germinating pepper seeds

Germinating Pepper Seeds, Update

It’s been just over a week since I planted my latest batch of pepper seeds, both hot and sweet. So what’s sprouting already?

And the Winner Is…

Corno di Toro, a sweet pepper, was first out of the gate at 5 days. However, of the two seeds I’ve planted, only one has shown up yet. On the other hand, I planted two different strains (confused yet?). At any rate, the red Corno di Toro is the clear winner.

Jalapeno M was the second to sprout at 6 days, with both seeds coming on up. Jalapeno M was closely followed by Cambuci Hot, about a half day behind.

The next two sprouted at nearly the same time — Nardello Sweet and Mini Belle.

And finally this morning — Mustard Habanero.  Wow, a super-hot pepper in 7.5 days — amazing.

I’m Waiting On

Some “hotties” — Hot-Banero, Peter Pepper and Bhut Jolokia.  Also lagging are two more jalapenos — Jaloro and Tam Jalapeno.  Brazillian Rainbow is also nowhere to be seen yet.  I know — patience!  And considering 10 to 21 days is the usual for hot chile peppers, it’s great that some have already shown their faces (er, leaves).  Yes, the seed germination mat I talked about does work well, shaving days off the sprouting.

Thinking About a Transplant

Purira pepper (quite hot) is growing very strong and looks like it will need its final transplant before going outside to harden off for the garden in the next few days.  Seeing as I did its first transplant early last week, this one appears to be a winner!

Other pepper seeds that need their final transplants before hardening off include Redskin, Anconcagua and the last of the sweet banana peppers.  For Sweet Pickle I just did its first transplant on Saturday, and it appears that it will need its second transplant this weekend — wow, that was fast!

More Seeds?

I think I’ll take a short break, since I have at least 20 pepper plants at the moment, not counting the ones that are just now sprouting.  Come the middle of April, it will be time to start thinking about my late Summer wave.  I’m planning on the following peppers for then:  Datil, Tennessee Teardrop, Ring of Fire, Yellow Cayenne and Scotch Bonnet.  On the cooler side it will be more Sweet Banana, along with Anconcagua and probably Nardello Sweet.  Perhaps Mini Belle again, if small bell peppers work well for me.

Have You Planted Your Seeds Yet?

I know, it’s been a cold winter, and for many of you, putting pepper plants into the garden is many months away.  But for you folks in zones 8, 9 and 10 — it’s pepper “prime time”.  Get planting!

P.S. — it’s a few hours later and both my Corno di Toro, both Cambuci and both Mustard Habaneros are up. Even Peter Pepper is starting to break through! What a difference a few hours can make. 🙂

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!!!

Germinating Pepper Seeds

Germinating pepper seeds can be a wee bit frustrating at first, mainly because it takes so long for the seeds to germinate. But once you have done it a few times, it’s pretty easy.

Why should you try germinating pepper seeds, instead of just buying plants at your local garden center? One reason is because the selection at your garden center is very likely limited. At best you’ll find 10 pepper varieties, more often less than that.

Usually the gorgeous ornamental-appearing peppers don’t show up in the garden center; these have to be grown from seeds. Two wonderful varieties that come immediately to my mind are Explosive Ember and Sweet Pickle.

Pepper Germination Rates

First of all, don’t expect a 100%  seed germination rate from your pepper seeds.  While you just might get 100%, in my experience in growing many, many varieties, 75% is more the norm.  So I plant 25% more seeds than I need, and if they all germinate and thrive, I can sell or give away the extras.

Germination rates vary according to how long ago the seeds were harvested, as well as how the seeds have been stored.  Generally, you want to use pepper seeds within 2 years, but they can germinate long after that time, too.

For example, I have some 10-year-old seeds that I planted a week ago, and I fully expect that some will germinate.  I just planted a lot extra, because I knew the germination rate was going to be low.  However, some of these seeds are rare varieties, so they are worth trying.

I tend to buy my pepper seeds online, but I’ve been known to pick up a pack at the garden shop from time to time.  Either way, you don’t know for sure how old those seeds are.  Always plant extra.

Germinating Pepper Seeds – Warmth and Humidity

When germinating your pepper seeds, the two most important things are heat and humidity.  Peppers like plenty of warmth, and germinate best at soil temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees.

While those seeds are sitting in the warm soil, they need to be kept damp, but not wet.  They need the moisture to soften the seed coats, so the plants can be born (so to speak).  I like to use a windowsill greenhouse when germinating pepper seeds; the top of the greenhouse keeps in the humidity.  And a bonus is that these little mini-greenhouses are inexpensive, so you can have lots for many windowsills.

However, if you live in a cooler climate, you may want to use a heat mat under your peppers to be germinated.   Please don’t use a household heating pad; that could be dangerous.  Instead, get one that’s waterproof and made for keeping seeds and seedlings warm.

If you are planting pepper seeds directly outside, wait until the soil temperature has reached at least 65 degrees and that they get full sun, to heat the soil even more. Remember to keep the soil damp, but not wet.

That’s it for now!  If you want to read more about seed starting for peppers, read my posts on seed starting part 1 and seed starting part 2.  Enjoy!