Growing Peppers From Seed

Like the past few seasons, I started growing all my peppers from seed and indoors. Most of the peppers I grow have to be started from seed – you can’t buy them anywhere (plants or pods) and surely can’t find them locally (I’m in Northern Illinois). They also have to be started indoors. Growing peppers indoors for the first few months is required in my part of the country because of the long growing cycles needed. Most of the hot peppers I grow take a minimum of 120 days to produce ripe pods, most take more than 150 days.

Tips for Growing Peppers from Seed
I wish I could say that I follow all of this advice but I don’t. I’ve found that peppers are very resilient and despite my best efforts to prevent growth they thrive anyways:-) I would also add that these are just tips/guidelines…many pepper growers do things differently with great results. In no particular order of importance….

1 When it comes to growing peppers, less is more. I’ve read countless threads and blogs where people describe problems with their pepper plants and very often it’s because they are doing too much. Over fertilizing, over watering, tinkering with the soil, re-potting again and again, etc. You have to remember that in the wild peppers just fall to the ground and the next season the seeds grow. Not saying you should take that approach to your peppers just highlighting the fact that nature has a pretty basic process that works well. Don’t over think it when it comes to peppers – you don’t need to spend a lot of money buying all kinds of fertilizers and high end soils. My peppers spend the first 6 – 10 weeks of their lives in your basic red solo cup typically in MG potting soil.

2 For the most part, tap water is just fine. I’ve read all sort of claims that you need to buy water or use heavily filtered water to get seeds to sprout / successfully grow peppers. BS. Unless your tap water is really, really bad – like undrinkable for humans – it’s fine for growing peppers. Save your money, no need to buy water for pepper growing. Rainwater is great if you can collect and store it. All I have ever used is unfiltered tap water and I’ve never had any water related problems when it comes to growing peppers.

3 Pepper seeds germinate best between 75 and 85 degrees. There are quite a few different ways to germinate peppers seeds – in wet paper towels, in baggies, in dirt, etc. Regardless of how you choose to germinate your seeds temp is important and you’ll want to aim for a consistent 75 – 85 degree range. Temperatures in that range really speed germination. That said, I just fill solo cups with MG potting soil and bury seeds about 1/2 inch deep. I germinate everything in my basement where the temps float between 60 and 65 degrees. I typically get 80% germination but it takes a lot longer due to the lower temps…25+ days is not at all unusual for hot pepper seeds germinating in lower temperatures.

4 Start hot pepper seeds early. The biggest mistake I made during my first season growing hot peppers was that I started way to late. Last frost/plant out in my part of the country is May 15th. My first year I didn’t start my seeds until mid April and most of them had not even sprouted by plant out time. That year 90% of my peppers will still on the plants and far from being ripe by the time the season changed and temperatures started dropping below freezing. It goes without saying I was not happy about throwing away 90% of my peppers and that has never happened again. Here’s a good place to determine when it’s safe to plant out in your area. You can use this info to determine when to start your seeds. Depending on the type of pepper you’re growing you’ll want to start seeds indoors anywhere from 8 – 12 weeks before your plant out date.

5 Give them light! The moment your pepper seeds poke through the dirt they need light and lots of it. If you plan to move your plants outside when it’s warm enough you don’t need fancy or expensive lights, basic florescent lights will do just fine. Get a florescent fixture or two and keep the lights 2 – 3 inches off the tops of your plants. Give your pepper sprouts 24/7 light for the first 4 – 5 weeks then switch them to a 16/8 cycle, also 7 days a week.

6 Keep the air moving. Probably the most common threat to young seedlings is dampening off. Having a fan come on a few times a day (just set it with a timer) is a great way to keep the air moving and helps prevent dampening off.

7 Don’t water until pepper plants start to wilt. Over watering contributes dampening off and other nasties. After your plants start growing don’t water them until the wilt. Even if the soil is bone dry don’t water until the plant actually starts to wilt. Peppers just don’t need that much water.

8 Drainage is key. Pepper plants hate “wet feet”. Make sure your pots or whatever you have your peppers planted in has great drainage. For example I start my plants in solo cups and drill 4 – 5 good size holes in the bottom of each cup. If you have poor drainage it can lead to root rot.

9 While indoors, pinch off any buds. Until you move your plants outside it’s a good idea to pinch off any buds before they form into flowers. You don’t want your plants using energy on buds/flowers while they are inside, you want them using energy on growing leaves and roots. Pinching off the buds will force the plant to focus it’s energy while it’s still inside and trust me, once outside and the conditions are right it will start to bud/flower again.

