How To Buy Hot Pepper Seeds Without Getting Ripped Off

There’s something that many of us chile growers have in common, which isn’t very pleasant…

We’ve been ripped off by a scammy pepper seed vendor at one time or another.

It happens.

carolina reaper pepper

In fact I had an experience when I first ​went to purchase seeds. Back then, I knew I wanted to grow cherry bomb peppers (the name sounded cool) so I quickly did a Google search and found a vendor selling “rare” seeds on eBay. I excitedly made my purchase and eventually received the seeds in a letter envelope.

The seeds were loose, dirty and some had been crushed. I knew nothing about seed-shipping practices so I accepted this as the norm and quickly planted the non-broken specimens.

Nothing grew (except bacteria) and I blamed my lack of experience. I later discovered that there were a lot complaints about that particular vendor.

I’ve heard other stories about people who buy seeds and realize months later that the seeds didn’t grow true to type. In other words, they didn’t produce the same characteristics as the parent plant.

​More commonly, the latest “hottest pepper in the world” comes out, unethical sellers see a quick money-making opportunity and people buy their seeds only to have an unpleasant surprise.  ​(​For example, people ​think they are growing Ghost Peppers​, but end up with Jalapenos!)

​Sadly, by time the plants have fully grown out, it’s usually too late to make a complaint. Plus, precious planting time is lost.

Now I’m not writing all of this to scare people off of buying seeds. Far from it. Instead, I want to share some tips that can help you buy from reputable vendors.

Let me show you the best ways to do this…

​Proceed with Caution on Amazon and eBay

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Let me preface this by saying that not all sellers on these sites are bad.

Just be wary when making a purchase from an unknown vendor.

​One of the main problems is that feedback on these sites doesn’t tell you the complete story.

Positive reviews are usually attributed to the quickness and safe arrival of your seeds.

​By the time your plants produce fruit, a few months have passed and it’s too late to file a claim if the item is not as described. And scorned customers may not always have the ability to update their comments once they realized what’s happened.

So what do you do?

Read The Item Description Carefully To Understand What You’re Getting

Consider these questions:

  • Does the seller personally grow and harvest the peppers, or does this person buy and resell the seeds? (The pictures in the ad may be taken from other businesses or digital image libraries.)​
  • Are these heirloom seeds, hybrid seeds or open pollinated seeds?
  • Does the seller do a germination test before selling seeds?
  • How many seeds will you get? (This number should be at least 10.)
  • What country are the seeds coming from?

Ask The Seller A Question
I recommend that you contact the vendor with a question — any question — just to see if he or she responds. If you don’t get an answer, move on.

(As of this writing, Amazon doesn’t provide potential buyers with a way of contacting the seller before making a purchase; however, on eBay, you can contact sellers before, during or after a transaction.)

Read Feedback Comments
Go beyond the feedback score on these sites and find out what the neutral and negative comments are.

It may seem that Amazon and eBay are the best places for hot pepper seeds, but again, always be cautious. If other gardeners give the thumbs up for a particular seller, you should be okay.

Tip: If you’re looking for a special variety of hot pepper, be sure to check out Etsy. This online marketplace is quickly becoming one of my favorite sources for hard-to-find seeds and plants.

(Disclosure: I’m an Etsy affiliate, which means I earn a small commission if you make a purchase using my link. This is at no additional cost to you, and it does not influence my recommendation. I enjoy buying seeds, plants and fresh peppers on this site.)

​Researching Pepper Seed Vendors

If you have a particular seed seller in mind, talk to other pepper growers first. This is one of the best ways to protect your money and time.

Hot pepper and gardening forums are full of people who can either share their experience with a particular vendor, or point you in the direction of someone who has what you want. Simply search for “pepper forum” in Google and you’ll find plenty of options.

Many of these sites have “vendor” threads or rooms where you can get information. Others have dedicated seller review pages where you can find feedback written by other members.

​Finding Your Pepper Variety

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When you want to grow the hottest pepper or an exotic variety it’s hard to know where to look.

Doing Web searches will usually point to listings on Amazon or eBay, but you have better resources at your fingertips.

» Related – Pepper Seeds: Where to Buy Carolina Reaper Seeds and More

Again, check out the gardening / hot pepper forums and look in the “Classifieds” category (if they have one), or post a question in the appropriate room.

Most people are really helpful.

Oftentimes, you’ll find someone who will share or trade that particular variety if they have extra seeds.

Forums are one of my favorite ways of getting rare pepper seeds because the members have personally grown the peppers and can give you valuable tips for success. People who sell seeds on these sites are usually outstanding vendors because they are dedicated growers who know reputation is everything.

(​​​Tip: Before posting a seed request, register with the community and ​​join in some discussions first. Existing members are more likely to be receptive to your requests if you show that you’re someone who wants to participate in the forum and isn’t just passing through.)

​If Your Pepper Seeds Still Don’t Grow True To Type

Clarification: The phrase “true to type” refers to a plant whose seeds will produce the same type of plant as the original.

So I’ve talked about being safe when buying pepper seeds, but…

… what happens if you purchase from a reputable vendor and the chile seeds still don’t grow true?

Mistakes can happen. With the exception of the Manzano pepper that has black seeds, most seeds are impossible to tell apart.

Work with the seller, explain what happened and allow them to remedy the situation. Many will do their best to keep you happy.

If you happened to trade or get free seeds from a fellow grower, you might end up with some interesting pepper variation. This is usually due to open pollination and not isolating pepper seeds. Many people enjoy these types of surprises!

You now have all the information you need to buy seeds with confidence. And in the future, you can start saving pepper seeds from your favorite varieties so you don’t have to buy them again!

If you’d like a complete guide for turning your pepper seeds into healthy plants, be sure to check out The Pepper Seed Starting Guide. This ebook steps you through all of the processes of starting seeds inside and growing them into strong plants that are ready for the outdoors.

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Jenny is the creator of Grow Hot Peppers. She is a self-taught gardener and has been growing peppers and a plethora of veggies for over 10 years. When she’s not writing or gardening, she loves eating spicy foods, hiking, and going to the ocean.