Hot Peppers

Anyone interested in growing hot chillies? I live on a small farm in Japan and am considering growing a variety of chillies for the local market. The climate I understand is ideal with long hot summers of plus 30c. 

I have zero experience in farming. Chillies are simply something that interests me and don't seem to be grown locally.




  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    Your climate does sound ideal. I'm surprised chillies aren't grown locally because there are quite a few native Japanese chillies.

  • The standard green/red bell peppers are (called ???????????? - pman) in Japanese. But not habaneros and so on. I've not come across any in this area.

  • First of all,What are you doing in japan?, secondly do you speak japanese?.If you want to know about chillies,i would contact Stacey Docherty she is very well gened up on chillies.

  • 1st - I recently emigrated, my wife and kids are Japanese citizens 

    2nd - a bit, studying hard at the Japanese language proficiency test.


    I don't know her? I joined the forum a while ago but only came active today.

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    Anyway, Japaholic, growing chillies isn't hard. They're grown identically to tomatoes. I don't how much you know about growing chillies but I can give you a quick guide.

    First, you're going to have source seed for the varieties you want to grow. You might need to try the internet.

    Chillies are usually slow to germinate and take a while to develop to a size ready to plant out either in the ground or in containers. Longer than tomatoes. With toms, you usually allow about 8 weeks from sowing to planting out. Chillies can easily take 12 weeks.

    I don't know exactly when it warms up for you, but count back 10-12 weeks from when you get consistent daytime temps in the low-20sC and overnight temps in the teens to calculate a sowing date.

    Sow the seeds in damp (not wet) potting mix. You can use any sort of shallow container. I use the small meat or veg trays from the supermarket with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. Sow them shallowly, no deeper than the size of the seed itself. Push them gently into the mix, sprinkle some mix lightly on top if you can still see them.

    Put the container into a plastic bag but leave the mouth of the bag open. You're creating a mini-greenhouse.

    For germination, the seeds need temps in the low- to mid-20s, preferably from beneath. You can sit the container on a heater, hot water service, anything that will generate reasonable warmth from beneath. Condensation inside the bag should mean you don't need to moisten the mix. If it starts to dry out, though, mist the surface lightly with some water from a spray bottle just to dampen it. They don't need light at this stage.

    When the seeds germinate - some will take longer than others - take them out of the plastic bag. Now they need as much light as possible as well as warmth, though not as much warmth as they needed to germinate. High teens will do. Bright sunlight is preferable - eg, inside on a sunny window sill - but artificial light will also suffice. I sometimes put mine under a couple of desk lamps with the lights an inch and a half above the seedlings. As the seedlings grow, I raise the lights accordingly.

    The first "leaves" you'll see aren't real leaves. They're cotyledons. They nourish the seedling. A week or 10 days later, you'll see the first real leaves. When you've got at least two real leaves, you can give the seedlings their first transplant.

    Fill 3" pots with potting mix. Water the mix and let it drain thoroughly to the point where it is still damp but not wet. Use a pencil or similar to drill a hole in the mix. Not to the bottom of the pot, deep enough to accommodate the seedling's roots and some of the stem.

    Use something fine, with a point - I use a 3" nail - to gently prise each seedling from its home mix. You just have to be careful not to damage the roots. Lower the seedling into the hole so that the roots and about a third of the stem are underground. Squeeze the pot and tamp the mix around the seedling to make sure it's well bedded in. Repeat the process, one seedling per pot.

    Now, again, it's a matter of much light as possible for as long as possible each day. When my outside temps are still in single figures but there's plenty of sunlight, I put mine outside on the terrace in a crate wrapped in clear bubble wrap. The bubble wrap uses the sunlight to trap enough warmth inside. But the bright sunlight is the key. I bring them inside overnight.

    When the outside temps get into at least double figures, I put them outside without the bubble wrap, bringing them inside again when it cools down at night. When the overnight temps reach double figures, they stay out all night.

