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.
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.
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
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 Zone||Last Frost Date||When To Start Pepper Seeds Indoors|
|3||May 1 – 15||Mar 6 – 20|
|4||May 23 – Jun 13||Mar 28 – Apr 18|
|5||May 9 – Jun 4||Mar 14 – Apr 9|
|6||Apr 28 – May 14||Mar 3 – 19|
|7||Mar 30 – Apr 16||Feb 2 – 19|
|8||Mar 13 – 29||Jan 16 – Feb 1|
|9||Feb 6 – 28||Dec 12 – Jan 3|
|10-13||No freezes||Whenever you’d like!|
(Gardening zones 1-2 aren’t included because the growing season is too short.)
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
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.
When To Start Pepper Seeds Indoors (Outside US)
If you’re outside the US, here are some links that can provide your last expected date of frost.
- Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology (Potential frost days)
- Australian Botanic National Gardens (Hardiness zones)
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
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.
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
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.
You can expect to grow pepper seedlings indoors for a couple of months before they go outside.
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.)
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 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
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.