Friday, 27 April 2018

My chillis are recovering

This year my chillis got off to a bad start. They germinated OK and did well enough under the lights for their first few days, and soon grew big enough for me to pot them on into 7cm pots. At this point things started to go wrong. We were away from home for several days on two occasions during April and the plants stayed indoors on the windowsills, because I didn't think it reasonable to ask my Garden Helpers to move them in and out twice a day (and more often if the weather were to change suddenly). At this stage I usually like to begin hardening them off by taking them outside for a few hours a day if the weather permits, and it was probably this that prompted me to rush them outside on the first sunny day we had once we got home from our first trip.

Chillis outdoors, 5th April

The plants were definitely not strong enough for me to leave them outside during our recent trip to Seville, so the same indoor regime was instituted. On our return from Seville I was really worried: the plants looked very weak and sickly, with many pale leaves, and some that were shrivelled and brown at the edges.

I have thought carefully about what went wrong and have concluded that there are two possible explanations. The first is that the plants were adversely affected by their sudden outing into the sun as described above. Maybe the sun was too strong for them, or the sudden transition from indoors to bright sunlight was just too much? The other possible cause is poor choice of compost. When I re-potted the plants into the 7cm pots I only had a little amount of John Innes No.1 compost (specially formulated for seeds and seedlings) so for most of the plants I used John Innes No.2, because I had a whole bag of that. This was a mistake, because the JI No.2 is intended for more mature plants. It contains more nutrients and has a heavier, denser texture than the No.1 and it doesn't drain so well.

Anyway, it was time to mount a rescue operation! The day after we got back from Seville I went and bought some multi-purpose compost and re-potted all the chillis a second time. As I suspected, their compost was very wet and "claggy", so when putting them in the new compost I didn't water them in like I would normally have done, but left them for a few days to dry out. I have also been super-careful with attempting to give them the best conditions in which to grow - moving them into the shade when the sun is very strong (as it was for several days last week), and bringing them indoors at night-time. I'm pleased to report that most of them are looking a lot better now.

Most of the plants are beginning to produce new growth, although they have also shed a fair few of the damaged leaves.

It was a close call, but I think I will still have enough plants to meet my requirements. I originally had 38 seedlings, with a view to keeping about 16 - 20 of them. This is in addition to the over-wintered mature plants, of which I have 5.

Over-wintered "Aji Benito"

These ones don't look too bad, do they?

"Whippet's Tail"

"Greek Chilli" (official name not known)


The moral of this tale is "Don't take shortcuts"! Little plants (especially ones originally from tropical climes, such as chillis) are delicate things and need to be looked after properly. You would think that I would know this by now, wouldn't you?


  1. The will to survive is strong which is fortunate this year

  2. Your sunburn/cold/wet roots analysis is convincing. I would say the moral of the tale was that you kept a close eye on progress and intervened at the first sign of trouble! I am intrigued to know how overwintered plants perform (fruit) in subsequent year(s). (My first attempt to overwinter has failed through neglect, so I would be interested in your experience before embarking on that course again.)

    1. Mal, for the past few years I have managed to over-winter a few chilli plants. It's hard work though - a constant battle with warmth, hydration and aphids. Those that do survive usually produce fruit earlier than new plants grown from seed, and are sometimes bigger. This year the self-watering devices I used were very successful and I would recommend using them.

  3. Great read, always overwintered & found the plants produced more fruit (due to size) & have managed to keep one chilli for 3 years, living in Turkey now so somewhat spoilt for sunshine hours,I lost 5 reapers I started in November due to brining in & out (heavy rains ) I managed to drop & lose the just germinated seeds, 5 I started in January doing fine and should flower next month, thanks for posting.


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