    When the plants are 6-8" tall, they're ready to plant out wherever you intend growing them. Plant them at least 3' apart, more if you have the space. All they need is as much sunlight and warmth as possible.


  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    Stupid software. Swallowed the last bit of my post. In addition to the above:

    As a general growing tip, like tomatoes, chillies aren't "hungry" plants. They don't need a lot of fertiliser. Planted in the ground, feed them once a couple of weeks after planting out, then a couple more times during the growing season. You'd use a dedicated commercial tomato fertiliser. If you can't get your hands on one, a dedicated rose fertiliser will do the job, too.

    Don't overwater either, even in hot weather. Like toms, chillies are best left to their own devices. They thrive on "controlled neglect".

    Good luck!

  • Thank you for that, it's exactly why I joined this forum.

    in Japan in July when it was 35c + during the day and 28c at night and because I had lots of seed I germinated some orange habanero. FRom ten seeds eight germinated within days. Four weeks later they are healthy little plants.

    i know it's a little later but I was only testing the water.

    i have a good collection of seeds of different varieties all sourced from DEFRA suppliers.

    come spring I'm going to germinate in February and plant out in April having read your advice.

    whats the best way to prevent cross pollination  with multiple varieties?

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  • Japaholic..... Wow what a project ...... Slightly jealous.... Italophile I second all your advice.... Grow small the first year find out what the local market wants too hot may not work.... Cross pollination is an issue for a small farm. To keep your seeds true you would need to keep te chillies separate and probably in poly tunnels ensuring that no bees get into tunnels. What varieties are you planning on growing?

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    That's about when I start my tomato and chilli seeds, Japaholic. BTW, if you want to grow tomatoes as well you follow exactly the same procedure as above. There's one minor but important difference which I'll explain if you're interested.

    Cross-pollination is only a problem if you plan to save seeds from chillies to grow the next season. And it's only worthwhile saving seeds from heirloom (pure) varieties. Seeds saved from hybrid varieties won't grow true to the original. Ditto tomatoes. Do you plan to save seeds? If so, I can tell you how.

    If not, don't worry about cross-pollination. It has absolutely no effect on the chilli itself - inside or out - in terms of culinary use. It only affects the seeds inside in terms of the next generation.

  • Italophile..... I would love to know what you suggest. I always use last years seeds and although I do not farm I have a lot of chillies everywhere in my garden( bumper Harvest this year!) and would love to know your solution to x pollination. Although my apache x purple riot is very interesting this year! .... Japaholic just one thing square pots.... Don't know why or the science behind it but chillies in square pots for me always do better than those in round pots. I have been informed its something to do with air and roots but don't know if that's true.... Maybe it's just a foible but I always grow mine in square pots now... Some hotter varieties may need a heated propagater especially if you are growing on a large scale

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    Stacey, if you've got insects around, and plants in close proximity, the odds of cross-pollination are high. The same applies to chillies and toms.

    The only way to guarantee purity of heirloom (pure) seed is to "bag" the flowers prior to them opening. Same procedure with both chillies and toms.

    You can make your own bags out of tulle or fine curtain netting with a sewn-in drawstring. My wife used to for me. These days I just cut the foot ends out of those short stocking things and use them. Just make sure the stocking is as light a colour as possible.

    When a flower appears, but before it opens, slip the bag over the flower and tie it securely but not too tightly. Let the flower open first and it's vulnerable to insects. Here's a bag in place on a Cherokee Purple tomato plant that I'm using for saving seeds. In this case, I've bagged a cluster of flowers:



    Just keep checking inside the bag to see whether fruit has set. As soon as the fruit has set you can remove the bag. There's no more possibility of cross-pollination. If fruit doesn't set for whatever reason, move the bag on to another flower. But don't move the bag between varieties for obvious reasons.

    Make sure you identify the fruit that you know is pure. As the plant grows, the pure fruit will change position and it's too easy to forget which one you bagged. I tie something next to the pure fruit to identify it as pure.



