A Complete Guide to Growing Chillies in Pots | How To Care for Chilli Plants In Pots

Know how to grow chillies in pots and how to take care for chilli plants in pots. Growing chilli pants in a container is an excellent option for gardeners with limited space and who want to enjoy fresh, spicy peppers throughout the year, as I am growing in Australia. This comprehensive step by step guide will walk you through the steps to successfully cultivate vibrant chilli plants faster and how to take care of chilli plants in containers, ensuring a bountiful harvest.

The chilli pepper plants can live between 3-5 years, some even more. I have a few chilli plants in Australia which are producing chillies for more than five years now. You may bring your chilli pot indoors or under cover during extreme cold periods to overwinter the plant.

Chilli Plant in a Pot
Chilli Plant in a Pot, Green Chillies turned red on ripening

How to Care for Chilli Plants in Pots

Chilli plant is perennials so it will produce fruits for many years of growing, if you properly care for your plant regarding its soil, water requirement, correct pruning and fertilization.  Sometimes, you chilli plant may drop the leaves, or less fruit or no fruit. The falling of leaves on a chilli plant happens when the plant is under stress caused by overwatering, underwatering, pests, diseases, poor light and temperature conditions, etc.  If you choose the right growing conditions, they will produce chillies year after year.

Following is a detailed guide on caring a chilli pepper plant on containers and ground.

Choosing the Right Container

Selecting the appropriate container is crucial for the health and productivity of your chilli plants. Consider the following factors to choose the best pots for chilli plants:

Size of the Pot: Select a container that is at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and depth to provide enough space for the root system to develop.

Material of the Pot: You can use either terracotta or plastic pots. Terracotta offers good breathability but may dry out quickly, while plastic containers retain moisture for longer periods.

So the best pot for chilli plant is a terracotta or plastic pot of at least 12 inches size (5 gallon). The pot should have drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.

I have also used Styrofoam fruit containers successfully. I made several holes at its bottom to drain excess water.

Potting Mix For Chilli Plants

Use a high-quality well-draining soil rich in organic matter. I use a mixture of equal parts potting soil, compost or cow manure and river sand. The sand makes the soil free-draining and the manure makes it nutrition rich. You may add a slow-release organic fertilizer to provide essential nutrients to the plant.

Planting Chillies

Fill the pot with the prepared soil mixture as mentioned above. If using seeds, sow them about half cm deep in soil (how to grow chillies from seeds). If planting chilli seedlings, dig a small hole deep enough to accommodate the roots. Ensure that they are well-spaced to avoid overcrowding.

Water the pot well to settle the soil around the plants.

Light and Temperature Requirements

Chilli plants thrive in warm and sunny conditions. Chillies need full sun to grow well, your chillies will have the best flavour if growing in sun. Place the pot in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Although chilli can grow in part sun, but it can become a little leggy or stretched. In areas with limited natural light, you can use artificial grow lights to supplement sunlight during cloudy periods.

  1. Proper watering is crucial to ensure healthy growth and prevent issues like blossom-end rot.
  2. Chilli plants need a lot of water as they are very thirsty plants. During hot periods, you may need to water twice a day.
  3. Water the plants deeply when be top one inch of soil gets dry. Insert your finger in soil and test soil.
  4. Use room temperature water to prevent shocking the plants.
  5. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. The signs of overwatering chillies plants are wilted leaves, stunted growth, yellow leaves, curled or drooping leaves.
  6. leaves may fall from the plant due to over-watering or under-watering.

Support / Stake

Stake tall or heavy fruiting varieties to prevent touching branches and fruit on soil or branches from breaking under their weight.

Pruning Chilli Plants

Pruning for Winter: Chilli plants do not die after fruiting so you have to take proper care when the plants stop fruiting. Once the plant has become dormant, prune it hard before severe cold is expected. 

Pruning in Autumn: For maximum chilli yield, you should cut back fairly hard, leaving 3-4 main branches, leaving a nice open framework and remove all foliage. You can prune like this in autumn, when the the plant is dropping leaves.

The plant will begin to grow again in the next spring.

