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Growing Chillies 10 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know

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So you’re up to the challenge of producing your own unique chilli sauce – fabulous stuff! Whether you call them Capsicum, peppers, or chillies, the piquant varieties of the capsicum genus (of which there are hundreds) require distinct conditions, different from other bell peppers (Capsicum annuum).

It’s Easy growing chillies. 195 identified species in the Capsicum genus, of which the C. annuum is the most common, with 21 recognized variants. C. frutescens (Tabasco) and C. chinense (Habanero) are popular hot peppers. Colors include green, yellow, red, and purple.

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    The Capsicum annuum (pronounced KAP-sih-kum AN-yoo-um) species can have small or large berry fruit, mild or hot, and rounded or long and skinny fruit. Some varieties are grown as ornamentals, and their fruit is almost always hot. This article is focused on the hotter varieties of Capsicum, sharing ten facts about growing them you probably didn’t know.

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    1. Chillies Are Part Of The Nightshade Family (Solanaceae)

    While it’s hard to imagine, chillies are related to potatoes – and tomatoes, and eggplants (and tobacco). The Solanaceae family consists of herbs, shrubs, or trees with about 85 genera and 2800 species that are frequently shrubby or creeping. 

    Of special interest to us is this vegetable-fruit-berry group under the Capsicum label. Commercial crops are generally grown in protected environments – hoop houses, polytunnels, and greenhouses. Capsicum is interesting because it is a photoperiod-insensitive crop, i.e., a day-neutral (though this is more accurately termed night-neutral).

    A plant that requires a long period of darkness is termed a “short-day” (long-night) plant. Short-day plants form flowers only when the day length is less than about 12 hours (or have more than half their days in darkness).

    Many spring- and fall-flowering plants are short-day plants, including chrysanthemums, poinsettias, and Christmas cactus. If these are exposed to more than 12 hours of light (think street lights) per day, bloom formation does not occur.

    Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are all day-neutral plants. Another similarity between the nightshade plants is the effect of excessive nitrogen levels – Capsicum will have great leaves and no fruits, the same with tomatoes, and potatoes will fail to form tubes.

    Other day-neutral (photoperiodism insensitive) plants are corn, cucumbers, sunflowers, beans, and peas. I hope that sheds some light on the photoperiodism topic.

    2. Growing Chillies Which are Moderately Difficult to Grow

    Peppers are classified as moderately challenging to grow. We know that it has nothing to do with light levels. What greatly matters is temperatures, nitrogen application timing, calcium levels, phosphorous levels, watering, and a range of potential pests and diseases.

    Pests and diseases common to the nightshade family are also found in peppers. Aphids, whiteflies, cutworms, pepper maggots, and Colorado potato beetles are all pests to watch out for.

    Verticillium wilt (a fungal infection) and mosaic virus (which causes a consistent yellow-green mosaic over the leaves, followed by wilt) are both common to this plant.

    The facts below review some of the plant nutrient requirements.

    3. For Hot Peppers, Sun Heat is More Important Than Sunlight

    Peppers won’t grow well if nighttime temperatures drop below 55 °F (12.7 °C). Plants will do best if temperatures remain between 60 and 75 °F (15.5 to 23.8 °C) for at least three months a year, which is how long it takes between transplanting and fruit development.

    After flower pollination, you ought to have green fruit within 45 to 55 days and they’ll reach their colorful stage two weeks later.

    It is because of these climate sensitivities that most commercial operations prefer polytunnels and greenhouses. Hot pepper crops grown in tunnels are generally nurtured as perennial crops, which Habanero (C. sinense (synonym chinense)) is.

    As seen above, peppers are daylight-neutral, and the amount of darkness does not affect flower formation and by implication, fruit formation.

    But light does play a role in foilage development which is essential for photosynthesis and, consequently, plant nutrient development and usage.

    Studies have shown that while flower initiation requires darkness, flower development and activity require light. Growers in tunnels are able to manipulate the availability of light for optimal production.

