Growing Chiltepines

In different places, especially online, it is said that the chiltepin were almost impossible to grow. Well, it’s bull.

They are usually wild peppers or brought into cultivation rather recently, so there are some things one should know and consider.

Just trying to grow them like any other chile pepper sometimes does cause some problems.

For the most part, though, they can be started like other chilli. To see how I do that, check out this new post on chiltepin seeds and sowing!

Germination

First of all, Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum oftentimes has one of the traits of wild chile peppers: seed dormancy.

Due to that, it is a bit more difficult to get chiltepin seeds to germinate, and germination is less certain.

The most important factors are patience and warmth.

There are many stories of how seed dormancy is broken by passage through a bird’s digestive tract, and one can experiment in many ways (some people go so far as to feed chiltepines to chicken…).

In my experience, if the seeds are good, they will usually germinate, as long as they are given a warm-enough place and enough time (admittedly, this included one batch I had left outside in the backyard from spring to summer, sitting in the sun, rarely getting water again, believing it must be dead seeds – until they sprouted like weeds).

Seeds which do not germinate at all are probably duds (which seems to happen a lot with web shops abusing the chiltepines’ status as “difficult to grow” to sell seeds which are no good – and probably would not be chiltepin but some ornamental type).

Here, too, following up on the post on seeding above, I have added a new post discussing germination conditions and rates I have seen.

Growing

After germination, chiltepin still needs time to get going, and certain conditions: rather hot, preferably with slightly elevated humidity, with lots of sun, but not too much direct exposure. Growing in a greenhouse or under netting works well.

When conditions are right, they grow very quickly. It is not unusual to see chiltepin plants growing to 1 m (3 feet) of height in a few weeks, 6 feet in a few months.

Branching and Pruning

Branching tends to start rather late, however. So, to keep the plants to manageable height, it may be advisable to cut the main growth at some point.

Cutting seems to be handled rather well in general. One does need to know, however, that the chiltepines naturally grow long, arching branches (imagine that they would grow below – and into – nurse plants providing shade and support).

Flowers are produced at the branching points, so it is advisable not to cut branches too early.

Overwintering

A part of why chiltepin can handle cutting is because they can also freeze back slightly.

I.e., cold temperatures that kill off only the branches but do not affect the main stem lead the chiltepines to regenerate from buds on the stem.

Of course, as with all chile peppers, this really only applies to cold spells, and not too cold ones at that!

In regions which have (soil) frost, chiltepin needs to be overwintered indoors. Places such as a garage with low temperatures but not freezing ones are best; high temperatures cause the plant to just want to continue growing.

That will cause issues, either simply because there is too little light or (if not, and) because pests will get them.

We will get to more updated posts and videos on all of that in the course of this year (2020), too!

9 thoughts on “Growing Chiltepines

  1. Anonymous says:

    .. soo im leaving this comment for a name, for my science fair project.. please?

  2. My name? Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

  3. Hi there Gerald

    I’m attempting to grow some Chiltelpins in the UK.
    I had issues germinating them back at the start of the year – but as you said Heat & Patience paid off, and I now have x3 plants.

    Inteested in what you said re overwintering – ie. that is one of the easiest to overwinter and keep for years :)
    I’m hoping my shed will have enough light. As I have x3 plants I’ll try them in various locations mand see what works best.

    I saw you grew several types. And I realised I have no idea what mine are. Can you advise which is the most common?
    From your comments below I think I may have to wait to see the pods LOL:

    Sonoran Chiltepin (red)
    Sonoran Chiltepin amarillo (yellow-ripening pods)
    Sonoran Chiltepin cappuccino (brown-ripening pods)

    Also interested you have gron Aji Charapita. I also have x2 of these.
    They seem to be flowering ahead of the Chiltepins – I’m guessing because the germinated earlier with less hassle. Did you have any issues growing these – with them being a Chinense variety?

    Thanks for your site :)

    Andy

  4. Well, the most common is just called chiltepin, oftentimes Sonoran chiltepin. They are a great example of how one can’t really say anything much about a chilli unless one knows where exactly it came from right from the get-go. If you get seeds from Native Seeds/Search or a gene bank (well, germplasm repository), they’ll typically tell the exact “accession”… and with a lot of chilli, that’s not exact at all.

    It’s a story of its own, and one that gets real complicated real quick ;)

    Overwintering, chiltepin often (usually, even) lose their leaves, anyways. They just mustn’t freeze through (or, perhaps, dry out completely… or rot because of too much moisture).

    Charapita, hmm. Yeah, no, they tend to be somewhat easy, certainly for C. chinense. Just need enough warmth and humidity, as per the usual for those.

  5. Do you know of anybody growing these in hydroponics?
    I live in an area with very hard winters, and would like to save my plant.

    I’ll probably try a stem cutting propagation or two in hydro, and the main plant either in a grow tent in soil or maybe also in hydro.
    I feel like it’s worth a shot, because otherwise it’d die in the winter anyways.

    How easy is it to propagate via stem cutting?

  6. I know of people growing chiles in hydroponics, but never dared try it myself (and don’t think they had chiltepin, though it wouldn’t entirely surprise me).

    Can’t speak to stem cuttings much, either; it should work alright, though, actually.

    I *am* trying some growing medium this year which is mainly like those used in hydroponics. I was always worried about the plants not liking waterlogged soils, expecting that this meant that they wouldn’t do well with hydroponics, but that substrate seems to work well, at least!

  7. I have been trying to germinate chiltepin off and on for a few years. What soil type and soil pH do they need? I imagine well drained desert soils do not have a lot of organic content, but are they lime-rich? Many thanks.

  8. Mine certainly is. As long as the soil isn’t truly acidic (so, peat pots aren’t recommendable), it shouldn’t really be an issue. As I mentioned (here or someplace), I blame poor germination on bad seeds, not the chiltepin itself, typically (although I have had some which really did take months to germinate, but that was the exception)

  9. morning glory freak says:

    Well you are certainly correct about germination – it is not difficult at all if you have good seed. I tried before – from a bad seed source – and got nothing. This time I got lucky and the bleached ones (5 min in diluted bleach) sprouted one day quicker – that’s all – and I got 90% germination. Germination occured on day 6 and 7.
    Used a reptile heat mat set on 100 percent and red plastic cups on a metal tray (conducts heat well). Watered with warmish water gently once a day – 3 seeds per cup and most had 3 seeds come up.

    I’m also wanting to overwinter in my garage – not sure how that will go but we get quite a few 20 degree days in mid winter – or try a cheapo grow lamp in the bathroom… I wonder which idea is better? I wouldn’t be surprised if our garage gets near freezing in the winter – no insulation.

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