Chili peppers are a hot-season vegetable, herb and ornamental. They can be stuffed and served whole, chopped fine to add heat to a dish, or just grown for their display of golden, red or even purple fruits. Plant them in the garden or in a decorative pot. If the plants get a little stressed, don't worry too much. A little stress just makes the chilies hotter.
Prepare a full-sun spot in the garden with ample organic matter. A ratio of two parts finished compost to one part native soil spaded 8 to 10 inches deep will give the pepper plant a good start. The planting site should have decent drainage and protection from strong winds, which can break limbs or uproot pepper plants.
Plant seeds directly when soil has warmed to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, or start seeds indoors and transplant once the soil has warmed. Bury the seeds ¼ inch deep and cover with loose soil. Water deeply and evenly. Keep the soil moist.
Thin seedlings or transplant when the seedlings have two sets of leaves. Space approximately 2 feet apart, depending on the variety.
Mulch with 2 to 3 inches of coarse, finished compost to keep the thirsty pepper plants rooted in moist soil. The compost mulch also slowly leeches nutrients down into the soil.
Water chili peppers regularly throughout the growing season. Don't wait until the leaves start to droop: the pepper might drop its blossoms or fruit early.
Harvest chili peppers when they are fully mature for the hottest fruit. The peppers are still edible and tasty at any stage of growth. So if you prefer milder peppers, harvest early.
Cut the peppers off the plant, using scissors or a sharp knife. Pulling the peppers off may break entire limbs or uproot the plant.
Apply insecticidal soap spray to treat aphids and mites. Aphids are about the size of pinheads, and gather in colonies at leaf nodes and on blooms. Mites tend to hide under the leaves, but their damage shows up as dry leaves that often have yellow or brown pinprick spots all over them.
Fill a clean spray bottle with one teaspoon dish soap, one teaspoon vegetable oil and water. Swish the contents gently to mix. Spray the entire plant and surrounding soil until it is drenched. Repeat twice weekly until the infestation is gone.