    4. Gowing Chillies For Medicinal Use

    Capsicum annuum is a source of popular sweet peppers and hot chilis with numerous varieties cultivated all around the world. It is used medicinally as an antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral.

    The methanol extract of C. annuum fruits displayed selectively good to moderate antibacterial activities against various strains of E. coliE. aerogenesE. cloacaeP. stuartii, and P. aeruginosa

    Capsicum frutescens is a species of chili pepper that is sometimes considered to be part of the species C. annuum. Medicinally, it is used as a laxative and stimulant, as well as to treat wounds, male virility, toothache pain, coughs, asthma, sore throats, stomach ache, and seasickness.

    The methanol extract of the fruits of C. frutescens was shown to have selective antibacterial activity against various strains of E. coliE. aerogenesE. cloacaeK. pneumoniae, and P. stuartii. [Source]

    5. Calcium is Key to Preventing Blossom End Rot

    Blossom end rot is caused by a localized calcium deficiency in the fruit; however, this does not always mean that there is a calcium deficiency in the soil or elsewhere on the plant. Even if the soil calcium levels are adequate, blossom end rot can occur.

    Calcium is very mobile in plants, and a steady supply is required for healthy fruit development during fruit set. Calcium is taken up from the soil by the roots and transferred through the xylem, which also transports water up and into the plant’s growth points.

    This necessitates a sufficient supply of water in the soil. When the supply of water to the roots is cut off, the supply of calcium is cut off as well.

    Calcium from the leaves is unable to get through the phloem and into the fruit. Furthermore, foliar-applied calcium cannot be immediately absorbed by the fruit’s skin. Foliar calcium sprays are therefore ineffective.

    Maintaining constant soil moisture is the most effective strategy to prevent blossom end rot. To put it another way, don’t let the soil dry out between waterings.

    A timer-controlled drip irrigation system is an excellent approach to assure constant watering. Apply a layer of mulch or pine straw around the plants to keep moisture in the soil from evaporating.

    Also, avoid injuring established plants’ roots by hoeing or tilling near them, as this will impair their ability to absorb water. To guarantee adequate calcium levels, perform a soil test well before planting and follow the lime and fertilizer recommendations.

    Chili is not so much a food as a state of mind

    Margaret Cousins

    6. Nitrogen Helps Plants Grow, But Not Fruit

    It’s essential that you time your nitrogen application with your pepper crops. A common recommendation for drip-irrigated chile peppers grown for a green harvest in mid-August is to apply 7.3-ounces nitrogen per 100 sq feet during the growing season.

    • First, 1.47 of nitrogen per 100 square feet are applied to the seedbed in a pre-plant application.
    • Second, beginning with the appearance of green flower buds in early June, 0.735 ounces of nitrogen per 100 sware feet are injected into the drip system per week for eight weeks.

    Thus, a total of 5.9 ounces of nitrogen per 100 sq ft is injected in eight weekly increments. These increments represent eight opportunities for decision-making.

    Using a nitrate meter you can manage applications to ensure you give no more nitrogen than is needed – in the scenario above you have eight decision points – at each application during growth. This reduces production costs while assuring that the crop’s nitrogen requirements are met.

    7. You’ve got a Fifteen Degree Temperature Window

    Peppers grow best if nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 55 °F (12.7 °C). Plants will do best if temperatures remain between 60 °F and 75 °F (15.5 to 23.8 °C) for at least three months a year, which is how long it takes between transplanting and fruit development.

    After flower pollination, you ought to have green fruit within 45 to 55 days and they’ll reach their colorful stage two weeks later.

    Sow seeds 8 to 10 weeks before you plan to transplant outside, 5mm deep in flats, peat pots, or cell packs. When the soil temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, seeds germinate best. It will not germinate below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Plants should be kept in a warm (70°F during the day, 65°F at night) and sunny place indoors. Lack of light will result in transplants that are lanky and unproductive.

    Don’t rush into transplanting outside. Plants can be weakened by cold weather, and they may never fully recover.

