Caring for, planting and harvesting peppers

Hot peppers are very popular and varied in terms of sharpness, color or shape. The species, also known as chili, belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae) like peppers or aubergines. Their original home is the tropical regions of America, which explains the heat requirement of the popular plants. Cultivation in beds or pots in a warm, sheltered spot outdoors is ideal. Chili plants also grow in raised beds or in foil houses and can be harvested well into autumn. Spicy peppers are known as «pepperoni»known, while the non-spicy variants are referred to as sweet peppers. The hot paprika or chili peppers should not be confused with the fiery hot chili or cayenne pepper. These belong to a different species: «Capsicum frutescens» are sometimes very hot and belong to the spice plants. The different degrees of spiciness of the chillies and pepperoni are classified according to the Scoville scale.

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Things to know about pepperoni

Botanical name: Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens
Other names: chili, jalapenos, hot peppers, pepperoni, peppers
Use: aromatic plant, fruit vegetable for sauces, salads, soups or fresh consumption
Origin: subtropical regions of South America
Fruit colour: red, green, yellow
Cultivation period: May to October, in a heated greenhouse all year round, if planted in April protection from night frost may be necessary

August to early October
Special features: Hot peppers are long, narrow and medium-hot. Chilies are usually very small, pointed-narrow or rounded and are the hottest representatives of the Capsicum group. Through selection and breeding, a large selection of varieties has emerged in recent years. The difference is mostly expressed in sharpness, shape and taste.

Which location does Chili feel most at home in?

A warm and sheltered location is the most important prerequisite for a rich harvest for all nightshade plants. A humus-rich soil without waterlogging is also ideal for chili. For a good fruit set it is recommended that you grow the vegetables in front of a south facing wall as this stores and reflects heat and is therefore ideal conditions. In climatically unfavorable regions, culture in a foil tunnel or glass house is recommended. Make sure that the night temperatures are above 5 °C and that maximum sunshine is possible during the day.
Our gardening tip:Wait 2 to 3 years before planting hot peppers and other nightshades in the same spot. This minimizes infestation by soil-borne fungal diseases. Fresh soil is also important for the yield in pots.

How is the cultivation of chili plants

Peppers are easy to cultivate from seeds. The variety is very large and sowing can begin in February. Since the seeds need temperatures of over 20 degrees Celsius to germinate, the so-called pre-cultivation takes place on the windowsill in the house or in a heated greenhouse. Sow the seed in well-drained soil and cover only lightly with soil. The seeds have germinated 7 to 14 days after sowing and, with proper care, the young plants can be planted in larger pots after another 7 to 10 days. Through this so-called pricking out, the seedlings develop into strong plants. Depending on the variety and location, after 4 to 6 weekslush growth developed.

How do I plant my pepperoni in the garden?

The end of May is the right time to grow the heat-loving plants outdoors. As with peppers, planting in a greenhouse is possible from April. It is important to know that chilli plants shed their flower buds during longer phases with temperatures below 7° C. Loosen the soil deeply before planting. Maintain a pH of 5.5 to 6.5and a loose structure, because all types of hot pepper do not feel well in compacted soil. The fruit vegetable is one of the heavy consumers, therefore sufficient nutrients are important for fruit setting and growth. You should improve light sandy soils with high-quality potting soil or tomato and vegetable soil. Put organic garden fertilizer in the planting hole directly when planting and give the young seedlings a good start.

Plant chili in 7 steps:

  • Water the chili plants thoroughly.
  • Dig a planting hole 20 cm deep and 20 cm in diameter. Do not put the root ball deeper than it was in the pot.
  • Remove the culture pot and place the fruiting vegetables in the prepared planting hole.
  • Put high-quality potting soil between the root ball and the planting hole.
  • Press the earth firmly.
  • Water deeply with at least 5 liters immediately after planting.

To protect against evaporation, you can cover the surface around the vegetable plant with a layer of mulch.

How do I care for my pepperoni?

Once planted, hot pepper plants, like peppers, require little work. Only need-based watering is important. Tall varieties can be supported with sticks. Compact species do not require support. Even small plants form the first flowers. You should break out this so-called royal flower or cut it off with a sharp knife. By breaking out, growth is promoted, the first side shoots are formed and the result is strong plants with a higher yield.

Our gardening tip: The white flowers are self-pollinating, but the yield may not be as high in the greenhouse. A gentle shaking of the plant helps here so that the flower is pollinated and fruits form.

How do I water my chili?

When cultivating in your own garden, make sure you have an even water supply. Especially in the first time after planting, chillies need sufficient moisture to be able to establish themselves at the new location. If the plants are well rooted, watering is only necessary in phases without precipitation and high temperatures. Basically, it is better to water sufficiently every 2 days than small amounts every day. How often you have to water depends largely on the soil conditions, rainfall and temperature. However, waterlogging should be avoided, as the plants react to this with root damage.

Our gardening tip: With a mulch layer of withered lawn clippings or straw, moisture stays in the soil longer and evaporation is minimized. Make sure that the plants are not watered every day, as this will only form superficial roots.

