Chili plants (Capsicum spp.) are native to South America. They are perennial shrubs grown as annuals where the weather turns cold for the winter. The only areas in the United States where chili plants grow as perennials are Southern California, Florida, South Texas and southern Arizona. There are many varieties of chili peppers available. Chili plants produce fruit within 130 days. A dozen plants usually will provide all the peppers a family needs. Chilies are commonly grown for use in cooking, as they provide a good source of vitamins A and C.
Remove weeds, grass, sticks and rocks from a full-sun planting area, as light exposure is important to ripen the peppers and keep the soil warm. Loosen the soil with a shovel to the depth of 12 inches. Break up soil clumps with the edge of a garden hoe. Mix 4 inches of compost into the loose soil.
Dig a hole as deep as the chili plant seedling. Place the plant in the hole. Firm the soil around the chili plant. Transplant the chili plants when the daytime temperatures are at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperatures are at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Space the plants 14 to 18 inches apart.
Soak the area with water, focusing the hose on the soil. Keep the chili plant roots moist thereafter. Give the chili plants at least 2 inches of water per week. Water at least twice a week during hotter-than-usual weather.
Feed the chili plants with 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer two weeks after planting, a second time when the chili blossoms appear and again when the fruit sets. Follow the label instructions for dosage details.
Harvest the chili peppers at any size desired. They are edible at any stage of development. Cut the peppers from the plant with a sharp knife.