To get the best experience from growing a chilli plant or plants it is essential to grow the right variety that best suit your needs. Too many people grow just any old plant, and then end up being disappointed that the fruit are too hot/not hot enough, or the plant is too big or too small, etc. So before you venture into chilli growing there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- How hot do you want your chillies?
- What type of chilli do you want?
- How much space do you have for your plant(s)?
- How experienced a grower are you?
How hot do you want your chillies?
The heat level in chillies is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Generally we at Sea Spring Seeds categorise heat levels according to the following formula:
Sweet: 0 SHU
Mild: up to 5,000 SHU
Low medium: 5,000 – 20,000 SHU
High medium: 20,000 – 35,000 SHU
Hot: 35,000 – 100,000 SHU
Very hot: 100,000 – 500,000 SHU
Superhot: 500,000 SHU +
Please note: this is just a general indication. The scale is highly subjective and depends on an individual’s tolerance to heat. For more information please click here.
Do you want a spice-type or vegetable-type chilli?
Chillies can roughly be divided into two types – spice and vegetable – depending on how they are used in the kitchen.
Vegetable-type chillies are relatively large-fruited and thick-fleshed, and tend to be milder than the spice-type varieties. Because of their bulk, these chillies are used mostly as a vegetable, playing virtually the same culinary role as sweet peppers – they are ideal stuffed with meat, rice or cheese; chopped into salads or salsas; and cooked in stews, stir fries and omelettes.
Spice-type chillies – including the habaneros and superhots – are generally small-fruited and thin-fleshed, and are usually hotter than the vegetable chillies. They are used to add heat and flavour to a dish, but contribute very little bulk. In addition, they are ideal for drying and milling into a powder. Some varieties are also very attractive and can be used as ‘edible ornamentals’, and do well as house-plants.
How large do you want your plant?
The varieties we sell vary considerably in size, and we give an indication of growth habit in each variety description.
Some chilli varieties will grow into large plants, e.g., Mulato Isleno, Pimiento de Padron and Joe’s Long Cayenne, which can grow up to 4, even 5 feet tall. And, given the right conditions, Dorset Naga plants can grow up to 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide (see https://youtu.be/0Bm93RBvMfc). To get best results, plants with a natural large growth habit need plenty of space, and they need to be grown in the ground or very large pots.
Other varieties are naturally short and small statured, e.g., Stumpy and Prairie Fire. These will be plants remain small no matter how or where they are grown. They do well in small pots, and are ideal as edible house plants on a windowsill.
How experienced a grower are you?
There are five species of domesticated chillies (see ‘Chilli factoids‘ for more information), and some of these species are easier to grow than others. Most of the chilli varieties we sell are Capsicum annuum or Capsicum chinense, though we do have a few C. baccatum varieties.
If you have never grown chillies before we recommend starting with a C. annuum or C. baccatum variety. They are generally quicker to germinate and faster to mature than C. chinense varieties.
Habanero and Scotch Bonnet are names given to chillies belonging to the species C. chinense. Generally, C. chinense chillies tend to be slow to germinate, and require more care than the C. annuums. For more information on habaneros click here.