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Windowsill growing

Chilli var. NuMex Twilight plant in a pot NuMex Twilight chillies

NuMex Twilight (above) is a very attractive chilli that does well as a houseplant.

One of our FAQs is ‘How do you grow chillies on a window sill?’. Our stock answer is, ‘With a bit of care’. As you can imagine, growing a tropical plant like chillies on a window sill – where heat and light are in short supply – is not an ideal scenario. It is, however, perfectly possible to do with some success. However, to get best results a few considerations must first be made.

Use a south facing window

The south side of British homes get the most sunlight, and this is where the plants should be grown. East and west facing windows might do, but the plants will struggle. If you have the time and discipline, you could move plants around the house to follow the sun and get more light on them. Another trick is to put a mirror or some reflective material (available from hydroponic shops) behind the plants to shine the light back on them. But whatever you do, forget about using north facing windows – you’re simply wasting your time putting plants there.

Keep your chilli plant on a south facing window

Keep the chilli plant(s) on a south facing window.

Choose short, compact varieties that are adapted to small pots

 Smaller varieties grown in small pots will fit on a window sill without falling over.

Chillies var. Stumpy and Sparkler

Two short statured chillies: Stumpy at both ends, Sparkler in the centre.

Grow a variety with a heat level that suits your needs

If you have a chilli plant you will want to enjoy the plant while also being able to use the chillies in the kitchen. Chillies vary enormously in heat level so it is worth getting one that has a heat level that suits your needs.

 Chillies var. Orange Habanero

Orange Habanero chillies are very hot.

Do not over water or excessively fertilise

Because of lower light levels, plants grown on a window sill need to be watered and fertilised less often than those in a greenhouse or tunnel. Add water only when the compost begins to dry out, and give a liquid feed no more than once every three or four weeks.

Place the pots in a plate or dish

No matter how careful you are with watering, some of the water will inevitably escape through the hole in the bottom of the pot. Putting the pots in a dish or plate will catch the water and prevent it from spreading over the window sill and making a mess of things.

Control aphids

In the summer aphids – also known as greenflies – reproduce asexually. This means only one aphid getting into the house accidentally wil produce young and infect your plant. In addition, there are no insect predators living indoors to control the aphids. So if you have a chilli plant it is very likely that at some point, it will be attacked by aphids. Do not ignore them, left alone aphids will devastate a plant.  To bring them under control, wash them off under a stream of water, or spray the plants with an innocuous pesticide that won’t poison you or members of your family. For more details click here.

Aphids on the underside of a chilli plant leaf

Aphids on the underside of a chilli plant leaf.

ladybird on a pepper leaf

Ladybirds can be brought in from the outside to control aphids.

Shake the plants or hand-pollinate the flowers

In the still conditions of the house, chilli flowers may not pollinate and set fruit, especially if they are a habanero chilli type (C. chinense). To aid pollination the branches need to be shaken gently on a regular basis. The easiest way is to keep the plant near an open window where the breeze will do the job. If that is not possible be sure to shake the branches whenever you go near the plant. Low light levels might also cause flowers to drop, in which case there is nothing you can do except expose the plants to more light.

The flower of a habanero chilli (var. Capsicum chinense)

Some habanero chillies particularly may need help pollinating.

 

 

©Michael Michaud