The hot chili comes from hot regions, but can also be grown here. We give tips about planting, caring for, and wintering chili.
Gourmets with a green thumb cannot avoid growing their own chilies ( Capsicum ) in the garden. Chilies have been giving dishes the right kick in Asian and Latin American cuisine for a long time. But spicy food is becoming more and more popular with us too. So it’s no wonder that more and more gardeners are planting chilies themselves. However, chili is not one of the most undemanding plant companions in the garden. Therefore, it takes expert knowledge to let chilies grow and flourish in your garden. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the cultivation of chilies, from the origin, the types and varieties, to the planting, care, and wintering to harvesting the hot pods.
Chilies love the warmth and need a lot of sun and water. In short: our climatic conditions do not make it easy for chili to grow in our gardens. But the joy is all the greater when the cultivation is successful and you can bring in a rich harvest of chilies. There are many reasons to grow chilies yourself: For centuries, people have made the taste and heat of chili their own to refine their dishes. Chili seeds that are said to be over 6,000 years old have been found in Peru and Mexico. And it’s not just the taste of chilies that makes them indispensable in the kitchen – because chilies contain more vitamin C than oranges. In addition, the consumption of chilies stimulates digestion and circulation. In addition, our body reacts to the spiciness of the pod by releasing endorphins. So when we eat chilies we feel happier.
Still not entirely convinced of the plant? The samurai in Japan are said to have eaten as much chili as possible before important fights so that they could no longer feel fear. And in Hungary, too, the mixture of chili seeds and ground chili peppers – also called paprika – is very popular and is even a national spice. And an American rock band was so enthusiastic about chilies that they named their band after them: The “Red Hot Chili Peppers”.
Chilli: origin and properties
Chilies originally come from Central and South America. After he discovered America, Christopher Columbus brought them to Europe, from there chilies finally conquered the whole world. Today the world’s largest growing area for chilies is in Mexico. But a lot of chilies is also grown in China, India, and Indonesia.
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Chilies belong to the Capsicum plant genus and thus to the nightshade family ( Solanaceae ). The mostly perennial, herbaceous plants reach heights of growth of 150 centimeters, but there are also ground-covering and significantly larger species and varieties. The flowers of the chili are hermaphroditic and white. But there are also chili varieties with purple or greenish flowers. Although the fruit of the chili is colloquially referred to as a pod, it is actually a berry. The fruits of the chilies are very rich in different shapes and colors. From spherical to pointed and cylindrical, everything is included. The color spectrum of the chilies ranges from green to red, orange, yellow, and purple.
Types and varieties of chili
Experts estimate that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 different types of chili worldwide. These are divided into five main types of chili:
- Capsicum annuum: This type includes both conventional sweet peppers and many types of chili. Typical varieties of this type are ‘Cayenne’ and ‘Jalapeño’.
- Capsicum chinense: Contrary to what the name suggests, this type of chili does not come from China, but the Amazon rainforest. A well-known variety of this type is the ‘Habanero’.
- Capsicum baccatum: This type of chili is characterized by the unusual shape of its fruits. The varieties ‘Little Finger’ and ‘Angelo’ belonged to this species.
- Capsicum frutescens: Well-known representatives of this species are, for example, ‘Tabasco’ and ‘Malagueta’.
- Capsicum pubescens: Although this species is still relatively unknown in Europe, it is enjoying increasing popularity.
- Capsicum pubescens are tree chilies and are often called Rocoto or Locoto.
Tip: You will also find five fiery chili varieties in our Gardender chili growing set. With the set, you can easily grow your own chilies.
When buying chilies, the choice of variety is crucial. This determines the color, shape, and heat of the chilies. Other important criteria for purchase should be the quality and size of the plant. You can buy chili plants in spring in hardware stores, garden centers, and nurseries or online.
As soon as there is no more ground frost – usually after the ice saints in mid-May – is the perfect time to plant chilies. You can even plant out earlier in the greenhouse.