    Plants will harden and reduce transplant shock by spending a few days at 60°F to 65°F with less water. After transplanting, over-hardened plants develop slowly.

    When the earth has warmed and the weather has stabilized, set plants out two to three weeks after the typical last frost. Plant them 12 to 24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart, or in raised beds spaced about 14 to 16 inches apart.

    To hasten soil warming and early development, use black plastic and/or row coverings. Row coverings should be used with caution to avoid overheating plants and causing them to shed their flowers.

    Mulch plants when they are fully established and the soil has warmed, if not using black plastic, to retain moisture and control weeds.

    When it comes to laying fruit, peppers can be fickle if the weather is too hot or too cold. Temperatures below 60 °F or above 75 °F at night can inhibit fruit sets.

    Growing chilies

    8. Chillies Grow Well in Containers

    Peppers are probably one of the best options for growing in containers – after herbs and tomatoes. Unlike more standard garden varieties, you may have to hunt around for a greenhouse that grows these varieties or start the plants yourself. Look for varieties that are labeled for containers or compact.

    Growing Chillies in Containers

    • Use a pot with about fourteen inches of planting space.
    • Use only potting media that’s labeled for larger pots. I like using a blend of leaf mold compost, coconut coir, and perlite. Be careful not to use a blend with too much peat moss as it tends to compact and reduce root mass and water-holding capacity, preventing the plants from developing properly.
    • Regular feedings are quite beneficial to good peppers. Most potting soil includes a two-week fertilizer charge, after which the plants must be fed or their growth will decrease. Begin by applying a pelleted, timed-release fertilizer according to the label’s instructions for rate based on pot size. Begin watering weekly with a soluble fertilizer about 2 weeks after planting. You can use a balanced fertilizer with a 1-1-1 ratio until the plants begin to blossom (ie. 20-20-20). Switch to a high potassium fertilizer after flowering begins. The majority of tomato fertilizers fall under this category.
    • Organic producers can achieve comparable effects by combining fish emulsion, green sand, kelp meal, and bone meal. Feeding should be increased as the plants become larger. After 10-12 weeks, apply more timed-release fertilizer. Even with a strong conventional fertilizer program, there is good evidence to recommend the use of seaweed-based supplements.
    • While insects are rarely a problem on peppers, aphids can quickly build up to dangerous proportions. Before spraying, look for Ladybird beetles and their larvae, as they typically appear just as the aphids are about to overwhelm your plants. Aphid numbers will reduce dramatically within days of the advent of Ladybird beetles. If you use a pesticide during this time, the beneficial insects (in this example, Ladybird beetles) will be destroyed.
    • Peppers aren’t prone to many diseases, with the exception of bacterial spotting, which can lead to rotting as the fruit grows. To avoid bacterial rots, apply a copper-based fungicide/bactericide every 7-10 days once the fruit begins to mature.
    • Harvest your peppers as soon as they are fully mature. This timely harvest enables the plant to redirect its resources to other fruits. If you leave rotten or overripe fruit on the plant, it will impair the quality of the other fruit. Leave the fruit on the plant until it is fully colored for the finest flavor.
    • Working with wet plants is one of the easiest ways for pathogens to spread. Make it a general rule not to work with plants that have water on the foliage.

    9. Chillies are Great Ornamentals

    Peppers make great ornamental plants giving color and texture to your garden – with edible fruit. Below are some favorites.

    Chinese Five Color

    With its many hues, the Chinese Five Color is a real show stopper that brings in shades of purple and cream in the garden. Compact and easy to grow, these peppers mature like a rainbow in five colors and gain heat as they change color, turning from cream, purple, yellow, orange, and finally red. 

    The Chinese Five Color Pepper Plant grows over 4 feet tall and produces over 100 peppers per plant on average.  These are great to eat raw and cooked such as boiling, stir-frying, and roasting.  You can even make salsa, dips, and hot sauces! 

