Starting Pepper Seeds: Tricks to Get Them to Germinate

germinating peppers

Some pepper seeds sprout within a few days, others take a couple of weeks and some never come up at all.

The pepper variety plays a big part in how fast it germinates. Capsicum chinense varieties like the 7-Pot Trinidad and Fatalii, for example, are notorious for being hard to start. This can be really frustrating, especially if you only have a handful of seeds to work with.

Fortunately, you can use a couple of techniques that give your seeds a better chance at sprouting. These methods are also ideal for speeding up the germination time of the slower chili varieties.

Soften the Seed Shell

Soaking pepper seedsOne of the best things you can do for your seeds is to soak them before planting. This weakens the shell barrier so the seedlings don’t have to work so hard to come up.

If you use a weak chamomile tea solution for the soaking, you also kill off any bacteria that may be present.

Make the Weak Tea Solution:
Brew a cup of chamomile and drink it. Use the same tea bag to make another cup of tea, and then use that batch to soak your seeds.

Let your seeds soak for 24 to 48 hours before planting.

Use the Bag Method

You can create an effective germination environment for your chile seeds simply by using a paper towel, ziplock bag or coffee filter and water.

This bag method is ideal for difficult varieties that have problems sprouting using the traditional seed-starting mix. Some peppers also germinate faster in the bag.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Fold a paper towel or coffee filter in quarters and then spray it with water until is damp.
  2. Place your pepper seeds in between the fold.
  3. Position your towel and chili seeds in the ziplock bag. Seal it up.
  4. Place your bag on top of a warm spot such as a heat mat.
  5. Spray your towel and seeds each day with water to keep it damp.
  6. Check for sprouting seeds. When they germinate, bury them under a light layer of sterile potting soil.

If you use a paper towel, cut the portion of the towel that has the germinated seedling because if you pull the seedling, you can tear the root. You shouldn’t have to do this with the coffee filter.

Use the Cup Method

A lidded, 2.5 ounce gelatin cup creates another ideal setting for pepper germination. You can get these cups at a party supply or grocery store.

  1. Dampen a small piece of paper towel and stick it at the bottom of the cup.
  2. Place your seeds on top of the towel and put the lid on.
  3. Leave the cup on a warm spot and dampen the towel each day to keep the environment moist.

Try the Freezer Method

As crazy as this sounds, this can work too. Here goes:

  1. Place your pepper seeds in the freezer for two days. Yep, we said freezer.
  2. Remove the seeds and position them in a folded-up paper towel. Dampen the towel with water.
  3. Place the towel on a plate and cover it with a dark bowl. Situate it on top of a warm spot.
  4. Check your seeds each day and dampen the towel when needed.

(Note: All of these germination methods and a lot more are covered in detail in our Pepper Seed-Starting Guide training.)

Extra Tips

  • An ideal germination temperature is usually between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Don’t use just one germination method on all of your seeds. Try a few seeds at a time to see what works best for you.
  • Make sure the pepper seed towel never dries out. Check it daily!

So there you have it. We hope these pepper germination techniques help you speed things up!

(Note: Do you need some help finding pepper seeds? If so, click here to get your copy of the Ultimate Pepper Seed Vendor List.)

  • gary hillerich

    not a word about germination temperature in your pepper seed starting/germination tricks..& being a small farmer for the last 30 years, i know a thing or two about starting pepper seeds..they are by far the most difficult..if the germination environment is not warm enough, it doesn’t matter what you do beforehand to the’ll NEVER get any seeds to sprout…the,temperature of the sprouting environment is far & away THE #1 most important issue..peppers like it warm during germination & while growing outside as well.. the seeds must be put in a 80-85 degree enviroment[heating pads/mats under starter containers area must if starting indoors 3-4 weeks before they can be transferred outside..I’ve found peppers like their growing soil acidic as well,..adding home made[ 50-50 well composted leaves & grass clippings] to the peppers 2-3 times during growing & production period,can & will double pepper output..

    • Jortiz3

      Research by NMSU on chile germination backs up what Gary stated. Temperature is really, really far more important than this article makes it seem.

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