I’ll update this post from time to time with other tips or suggestions for growing peppers from seed. If you have any suggestions, questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

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211 Responses to Growing Peppers From Seed

  1. angela says:

    really interesting post.

    i cant eat hot peppers, but love salad peppers. I bought some seeds, but they didnt sprout. with hindsite i think i over watered them. a week ago i was chopping salad peppers and thought ‘what the hell’ and threw some seeds from the peppers into the trays, and they have sprouted.

    im a bit concererned now that they should have been dried and stored for a year before being planted. im a bit of a haphazard kind of gardener! was going to move to the window sill for light now and plant into bigger pots in a week or two when they were bigger. i live in the uk so they wont be going outside for a while yet. far too cold!

    do you think they’ll survive? not sure whether to get excited about them or not!


  2. lee herron says:

    I have a grown what was stated to be a trinidad scorpion/bhut jolokia hybrid, the plant itself is fine and has reached nearly 3ft tall, only thing that is bothering me is that it has only one chilli on the entire plant which sprouted about a week and a half ago, it has plenty of flowers and buds but nothing seems to be happening with them,should i remove the buds and flowers and allow it to grow further or just wait and see what happens?? any info would be much appreciated thank you

    • pepperseed says:

      Hi Lee,

      I would just give it some time. Pepper plants tend to drop flowers if the time and conditions are not right for it to produce pods. When the plant is ready it will start producing pods like crazy. No need to pull the flowers or anything else, just let it do it’s thing. Thanks for stopping by!

      – PepperSeed

  3. Ontario Gardener says:

    You can place a heating pad underneath the seeds when you start them in a room which is not the ideal temperature. I leave the h.p. on 24/7 and get really solid results.
    Thanks for the tips, esp. the watering info.

  4. Michele says:

    I’d like to comment again about starting peppers from seed. I highly recommend a seed germination mat (heating mat specifically for sprouting seeds). Just make sure you either have a thermostat for it or an accurate way to test the temp. of your seed starting medium. You can buy them online or in garden stores. Mine stayed around 80-82 and I had the Morugas sprouting in 4 days!!! Some of my tomatoes popped up in two days! This is how I start all my pepper and tomato seeds.

    • pepperseed says:

      Hi Michele,

      A heat mat definitely helps speed up germination and great point about being able to measure the temperature…pretty easy to cook the seeds if you can’t!

  5. Andrew says:

    I’ve started all my peppers in the past with peat moss, and this year in trying to grow some bhut jolokia and butch t. Its been almost a month and I have yet to see any sprouts! I’ve tried keeping the soil no less than 80 degrees and no hotter than 90! I always start my seeds inside, my jalapenos, and banana peppers are doing great, I just need some help, what’s going on? Thank you!

    • pepperseed says:

      Hi Andrew,

      If it’s been a month you may have some bad seeds. I have had seeds sprout after a month but generally speaking they should sprout a lot faster.

  6. Andrew says:

    That’s what I was thinking! I’ll give them another week then I’ll start a new batch! Thanks!

  7. Michele says:

    Here’s an update on our Moruga Scorpions and Purple Ghosts. We now have seven very healthy looking Moruga Scorpion plants and three very healthy looking Purple Ghosts. My husband gave up on the hydroponic method after killing three of the Ghosts. They are all currently in our sunroom which has been staying in the high 70’s-high 80’s and all thriving. 🙂

  8. Josh says:

    My habanero plants flower and then the stem turns yellow and flower and stem fall off. Can anyone please help me. I have maybe five plants left of the twelve that have stem and flowers on them the other ones don’t. But they are like three foot tall and very green and no yellow leaves.

    • pepperseed says:

      Hey Josh,

      Not sure of your growing conditions but in general flower drop is nothing to worry about, happens to every plant. Once the plat is ready the flower drop will stop and it will start to pod up.

    • fatalii guy says:

      I have found that if you are loosing flowers that your plants may need more light

    • Philip says:

      Im growing my peppers on a balconey and was wondering why it they where flowering well but then fell off, I worked it out that you need to manualy fertilise the flowers as theres no bees, insects or wind to do the job, I got a good crop of peppers after that.
      I just used my finger and rubbed each flower inside once a day and worked a wonder

  9. Josh says:

    Ok just worried cuz all my other banana and jalapeno plants have many peppers in fact I’ve pick and Jared some. 8 of the habanero don’t even have any more stems for peppers. This the first Year your growing them. But fifth year growing peppers first year with problems. thank you for the help. I was excited when I seen all these flower and stems on each plant I was like holy cow. Must of been like 30 to 40 at a time all flowering and then one by one the stem would turn yellow and fall off. I said to my self come on you got to be kidden me, but thanks now I know. How long do you think they will start to pod?

    • pepperseed says:

      Hey Josh,

      My plants never typically drop flowers more than a few weeks. Are you growing in the ground and what part of the country are you in?

  10. Josh says:

    I was just worried that if I was gonna get some peppers before it got cooler out, but I guess I have a couple months yet. And yes my plants are in the ground. Thanks again for the help. I live in Pennsylvania, Schuylkill county to exact.

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