Pretty enough to decorate any sunny spot in the home, chili pepper plants (Capsicum annuum) are also useful, providing a crop of spicy chilies in late summer and fall. The glossy red fruits are so attractive, growing sites should be out of reach of inquisitive little fingers, and warm, because chili plants are susceptible to cold, growing best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Mini chili peppers suit indoor growing, and can even overwinter, providing a practical, close-up example to children about where food comes from.
1 Feed the chili plant with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as tomato feed. Dilute at a rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, or according to the manufacturer's instructions, and apply every two weeks from July through September.
2 Water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch during the growing season. Use a fine-rose watering can and stop watering as soon as water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Tip excess water out of the pot tray so that the plant isn't sitting in water.
3 Check the undersides of leaves and shoot tips regularly for pests such as aphids, greenfly and whitefly, which are tiny, green or white sap-sucking insects that live in clusters. Dilute 2 tablespoons of biodegradable dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water, and spray the first sign of attack. Repeat if pests return.
4 Pick all remaining fruits when growth slows down in December and January, and reduce watering until the top of the soil is completely dry. Prune all shoots back so that only three or four main branches remain on the plant. Place the chili plant in a cool, bright area of the house, such as a conservatory or enclosed porch, where the temperature is between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Water only if the remaining leaves start to wilt. Increase watering when new leaves appear in spring, and move into a warmer area of the house, such as a kitchen window.
5 Repot when when the plant's roots fill the pot, and the plant is actively growing, between spring and late summer. Use a pot about 1 inch wider than the current one, with drainage holes, and general purpose potting soil. Pour a 1/2-inch layer of potting soil into the new pot, or whatever depth is needed to stand the plant at the same depth as in the original pot. Remove the plant from its old pot, place it in the new one and fill in the gaps around the edges with potting soil. Water and allow to drain.
Items you will need
- Hand sprayer
- Biodegradeable dishwashing liquid
- Pruning shears
- General purpose potting soil
- Chili fruits are ready for picking when they're firm and green, usually by August. Ripe chilies turn red or another color, such as orange, yellow, chocolate, lilac or purple.
- Don't allow children to harvest chilies from your plant, and wash your hands after picking them yourself. Chili juice is extremely irritating if accidentally rubbed into the eyes.
- Avoid overwatering chili plants because this kills their roots.
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