Friday, 24 February 2017

Sowing Chilli seeds

Yesterday (Thurs 23 Feb) was "National Chilli Day". Don't ask me who decided this! It seemed like an auspicious day on which to sow chilli seeds. However, my plans were thwarted by Storm Doris, and it was just too windy to venture outside to fill pots with compost, so I left it 24 hours.

Despite the short delay, the task got done today. First job was to bring the Growlight House in from the garage, clean it,  and get it set up in the spare bedroom.

It is now nearly 4 years since I got this item, and I realised that the little black rubber "washers" that are used to position the moveable light part at the correct height on the uprights had perished and fallen off. This could have been a disaster if one or both had given way once there were seedlings underneath. In the absence of any spares I used some thick general-purpose rubber bands as substitutes. [I know I am not the only person to have had this problem, so if you own one of these things, I recommend you check the state of the washers on yours too.]

Having got the Growlights sorted out it was time to get sowing. My method is to sow the seeds in little pots of moist compost and keep them on the floor of the warm airing-cupboard until germination takes place. The temperature in there is about 22 - 25 degrees Celsius most of the time.

Chilli seeds germinate at many different rates, dependent on variety and temperature, so it is important to keep checking after the first 2 or 3 days. I usually check mine at least twice a day, and bring out into the light any that have germinated. At this stage they go into the Growlight House.

If you have an unsophisticated Growlight House like mine it's worth investing in a simple timer device like this one.

I have set mine initially to give the plants 14 hours of light per day (and therefore an 10-hour "night"). Keeping the lights on permanently is not a good idea, because the plants need to learn about days and nights before they go outside later in the year. In any case, if they are in light all the time they may become thin and leggy because they grow too fast.

Having only just sown my seeds, I have no seedlings to show you yet, so I'll just list the varieties I have decided to grow this year. It was a tough choice, I can tell you, especially since several of my friends had kindly sent me even MORE chilli seeds! For better or worse, these are the ones that "made the cut":-

Pink Tiger
Piri Piri
Fidalgo Roxa
Aji Limon
Ai Benito
Challock Chilli
Ring of Fire
Cozumel Fat
Cozumel Thin
Big Jim
Panama 1
Panama 5
Redfields Long Red

Some of those names are of course nicknames, helping me to identify ones whose official identity I don't know.

In view of the above, and considering that I believe that a few of my over-wintered mature plants will survive, I should end up with somewhere in the region of 20 - 25 plants. I will of course keep you posted on progress!


  1. Thank you. I, too, just sowed pepper seeds, but I, thanks to your blog, did it on the 23rd.

    Regards, Phillips Habanero

  2. For the last 3 years I've 'chitted' my chilli and pepper seeds on damp kitchen paper in Tupperware type tubs in the airing cupboard - takes up much less room than pots in propagators. As soon as possible after the root shows the go into hydrated jiffy pellets under the grow light and then into pots once well established. Failure of 'chitted' seed to grow into a plant has been under 2, on average from 50, each year.

  3. I think Doris stayed further south than us - we just had a touch of her tendrils. Worse wind earlier in the week.

    Must sort out our grow lights.

  4. Mark, you say that you start checking every 2 or 3 days - does that mean that most chillies will germinate quite quickly in the right tempt / moisture? If they haven't within 3 weeks, for example, should I re-sow?

    My Basket of fire germinated quickly but my others sown a few weeks ago haven't. They are all in heated conditions but the temp has been fluctuating a lot.

    1. Andy, I find that most chillis germinate within a week if they are going to germinate at all, but having said that, a few will take a month or more! The hotter-type ones (capsicum baccatum, capsicum chinense types) usually take longer and need higher temps than the capsicum annuum ones like Basket of Fire. Steady heat is better than big fluctuations too.

  5. I have a friend who has over-wintered a chilli plant on his windowsill. It seems a lot of effort for little reward except a warm feeling of having helped it survive. What do you think?

    1. I think over-Wintering chillis is a good thing to do, because it enables you to harvest fruit earlier in the year than would be possible when growing from seed.

    2. Oh. Then I'd better stop teasing him and asking him why he wants such a manky plant in the house! I expect it will shoot out new leaves and burst into beauty later in the spring?

    3. Exactly so! Here's hoping it will flourish again.

  6. Starting chilis can be frustrating because, as you point out, the germination times vary greatly. I start anchos and this year a paprika from seed. Everything else I buy as seedlings from the local greenhouse. Much much easier.


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