    Fish Pepper

    The Fish hot chili peppers are a feast for the eyes with the colorful young cream-colored peppers that were used for adding a kick to the creamy sauces that topped seafood. With heat and flavor similar to the Jalapeño and Cayenne, you’ll fall in love with this gem. The Fish pepper plant is productive and produces high yields of these brilliant fruits, very easy to grow in gardens and containers, and ornamental with their pretty variegated leaves and colorful pods.

    The variegated Fish Pepper was traditionally used in oyster and crab houses in the northeastern United States. The name “fish pepper” is most likely correlated to the chile’s popular use with seafood – could you imagine cooking this delicious pepper with many seafood dishes? It’s such a tasty pepper!

    Bolivian Rainbow Pepper

    The peppers grow from purple to yellow to orange and then red at maturity, growing to about 1 inch and cone-shaped. The plant will have different stages at different times representing a beautiful array of colored peppers that look like Christmas lights. The Bolivian Rainbow pepper has heat similar to Tobasco and cayenne peppers but otherwise tastes similar to a bell pepper only with heat.  

    Patio Fire & Ice Pepper

    The Patio Fire & Ice Pepper is a gorgeous pepper plant that is sure to steal the show! The plant will grow long, upright peppers that will ripen from yellow, orange, to then red. The slender peppers will stand straight up in the air, almost resembling flames. The Patio Fire & Ice pepper plant is an ornamental plant that grows 3-4 inches of edible peppers, and you’ll never get bored watching it bloom.

    Although they look friendly, they are much hotter than they taste. We’re not exactly sure of the heat level but we do know they have a little kick that slightly burns your tongue, so be cautious when you take a bite! With their beautiful array of colors, the Patio Fire & Ice is wonderful to decorate your balcony, patio, and garden! Get your hands on these exciting peppers today!

    Other ornamental varieties include Bellingrath Gardens Pepper, Black Pearl Pepper, Black Prince Pepper, Black Scorpion Tongue, Blue Christmas, Bolivian Rainbow Pepper, Thai Ornamental Pepper.

    10. Some like it hot, some like it HOT

    “Habanero-type” peppers are a pepper species native to parts of South America.  Like other pepper species, the fruits are brightly colored and used worldwide for food, spice, and medicine.  It contains some of the hottest peppers to exist, including the current world record holder ‘Carolina Reaper’.

    Because Pepper Joe’s was one of the original sellers of the Carolina Reaper, I’m popping his video below so that he can share the launch with you.

    The Scoville scale is actually named after its inventor, Wilber Scoville. A pharmacist by trade, Scoville created a simple way to measure the pungency of hot pepper. The Scoville Organoleptic Test is based on the dilution of ground-up hot chili peppers. In numerical form, it answers the question: How many equal parts of sugar water do I need to add to a same-sized part of ground chili pepper until I taste no discernible heat at all?

    Wilber Scoville had a panel of tasters who took the test, sipping these concoctions of chili pepper and sugar water in multiple-day trials until no heat was noticed per pepper type. Yes, they performed these sipping trials until they reached a level where their mouths no longer burned from the ground hot pepper within.

    The class of compounds causing pungency in plants such as chili peppers is called capsaicinoids, which display a linear correlation between concentration and Scoville scale, and may vary in content during ripening. Capsaicin is the major capsaicinoid in chili peppers.

    Since the 1980s, spice heat has been assessed quantitatively by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), which measures the concentration of heat-producing capsaicinoids, typically with capsaicin content as the main measure [Source]

    FAQs on Growing Chillies

    Further Reading On Growing Chillies At Home

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    Conclusion On Growing Chillies

    Even though growing peppers is said to be challenging, I hope you’re willing to give it a try. This article focuses on hot peppers, but I will be reviewing 10 facts about growing bell peppers too (also known as sweet peppers) Hope you tune in for that as well.

    If you found the article interesting or informative, use the form below to send me your email address and I’ll keep you posted on interesting developments and special offers. Happy simplified gardening.

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