Chiltepin FAQ

1.) Q: I have heard that chiltepin often refuses to germinate. Is that true?

A: Well, it’s not far from the truth. True wild chiltepin often does show seed dormancy; some people go so far as to try to replicate what normally breaks dormancy: the passage through a bird’s digestive tract. Usually, given enough warmth and time, viable seeds will germinate. The main problem seems to be that some web shops abuse the chiltepin’s difficult behavior, selling seeds which simply are no good.

2.) Q: Chiltepin come from desert regions. So, I guess they need at least as much sunlight as the other peppers, if not more…

A: Careful with that. There may not be anyone with a parasol nearby, but chiltepines grow under nurse plants. They do not do well with too much direct exposure to the sun.

3.) Q: Okay, I finally have a small plant – but it seems not to grow. What’s up with that?

A: At the start, chiltepines tend to grow rather slowly. After about a month, however, they should start to take off. If not, it’s either that the pot is too small, the conditions are not right (too much sun, too little humidity, too much water), or there is a more serious problem. However, also note that some do not grow much taller than 1 foot (though for most, 3-6 feet is more likely).

4.) F: Now what… I get chile pepper pods, but they have a conical shape. I thought chiltepin was spherical?

A: One of the strange issues… A chiltepin should be a chiltepin both botanically and by pod type. So, the flowers should have the typical form, and the pods should, too. However, some plants do look to be C. annuum var. glabriusculum, but fall into the pequin pod type (with more conical pods): Tarahumara Chiltepin, for example. When the pods become even larger than pea-sized and/or longer than double their width, it’s either something else entirely, or at least a result of cross-pollination.

5.) Q: More questions? I’d be happy to answer…

18 responses

  1. Robin Marstrand

    Very interesting separation of confusing issues – always the difficult in the world of chilies!
    I’m growing Habaneros in southern Portugal (Tavira area) for my son’s taco truck business in London. I would like to be successful with chiltepins!!
    Thanks for being available, Robin Marstrand.

  2. Hi!

    Great information! It sounds like you really know what you’re talking about. We’ve been trying to grow Chiltepin in southern Portugal. The climate – I think – Is perfect for these but nothing has sprouted after 8 weeks in good soil. We have around 40 seeds planted. We grow lots of other types and they all do just fine. So we are thinking they are bad seeds. Do you know an outlet that would sell us more predictably good seeds?

    Please let me know Thanks!


  3. Gerald

    I couldn’t guarantee that they haven’t been cross-pollinated, but you have me thinking of offering some myself. Have some nice ones ripening in the garden now, small as my former collection has become

  4. Thanks Gerald!

    I’ve managed to find what seems to be a good supplier. Seeds fresh from most recent crop 2018. You may have come across “Wayland Chilies” seems like a good company. We’ll let you know the outcome.

    Best regards


  5. Gerald

    Do you also end up with errors (images not loading) on their website? Something seems odd there, but maybe just with what I found of them (given that you have the impression of them looking like a good company)

  6. Jacqueline

    Hello! I’m growing a chiltepin from a seed. It’s been 7 months but no flower. What’s the normal time for a flower to come? Thanks!

  7. Gerald

    Oh sheesh, completely forgot your question :(

    It’s… very strange. I want to say that, as long as the plant is developed well enough, it will flower. Sooner than 7 months. And actually, I’ve seen plants that weren’t developed well at all but still bloomed.

    Typically, with all chile peppers, wherever the plant makes two branches, it also makes a flower. Very small buds of them at the beginning, particularly with chiltepin, but still. I could only imagine that it drops those rather than letting them fully develop. Perhaps because of too little water (not the usual with most home gardeners), perhaps because it gets too much nitrogen…

  8. Jacqueline

    Thank you so much for getting back to me! I appreciate it. This plant has been growing since September and so it is still not flowering. I am feeling a sense of hope from your response, however, because you wrote that wherever the plant branches off into two it will flower–and now I see it has begun to branch off into two parts. Maybe soon I will see some flowers. We really would like some of the peppers soon, but love our plant! I will keep hope! Thank you again for your comment and expertise. We really do appreciate it!

  9. Gerald

    Since September… Are you on the Southern hemisphere? If not, if it started growing in the fall, overwintered, I’m not too surprised. Should be getting somewhere, though :)

  10. Jacqueline

    We are in New York. Could that be why?

  11. Gerald

    Started in September, growing over the winter, it’s normal for the plant to be behind. Should see a growth spurt as temps get warmer!

