How to Grow Chiltepin Peppers – A Complete Growing Guide


The Chiltepin pepper is probably not a pepper you will find at your local grocery or supermarket. They are tiny wild peppers native to the southeastern United States, averaging 1/3-inch long. Don’t let their size fool you though; they measure an average heat of 75,000 Scoville heat units—at least eight times hotter than a Jalapeño pepper! They can be a little difficult to grow, but once started, they grow quickly.

Chiltepin peppers need a careful start. Unlike other plants, you can’t just plop in a seed and hope for the best. There is a trick to making sure the seeds will germinate. They need about 100 days to fruit so make sure you plan accordingly.  Read on to get a head start on your Chiltepin pepper growing adventure!

Photo of red dried Chiltepin peppers next to a large wooden spoon
Photo by Carolina Arroyo

Pretreat Chiltepin Pepper Seeds to Help with Germination

First off, you will need to be sure the Chiltepin pepper seed will germinate. This can be a tricky process due to seed dormancy, which is common in wild chili peppers. This causes the seed to have a tough outer shell.

It is recommended that you pretreat Chiltepin pepper seeds to ensure they germinate. To do this, soak the seeds in water overnight to weaken the outer shell.  You can have mixed results if you choose not to do this step.

Start Chiltepin Pepper Seeds Early and Indoors

You will want to start the seeds off early in spring to give them plenty of time to grow and mature after they germinate.

  • Start off your seeds indoors in a warm environment
  • Cover each seed with about ¼ inch of loamy soil
  • Be sure to keep it in a bright, sunny area
  • Always keep the growing medium moist
  • Seeds will germinate in 7 to 21 days

If the seeds take too long to germinate, you may have dud seeds. This is why you should always plant more than you think you will need. Some just won’t make the cut.

Transplanting Your Chiltepin Seedlings

After the seed has germinated, it will still need some time before you can plant them in the ground. Hot and humid conditions like that of a greenhouse are ideal.

After a few days, you can then move the plant outside to your preferred location.

  • Air temperature: Make sure there is no threat of frost when you move your Chiltepin pepper plant outside.
  • Soil temperature: The soil temperature will need to be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) to keep the plant growing strong.
  • Drainage: Make sure you use a well-draining, loamy soil as the plant can be prone to fungal infection if too much water accumulates.
  • Spacing: Space the plants 2 to 3 feet apart.
  • Watering: Water to about 2 inches of depth for the first month. After that, you can water half as much.

Chiltepin peppers will grow quickly once they get started. They can reach three feet in a few weeks and double in size within a couple of months.

Caring for a Transplanted Chiltepin Pepper Plant

Once the seed has sprouted, you can move the plant to its permanent home. This can be out in your garden or in a container. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the plants have 18 to 24 inches of space between them
  • Your plant should be kept in a location with full sun.
  • Water weekly, or as needed – use your finger to see if the soil is moist and only water when it feels dry
  • Prune the bush regularly if you see any yellow leaves

One thing to keep in mind if you use a container is to be sure it is at least 12 inches deep. The plants need a lot of space to grow.

Photo of two red ripe Chiltepin peppers growing on a plant
Photo by Ivandr90

How is Growing Chiltepin Peppers Different from Other Chili Peppers?

Growing Chiltepin peppers is similar to growing other chili peppers. In fact, some experts believe the Chiltepin might be the “original” pepper plant that all other pepper plants have evolved from, as it has been around for over 10,000 years.

As mentioned above, the most significant difference in growing a Chiltepin pepper is getting beyond that tough outer hull to get the seed to germinate. So, pretreating the seeds is something many growers consider a must.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

Another difference in growing a Chiltepin pepper plant is the size of the plant you’ll end up with. Chiltepin pepper plants are on the tall end of the spectrum, averaging about three feet tall. 

Which Environments do Chiltepin Peppers Grow Best?

Chiltepin peppers are native to southwest U.S. and northern Mexico. With that in mind, the best place to grow them is in a hot and dry climate where the summer is long. Some tips about the best growing environment for Chiltepin pepper plants include:

  • Don’t start too early in cooler climates. The plants can’t survive the winter frost.
  • Grow in a greenhouse or indoors, if necessary. If you do live in an area with a short summer, using an indoor, protected growing spot for the entire process is your best option.
  • Keep an eye on rainfall. If your area has a wet climate, using a pot or large container will yield better results due to the ability to control how much water the plant is getting.

While these peppers do love the heat, they do need partial shade. Their environment in the wild is often under other plants, where they get some shade. We’ll talk more about the sun in a bit.

How Much Water do Chiltepin Peppers Need?

The peppers will need more water to start, and you can ease up on the water as the plant ages and matures.

At the start, water weekly, soaking the soil about two inches deep, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. After the first month or so, when plants have taken hold and are looking healthy, you can slow down that water intake by about half and let the soil dry out between waterings.

If you have trouble knowing how moist your soil is, there are testers available to help you out. You can also use the tip of your finger to check the soil to see if it is moist.

How Much Sun do Chiltepin Peppers Need?

The ideal amount of sun for the Chiltepin pepper plant is six to eight hours a day. Peppers like it hot and dry. But don’t forget that your peppers need some downtime in the shade.

Be cautious of too much direct sunlight, as the peppers can develop sunscald if you are not careful.

Sunscald can be avoided if you use row covers or other protection for your plants. For a natural shading solution, plant next to a wall or pick a planting location that mimics where Chiltepins are found in the wild: under other trees or shrubs.

What Soil pH Level is Best for Chiltepin Peppers?

The pH levels for your pepper plants are essential. It can affect how well the plant can absorb nutrients. The soil for your peppers should be slightly acidic.

To ensure the correct pH level in your soil,  test it every so often and especially after rain. The ideal pH level for your soil is 6.2 to 7.0 when growing Chiltepin peppers.

If the pH levels of your soil are off, it can contribute to blossom-end rot, a condition when the end of the pepper will look wet and sunk in.

Changing the pH Level of Your Soil.

Once you have tested your soil and determined its pH level, it’s time to adjust it to the proper level if it is not in the right range.

Lowering pH Levels in Soil

If you need to lower your soil’s pH level, it can be fixed by using aluminum sulfate

  • Aluminum sulfate is most effective when worked into the soil.
  • Avoid plant leaves during application. If any happens to get on leaves, wash it off ASAP before it burns them.

The amount you need will depend on your soil’s current pH levels.

Raising pH Levels in Soil

If you find that your soil is too acidic, it can be lowered using limestone.

  • You will want to check your pH levels prior to planting.
  • For limestone to be most effective, it needs a couple of months’ head start.

Limestone supplies calcium and acts as a natural neutralizer. It can lower acidity and increase pH levels of soil.

How Big do Chiltepin Pepper Plants Get?

While the peppers themselves range from just ¼ to ½-inch in size, the plants can get pretty lush!

The longer your summer is, the more time your plant has to grow before it is killed by frost. With the right environment and care, Chiltepin pepper plants can grow up to six feet in height before the end of summer.       

Closing Thoughts

Growing peppers can be a fun and rewarding experience. Who doesn’t love eating fresh food from their own garden? These peppers may be tough to get started, but in the end, you will be rewarded with lots of spicy peppers for all your summer meals. They can even be dried out and stored so you can have Chiltepin peppers all year round. 

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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