1

I have about a dozen, 1 month old, chilli seedlings in a pot ~20 cm diameter.

I'm broadly under the impression that I SHOULD separate them out into multiple pots, but do I NEED to? What bad things will happen if I don't?

Do I need to do it now, or can I wait 6 months and then separate them?

2

Yes, you do need to do it now, if you want to grow all your seedlings on into fruiting plants. If they have two sets of leaves or are about 2 inches high, pot each one individually into 3.5 inch pots, maintaining warm temperatures, then pot on again into 9 or 10 inch pots once the roots have filled the smaller containers, or plant them in the ground. Chilies start flowering about 8 weeks after sowing, so they are rapid growers; left together in the one pot, some will not develop properly because of overcrowding, and it will be impossible to separate them later on. Advice re growing from seed in this link under Propagation near the end https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=664

2

All seedlings need to be separated when they get too crowded together. If you leave them too long you will damage the roots in trying to disentangle them. On the other hand for very fragile plants, and this includes peppers it is a good idea not to sow thickly in the first place. When separating into individual pots plant up to four plants, one along each side of the pot. Remember that turf or pottery pots should be used rather than plastic as plastic burns the roots where the sun hits it.

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