  12. Anthony R Young

    I have a chiltepin plant I purchased locally here in coastal texas. It is in a pot, with miracle grow potting soil meant for flowers. I also have a tabasco, jalapeno, and several tomato plants that seem to be doing well. The chiltepin plant has grown kind of slowly, and has allot of yellowed leaves that seem to be mostly near the top. I added some 10 10 10 fertilizer to all mixed about half and half with epsom salt. The chiltepin is the only one that didn’t seem to benefit. It’s only been a few days though. It’ll be may first soon, so still early in the season. I’ll see if I can add a picture.

  13. Anthony R Young

    I’m a novice, so any help is appreciated.

  14. Gerald

    Honestly, my main thought is that you mean too well with it… It’s a plant that grows in pretty tough conditions, so might not handle overly-fertile conditions so well.

  15. Patience!!! They take twice as long (and more) to germinate. Several seeds in a circle of 15cm. diameter. Keep temp at 20°C or a little above. Keep only slightly moistened. Never soak the soil!!
    Removal for transplanting is critical!!
    Another approach is to use small pots (c. 6cms. diam). These pots can be planted on a much larger pot (e.g.. > 25cms.). Temp will be as in the wild; more stable, day and night.
    When sprouted and grown to about 15cms. remove gently and replant in similar soil ‘environment’. (Stability is the thing!).
    She grown this latter method, the roots will not be hurt on removal and they will be neatlty formed in the form of the little pot!
    Good luck and patience as they live in harsh circumstances in the Sonora forests.
    Robin Marstrand, Algarve, Portugal (where O grow chilies)

  16. Wilfredo Gonzalez


  17. Gerald

    Might help if you said where you’re located!

  18. I’d like to add that the technique mentioned in my last post was badly written and written too quickly.
    So: my best technique is to use the 6cm. plastic pots with a ‘humble’ soil, no fertilizer, nothing like potting compost, just a very ‘normal’ soil with a slightly sandy texture and a few 5 million year old stones (mineral content close to their natural environment!).
    If you think about it, plants have been around for millions of years and they know best! So keep it simple and natural.
    1 – Stand pots in a small plastic supermarket product tray and add water to a depth of c.5 to .75 cms.;
    2 – with tweezers, press gently into moist soil, 3 seeds at a depth of 2.5 times seed diameter into a 1″ diameter circle;
    3 – Place tray in slightly shaded location – no direct sun (forest floor, situation);
    Temperature should not be allowed to rise above c. 25 degrees C and not fall much below about 18C.
    4 – Wait for about two months! Keep water level such that the soil ‘looks’ moist on the surface. The soil acts like a wick and therfore, it is not necessary (or shouldn’t be necessary if soil is as described!) to water from above. BUT! If you feel that when sewing, that the soils too crispy dry on the surface, a light spray will be appropriate!!
    5 – When one or more small leaflet shoots begin to appear and unfold, prepare a larger pot – 20cms plus in diameter for convenience and a good future for your treasured plants – dig, say three holes that are to receive the pots upto the soil level IN the little pots, and place the pots in the holes, padding soil around them.
    6 – Water the surrounding soil only!! The pots will soak it up from the holes in the bottom of each little pot (if you have chosen the correct soil mixture!) Thereafter, keep the pots in a similarly shaded environment with similar temperatures.
    NB: This requires knowledge of your specific region and climate Wher you live!!! If you calculate roughly, the time when you start this process, you will ensure best results. That is; your plants will become large enough for the final step in time with the climate around them, ensuring the best future for them;
    7 – The final stage is not truly the final stage but an important interim stage! When the plantlets are around 5cms. tall, remove the pots and gently ease out the solid mass with root-system visible (we hope) and place them carefully in the remaining holes.
    This requires that the soil is firm at this point and not soaking wet, of course. Otherwise, everying will collapse into a difficult muddy mess!!
    8 – Three is an optimum number. There will be substantial and normal difference in rate and health of growth – nature! When the difference in height and health becomes very noticeable – around a height of 20cms approximately, remove weaker plants. Sad! Don’t worry too much about the fact that the remaining plant is off centre. And avoid uprooting to move it. Alternatively, think about and prepare for a future in a much larger pot, say a 20ltr. pot with holes in bottom and similar soil.
    9 – if you live in a Mediterranean climate with maximum temperatures upto a max of UNDER 40C, your Chiltepínes will do best in the full sun!!! The Sonora desert temperatures can rise to much over 40 and the plants wouldn’t survive. Imagine! Birds don’t care where they shit and millions of seeds have been shed in all the places you can imagine. Those that have survived as plants are the lucky ones, hence the species!
    Based on the above, choose your environments and your timing!

    I hope this helps. Robin Marstrand, Algarve(!)

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