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How to grow chillies and the best varieties

Chilli peppers are great for adding heat to cooking and are easy to grow, even on a windowsill. Discover our best chilli varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Fruiting chilli plant

Chillies are not only tasty but easy to grow. They do well in pots so thrive on a sunny patio, balcony or windowsill.

How to grow chillies: month by month




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Best chilli varieties

Which members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you're not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for chillies

Variety name 
Overall ratingVigour 
Decorative rating 
Flavour Heat Pest & disease resistance 

USING THE TABLE Best Buys are in red. OVERALL SCORE The more stars, the better. Rating ignores price and is based on flavour 50%; vigour 20%; decorative rating 20%; pests and diseases 10%

How we test chillies

  1. We chose 16 varieties of chillies with either colourful fruits and attractive foliage or a reputation for flavour. These included some old favourites. 
  2. We then sowed the seeds in our greenhouse in early March. All the chillies were potted up into 9L pots in a Best Buy compost for containers to which we added some controlled-release fertiliser, and kept in a polytunnel. 
  3. They were fed weekly with tomato food as soon as they started flowering. 
  4. At the end of September, we assessed the plants for their ornamental value and how much ripe fruit they had produced. We also asked a small panel of tasters to assess the flavour and heat of the chillies, both dried and in a sauce.

When to sow

You can either buy plants from the garden centre in spring or you can sow seeds from mid-February  to March in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill. They need a minimum temperature of 18C to germinate. Starting off chillies early in the year will give them the opportunity to ripen their fruits over the summer.

Sow the seeds thinly in pots or trays of a Best Buy compost for sowing seeds. Cover with a light layer of fine compost or vermiculite. Keep the compost just moist; the seeds won't germinate if it dries out.

Carefully prick out the seedlings into individual pots using a Best Buy compost for raising young plants and pot on until they're in their final container, which needs to be 25-30cm wide. When potting on into the final container, use a Best Buy compost for containers and mix in a Best Buy controlled-release feed.

Caring for your plants

Where to grow

If you want to grow your chilli plants outside, wait until all risk of frost has passed in late May or early June  before moving to a spot outside in full sun. Chillies will be killed by frost if moved outdoors too early. Alternatively keep your plants on a sunny windowsill in the house.

Feeding and watering

Feed the plants weekly with a tomato fertiliser from when the first flowers appear and water whenever the compost is dry to the touch. This can be a twice a day in hot, dry weather.

Discover our Best Buy tomato feeds

Stake all but the shortest of varieties with a cane to support the stems under the weight of the developing fruit.

How and when to harvest

Harvest in: September-November

Fruit should ripen by September or October, depending on the summer. If your chillies are not ripening outside, bring the whole plant inside to a sunny windowsill to encourage the process.  Mice will happily eat chillies, as will birds, so you may need to protect your plants if they show any signs of being attacked. 

If you want chillies the following year, try bringing the plant inside as soon as frost threatens. You can continue harvesting the ripe chillies during the winter and lightly cut back the plant to encourage fresh growth in February.

Storing your harvest

Chillies are easy to dry or freeze fresh, so any surplus can be stored to be used later in the year. They can also be pickled in vinegar or added to oils for flavouring.

Common growing problems


These sap-sucking insects can weaken the plant and cause poor growth. Squash any you find or use a suitable organic insecticide.

Read more about aphids.