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How to Grow Peppers from Seeds
If you want to save money or grow a unique pepper variety, growing peppers from seeds is the way to go! This guide will cover all you need to know about how to grow peppers from seeds, including both bell and hot varieties.
All of us in the northeast have to start our pepper seeds indoors before the last spring frost date. If the peppers aren’t well on their way to maturity by the time we plant them outside, they won’t have enough time to grow before the first fall frost.
If you’re wondering when to start pepper seeds indoors, you should plan to start them around 8 weeks before the average last frost date in your area. Mid-March into early April is often a good time for many northeast residents.
How to Grow Peppers from Seeds
Containers and Potting Soil
If you plan to plant your peppers in the garden, a small pot or cell pack is fine. You may even have some left over from buying plants from greenhouses in the past! If you’ll be growing them in containers for the full season, you can just use a 5-gallon pot, grow bag, or bucket with drainage holes. (Also, follow this guide for growing peppers in containers.)
Any high-quality vegetable potting soil works for starting peppers. I like using Miracle Gro potting soil.
Importance of Growing Peppers from Fresh Seeds
It’s best to use fresh seeds when growing peppers, since they’re more likely to sprout. These can either be high quality seeds you’ve purchased or ones you’ve kept and dried yourself from a plant. If you’ve purchased them recently, that’s even better. The seeds are less likely to germinate after sitting in packets for 2 or more years, though you can still try old seeds just to use them up.
To check for viability before planting, you can try germinating pepper seeds with the paper towel method. You can also try soaking them in water for a day or two before planting to potentially speed up germination.
How to Plant Pepper Seeds
Once you’ve gathered your materials, fill the container or cell packs most of the way with potting soil.
Then press a seed roughly 1/4 of an inch into the soil and cover it. You may want to wear gardening gloves when planting a spicy variety – even the oils on the seeds can irritate your skin. If you’re low on space or have older seeds, you can plant 2 seeds per hole, then pull the weaker one if more than one plant starts growing.
Press the seed into the soil gently, and water it with a spray bottle.
Germinating Pepper Seeds
Once planted, the seeds need to be kept in warm soil to germinate. You could even say hot soil – 80-90 degrees is best. If you have a warm area in your house, like a laundry or furnace room, that’s an ideal spot. If not, you can fake a greenhouse effect by placing a clear cover over the top of them and leaving the container in the sun. You can also try a seedling heat mat that will heat the soil from below.
Water the seeds lightly every day with a spray bottle for the first few weeks. Keep the clear covering over them as much as possible to help retain heat and humidity.
How Long for Pepper Seeds to Germinate
It can take some pepper varieties up to 6 weeks to germinate, even when kept in the right conditions. Don’t give up on your peppers too quickly and try replanting in the same cell after just a week or two!
If you still have the seed packet, you can check it for expected germination dates. The average time for most peppers is around two weeks, but your variety could take less or more time. You may have to start your seeds earlier than 8 weeks before the last frost date if you have a variety that takes a long time to grow.
Care for Pepper Seeds Indoors
Once the peppers germinate, take the clear cover off and keep them in bright sun or under a grow light.
Continue to spray the seedlings with water every two or three days, or whenever the top layer of soil appears dry. Overwatering often hurts them more than underwatering. Signs of overwatering a young pepper include yellow, drooping, or curled leaves.
Don’t keep the seedlings anywhere that gets below 50 degrees. Anything below 50 will stunt the peppers’ growth.
Once their true leaves develop, you may want to fertilize them. You can apply a small dose of fish emulsion at a quarter of its recommended strength every couple of weeks. Epsom salt is another helpful fertilizer if the soil has a magnesium deficiency.
On days the temperature gets over 60 degrees, set the seedlings outside for an hour or two at a time. This will help them start to acclimate to wind and sunshine. If you aren’t able to do this, you can also set up a small fan near the peppers so they gain strength.
Before beginning the transplanting process, make sure the peppers are at least 4 inches tall and have 2 or 3 sets of true leaves. If they get too big for their cell pack before you can safely transplant them outdoors, repot them into larger pots. A 32 oz. plastic container, like what yogurt comes in, makes a great transitional pot.
Keep the peppers inside until daytime temperatures are in the 60s, then begin hardening them off. Start with just a few hours on a cloudy, mild day, then leave them out for longer periods on sunny and breezier days. After a week or two, you should be able to leave them outside in their containers all day and night.
When nighttime temperatures are around 60 degrees at night and all chance of frost has passed, plant them outdoors in full sun or set your 5 gallon container out in a sunny location. When transplanting, make sure they’re spaced properly.
Once they’ve been transplanted, you may want to fertilize them. Here’s a good guide for getting started:
FAQs About Planting Pepper Seeds
How long does it take to grow peppers from seed?
It takes an average of around 8 weeks for a pepper to grow from a seed to transplanting size.
Can I plant pepper seeds from a fresh pepper?
Yes, you can plant pepper seeds from a fresh pepper as long as the pepper was completely ripe when you picked it.
Should you soak pepper seeds before planting?
You can, but you don’t have to. Soaking the pepper seeds for a day or two before planting may help them germinate faster.
How many pepper seeds to plant per hole?
If you have fresh or very few seeds, just one. If you have older seeds or more than you need, you can plant two or three seeds per hole.
Do you germinate pepper seeds in dark or light?
Either is fine! They need heat to germinate, so sunlight is only important if it’s helping warm the soil.
What month do you plant pepper seeds?
While it varies based on your zone, the most common month to plant peppers in is March for most of the northeast.
Can I plant seeds from store bought peppers?
You can, but it doesn’t make sense to. Store bought peppers may not be ripe, and they could have been pollinated with a different pepper variety.
With these tips, you should now know how to grow peppers from seeds. Happy planting!
Curious what to grow with your peppers? Check out the full list of pepper companion plants.