When to Plant Peppers: 11 Best Garden Zones for Chiles (+ Seed Planting Calculator)

Here’s when to plant peppers: start seeds 8 to 10 weeks before your last expected frost. This way, chilies get a long enough growing season and miss any plant-killing freezes. Use our seed planting calculator to get a custom growing schedule, plus learn how to take care of your young pepper plants to remove all the guesswork.

when to plant peppers

If you’re like me, you learn the hard way that peppers have a really long growing season and do not like freezing temperatures. Let’s skip the learning curve!

Below, you’ll find the seed planting calculator I wish I had when I started gardening. You’ll get frost information and your best dates for starting seeds indoors and transplanting plants outside. 

Pepper Seed Planting Calculator

Enter your location to get your last expected date of frost and best dates to sow pepper seeds indoors. It also tells you when to transplant pepper seedlings outside (2 to 3 weeks after your last frost).

Enter your zip code or city, state to get your last frost and pepper planting dates.

Note: Frost dates are just estimates and are not guaranteed to be accurate. Always check your local weather report.

calculator tip

You can also use this tool for other warm-season crops that get started during the same timeframe. For example, tomatoes, eggplants, onions and shallots.

So you have your pepper seed starting date, but what about planting hot pepper seeds? Or, what if you start seeds too late? These answers, along with tips on germination and pepper seedlings care, are coming up.

Let’s dive deeper into when to plant peppers!

When To Plant Peppers By Hardiness Zone

when to plant peppers by hardiness zone map
when to plant peppers by hardiness zone legend
Source: USDA

Your plant hardiness zone (gardening zone) gives you the average winter temperature for your geographic area. You can use the chart below as another resource when starting pepper seeds.

Garden ZoneLast Frost DateWhen To Start Pepper Seeds Indoors
3May 1 – 15Mar 6 – 20
4May 23 – Jun 13Mar 28 – Apr 18
5May 9 – Jun 4Mar 14 – Apr 9
6Apr 28 – May 14Mar 3 – 19
7Mar 30 – Apr 16Feb 2 – 19
8Mar 13 – 29Jan 16 – Feb 1
9Feb 6 – 28Dec 12 – Jan 3
10-13No freezesWhenever you’d like!

(Gardening zones 1-2 aren’t included because the growing season is too short.)

grow tips

These dates are just estimates. Always check local weather reports for the most accurate information.

Ideally, you want to start pepper seeds indoors at least 8 weeks before your last expected frost. If you live in a hardiness zone with a shorter growing season, cut this time down to 6 weeks.

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When To Plant Hot Peppers

when to plant hot peppers Bhut Jolokia
Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper)

Hot peppers — especially super hot pepper seeds — take more time to sprout than sweet varieties. Schedule an extra two weeks for planting hot pepper seeds indoors. This gives hot pepper seeds time for germination and for growing ripe chillies outside.

grow tips

Growing Bell pepper seeds and other pepper varieties usually take up to 2 weeks to germinate. For comparison, superhots like the Ghost pepper and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion may need a month or more to sprout.

When To Start Pepper Seeds Indoors (Outside US)

when to start pepper seeds indoors

If you’re outside the US, here are some links that can provide your last expected date of frost.



United Kingdom

After you know your last expected date of frost, count back 8 to 10 weeks to get your pepper seed starting dates.

(If I didn’t include your country, it’s because I couldn’t find a website that provides frost date information. Sorry, and thank you so much for visiting my site!)

First time growing peppers from seed?

Learn to grow peppers with my step-by-step, illustrated ebook. It’ll help you skip a lot of beginner mistakes so that you can enjoy harvesting your own chilies!

Growing Seedlings Tips

growing seedlings tips
Pepper Seedlings

Starting peppers indoors in the 8 to 10-week timeframe gives seeds enough time for germination. It also gives you time to grow your pepper seedlings indoors before you transplant them outside.

When sowing seeds, use a seed-starting mix and a plant heat mat so that the lightweight media and soil temperature are perfect for germinating peppers. Here’s more on growing peppers from seed.

