It is difficult to determine beforehand how much water your chili plants will need. The amount of water they need depends on multiple factors, like soil type, the variety of chili plants, the temperatures at the location, etc.
For this reason, it is better to follow some watering tips and then subsequently learn to 'read' your plants as you water them. It is important not to overwater them. Underwatering is less of an issue but still something to be wary of.
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For a long time, I have been growing chili peppers indoors. I'm now researching ways to improve the growth of my chilies. In this article and other articles on this site, I present the results of this research.
Below I will present various tips on how to water your chili peppers. Using these tips, you'll be able to estimate how much and when to water. In addition, I will discuss the issues of overwatering and underwatering. To close, I will also mention the influence of the source of water that you may be using and the water's temperature when watering.
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How much water do your chilies need?
It is difficult to say beforehand how much water your chilies should need. The amount depends on many factors. Some of these are:
- The type of container the plant is growing in
- The type of soil used
- How much light does the plant receive
- What chili variety it is
- What are the temperature ranges in the location
Nevertheless, using some of the following watering tips, you may be able to estimate when you need to water your chilies and thus also how much water they will need. Over time you'll learn to 'read' when your plants need water and how much. Finding a good watering strategy is key to healthy plants.
Outdoors watering tips
If your chilies are growing outdoors, you may consider watering your chili pepper plants when the sun is at its weakest, i.e., when there is little direct sunlight. In this manner, the water will not start to 'burn' the plant. Taking this into account, it is best if you water your outdoor pepper plants in the early morning or the evening. During noon and afternoon, the sun is likely too hot. The chili plant may be damaged when watering during this time.
Also, you should make sure that the water on the leaves has dried before the night falls such that the probability that fungal pathogens will affect the plant will be minimized.
When it is very hot, as it may be in the summertime, you may need to water your hot pepper one or even multiple times a day. During the cooler days of the year, you may only need to water the chilies every 2-3 days.
Container watering tips
First of all, make sure that your containers are large enough for your chilies. The containers should also have soil that is well-drained and have some drainage holes at the bottom. The drainage holes will allow excess water to run out at the bottom. Containers that have no proper drainage will most likely kill your potted pepper plants.
When growing a chili pepper as a potted plant, it will need to be watered more often than when growing it straight in the ground. This is because the soil in pots dries out faster than soil in the ground.
General watering tips
What you can do is to wait for the plants to wilt slightly and then water them. Yet, this method may not be entirely safe as you may be overwatering.
Another method would be to wait for the soil to dry somewhat. If the first few centimeters of the soil feel dry, then you can water your chilies. If the soil feels wet, then it is probably safer not to water the plants.
To water your chilies, you may use a watering can, a flower spray bottle, or even just any plastic bottle you have available.
When using a spray bottle, you can create a mist that settles on the leaves of your chilies. The humidity around the plants will also increase slightly when you do this.
Chili pepper watering problems
Not watering your chilies correctly will likely lead them to die. Therefore it is essential to understand the problems related to watering. Overwatering happens when your chili peppers receive too much water, and conversely, underwatering occurs when they receive too little water.
Chili pepper plants actually don't need a lot of water. They need much less water than most people think.
Overwatering chili peppers
Overwatering is a bigger problem for your chili plant than underwatering. Some people would even argue that excessive watering is the main reason that growers have problems with their chili plants.
If the roots of your chili plants are in constantly moist soil, they can start to rot.
Also, if the roots are waterlogged, then the plant will also not receive enough oxygen. In this case, the roots are essentially drowning.
Just like all other plants, chili peppers need oxygen to move nutrients around various parts of the plant. These nutrients include the sugars created during photosynthesis. If these nutrients are not moved around the plant, it will not be able to grow correctly.
If overwatering happens over a more extended period, the chili plant will start to lose its leaves. Before losing the leaves, they will start drooping and then turn into yellow leaves.
An additional problem caused by overwatering is that nutrients present in the soil may be washed away.
Underwatering chili peppers
When you underwater your chilies, the root ball will start to dry out. If this happens occasionally, then it is not a big problem. You just need to water your chili plant, and it will recover in no time. On the other hand, if the root ball totally dries out, the plant is likely to die.
An early sign of underwatering is when the leaves of the plant start to droop or wither. When this happens, you can simply water the plant, and it will be fine again within a couple of hours. The idea is to keep the soil moist but not wet.
Do take into account that if the soil has become very dry, the water will straight through it when trying to water your chili plant. This is because the dry soil cannot absorb a lot of water quickly. Therefore, you'll need to pour the water bit by bit instead of pouring a large amount of water in one go.
You may also consider using mulch around your chilies to retain the soil moisture.
The natural environment of most chili varieties is usually warm and dry. In these regions, there is not a lot of rainfall. Thus there may not necessarily be a lot of water available for the plants. Chilies have evolved to thrive in these environments. Hence, this also means that they can deal with the lack of water, even for a longer duration.
Several authors claim that if you underwater your chili pepper plants, the capsaicin production will be higher. Capsaicin is the chemical that causes the typical hot sensation when eating hot peppers. Therefore, when the capsaicin production is higher, then chilies will also be hotter. Hence, underwatering the chili plants can be a method for producing hotter peppers.
Additional considerations when watering your chilies
When watering your chilies, you may also want to consider the influence of the source and the temperature of the water you are using.
Sources of water
When watering your chili peppers, there are a few different possibilities for the source of water. One source is tap water. Most locations have tap water available.
Another source of water can be from a local well. Rainwater from a rainwater collector is also a possible source.
With tap water, you need to take into account that it may contain too much calcium. Chili plants are not too happy with receiving too large amounts of calcium.
So, instead of using tap water, you may consider using rainwater. Rainwater may be much better, given that it does not contain calcium. You can collect rainwater using a rain barrel. If you don't have access to rainwater, you may also use a filter to decalcify your tap water.
Do consider when using rainwater that it may be polluted due to industry nearby. Therefore, you'll have to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the different water sources in your particular area.
The temperature of the water
Ensure that the water you will use for watering the chili plant has a temperature similar to the soil temperature. Especially tap water can have a different temperature than the surroundings. Just let the water sit for a while until its temperature is the same as the ambient temperature before using it for watering your plant.