Chi-Chien peppers are a red-hot pepper common in spicy Asian dishes. Chi-chien peppers originate from China and are grown extensively in Asia but are uncommon in the United States. You may find fresh chi-chien peppers in a local specialty grocery store.
However, growing your own is fun and a great way to add bright pops of color to your favorite spot in the garden. You can learn to grow tasty and spicy chi-chien pepper plants to use in delicious recipes or dry and store for use later.
We will explain everything you need to know about chi-chien peppers, including tips on sprouting seeds and maximizing production.
We will also share with you how to store chi-chien peppers. Your pepper garden will thrive when you know the secret tricks expert gardeners use to ensure a healthy and bountiful crop year after year.
What is a Chi-Chien Pepper?
Chi-chien peppers are a hot variety of pepper in the same family as jalapeno, habanero, and Korean long green chili peppers. The chi-chien pepper grows to a length of just over two inches and has thin skin. Peppers grow in clusters from upright, bushy plants.
The peppers begin green in color, then brighten to fiery orange and finally, scorching red when the fruits are fully ripe. The peppers grow vertically, creating a bursting color arrangement of greens, oranges, and reds.
The chi-chien pepper is grown as an ornamental plant in many parts of the world for its colorful bloom. Its foliage is made of dark green and keeps its color even during the hottest parts of the year.
Chi-chien pepper plants are frequent additions to landscaping for the bold color they add to gardens. Pepper plants like the chi-chien are also valuable companion plants that help reduce pest and disease infestations common in crops of herbs and vegetables.
Pepper Hotness Test
The Scoville Heat Unit Index (SHU) describes the “hotness” of peppers. The Scoville scale ranges from zero to 16 million units- the heat of pure capsicum, which peppers their heat.
Chi-chien peppers average 70,000 SHU, placing these Chinese peppers around the middle of the scale. You can compare a chi-chien pepper’s heat to Thai chiles (slightly hotter) and cayenne peppers (slightly less hot). You should use caution when handling chi-chien peppers with bare hands and avoid breathing the aroma from cooking chi-chiens.
How to Grow Chi-Chien Peppers
Peppers can be finicky to grow. They require specific conditions to properly develop the taste, texture, and heat you want from a chi-chien pepper. Gardeners should plan before deciding to grow peppers like the chi-chien to ensure the plants will have a good chance of success.
Selecting the best location for growing chi-chien peppers will make a big difference in the quantity and quality. By avoiding some common mistakes, you are guaranteed strong and healthy plants for your garden.
– Where to Buy Them
Despite tremendous popularity throughout Asia, chi-chien peppers are uncommon in the U.S. Gardeners are likely to find a wide variety of Thai and Chinese pepper plants, but not chi-chien. The best way to grow chi-chien pepper plants at home is to sprout your seeds. You can purchase chi-chien pepper seeds online from a reputable seed company.
– Start Plating Them
Pepper plants tend to grow best in hot climates, and even starting seeds can be a challenge in many parts of the United States. Gardeners should always begin planting pepper seeds indoors. The reason for indoor growing is because, as experience shows, sowing in your garden is more likely to give you inferior results. In some cases, even total failure of all seeds.
The best way is to start seeds where you can keep the soil temperature above 80 degrees. It would help if you use a seedling heat mat or electric coil to start chi-chien pepper seeds when you live in an area that sees cool temperatures through the spring.
Like any pepper plant, chi-chien seeds can be slow to germinate, mainly when temperatures are too low. Gardeners can schedule pepper seeds to be one of the very first to start each season
You’ll have the most success starting chi-chien seeds indoors about 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost with the expectation of transplanting several weeks after the last frost. You will need to adjust your start times by a week or two depending on the climate in your growing region, and this may take a season or two for you to get right.
Tricks for Starting Chi-Chien Pepper Seeds Successfully
Pepper seeds can be notoriously challenging to get started. Still, there are some simple tricks you can use to increase your success rates dramatically. One of the best ways to ensure you have a good start is to pre-soak your seeds for a few hours in a weak chamomile tea solution.
It’s simple to do: brew a cup of tea, drink it, and then brew another cup with the same teabag. Float your seeds in the chamomile tea for two to eight hours. Seeds will sink to the bottom when they are ready.
