Growing Peppers from Seed

It’s getting to be that time to start my pepper and tomato seedlings. I definitely don’t want to fall as far behind this year as I did last year with them.

In my experience, peppers can actually be one of the harder plants to get to germinate. I used to start everything but peppers by seed and just go buy pepper plants. But I wasn’t satisfied having to limit myself to just what I could find at the nursery. There are so many varieties of peppers out there that it seemed a shame to not grow them.

I always knew that pepper seeds need warmth to germinate, but even with using a seedling heat mat, it didn’t seem all that successful. After doing some research I found that the type of soil you used made all the difference. Pepper seedlings don’t like peat, so those peat pellets and soils that are made up primarily of peat moss inhibit pepper seed germination. I like to use orchid mix to start my pepper seedlings because it’s mostly made up of forest products.

Another important thing to know about peppers is that the hotter they are the longer it will take for them to germinate. While sweet peppers can germinate in as little as 6 days, a hot pepper, like Bhut Jolokia (Ghost pepper) can take up to 30 days.

I know it seems early, but every year I always say to myself “next year I need to start these in December.” Well, it’s December and it’s time for me to get on them. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out which varieties to grow yet!

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  1. PepperReed says:

    Wow! December?? That’s super early for me (in zone 5 MI), but I mostly grow sweets. I’m the same way; I always say ‘next year I’ll start first week of Feb!’, usually sometime the end of March when I’m finally getting my keister in gear! :^) I have a cold, damp basement, so heat mats really help. I’ve always started mine in compost topped with a layer of seed starting mix with good results. I’ll keep the peat issue in mind tho’ What varieties do you grow?

    I have a pepper planting ‘spot’ in a raised bed alongside the south side of my house, right next to my driveway (right next to the bed holding the native cactus and yucca plants). They do quite well there with all the reflected light and heat from the house and concrete. I usually grow ‘italian style’ frying peppers: Corno Di Toro, Boldog Paprika (looking for this seed), Marconi, Jimmy Nardello, etc., altho’ I’ve had Serranos and Anchos in there as well. Last year I grew Tolli’s Sweet Italian from Seed Savers and it did quite well; prolific and a great taste. Good Luck with your peppers!

    • We’re Zone 9B so we’re early with pepper growing. We’re growing Anaheim, Habanero, Cayenne, Serrano Tampequino, Sante Fe Grande, Orange Bell, Red Marconi, Corno di Toro Rosso, California Wonder and Corne de Chevre.

  2. Cheers for the heads up on capsicum seed germination (and chili’s). Here in Northern Tasmania we have a pretty short growing season but a reasonably mild winter and so we should be able to ripen chili’s and capsicum although we aren’t warm enough to take advantage of their semi-perennial behaviour and get a harvest in year 2.

  3. Looking forward to starting pepper seeds this year, will get to it in February….As a zone 2b/a inhabitant, peppers prove to be a challenge with the short season, altitude and copious amounts of wind here!

    I start mine in a fertile potting soil, I pick it up when it is cheap in the fall and it always seems to do the trick!

    I have great southern exposure in my house so I actually start them in my living room, much to my husbands chagrine, I always tell him if I had a greenhouse I wouldn’t need to have the plants in the house ;) !
    I take old cardboard boxes from Costco or the restaurant I work in, and tape a black garbage bag to the inside and out, helps with waterproofing and heat absorption. These become my trays for the plants. works great, no need for heat pads, waterproof and are really sturdy.
    I plant peppers in slightly larger pots than seems reasonable just to save some transplanting time in April….For the first week or two I cover the potted seeds, in their makeshift “trays”, with saran wrap to ensure proper moisture in such a hot southern window.

    I am trying one hybrid this year, I normally stay away from hybrids….”Big Bomb” hot cherry – I became enamoured with the feta stuffed pickled cherry peppers at a market one time so have to give them a shot this year…
    The others are Pepperoncini – italian heirloom to pickle, “King of the North” early 1900s heirloom sweet pepper that has a short maturity from transplant – around 70 days, and “Matchbox Chili” an heirloom early (60-65 days) which is supposed to be very productive and does well in pots.

    Cheers from up north in the foothills of the Rockies! Wish you happy pepper-ing!

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