Buying Chilli Plants from Garden Centres: Another Cautionary Tale

I guess this is a follow up to a Blog I posted last year about buying chilli plant seeds from eBay. Except, well, not quite as focused. I’ve bought chilli plants from Garden Centres quite a few times over the past couple of years. Admittedly, it’s a 50 / 50 split on me actually wanting the plant and me not wanting to see a plant suffer the way they tend to do at the end of the season.

Honestly, you’d think that they where in the perfect place to be looked and cared after. Alas, it seems not in a lot of cases. But, perhaps that is a story for a different day.

This year was however a little bit different for me. It’s well documented, and I’ve been vocal enough about it on my Facebook, Twitter and (now) Instagram social media things… I lost my plant labels. And so, for the most part of this year I’ve been growing without a clue.

In an attempt to appease this, I’ve bought a couple of plants from Garden Centres. Now, fair dues – Garden Centres are making more of an effort these days with Chilli Plants. I’ve seen quite a few in my local area that are offering a greater variety than ever before. This is, I think, a good thing.

And here is the almost inevitable, BUT.

You don’t always get what you pay for.

I guess this tale starts quite early. I didn’t have a lot of luck with germinating Scotch Bonnet this year so when I saw them for sale at a local Garden Centre, I bought them…

Scotch Bonnet but Bishops Crown

Which, is great. Except the label says Scotch Bonnet, but the picture shows Bishops Crown.

Not the same.

Funnily enough I had a similar problem last year with some seeds from eBay. They where supposed to be Scotch Bonnet and I ended up with Bishops Crown. This apparently is a pretty common thing, going off my Twitter feed at least.

But, what’s in a name? Eh?

Unfortunately those plants where lost in the label fiasco so I can’t say with any degree of certainty what they actually turned out to be. That said, I do have a lot more Scotch Bonnet / Habanero plants than I do Bishops Crown this year. I’d educate a guess at the missing plants being actual Scotch Bonnets.

Though, that would add to the confusion growing these that they didn’t get chillies that looked like the label. So, not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing :-/

This year I was quite impressed on a visit to a local Garden Centre that I’d not been to before. They had quite an exhaustive range of Chilli plants growing that you wouldn’t normally see. There was Inifinty, Aji Limon, Choclate Habanero and a whole host of other varieties.

Two in particular caught my eye. Bhut Jolokia and Carolina Reaper. Not knowingly having these plants in this year’s collection I immediately picked a couple of each up, paid my money to the lady on the counter and made my way home.

Chilli Plants from Garden Centres

At the time I was happy enough with my purchases. I would actually go back later any buy another couple of plants, another Carolina Reaper and a Chocolate Habanero.

Things where going well and I looked after the plants the same as I would any other. They got re-potted shortly after that picture was taken and left to do their own thing.

Time passed, flowers bloomed and pods started to appear.

The Carolina Reaper was first…

Carolina Reaper from Garden Centre

Now. I’m not an expert. But, I do know what a Carolina Reaper looks like. And it’s not that. Things could change over time, it could get it’s gnarly action it’s known for going. But, I sincerely doubted that.

Not long after, the Bhut Jolokia gave me some pods…

Bhut Jolokia from Garden Centre

Now, again. I am not an expert. But I do know what a Bhut Jolokia looks like as well. And that isn’t one.

And what about the Scotch Bonnet plant?

Scotch Bonnet Chilli Plant from Garden Centre

It was, at least, in the right ball park and I’ve no real reason to suspect that this isn’t a Scotch Bonnet. It’s definitely a Habanero of some description and I’ll take that, all things considered.

Now. To be fair, I did mention that I’d also been back and bought a Chocolate Habanero plant, and…

Chocolate Habanero Chilli

Certainly looks like a Chocolate Habanero to me.

Also, the second Carolina Reaper plant…

Real Carolina Reaper from Garden Centre

A much more convincing Carolina Reaper. Although, I can’t be 100% sure obviously. The tail would suggest we’re in the right ball park at least.

So, it’s not all that bad. And I don’t want his article to paint it as such. It is just a cautionary tale after all.

This isn’t just me having some bad luck with two plants. There is lots of anecdotal evidence from others scattered around the internet if you go looking. Facebook groups are full of people who’ve bought plants from even the biggest (especially the biggest) Garden Centres and are disappointed to find out a few months later they’ve grown something other than what they’ve paid for.

I don’t actually blame the Garden Centres for this. I’m relatively sure that they don’t knowing sell something they know that isn’t what it claims to be. Indeed many of these plants only young when they get delivered to them. It is hard enough to tell what a plant is when it has fruit on it sometimes, never mind when it’s barely got going.

I’d rather blame the whole “factory” behind these things. It’s obvious there has been a failing somewhere along the line. Be it the original seed suppliers, the farmers that sowed the seeds or simply the people responsible for labelling the plants once they’d been potted on.

And, to be fair at least I did get actual chilli plants from garden centres and none of the other horror stories you find from people buying seeds from some online sellers, I mean…

Fake Purple Carolina Reaper Seeds

Some of them don’t even try. Unless someone knows something that I don’t, which, is entirely possible. But I also think I’d be disappointed with my Rare Purple Carolina Reaper seeds as well 😉

While it’s brilliant that out little fruit is becoming more and more accepted and mainstream, there is a long way to go. If you’re planning on picking up some chilli plants from garden centres, then just be aware that things aren’t always what they seem. Even if they have the perceived esteem of a retailer behind them. You’re still not guaranteed to get what you pay for.

Even with all of this been said, it’s not put me off buying more from chilli plants from garden centres in all honesty. I’ll do it again next year probably. And the year after that. Especially if I see them in a sorry state and they need rescuing.

But I will know that I’m taking something of a gamble in buying them.

Related Post

2 thoughts on “Buying Chilli Plants from Garden Centres: Another Cautionary Tale

  1. Mark Willis

    I suppose in theory you could (and should) go back to the Garden Centre(s) in question and demand compensation, citing the Sale of Goods Act or whatever. Selling a product that claims to be something that it is not, is an offence. I seldom buy chilli plants, preferring to swap seeds with trustworthy friends like yourself, but if I ever do buy a chilli plant I usually get it at the point when it has some fruit on it, and I can judge more easily what it is!

    1. Paul Speight Post author

      But then you’d have to prove that you bought *that* plant from that Garden Centre I guess. They’d been repotted and moved on and it’s not as though it looks the same. It’d be “six of one and half a dozen of the other” as my Mum says.

      It’s not as bad as growing them seed and finding out they aren’t what they claim, and as I said in the post, as least they where Chilli plants, and, semi interesting ones at that. Well. No, not even interesting ones but they weren’t Birds Eye 😉


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *