Here’s when to start pepper seeds indoors: plant seeds 8 to 10 weeks before your last expected frost. The right timing gives plants a long enough growing season without being exposed to freezes. Use the tool below to get your last frost date and custom planting dates so you know when to plant peppers in your location.
Pepper Seed Starting Calculator
This calculator displays your last expected date of frost, and it counts back 8 to 10 weeks to provide the 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.
- Pepper Seed Starting Calculator
- When To Plant Peppers By Hardiness Zone
- When To Plant Hot Peppers
- Starting Pepper Seeds Too Soon Or Too Late
- When To Start Pepper Seeds Indoors (Outside US)
- Growing Seedlings Tips
- Keep Seed Starting Records
- Starting Pepper Plants Indoors FAQs
- What’s Next?
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 your local weather report 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.
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.
Bell pepper seeds and other pepper varieties usually take up to 2 weeks to germinate. For comparison, superhots like the Ghost pepper and Trinidad Scorpion pepper may need a month or more to sprout.
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.
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 about that, and thank you so much for visiting my site!)
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 can usually germinate in 7 to 10 days. Hot peppers can two weeks or more. And, superhots may take six weeks or longer.
The following sections will help you take care of your new pepper seedlings.
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, you’ll need to take it off of the heat mat and out from under the lid. Your new seedling will also need light.
You can expect to grow pepper seedlings indoors for a couple of months before they go outside. This guide walks you through all the steps of taking care of your indoor 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.)
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.
- Make sure night temperatures are regularly above 55°F (13°C). If you have a shorter growing season, you can experiment with 46°F (8°C) to gain as much time as possible.
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 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 start seeds indoors at the right time for your climate.
Starting Pepper Plants Indoors FAQs
I hope that this information kickstarts a successful pepper growing season!
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.
- 30 Places to Buy Pepper Seeds Online (Rare Peppers, Superhots and More)
- Growing Peppers In Containers
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 indoors and growing them into healthy, outdoor-ready plants.