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Best expert advice on growing chillies

Red and green Jalapeno chilli pepper seeds from Suttons

Planting and growing chilli seeds is pretty easy, and there’s a wealth of good advice available online if you need help. If you’ve never grown them before, or you’re looking for new and unusual varieties to try, here’s our pick of the best chilli-growing content from expert gardening bloggers.

This article was reviewed by the Suttons horticultural team and updated on 22 January 2024.


Best chilli varieties to try in the UK

Pepper Chilli Seeds - Longhorn F1
Brand new for 2021, Longhorn is a seriously productive variety
Image source: Chilli pepper seeds ‘Longhorn F1’ from Suttons

Selecting chilli varieties to grow is a very personal choice and most gardeners have their favourites – super spicy, mild and fruity, long and skinny, short and dumpy, prolific, flavoursome or simply decorative. Here are some of the tried-and-tested varieties our bloggers recommend…

Ten different varieties of chilli are rated by chilli fans, Daniel and Stephanie, at The Enduring Gardener according to their Scoville Units and ease of growing – ranging from the mildest to the most intense. If you want to blow your socks off, they suggest the ‘Naga’ – 150 times hotter than a jalapeno! See which types they’ve tried, and read their honest results.

The heat of a chilli is rated using the Scoville Scale – a measurement that indicates the quantity of capsaicin – hot stuff – present. The higher the number, the hotter the chilli!

For anyone with limited growing space, respected horticulturist Pumpkin Beth recommends ‘Ponky Pepper Spicy Jane’ which will live happily in a small container. She guides us beautifully through her routine for caring for this dwarf chilli variety to produce a good crop of medium sized, medium heat chillies.

If you’re in the mood to try something new, the Suttons horticultural team recommends Chilli ‘Longhorn’ F1. Named after the pointed horns of the famous Texan cattle, this feisty chilli is a great way to spice up Tex/Mex food. Although it’s four times hotter than a jalapeno, the ‘Longhorn’ packs a punch without sacrificing flavour. Read the full article for more information. 

Garden and nature writer Nic of Dogwood Days is a proper homegrown chilli enthusiast, opening up a chilli nursery on her Hertfordshire windowsill in early spring. With 39 chilli plants of 17 different varieties, her report on her chilli growing successes – including raising some Suttons chilli plug plants – is honest and refreshing. A good place to start if you’re looking for inspiration.

Best ways to grow chillies from seed

Brown Chocolate Habanero from Suttons
Growing from seeds allows you try varieties not available in shops
Image: Pepper Chilli Seeds ‘Chocolate Habanero’ from Suttons

Chillies are a bit of a specialist subject for Laura from @gardendujour. Growing 10 different types, she explains how it’s important to sow your chillies under cover, and to start the hottest varieties early enough to give them the longest possible growing season. She sows her chilli seeds at the beginning of February and pops them under some grow lights to get them off to the best possible start. 

Speed and simplicity is the style employed by Daniel at the Enduring Gardener in this short, but fact-packed video explaining how to sow your chilli seeds. If time is short, here’s everything you need to know in less than a minute. 

If you want to go into a little more detail about the best ways to germinate your chilli seeds, Clifton Chilli Club shares their hottest tips in this step-by-step video on growing chillies from seed – including soaking your seeds in weak tea before sowing. A really accessible and interesting watch, filled with clever little tricks.

Andrew from Up the Plot says that you’d ideally use a heated propagator for chilli seeds as they need a temperature of about 21 Celsius to germinate, but if you don’t have one you can “sow in small pots, cover with a plastic bag and keep on a warm, sunny window sill.” For the best results, Andrew says that you need to remove your seeds from the propagator or plastic bag as soon as they germinate. “Leaving them for too long in the propagator will make your plants weak and leggy.” See his full article for more practical tips. 

