Every chilli grower has their own special way of getting chilli seeds to germinate – especially when it comes to tricky to germinate seeds like super hots or old damaged seeds. One of the most common methods touted is the idea of pre-soaking seeds in a variety of different solutions. Some soaking solutions like hydrogen peroxide is thought to mimic the seed being eaten by a bird and coming out the other end, others are said to soften the seed coating making it easier for the roots to break out and some presoaks are thought to help kill off any potential bacteria on the seed that could infect the seed.

To help solve the mystery I’m going to test out the most common germination methods to see which has the highest success rate. To make it fairer we’ll be using different chill varieties to see if certain types respond better to different methods.

The Soaking Process

For each soaking method we’ll use 10 seeds of each variety. They’ll be soaked for 8 hours in room temperature liquid then setup to germinate using the paper towel method.

Seeds Soaking in Different Solutions

Chamomile Presoak

Chamomile has natural bacteria killing properties so it’s a pretty good choice for a seed soaking solution. Not only will it help kill off potentially harmful bacteria, it’ll help to soften the seed casing making it easier for the roots to emerge.

To make the chamomile presoak make a cup of chamomile tea letting the teabag to brew for 2 minutes. Then, make a second cup of tea with the same teabag and let it brew for 2 minutes. Leave it to cool to room temperature then dump your seeds in there to soak for 8 hours.

Black Tea Presoak

Black tea is a bit of a mystery. While it does help to soften the seed casings to make it easier for the roots to emerge, it’s not exactly clear what else black tea brings to the table. I’ve seen mention of the tannins working some kind of magic, there’s also talk of the flavonoids doing something but nothing definitive.

Never-the-less there’s an interesting posts about black tea being particularly useful when it comes to hard to germinate seeds or very old seeds along with some reports of it drastically reducing germination time.

To make the black tea presoak make a cup of black tea letting the teabag to brew for 2 minutes. Then, make a second cup of tea with the same teabag and let it brew for 2 minutes. Leave it to cool to room temperature then tip your seeds in there to soak for 8 hours.

Distilled Water Presoak

Distilled water is used as a presoaking solution to rehydrate seeds which is thought to “wake up” the seeds from dormancy. It also helps to soften the seed coating making it easier for the roots to emerge from the seed casing.

Put your seeds in room temperature bottled water and leave them for 8 hours.

Tap Water Presoak

Tap water is the easiest and cheapest soaking solution. Soaking in water is thought to rehydrate the seed “waking” it up from dormancy as well as softening the seed coat making it easier for the roots to emerge.

The problem with tap water is it contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride which are thought to inhibit plant development and growth. However, many people use tap water without any problems.

Put your seeds in a glass of room temperature tap water and let them soak for 8 hours.

No Presoak

Plenty of people skip the presoaking step and go straight to the paper towel germination part so it’ll be interesting to see if these seeds keep up with the rest. 

This is our control group. It’ll help show whether presoaking offers any advantage or if it’s just an additional unnecessary extra step.

Chamomile wrap

With the chamomile wrap there’s no presoaking involved. We’re going to setup our seeds for paper towel germination but instead of moistening the paper towel with water we’re going to use some of our chamomile tea presoak solution.

I’m curious to see if it’s possible to get the benefits of presoaking without needing to spend 8 hours soaking the seed.

Black tea wrap

The black tea wrap process is the same as the chamomile wrap process except we’re moistening the paper towel with the black tea presoak solution.

The Seeds

I figured that some seeds might respond better to different methods so I’ve got a variety of seeds to test on. We’ll be planting ten of each type for each method.

  • Jalapeños
  • Cascabel
  • Camba
  • Cobincho
  • 3 Year Old Seeds (excluded)
  • 5 Year Old Seeds (excluded)
  • Chilli Flake Seeds (excluded)

I’ve heard that the tea presoaks are supposed to work wonders on old damaged looking seeds so I’m hoping that the older seeds might sprout with those methods (or any method really!).

The Results

I’m not entirely sure how to present the results in a way that’ll make sense so feel free to let me know in the comments if you think there’s a better way. Would some kind of graph be good?

Germination Rate

Avg Germination Time

No Presoak

100% 9.2

Chamomile Wrap

97.5% 9.7

Black Tea Wrap

95% 9.5

Distilled Water Presoak

92.5% 9.6

Black Tea Presoak

92.5% 8.8

Tap Water Presoak

87.5% 9.8

Chamomile Presoak

85% 8.8

We’re two weeks in and the old seeds haven’t started sprouting but I’ll be checking them daily for another two weeks in the hopes that something germinates. I’ve excluded them from the results for the mean time but I’ll update the post if any of them germinate.

