“Stuck” Chilli Plants – A solution?

Each year I’ve grown chillies I’ve ended up with what I (and others) refer to as “runts”.  These are the plants that make it best seedling stage and then kind of get stuck. They only grow so far. I’ve always just left them to it, figuring that’s the way it was. Turns out, I might have been wrong…

As anyone who follows me on Facebook and Twitter knows I post regular pictures on there about my plants and their progress.

On the 8th July I posted up on Facebook about a runt I’d got;

I was feeling pretty good about some of my plants and this one caught my eye. It looked a bit sorry for itself. Unusually I hadn’t put the date I planted it on the Plant Label but I’d guess at it being part of a batch from February. It still has it’s label so it wasn’t in the great Greenhouse crash of 2017.

I’ve had quite a successful year with plants, if I do say so myself. Greenhouse incidents aside.

Doing Well

So, it was quite odd that this had remained so small.

Ivor Davies from Bountiful Seeds found this odd as well and commented as much. One thing I have learnt in my time growing chillies is that if Ivor speaks, you listen. He’s chirped in before with little nuggets of advice and is always knowledgeable and helpful with this kind of stuff.

Ivor suggested that a change of soil might do the trick, and that it would be a good time to see how the roots where doing. So I listened, and went almost immediately to do just that.

The roots, as he suspected weren’t great.

Stuck plant roots

So I changed the soil, and optimistically gave it a new, bigger pot.

Stuck Plant Repot

Time would tell.

Five days later (13th July) I was convinced I could see a change in the plant.

Unstuck Chilli Plant

It looked, taller. Just.

Three days later (16th), I was more convinced the soil change had worked…

More unstuck

Even more so when I looked under the pot.

Roots Peeping Out

A root had made it all the way down to the bottom of the pot. This was a good sign.

Just under 10 days later on the 25th…

Fast forward to the 2nd August…

Really unstuck chilli plant

The picture kind of speaks for itself, right?

Roots on unstuck chilli plant

And if the first one didn’t, the roots definitely speak volumes.

Still not convinced?

Strong Plant

Well, lets see you argue with that!

So, I’ll no for next time. If a plant seems to “stop”, change the soil.

Ivor went on to later explain it’s because sometimes the soil gets compacted and it stops the roots from being able to progress. Oxygen can’t get to the roots and the soil stays wet.

He went on to suggest that next year I use a some Vermiculite or Perlite when potting up. And possibly be a little less forceful when compacting the soil, something I thought I’d got sorted out, but it seems I still need to learn to be more gentle!

So, if you come across plants that seem to get stuck – A soil change is a quick thing you can at least try and something I’ll be keeping in my arsenal of growing tricks.

Maybe next year I’ll see less runts!


2 thoughts on ““Stuck” Chilli Plants – A solution?

  1. The Chili Life


    Thanks these are really helpful tips. I have, in fact, noticed that the growth can be slowed. I noticed this when I ran out of soil and had to re-plant some of my chilies in bigger pots. What kind of soil do you recommend that one use for growing chilies?

    Again, thanks for your helpful post,



    1. Paul Speight Post author

      Hey Erik – Thanks for the kind words!

      I’ve not really experimented with different types of soil yet, I normally use growbags that are fit for tomatoes. The ones I’ve had most success with are Westland growbags (https://www.gardenhealth.com/product/growbag) but I’m sure everyone has their own success stories with different ones and I’ve not tried a massive amount of different types – Still in the early learning of it all myself 🙂


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