Best advice on chilli seedlings

Red Chilli Pepper Grafted Plant - F1 Medina from Suttons
Plug plants are ideal if you don’t have time to sow seeds
Image: Chilli Pepper Grafted Plant – F1 Medina from Suttons

Once your chilli seeds have germinated, you need to know what to do with your seedlings. Over at Claire’s Allotment, knowledgeable and hands-on gardener Claire has made an excellent video on how to prick out your chilli seedlings – just one of a terrific series of videos about growing chillies from her YouTube channel.

At the Chilli Workshop, this detailed, step-by-step guide to growing chillies includes clear and concise tips on when and how to transplant your chilli seedlings. Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes you can make at this stage, and can fatally damage seedlings early in their development. Read this article for watering advice, while taking inspiration from the team’s favourite varieties to try at home.

Over at, Rekha Mistry tries to think like a seed when raising her chillies. She recommends using rain water to keep the soil moist, and says “at this time of year, I’ll bring in a small can of water to warm up indoors.” Rekha doesn’t like cold showers and says that her seeds don’t either. Watch her 1 minute chilli grow-a-long video on Instagram for more helpful hints. 

Once your seedlings are about an inch or so high, horticultural expert Sophie Essex, writing for the Suttons blog, recommends pricking them out to grow on in small pots (if they’re not already in them). She pots them on several more times before they go into their final 22cm pot in May, giving her chilli plants a weekly dose of tomato feed as soon as the tiny fruits start to form. Sophie says that you don’t need a huge container to grow chillies. In fact, “restricting the size of the pot and causing them a little stress can enhance heat and flavour.” 

Best place to grow chillies

Multi-coloured Pepper Chilli Seeds - Prairie Fire from Suttons
‘Prairie Fire’ (above) is a great variety for growing in a pot or on a windowsill
Image: Pepper Chilli Seeds ‘Prairie Fire’ from Suttons

Chillies need warmth and light to thrive, and there are lots of options to try in your quest for the winning combination. After starting off his seeds in a propagator, Nick from Two Thirsty Gardeners began a controlled trial of several indoor and outdoor locations for chillies – including his newly spruced-up conservatory. His enthusiastic results – the best place to grow chillies – makes for an entertaining and interesting read.

When Mark Ridsdill Smith from Vertical Veg lived in London, his chillies grew happily outside. Now he lives in the north of the UK he says his polytunnel is almost essential. Usually growing four to six plants, Mark says “chillies are very productive in containers.” This year he’s trying to increase his chilli production so he can make his wife’s favourite lacto-fermented chilli sauce (a close relative of sriracha). He says that “this homemade version, with homegrown chillies, takes it to another level.” Read his full article for growing tips, variety advice and his favourite recipes. 

The folks at Birdhouse Chillies are wild about growing this fiery crop anywhere and everywhere they possibly can! Their article, The Pros and Cons of Where to Grow Chillies in the UK, is a really comprehensive study of all the options – in the house, in a greenhouse, in beds and in pots. There’s a brilliant graphic of the qualities and pitfalls of each location, a detailed but easy-to-read account of their chilli growing practice, and lots of explanatory photos.

If you fancy experimenting with different growing methods, Andrew’s video provides a fascinating guide to using hydroponics to raise chillies. Planted into an ‘autopot system’, his chillies are thriving in their mix of coir and sheep’s wool. The gardener behind Life on Pig Row, Andrew’s lighthearted and informative blog documents family-focused ‘good life’ exploits in rural Yorkshire. Take a look to see if this might work for you. 

And did you know that you can grow chillies without any soil at all? watch Ali Raja’s YouTube video over at Ali Raja Bagan Bari UK to learn more. All you need is a large container with a lid, and a chilli plant in a 3” pot. Add water, soluble plant food and you’re good to go. Just make sure you don’t overfill the bucket or you’ll drown the plant. 

Best ways to harvest, store, and use homegrown chillies

Pepper Chilli Seeds Padron from Suttons in pots after being grilled
Milder chillies are delicious simply grilled on the bbq as tapas
Image: Pepper Chilli Seeds ‘Padron’ from Suttons

If all goes to plan, you’ll have a bumper chilli crop by late summer or early autumn. There are loads of ways to store or preserve them, although these bloggers have found some methods more successful than others. 

