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I have four chilli plants (Cayenne F1's) that I bought from a garden centre as seedlings back in April (I am in Scotland). When I say seedlings these plants were in tiny seedling growers and started life in my house as 4-6cm seedlings with a stalk and a leaf or two.

I transplanted all four into a large pot (in a mix of garden earth and garden centre compost) and to my amazement they started to grow to the point where I think they were competing for nutrients. The said "large pot" is in photograph #1 below.

Tonight I decided to separate all four plants and plant them in their own pots (approx 15cm x 15cm).

In each pot I used a mix of their original earth/compost mix and then topped up with a general purpose "multi-purpose" compost. I then watered each pot with 0.5L of water mixed with a teaspoon of "phostrogen" plant food.

The following photographs are the outcome of my transplant exercise:

Plant#1 - this seems to be the strongest of the plants - lots of flowers, started producing fruit (I've harvested a few which is why it looks barren):

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Plant#2 - this was the second strongest looking plant - a fair number of flowers and has begun producing fruit:

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Plant #3 - not a lot of flowers but has produced a couple of fruits

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Plant #4 - this fella was the runt of the litter in the shared pot and despite me rotating the pot daily to make sure it got a fair share of sunlight, it looks a bit bent out of shape.

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This is my first major horticultural adventure. The last thing I grew was cress back in primary school when I was five years old.

The plants are growing on my kitchen window-sill (inside, not outside) in Scotland. My kitchen window is south facing so I get good sun from around 11am right through until 9pm in the evening. The windows are closed all the time and there are no draughts. We're having a very nice summer so far in central Scotland with outside temperatures in the mid 20's (ambient) and the kitchen is quite warm.

I have some questions:

  1. Do these plants look "normal" and are they stuck at their pre-transplant growing size/flowering potential?

  2. I read somewhere that chilli plants need some kind of manual pollination. I've been transferring pollen from the flowers with my little finger from on flower to another. Is this necessary for every bunch of flowers that appear?

  3. I am new to growing plants that fruit, am I doing the right thing?

  4. Was I too late in separating the plants into their own pots?

  • I'm not a pepper expert and can't answer you formally, but they look healthy to me, even though I think the pots are way too small. Without bees or wind, I would think you'd need some means to transfer pollen. – Randy Jun 27 '13 at 2:10
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General observations

They all look normal enough and if they have grown that large from starters and have fruited then they must be happy with where you have them.

One thing I would suggest by looking at your pictures, the plants don't look to be supported enough. Chilli plants have lots of branches that branch out from the base and continue to branch upwards. I'm not clever enough to explain it here, but I hope you can understand by looking at the plants how it is branching.

You have two options to get the support right.

Option 1: You can build or buy a plant support that will allow you to tie and support the side branches. Plants will grow with much more vigor and can support larger fruit if they are better supported. This also improves access to light and air for individual leaves / branches.

Option 2: Use a long single stake and then encourage your plant to grow vertically first so it then can support a bushy top. The end result is about 30 - 50cm stalk and then self supported growth on top of that. Begin by selecting the most appropriate main branch line (strongest and straightest) and remove side branching lines so that growth will go into the main branch. Then continue to prune as appropriate until you have the right structure.

The main problem you have currently, I see most of you plants have two main growth paths and only one is supported.

Pollination

The thing about pollination is you can easily tell by sight with this size plant how things are going. Are the flowers coming but not bearing fruit? Then you have a pollination issue, but if you are getting 80% growing and you are satisfied with the amount and size you are getting then continue to do what you are doing.

Many plants can be hand pollinated so if this is working then keep doing it. If the plants are bearing fruit without your assistance then no need to worry. Experiment to see how it goes without you doing anything. Maybe try hand pollination with one and not with another and see your results.

If you find using your finger is a bit finicky you can try using a small clean paint brush to transfer the pollen. It is usually quick and easy.

In regards to transferring the plants, it's only too late if plants begin to go into shock and are already on their way to dying, which doesn't look like the case here. Plants can have transplant shock at any time they are being moved, so it may take up to a year before they decide to start growing again or you might be lucky and they will be happy they were given more space and shoot.

Looking at the picture and just answering the comment above, I don't think the pots are too small. I think you should be fine with that size at least for a couple of years, just keep an eye on the roots.

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    Thanks for your detailed answer and for confirming the pollination stuff. – Kev Jun 27 '13 at 14:45
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There are a few tricks I know to stabilize chilies (works with tomatoes also and possibly eggplants; same family but I have not tried eggplants).

I would not try these tricks now since the plants are flowering.

Trick 1: Bury the lower stalk in soil. It will promote a thicker, sturdier stem. Roots will start growing off the buried stem.

Trick 2: When the plants are starting to grow upward with the main stem producing new growth, top it (cut off the new growth by an inch or two). This will promote 2 or more new main growths making the chili plant more of a bush and sturdier. You will also have a bigger yield. You can continue to do this if you feel like making a huge bush out of it and/or keeping the chili in a container for indoor/outdoor continual growing.

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They look fine, and a mix of soil & compost is also what I usually use.

I agree with others that the pots look too small. I usually plant all mine outside - but being in Texas, I can get a good double growing season before the frosts hit in December. Perthshire might not be so kind(!), so I think you're stuck with large pots. I find the pot size does limit the plant size. I suspect your extra fertilizer is helping to offset the small pot size (when I was in the UK a few weeks back, Gardener's World had someone who grew tomatoes in tiny pots but with great harvests - he basically fertilized them every day or so!). Personally fertilizer is not something I usually bother with - but again, I'm potting them in beds outside which have had compost mixed in.

I've never hand-pollinated, but I agree with others that it might be necessary if you're not getting fruit from the flowers (*) and you're inside. If it is a nice warm day, I would put the pots outside so they get a good decent dose of sunshine. Cayenne grow well here in Texas, so I suspect they'll appreciate good sun and heat.

(*) Another cause of no fruit from flowers is high heat levels - ie. Texas summer. This is where my double season comes from - I rarely get fruit in the height of summer, but plenty in September when it cools.

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    Thanks for the insight, I'll mull this over. I'd love to leave the plants outside but as you can imagine the weather in Scotland can be somewhat unpredictable. What would you say is the min temp they would be happy with if I was to pop them outside each day (and take in at night)? – Kev Jun 27 '13 at 14:42
  • Good question! Mine die with the first hard frost. I find as we get the first near-ground frosts, they turn dormant. But they'll be acclimatising through Autumn. You don't want to shock them. I would also be wary of exposure from cold winds (not a problem I have) - find a sunny sheltered spot? And a nice warm sunny summer day! (I've seen gorgeous clear blue summer skies in the Hebrides, so you probably get a few...) – winwaed Jun 27 '13 at 17:44

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