water your Chili Peppers Plants?
You can water your chili plants each time of the day.
While some gardening experts claim that watering chilies is best done in the morning, I personally haven’t seen any difference between irrigating my chilies in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening.
Thus, I recommend you just water your chili plants whenever they need and also just do what best fits into your schedule.
How often should you fertilize your Chili Pepper Plants?
While you could add additional fertilizer to your chili plants from time to time, it is not necessary in my opinion if you give them enough space and soil.
In fact, the more soil you provide for your chilies, the more nutrients they will have to grow in an optimal manner.
Hence, additional fertilizer will only be necessary if you haven’t provided enough space for your chilies.
In fact, using fertilizer can even do more harm than good if you use too much of it.
Hence, especially if you are still a beginner, I would rather suggest you provide your plants with sufficient space and refrain from using additional fertilizer.
What kind of Fertilizer should you use for your Chili Peppers Plants?
If you really feel the need to use additional fertilizer, at least make sure to use organic fertilizer instead of chemical alternatives to protect our environment and also your soil in the long run.
You can either buy those organic fertilizers online or in your garden center or you could even produce your own fertilizer instead.
If you want to produce your own organic fertilizer, just get some stinging nettles from your local forest and put them in a bucket full of water (don’t forget to wear gloves when collecting stinging nettles). Wait a few days and remove the plant material.
And here you go! You just produced your own organic fertilizer which you can not only use for your chilies, but also for a variety of other plants you may want to grow.
Just add some of it to the water in your watering can and you can fertilize your plants on a regular basis.
Should you use Pesticides or Herbicides for Growing Chili Peppers?
I’m a fan of making my growing projects as organic and eco-friendly as possible. Hence, there is also no room for chemical pesticides and herbicides for growing chilies in my opinion.
Those substances can be extremely harmful to our local flora and fauna and can also decrease populations of helpful insects like bees.
Hence, instead of relying on chemical substances, make sure to use organic alternatives instead.
In fact, you can just use the stinging nettle liquid mentioned before and spray it on the leaves of your chilies.
Since many pests don’t like the taste at all, stinging nettle liquid can not only be a nice fertilizer, but also an efficient natural pesticide.
There is also no need to use herbicides. Just use your own two hands and remove weeds by hand and you will be good to go.
If you want to get more information on how to get rid of pests, make sure to also check out my pepper pests and plant diseases article.
What’s left to say?
First of all, thanks for reading my article to the end. I know this chili pepper grower’s guide has been quite long.
However, I was not able to make it any shorter without excluding some valuable information on how to grow chilies from seed to harvest in the best possible manner.
I hope you got some value out of this article. If you did, make sure to share it! And now it’s your turn. Stop reading and start growing! 😉
You want to learn more about peppers in general? Make sure to also check out my grower’s guide on how to grow peppers.
About the author
My name is Andreas and I’m really passionate about our environment and also about growing plants. In fact, I have grown several different plants over many years. I love to see my own plants grow and always try new things.
In my blog posts, I want to share my experiences with you so that you can become successful in growing various different plants, even if you are still a beginner right now.