Even if you’re living in the pokiest of apartments, you can grow your own chili peppers year-round. Houseplants have made a huge comeback lately, and for good reason – clean air, the calming sense of a space well cared for. Why not bring some stylish greenery into your home and get a little extra spice?
This big guy is a three-year-old habanero chili that grew from a bug-chewed seedling to a robust plant with a trunk. If you keep a chili plant warm over winter, they can live for years. This can be a clever way to grow chilies in a cold climate – a sunny window will create a mini-greenhouse effect for your plant.
These five elements are what you’ll need for most houseplants, including chilies:
- Bight light and consistent, warm temperatures. Chili peppers like consistent warmth and hate sudden chills. If they’re indoors, they want a window with as much direct sun as possible.
- Food and water. Chilies are thirsty plants, but they’re also surprisingly resilient if you don’t feed or water them straight away. (They’ll also let you know when they’re lacking either, whether from wilted leaves or discoloration.) A water-retaining potting mix and slow-release fertilizer for potted plants will do them right.
- Comfortable pots. I learned the hard way that chilies don’t like to be under-potted or over-potted. They have dense, water-sucking rootballs that leave them thirsty if their pot is too small, and if the pot is too big, too much water will sit in the bottom and make the plant susceptible to root rot. If water seems to disappear as soon as it’s poured into the pot, it might be time to upgrade.
- The occasional hard trim. Chilies like to get a haircut every so often. You get more growth and more flowers. The best time to cut it back is in early spring, before its main flush of growth.
- Hand pollination. They’re self-pollinating, but lightly rubbing the flowers with a small paintbrush can help your chili set even more fruit.
Pests shouldn’t be an issue, but white oil can take care of any critters that show up.
Habaneros take a few weeks to ripen, but you can’t miss these ones when they turn orange. There are some gorgeous ornamental chilies out there as well, including the Numex Twilight cultivar which has red, yellow, purple and black chilies on the plant at the same time. It’s a chili rainbow!
Just keep your chili pepper topped up with food, light and water and it’s a joy to look after – take care of a chili and it’ll take care of you (with delicious peppers).