The Veg Plot

Turn up the heat! It’s chilli sowing time

RHS Chilli Book

Over the years our chilli growing efforts have been inconsistent. We’ve occasionally blazed a scorching path of hot chilli joy, but have also tasted the cold, wet tears of failure. But few plants are as fun to grow as chillis, so each year we scour the catalogues to pick a few different varieties with which to burn our greedy mouths and cross our fingers before sowing.

Last year Nick reported a “slight improvement on previous years” but too many plants were still “a bit sparse when it came to harvesting”. Rich, on the other hand, hit an all time low: “Only a few germinated, and they withered and died within weeks.”

To improve our chances of firing up more successful chilli action this year, Nick has been consulting the excellent book “RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower” by Kay Maguire, and Rich has been asking daft questions on twitter.

February is the ideal time to plunge chilli seeds into compost, so we’ve placed our orders and are ready to grow. And here are our choices for the year…

Nick’s chilli seed selection

Alongside regular growing favourites jalapeno, cayenne and birds eye, Nick will be attempting to grow he following chillis…

Pimientos de Padron
With mild heat, this is the chilli of choice for Spanish tapas dishes.
For the meek and mild

Hot Wax
Greeny yellow / orange chilli with a scoville rating of 2,000.
Not so hot

Aji Lemon
Droopy Peruvian plant producing yellow chillis with up to 60,000 scoville units.
Packs a punch

Nick bought his seeds from South Devon Chilli Farm

Rich’s chillis of choice

Rich is wiping the slate clean and growing an all new chilli selection, picked specifically for their heat…

Explosive Ember
Small red and purple fruit with a steady 30,000 scoville units of heat.
Explosive like a damp match

Basket of fire
Cream and red chillis packing a mighty 80,000 scovilles.
Handle with care

Caribbean Red Habanero
Reaching up to 475,000 scovilles this chilli is twice as hot as a regular habanero.
Handle with gloves

Naga Morich
This Bangladeshi bomb comes in at an explosive 1 MILLION scovilles.
Handle with full body armour

Rich bought his seeds from Victoriana Nursery


  • I wonder if you’re sowing your seed chillies too early? I am always about three weeks behind myself, and I have discovered that this level of disorganisation can be hugely helpful in seed growing. In the past three years, I’ve had terrific success with chillies (although many other veg garden failures) and it’s always been with the chilli seeds planted in late March and early April. They fruit later, but go on until almost Christmas. Otherwise I just buy them as plants – still worth it.

    • I always try to get my seeds sown as early as possible to allow fruiting as long as possible before the frosts – a lot of my plants go outside. But maybe next year we can run some trials by sowing at different times of the year to see how it works out.
      Good luck with your plants, keep us posted with their progress.

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