    One thing. Hotter varieties of chillies don't need any different treatment to mild or even sweet varieties. The heat is in the variety's genes.


  • Thanks.... I have a morich naga that won't flower this year and if it does (unless inside) won't produce fruit as their fruiting period is longer but would like to keep seeds... Very very helpful thank you

  • At the moment I am planning on growing a variety of habanero chillies as I already have a client who wants to buy them. They run a Mexican restaurant and can only source Jalapeño locally. I am going to try one or two super hot ones as the client wants them for challenge dishes. For example if you can eat the Bhut Jolokia chilli con carnie you get it free.

    i will be using a heated propogator to germinate seeds indoors. Spring comes quick in Japan and is as hot as a UK summer in early April so I want to be ready to plant out by then.

    following the above advice I may not bother about cross pollination as I can easily source more pure seed online.

    There is a guy locally who has lots of permanent poly tunnels on his farm, depending on my success (or lack of!) next year I may approach him to use a bit of space.

    I may try bagging some flowers. If bagged do I have to pollinate them myself Or will they self pollinate?

    great advice, thank you very much

  • Cherry bombs are a good one for restraunts they look pretty have a bit of heat and are thick skinned for roasting Filled with cream cheese..... I have a morich naga ATM supposed to be the hottest in the world it superceded the Dorset naga... If it ever comes to anything I will contact you and send you some seeds!!

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    Sounds like you're well set up, Japaholic. Chillies, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating but they can sometimes need a bit of assistance.

    Outdoors, foraging insects poking around in the flowers can help trigger the internal mechanics that cause pollination. Bagged, the flowers won't get the insect help. You can achieve the same thing by giving the flower a light flick with your fingers. With my toms, I slip the bag off every couple of days, check for fruit, and give the flowers a flick if there isn't any.

    Growing in poly tunnels can also inhibit insect access so the finger flick's a good idea, too.

    If you're short on insect life, you can apply the finger flick across the entire crop. I inspect my toms every day and give 'em a flick for luck.

    What sort of summer high temps do you get? Prolonged bouts of very hot weather can and will work against pollination.

  • Well, this summer it has been (and remember I've only been here about 5 weeks) very hot daily. Over 35c daily and lots of strong sun. Only drops to 28c at night.

    however, the last couple of days it's been cooler due to a typhoon coming through. It's 25 today and cloudy which is the coolest it's been since we arrived. 

    There are lots of insects so we don't have to worry about that. Some areas even eat them, I've tried grasshopper and water flea lava so far.

    Great advice keep it coming

    Many thanks

  • japaholic fab venture you are embarking on... Lol take a look at south devon chilli farm website see what passion like yours can turn into. The owner of the farm started in a very similar way to you they are now so diverse it's amazing..... You could even look at smoking your chillies I know that over here smoked chipotle chillies fetch a pretty penny... And I have a fab fab recepie for chipotle sauce if you ever want to diversify!!!

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647

    Japaholic, with those temps you might have some trouble with fruit setting, particularly if there is humidity too. Here in Central Italy I get temps into the 40s in summer and, if prolonged, the flowers just fry on the plant.

    Not much to be done about it except, once you're more familiar with the weather patterns, plant to try to avoid the worst of the heat. Eg, plant out as early as possible to get in before the worst of the heat, and, if you get good warm autumns, think about planting some later to grow through the autumn.

    That's what I used to do in Sydney with tomato varieties - like Brandywine Sudduth - that just wouldn't set fruit in hot, humid weather. Perfect for autumn, though.

  • Wise words, I may go for an early and a late setting. Before this year I last visited Japan in November 2010. Then we were having temps of 20-25 during the day and still 10-15 at night.

    i have some habanero on the go now and can observe how they grow into this autumn, have to say though they are proper shooting up at the moment. I don't know if they'll set any fruit this year, at the speed they're growing I'm hoping so

     In the UK I was a garden potterer! But here I have the opportunity to do much more so I expect a sharp learning curve. I also expect some success and a few disasters!

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