» Related – Germinating Pepper Seeds: Tricks to Get Them to Sprout

grow tips

For reference, sweet peppers usually germinate in 7 to 10 days. Hot peppers can take two weeks or more. Superhots may take six weeks or longer.

After Seeds Germinate

after seeds germinate

Seed germination can happen on different days, even if you planted pepper seeds at the same time. After a seed germinates and stands upright, take it off of the heat mat and out from under the lid. Your new seedling also needs light.

Here’s how to take care of your plants during these early growth stages:

  • Watering Frequency: Start watering peppers when the mix gets dry, which may be every couple of days. (Depends on your growing environment.) An even — not waterlogged — soil moisture keeps seedlings disease-free and growing well.
  • Fertilizing: After pepper seedlings grow their first set of true leaves, start feeding your plants. You can use a fertilizer for pepper plants such as fish emulsion.
  • Grow Light: Use a fluorescent or LED plant light to keep your plants growing before they get outdoor sun. A good light schedule is 16 hours on and 8 hours off.

» Related: How to Care for Pepper Seedlings after Seeds Sprout

You can expect to grow pepper seedlings indoors for a couple of months before they go outside.

Transplanting Pepper Seedlings

transplanting pepper seedlings

Pepper seedlings are usually transferred to larger pots about 3 to 4 weeks after germination. A 4-inch container or a plastic cup works well for transplanting plants indoors. (Make sure you poke holes in the cup if you use it.)

» Related – Transplanting Pepper Plants: When and How to Move Chillies to Bigger Pots

As for moving pepper plants outside, do the following:

  • Use the calculator to get the dates when you can move plants outdoors (2 to 3 weeks after the last frost).
  • Harden off your seedlings to prepare them for living outside.
  • Start planting peppers in larger pots (if applicable). Use at least a 5-gallon container per plant, and fill it with a potting soil rich in organic matter.
  • Make sure night temperatures are regularly above 55°F (13°C) before the final move outdoors. If you have a shorter growing season, you can experiment with 46°F (8°C) to gain as much time as possible.

Protecting Young Pepper Plants In Cold Weather

Unexpected weather happens, so we have to be ready to protect young plants when needed. If your peppers are outside and local weather predicts heavy rains or temperatures below 55°F (13°C), here are some things you can do.

For potted peppers, move your plants into a garage or other sheltered spot for the night. You can put them back out in the morning.

Use a frost blanket if your peppers are in the ground or it’s too cold during the day. You can wrap this fabric around the plants, and the sunlight can still get through. Just be sure to remove the blanket when the weather calms down.

Starting Pepper Seeds Too Soon Or Too Late

Pepper plants aren’t frost-hardy. (A term you might find on seed packets.) If you start seeds too soon, they’ll need to stay indoors until it’s warm enough. Otherwise, the wrong temperatures can stunt a pepper’s growth or even kill the plant.

And, if you sow pepper seeds too late, you probably won’t get much of a harvest (if at all) because these plants have such a long growing season. In this situation, you can winterize (overwinter) your pepper plants and put them out again when it gets warmer.

Keep Seed Starting Records

keep seed starting records

Keep notes when you start planting seeds indoors so that you create a customized planting schedule. For example, note seed starting dates, pepper varieties, germination dates and outdoor transplant dates. (The seed planting calculator provides transplant info.)

Also, certain types of chili pepper varieties take a long time to sprout. Recording pepper seed germination times can tell you if you need to start these varieties earlier.

And again, frost dates are only estimates based on averages. They don’t take into account things like microclimates and temperature fluctuations. Your personalized schedule helps ensure you plant pepper seeds indoors at the right time for your climate.

FAQs On When To Plant Peppers

Wrapping Up

I hope this clears up when to plant peppers. In brief, know your last frost date so you can count back eight to 10 weeks and get your best seed starting dates.

Now that you know when to start pepper seeds indoors, your next step is to start growing your seeds. This pepper growing guide steps you through the germination process and describes all the processes for growing chillies.

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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.

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