Chamomile tea works because it loosens the protective barrier on the seeds and disinfects them at the same time. You can do this neat trick and use it with lots of plants besides peppers. Once the seeds have sunk, drain the liquid off and place the seeds between damp paper towels or coffee filters. Put the seeds and damp paper towels in a ziplock bag and put it in a warm, dark place. Seeds may begin to sprout in a few days but can take as long as several weeks to start growing.
– Transfer the Sprouts
Once your seeds have sprouted, you should transfer them to a seed starting tray. You can use a commercial tray or repurpose pretty much any shallow dish large enough to accommodate the number of seeds you are starting. Make shallow furrows in the soil and place one chi-chien sprout per inch—mist or dribble water to make moist soil.
You only want a little soil to cover the sprouts, and then gently pat the soil down around the sprout. Within a few days, you will see green shoots growing in your seed starter tray.
– Transplanting the Seedlings
You can transfer your seedlings to your garden when the plants are about three inches tall and have three or four true leaves. It would help if you waited until daytime average temperatures are above 60 degrees in cooler climates.
You can quickly work the garden soil. Space seedlings 12 to 18 inches apart in rows at least 36 inches apart. The spacing lets the plants support each other while growing and gives the gardener plenty of room to harvest and care for plants.
– Soil, Light, and Water Conditions
Peppers like the chi-chien tend to grow best in rich soil amended with high-quality compost. Avoid excessive nitrogen because the plants will grow leggy and won’t produce as many flowers. Well-draining to slightly dry soil is ideal, and gardeners should avoid wet soil.
Water at least once per week and more frequently when temperatures are above 90 degrees. Peppers require full-sun and high temperatures to grow well, so plant in bright locations. Cool climates will have less pepper production and more mild peppers.
How to Get a Big Harvest
You can employ some easy tricks to get big harvests from any pepper plant, including chi-chien plants. Your plants will begin to produce white flowers in late spring. You should pinch off a few flowers per branch and harvest young, green peppers that start early in the season.
Doing this forces the plant to produce more flowers and more fruit. Regular harvesting of chi-chien peppers will significantly increase the number of peppers you get each season.
How to Harvest
When you are ready to start harvesting your peppers, you should use a pair of sharp, sterile scissors. Snip the pepper stems slightly away from the stalk to collect your chi-chien peppers. It’s a good idea to avoid plucking peppers by hand because doing so increases the risk of damaging the plant and introducing disease and infections opportunities.
How to Dry Chi-Chien Peppers
The best way to preserve your freshly harvested peppers is to dry them. Chi-chien peppers are thin-skinned peppers, so they are ideal for air drying in climates with average daytime temperatures above 80 degrees. Use a needle and thread to string peppers through the stems and hang them in a bright, dry location. It will take three to four weeks for the peppers to dry. They will be brittle when done.
Another drying option for gardeners who live in humid or cool areas is to use the oven. Set the oven to the lowest setting- 170 to 200 degrees is optimal. Spread washed and dried peppers on a baking sheet to not touch and place them in the oven. Rotate the peppers every 30 minutes until they are brittle.
Chi-chien peppers are an interesting Chinese red-hot pepper rarely found outside of Asian specialty stores.
- Germinating chi-chien seeds is best done with pre-soak and damp paper towels or coffee filters.
- Seedling chi-chien plants are ready to transplant when they have three to four true leaves and are several inches tall.
- Gardeners can increase pepper production by pinching off flowers and regularly harvesting fruits.
- Peppers can be air-dried or dried in an oven for long-term storage and use.
Growing peppers is a bit of a challenge in many areas due to the unique, high-temperature requirements. Chi-chien peppers make an excellent and very spicy dried pepper. Still, they are also valuable as ornamental and companion plants in your garden.
Once you master germinating pepper plant seeds, growing tasty red-hot chi-chien peppers is a joy. The flowers attract beneficial pollinators. The same chemical gives peppers that coveted spice is responsible for warding off garden pests that attack herbs and vegetables.
There are many good reasons to grow chi-chien peppers and make an ideal plant in your edible garden.