How do I fertilize my pepperoni?

Like all nightshades, hot peppers require sufficient fertilizer for the fruit to develop, but the fruit vegetable is sensitive to excessive salt content, which can result in leaf fall or missing flowers. It is therefore important that the fertilizer is continuously applied in smaller doses. With a tomato and vegetable fertilizer or organic natural fertilizer you provide your peppers in the best possible way. It is important that the soil should never dry out completely and that it should be watered evenly after fertilization.

How do I plant my chili in a pot?

Even without a garden, you can harvest your own chili. Cultivation in pots is easy, and with slow-growing types there is some space for a balcony box or tub on every balcony. Make sure that the vessel has a water drainage hole and is in a warm location. From mid-May you can set up chili plants outdoors and, with a bit of luck, harvest the first pods from August in a sunny location. Uniform soil moisture, regular fertilization and sufficient warmth are essential for cultivation in pots.

What types of chili plants are there?

There are over a hundred types of chili known worldwide. The species, which are also regarded as hot relatives of the peppers, vary in shape, coloring and growth habit. Below is an overview of the rough classification.

Capsicum annum

In addition to the sweet sweet peppers, this most widespread type also contains extremely hot chillies. Known varieties are

    • De Arbol
    • Serrano
    • NuMex Twilight
    • BlackPrince
    • Anaheim Hot

Nu Mex Trick or Treat

Capsicum baccatum

Especially popular in Central and South America. The aroma is fruity and varies in size depending on the type. A preculture is important because this group takes a long time to mature. Available varieties are mainly:

      • Aji Omnicolor

Ayuyo Orange

Capsicum chinense

This group includes the hottest chillies (including Carolina Reaper, Bhut Joloki and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Red). Also the following types:

        • lemon
        • Orange Lantern
        • Aribibi Gusano
        • Red Savina

Naga/Bhut Jolokia Orange

Classification according to sharpness

degree of sharpness Scoville
0-3 0-1,500
4-6 1,500-15,000
7-9 15,000-100,000
10-12 100,000-800,000
13-14 800,000-2,500,000

What pests and diseases can occur when growing chillies?

In the right location and with good care, the vegetable is unproblematic in cultivation. Malnourished or weakened specimens are susceptible to disease and pests. Mixed cultures reduce pest infestation. Savory, sage, thyme, garlic or lavender help to prevent unwanted pests with their smell.

spider mites

Spider mite infestation occurs particularly when growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel. The leaves have slight chlorosis caused by the numerous sucking sites of the mites. There are fine spider threads on the shoots and leaves, under the protection of which the spider mites live. If the infestation is severe, the leaves will dry up and the plants will suffer. Natural opponents (predatory mites) can be used as a preventive measure in the greenhouse.


Young shoots are often attacked by aphids. As soon as you have noticed the aphid infestation, it is advisable to shower the plants with a jet of water. Strengthen the plants with organic active agents and ensure optimal site conditions. These measures often help to prevent the aphids from spreading further.

FAQ — Frequently asked questions about chili

When can you harvest pepperoni?

If the peppers or chili start to change colour, the fruit is soon ready to be harvested. Depending on the variety, the red, orange or yellow fruits can be harvested 1 week after the color change. Some types of chili are also eaten green. For example, with Jalapeno, Serrano and NewMex varieties such as Anaheim, you can continuously cut fresh pods from August and use them directly. It is interesting to know that the aroma of the same strain varies greatly depending on whether it is harvested green or red.

What does the spiciness of the fruit depend on?

Basically, the degree of sharpness varies depending on the type of chili. Soil, climate and irrigation are also important influencing factors. Fruits on the lower part of the chilli plant are the hottest, the sharpness decreases slightly towards the top. The so-called capsaicinoids are responsible for the spiciness; these are only formed during ripening. Pods harvested too early have less capsaicin and less flavor.

Why is my plant producing only a few fruits?

At temperatures below 14 °C, there is very little flowering and therefore less fruit set. A lack of water and fertilizer can also be a cause of a low number of flowers. In cold, wet years, only a few pods ripen outdoors. Therefore, an extension in the foil house can be of great advantage.

Can chili plants overwinter?

With a bit of luck, the nightshade plant can be overwintered and thus kept for several years. Hibernation is a good idea, especially for slow-growing species. Place the chilli plants in a light and cool place from the beginning of October. Temperatures should be between 10 and 15 °C continuously. Make sure that until March the soil does not dry out and is only moderately moist. Avoid lower temperatures, too much heat and darkness. Check regularly for pests. Whiteflies and lice in particular are often encountered during the winter.

How can the fruits be used?

In addition to fresh consumption, you can dry the fruit, pickle it in vinegar or oil, or process it into hot sauces. Dried peppers have a long shelf life and are either threaded in the air or stored in an airtight jar.

How is pepperoni cultivated?

The nightshade plant can be easily propagated by sowing. Sowing indoors from February and planting out from mid-May is important.

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