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Potting On Chillies

The recent spell of warm weather has brought with it a spurt of fast growth from the chilli plants. Every year when spring arrives there is a flurry of activity as the batches of seeds i sowed over the last few weeks need re-potting.

When to Re-pot Pepper Plants

A question we get asked a lot is ‘When to re-pot chilli plants’? As a general rule i re-pot my peppers when the roots are showing at the bottom of the pots, as you can see below with one of my Apache plants.

Ready to be repotted

It’s worth remembering not too pot your plants on to too big pots. Doing so may mean the plant concentrates its efforts on growing the roots system at the expense of foliage. To ensure consistent growth of both roots and foliage it is best to re-pot often into slightly larger sized pots until you reach the desired pot size later in the summer.

In addition if the pots are too big for the root system of the plant then the roots are not able to use up all of the moisture you add every time you water the plant because the roots simply can’t reach the water in the edges and bottom of the pot. This can mean the roots end up sitting surrounded by sodden wet compost which encourages fungus and rot, definitely not what you want.

Pricking out seedlings

I’ve had a large batch of Cayenne pepper seedlings inside my lightbox for the last couple of weeks. This has given them a great boost and they have been overdue to be pricked out for a while.

It can be a bit tricky to get tender young seedlings out of seed cells or trays without damaging them. However if you prepare ahead you can minimize any damage to the seedlings.

First of all water the tray about half an hour beforehand. Doing so will make it much easier to remove the root ball with the soil still attached which will minimize an damage. While you’re waiting for for the compost to dry a little prepare your potting on compost mix. Here is the recipe I use for potting my chillies.

Leggy Chilli Seedlings

When selecting the right sized pot think about how big your seedlings are and how deep you want to pot them. My cayenne seedlings (see above) here were looking a bit leggy so i chose a slightly deeper pot (i used old drinking cups with drainage holes cut in the bottom) so i could re-pot them at a deeper level than before. When you do so the plant will sprout more roots from the part of the stem that is buried beneath the surface. Once you know how deep you’ll be planting your seedlings partially fill your pots with compost mix.

After watering and leaving for thirty minutes i use a large lolly stick (a small teaspoon would do the job) to gently loosen the compost around the edges of the cells. Once I’ve done all four sides with one hand i’ll gently take hold of a leave while with the other I’ll scoop out the root ball from the tray with the lolly stick. Be careful and aim to keep as much compost as possible on the root ball to minimize any damage.

Pricked Out Cayenne Seedling

After placing gently in the new pot and lightly filling with the potting medium i’ll very gently firm down the compost. I’ll then give the repotted plants a light watering (using a watering can with a fine rose) to help bed the compost around the roots.

Repotted Cayenne

6 comments… add one
  • richard kirchel January 14, 2012, 12:06 am

    Have to say what a great and especially informative website. Im completely new to this but am now fascinated with the prospect of growing my own chillies. i recently bought some hot cayenne seeds which have are currently germinating What other tpes would you recommend to me to sow?. I live in the south of England but my garden isnt south facing but still gets quite good light. I like hot chillis but want ones that are good for beginners and suited for Uk weather. Thank you and keep up the good work

    • The Chilli King January 14, 2012, 11:38 am

      richard – Jalapeno are very easy to grow, and useful in the kitchen. Also try apache which are a quick growing nice compact plant which produces lots of small hot fruit. This year i’m trying ring of fire which are like a cayenne but hotter and are supposed to be easy. You could try a habanero, which are much hotter but produce wonderful flavour.

  • Peggy Cairnes November 13, 2011, 1:36 pm

    Hy, I live in Spain and have a terrible time trying to grow chillies. I don’t understand because it is nearly impossible to grow anything outside here because the sun is so strong and things tend to burn and die. What do you suggest I do, I really need to learn because I am so interested in growing my own.

    Desparate Peggy

    • The Chilli King November 15, 2011, 10:09 am

      Peggy – What has been the issue? If they are drying out too much maybe try mulching around the base of the plants to prevent them drying out too much. If you are more specific about the problem maybe I can help.

  • Steve April 16, 2011, 9:25 am

    I’m in my first year of chilli growing and have good variety of chillis on the go. Is it advisable to pinch the tops out or to just let them be?

    • The Chilli King April 18, 2011, 8:44 am

      Steve – This can be a contentious issue. If the plants are looking a bit leggy (tall and thin due to lack of light) then i’ll pinch out the tops. If they look reasonably healthy however i’d just let them get on with it! Good luck.

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