Most chillies will start off green, and gradually develop their final colour over a few weeks – usually turning to red, yellow or orange while still on the plant. When to harvest your chillies can be a tricky decision, explains urban farmer John at Allotment and Gardens. His very informative post also reminds us to always wear rubber gloves when preparing chillies to avoid the capsaicin burning your skin.

Alexandra of The Middlesized Garden offers authentic advice on how to dry chillies, which she gleaned from family members in southern Italy and shares in this informative and beautifully illustrated article. She explains how to string your chillies up to hang in colourful bunches, spread them out to dry in the sun (rather easier in the Med than the UK!), or take a shortcut by drying in the oven.

Over at Hayley’s Lottie Haven (the beautiful setting for all kinds of fascinating gardening adventures with Hayley and ex-battery hen, Olive) a glut of long, fiery chillies from the greenhouse signals it’s time to cook up a big pot of chilli jam, teaming the fruits with autumn tomatoes. A delicious-looking solution!

Katrina, aka Homegrown Gardener, raises an abundance of chillies at her heritage allotment in Nottingham. Her enthusiasm for growing and preserving chillies really shines alongside a vibrant photo of a late December trug-full. She loves to pickle them, stuff them, freeze them and cook them up into jams or hot sauces. Don’t panic if you can’t sow your chilli seeds in January, says Katrina. February still gives you plenty of time.

If you’re planning to sow your own chilli seeds this year, we hope that this expert advice will help. Don’t worry if you’ve missed the boat for seeds, you can still order a few chilli plants for a shortcut to success. Good luck!

Lead image: Jalapeno chilli pepper seeds from Suttons

See expert contributors here

  • Daniel and Stephanie, Co-authors of The Enduring Gardener blog, gardening content creators.
  • Beth Otway, Horticulturist, garden writer.
  • Nic Wilson, Writer, editor and Guardian Country Diarist. Author at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine.
  • Laura, Gardening influencer and content creator.
  • Clifton Chilli Club, Collective focussed around chillies. YouTube content creators and event organisers.
  • Andrew, Author of Up The Plot, gardening blogger.
  • Claire Burgess, Gardening writer, blogger, author, YouTuber.
  • Chilli Workshop, Gardening website dedicated to chillies.
  • Rekha Mistry, Content Creator, presenter, author, horticulturist, and food and garden writer.
  • Nick Moyle, Co-author of Two Thirsty Gardeners, graphic designer, garden writer.
  • Mark Ridsdill Smith, Urban Gardener writer, author. Winner of 2022’s GMG The Peter Seabrook Practical Book of the Year.
  • Birdhouse Chillies, Gardening blog dedicated to growing and cooking with chillies.
  • Andrew Oldham, Gardening blogger, columnist winner of GMG’s Gardening Columnist of the Year 2022.
  • Ali Raja, Father and son gardening YouTube content creators.
  • John Harrison, Winner of Grow Your Own’s ‘Great British Growing Awards’ 2015, author and garden writer.
  • Alexandra Campbell, Garden writer, journalist, content creator.
  • Hayley Brown, Organic no-dig allotmenteer, gardening content creator.
  • Katrina Harrison, Gardener, YouTube content creator, and blogger

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About Sophie Essex

Sophie Essex is a freelance garden writer with a passion for horticulture and environmental conservation. With a BSc in Botany/Plant Biology from the University of Plymouth, she further honed her expertise through a Masters of Science in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants from The University of Edinburgh. Sophie has also worked as a professional gardener and landscaper, showcasing her practical skills by transforming outdoor spaces. Her commitment to fieldwork is further evident in her acquisition of a Certificate in Field Botany from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and over the years, she has interned at the Eden Project, Cornwall, the National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Find more information about Sophie over at LinkedIn.

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