The four types of chilli seeds that were in good condition have all finished germinating and I’m fairly certain any that haven’t germinated yet aren’t going to (but I’ll give them another two weeks just in case any are late starters).

Germination Rates

While there was pretty good germination rates across all methods the No Presoaking method outshined the rest with 100% success.

The most interesting thing the results show is that all three of the methods that didn’t involve a presoak had a higher germination rate than the presoaked seeds.

On top of that, in the no presoak method tap water was used to moisten the paper towel and it outperformed the “cleaner” chamomile and black tea wraps.

I’m pretty surprised that the tap water presoak yielded more germinated seeds that the chamomile presoak too.

Germination Time

The fastest average germination times come from the chamomile and black tea presoak methods. However, when we look that the data in more detail taking into consideration when the first signs of germination appeared to when the last germination occurred things look a little different.

The no presoaking method wasn’t the first to have a seed germinate, but it was the fastest germinator of the lot with all the seeds being germinated after 11 days.

Day of First Germination

Day of Last Germination

Total Days to Germinate (from first germination)

Chamomile Presoak

6 12 6

Black Tea Presoak

5 13 8

Distilled Water Presoak

5 12 7

Tap Water Presoak

7 13 6

No Presoak

6 11 5

Chamomile Wrap

6 13 7

Black Tea Wrap

6 13 7

Conclusions

According to the results I got, skipping presoaking worked out the best. It germinated all of the seeds, it did it quickly and it takes the least effort.

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11 Comments

  1. Kristopher Banner May 24, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    I just want to say that, without being too hyperbole, you have given me hope again for me and what felt like my brown thumb. Keep crushing.

    Reply
    1. daisydawes May 25, 2020 at 9:47 am

      That makes me so happy to hear! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you and your plants. What are you growing?

      Reply
  2. nick jeromans September 22, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Did you refrigerate the seeds for 3 days before hand? I’m just trying to figure out the best way to start my hot pepper seeds.

    Reply
    1. daisydawes November 2, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      No, I’ve never heard of doing that before! Next season I’m going to give it a go and see if it helps with germination rates. Did you try it?

      Reply
  3. Gerry January 10, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Only 10 seeds isn’t a true test. I’ve been germinating for years and although pre-soaking seeds is not necessary in most cases I have had a much higher success rate with older super hot chilies seeds.

    Reply
    1. daisydawes January 10, 2021 at 1:06 pm

      Great to know! I did try soaking some old seeds to see if I could revive any of them but didn’t have any luck so excluded them from the results. I would have loved to have done the experiment with 100s of seeds to make the results more reliable but it wasn’t an option unfortunately. Maybe someday when I’ve got more seeds, time and space to do it 🙂

      Reply
  4. amber April 10, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    Wow quiet an thorough and interesting experience you did and thank you a ton for sharing the results!

    Reply
  5. Silly Seeder April 18, 2021 at 9:13 am

    HAhaahahha, conclusion rocks ! XD
    Totaly unexpected results.
    Maybe a’ll do quick camomile presoak (4h) for desinfection….
    Tnx

    Reply
  6. Jarrod September 1, 2021 at 4:10 am

    Hello I was successful using organic chamomile tea on ghost peppers which by the way is said online that they take 35 days to germinate Well The chamomile tea I didn’t Heat up just let the teabag soak for 24 hrs in a pitcher Then put the solution in a spray bottle and no kidding they sprouted in 3 days! It needs be organic tho and the presoak uses hydrogen peroxide let them settle for a day strain them let dry out and ready to pot.

    Reply
  7. Jarrod September 1, 2021 at 4:43 am

    Organic Chamomile tea really works but I don’t boil it First I soak the seeds in cold tap water then add 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide for a 24 hr soak. Dump the seeds in strainer let them air out put them in plastic container with lid so can sow them anytime I place seeds in soil instead sprinkling on top Then put chamomile tea bag in pitcher with slice lemon to neutralize the tap water I put the solution in a spray bottle and for example planted ghost pepper seeds (which said online takes 45 days to sprout well they wrong! Took 3 days for them to sprout Did same test on other peppers habanero red hot chili Anaheim chili Serrano they all germinated within a few days not Weeks!

    Reply
  8. Jarrod September 1, 2021 at 5:05 am

    Need be careful once the chamomile on the seeds they’ll germinate right inside container if pre-soaking in it, hydrogen peroxide presoak works better in my opinion then later after sow the dry seeds can spray them with cold tap water + slice lemon + organic chamomile You can also use Earl of grey or green tea as long it tyey don’t have caffeine in them I found them at marshals can also find these wellness teas at dollar store Hydrogen peroxide does many plant wonders can also rescue a overwatered plant 🪴

    Reply

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