Pruning in Spring: Do not hard prune chilli plants in spring, which is the the start of the growing season. You can lightly tip prune new growth to encourage new growth and bushiness. This is more important if your plants are in a shady spot.

Prune excessive foliage to improve airflow and sunlight penetration.

Videos on How to grow Chillies

How to grow chillies from seeds youtube

Fertilizer for Chilli Plants

Cow manure or compost is the best fertilizer for growing chillies so is the tomato fertilizer. You can feed a NPK 5-10-10 fertilizer, spread the fertilizer along the rim of the pot and mix in soil, then water thoroughly.

I add some cow manure in the soil in late winter and feed a liquid fertilizer like Powerfeed or Miracle Grow every 2 weeks during the growing season to get lots of chillies.

Adding Epsom salt in soil or better as a foliar spray can solve some of the chilli plant problems. Its application improves plant's growth rate, making the plants healthier producing more flowers and more fruit and produce greener, larger and tastier fruits.

Pest and Disease Management

  1. To keep your chilli plants pest-free and healthy, you should inspect plants regularly for signs of pests such as aphids, whiteflies, or spider mites. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control infestations.
  2. Do not water on foliage to prevent fungal diseases. If necessary, treat fungal infections with a suitable fungicide.
  3. Prune excessive foliage to improve airflow and sunlight reach.
  4. Practice good garden hygiene to minimize diseases.
  5. You may remove lower leaves on chilli plants to keep them away from ground-dwelling pests like slugs and snails.
  6. Ensure adequate airflow to prevent disease and encourage pollination.

Care of Chilli Plants in pots in winter

  1. Chilli plants do not die in winter, they go dormant during winter and growth stops completely. As the plants are dormant, they need very less water. Water only once the top one inch of soil becomes dry.
  2. Use room temperature water to prevent shock to the plants.
  3. Put a layer of mulch like sugarcane, straw or wood chips to retain moisture and prevent weed growth.

Harvesting Chilli Peppers

Chilli can produce fruit in 60 days to 120 days, depending on the variety. 

Chillies can be harvested at various stages of maturity, depending on personal preference. It is mentioned that the plant start to produce chillies green in colour, but they will eventually change to red, orange or black, as they ripen depending on the variety.

If you have harvested chillies that are green with a slight tint of red, you can turn them red quite easily. Just leave them on a sunny windowsill or warm location indoors for a few days. They will ripen in the warmth and soon turn to red colour.

Generally, green chillies are milder and the change in colour indicates increase in the heat levels. Hot chillies generally get hotter as they ripen and change colour from green to orange, red, purple or black. You can harvest chillies when they reach their desired colour

Sometimes the chilli plant has flowers but no chillies. This is because of a lack of fertilization.

Why are chillies not spicy? If your chili plant produces too mild chilies and not getting hot, this may be due to incorrect soil, lack of nutrition, lack of sun light, its variety, etc.

How to Harvest Chilli Peppers

To harvest chillies, use a sharp pair of scissors to avoid damage to the plants and fruit. I generally bend the stem up of the hanging chillies and down of the straight up chillies.

Storing Chilli Peppers

The chilli plants grow huge amount of chillies if properly looked after. One chilli plant growing in a pot may produce about a hundred chillies or even more.

The question is how to keep chillies fresh for long time. Once harvested, learn how to preserve green chilli at home.

To keep green or red chillies fresh after picking without refrigeration, store them in an airtight container on a cool shelf. First wash green chilies, spread them on a paper towel to dry. Remove stems of the chillies. Then take a container and place a paper towel at the bottom and place chilies over it and cover them again by another paper towel. This way your chillies will remian good for up to a weeks.

Store your chillies in the vegetable drawer in your fridge to preserve them for up to two weeks in a paper bag.

Freezing is the best way to preserve fresh green or red chillies for a few weeks. But if you dry red chillies and grind them to make chilli powder, then you can keep it good for more than a year.

In conclusion, growing chillies in pots allows you to enjoy fresh, homegrown peppers regardless of your available space. By selecting the right container, providing proper care and maintenance, and addressing common issues, you can successfully cultivate a thriving chilli garden.