Germinating Hot Pepper Seeds

Germinating hot pepper seeds is a little different from germinating sweet peppers, at least in my experience.  And the more exotic the pepper, the more particular they may be about sprouting.

Here are some tips for growing hot chile peppers from seeds.

Peppers Like it Hot!

While you can coax sweet and bell peppers to germinate in a moderate soil of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit, the chile peppers like their roots warmer…sometimes much warmer!  In fact, some of the hottest of the peppers — like habanero, jolokia and scotch bonnet — prefer soil temperatures of 85 degrees or more before raising their little heads.

If you’re lucky enough to be gardening in a warm climate where the soil is already 80 degrees or more, you’ll likely be able to get the seeds to sprout.  If you’re like the vast majority of us, those hot pepper seeds will need a little help.  Even I need help in S. Florida during the winter and early spring!

Have They Spouted Yet?

Another trait hot peppers like jalapenos, cayenne, datil and more share is a long germination time.  While sweet peppers can spring above ground within 7 to 10 days, hot peppers tend to take longer.  Sometimes a lot longer!

I’ve found that most of my hot peppers sprout within a 12 to 18 day period.  However, the very hottest can take up to a month (and boy, is the wait ever hard).

Help for Germinating Hot Pepper Seeds

Warmth is the biggest key in successfully germinating the chile pepper seeds. If you have a very warm spot in your home, like on a radiator, you may be good to go. For the rest of us, a seed germination mat is the best way to safely and gently warm the soil.

Something else I’ve found very useful, which surprised me in my trials, is using Terracycle. Terracycle is a gentle liquid fertilizer made from worm castings. After I moisten my seed-starting mix normally, I plant my seeds. After lightly covering my seeds with more soil mix, I spray Terracyle on the soil to dampen. Then, I give the soil a spritz every 2 or 3 days, to keep things moist.

Between the heat mat and the Terracycle, I’ve been able to shave time off the normal germination period, between 2 and 7 days.  That may not sound like a lot earlier, but for anyone who’s (impatiently) waiting, any time saved is helpful.

One thing you don’t need for germination is light — seeds germinate fine in the dark. However, once the seeds have germinated, you’ll need to ensure the seedlings get 12 to 16 hours of light a day. A sunny windowsill is great, but I’ve also found that using fluorescent light bulbs works well (especially when I run out of space on my windowsills). :)

If you are looking for a seed germination mat, here are some for your consideration. Happy hot peppers!!!


4 Responses to Germinating Hot Pepper Seeds

  • i am trying to grow chocolate habenero and white habenero along with scotch bonnet peppers. what do you recomended i do?

  • Gail says:

    Hi Brian,

    Not sure exactly what you are wanting to know, but I will say that habaneros tend to be slower to germinate than scotch bonnets. And at least in my garden, slower to set peppers. I’ve already had several scotch bonnets ripen while my mustard habanero is just now deciding it’s time to flower.

    Patience is the name of the game when it comes to the super-hot peppers!

  • jacques johnson says:

    Hey, I am new to gardening. I live in a good area where i receive plenty of sunshine and plenty of space to put plants. If I buy some Jalapenos from the store what do I do first? Do I dry the pepper or can i plant it as is? What would be some good steps to take to ensure germination warm the seeds while they are in the dirt or before they are planted? I am sorry about all the questions. I have really been interested in this all my life and now I am able to focus on it. Thank for the reply in advanced.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Jacques,

    Glad you can join us gardening! You’re lucky in that you have the climate, space and time to enjoy growing these delightful (and tasty) plants.

    First, I would recommend that you not use a jalepeno that you bought from a store (I am assuming you mean grocery store), as it’s very likely not ripe (they are deep red when ripe). So germination could be very hit-or-miss. I suggest that you either go to a garden center or buy some seeds online (check this site for places where I have bought seeds successfully). You’ll have a better germination rate.

    It’s best to germinate your seeds in warm planting medium. I like using a plant warming mat, specially designed for keeping plants and seeds warm (do not use a regular heating pad, whatever you do). Although I don’t show the warming pad in the video, here’s some information on planting pepper seeds, and the kind of “soil” I use.

    I hope this helps — enjoy growing your peppers! :)

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