The Chilli Guru

Identifying Chilli Plants

It is not uncommon when growing chillies from bought seed or plants, to find that they turn out to be very different to what you were expecting. But if they are not what it says on the label, what are they? Faced with this scenario, the obvious first step is to post photos on Facebook or a similar site. It will often be impossible to identify the actual variety, but it is still worth learning what you can.

A picture of a ripe chilli will generally not be enough. Start by taking a close up of an open flower - this will help determine the species of your chilli. Leaves are also important, as is growth habit. Below I have sumarised some of the prominent characteristics of the most important chilli species.

Capsicum annuum often has relatively large white flowers, but in small fruited cultivars the flowers can be very small. Purple leaved varieties tend to have purple flowers, but these are very different to the purple flowers of C. pubescens. As with the flowers, the leaves tend to reflect the size of the chillies, but are always smooth.

C. baccatum flowers are very different from those of the other cultivated species, being marked with a distinctive yellowish pattern. The actual colour of the markings varies from variety to variety and can tend more towards green or brown. Growth habit is loose and open with rather long internodes.

C. chinense cultivars have smallish off white flowers, often produced in clusters of two or three. Growth is often compact with the chillies held under the leaf canopy.

C. frutescens has small greenish flowers. Unlike the other species, the chillies are typically held erect making them easy to pick.

C. pubescens is another species of chilli which is very distinctive. Leaves and stems are covered in short hair, and the flowers have purple petals.


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