Chilies need a location that is as warm and sunny as possible and a loose, nutrient-rich soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH value. With our peat-free Gardender organic tomato and vegetable soil, your chili plants are perfectly supplied. The chilies can then move into the bed with a planting distance of 40 centimeters. Each plant is then attached to a plant stick and watered well.
Plant tree chili
A sheltered location is particularly important for tree chilies. In addition, this type of chili prefers a partially shaded location. To give the plant the necessary support, it should be attached to a stick.
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Plant the chili in the pot
To plant chilies in pots, you need a pot or tub that can hold at least 6 liters. Only then is the jar big enough for your chili to feel really comfortable in it. It is also important to have a drainage hole and a drainage layer – for example, made of potsherds or expanded clay – in the planter. After creating the drainage layer, fill the pot one-third with the substrate, insert the chili plant and cover it with the remaining substrate. In summer the chili can be placed in a pot in a sunny spot in the garden. In winter, the plant then moves into the house or conservatory. A liquid fertilizer, which is simply administered via irrigation water, is ideal for maintenance in the pot.
Chilies have a fiery taste and are demanding to care for. There are a few things that must be observed and considered so that your chilies can successfully bear fruit. We’ll tell you everything about the correct watering, fertilizing, and wintering of chilies.
Pour the chili
The most common mistake in growing chili is actually improper watering. Chilies are sensitive to dehydration, but waterlogging do them even more. The root ball of the chili should never dry out completely, but the top layer of soil should be dry before you water again. If the leaves of the chili plant wilt, it is high time to water. Pour enough so that the whole substrate can be penetrated by water. On hot summer days, you may even have to water your chilies every day. The water in the pot should be able to drain off easily. Waterlogging is very damaging to the chili: The roots can suffocate and harmful fungi find the best conditions to develop.
Fertilize the chili
Chilies are among the strong eaters and are therefore dependent on fertilizers. It is best to fertilize immediately after pricking and repotting for the first time. A fertilizer with an organic long-term effect is ideal. This provides the chili with optimal nutrients. Before planting the chili outdoors, you can enrich the soil with compost or other organic material. Here, too, a fertilizer with an organic long-term effect can be used as an alternative. If necessary, you can re-fertilize after two months. The next fertilization then takes place three to four weeks before the harvest.
Adapted to the tropical climate, chilies are very sensitive to frost and not suitable for wintering outdoors. In contrast to tomatoes ( Solanum Lycopersicum ), chilies are not annual but can be cultivated for several years. To do this, you have to hibernate your chilies properly.
If the temperatures outside drop below 10 ° C at night, it’s time to warm up the chilies. The plants can optimally overwinter in a bright, warm place at temperatures of a maximum of 20 ° C or in a bright, cooler place at temperatures between 10 to 15 ° C. Even in winter, chilies are then dependent on care measures such as regular watering. If it is warm enough again in spring, the successfully overwintered chilies can move outside again and start a new gardening season.
Determining the optimal harvest time for chilies is not that easy: because every chili variety has its own harvest time. Usually only experience and your own assessment of your personal ideal level of maturity help. There are, however, a few pointers to look out for when harvesting.
Signs that your chilies will soon be ready to be harvested:
- Color change
- The shell slowly wrinkles and contracts
- The pulp yields slightly when pressed
- Small black spots appear
When harvesting, it is important not to damage the chilies. A sharp knife or scissors should therefore be used for this. When freshly harvested, it is best to store the chilies in the refrigerator.
Preserving chili: pickling, freezing
To enjoy your own chilies all year round, we will show you a wide variety of methods for preserving chilies. The easiest option is freezing. Another relatively simple way to preserve chilies is to dry them. This can be done either in the oven, in the fresh air, over a heat source, or in a dehydrator. If you would like to be a little more creative, you can either boil down your chilies, soak them in oil or even ferment them – i.e. ferment them with milk sour.
You can find detailed instructions on the various methods of preserving in our article on the subject of “Preserving chili“.