Welcome chilli growing newbs! Your first growing season is an exciting but very confusing one. There’s so much information out there and things have moved way past sticking a seed in the dirt and seeing if it grows. Now you can find posts about seed germination that read like scientific papers!
I’ve taken the most common question about getting your seeds to sprout and answered them as best I can while keeping it simple. I’ve sprinkled the answers with links so that any of you that want to go down the rabbit hole can find more information easily but feel free to ask questions in the comments if something doesn’t make sense or if I missed anything.
How Do I Store My Seeds?
If you’re not going to be planting your seeds straight away then make sure you’re storing them in a cool, dark, dry place until you use them. Moisture is the biggest threat to seeds in storage so it’s best to store them in some kind of waterproof baggie.
Can I Plant Dried Pepper Seeds?
Yes. Seeds are dried out before they are stored to stop them from going mouldy.
Can I Plant Seeds Straight From a Chilli?
Yes. Get them out of the chilli (wear gloves to avoid getting the spicy juice on your hands), clean them off and pop them in soil or between damp paper towels to get them growing.
When Can I Grow Hot Peppers?
Hot peppers like hot weather. Most people start their peppers indoors about 6 – 8 weeks before the outdoor temperatures warm up enough for them. Seeing as we’re all in different locations I don’t want to give a specific month but I start mine indoors as soon as the temperature starts getting warmer and the days start getting a little longer.
If you’re a bit late then don’t worry. You can plant them once spring has already sprung! They’ll keep growing throughout summer. Check the seed to harvest time for the variety you’re growing and make sure that they’ll have enough time to grow peppers and for them to ripen.
Do Pepper Seeds Need Light to Germinate?
No. Burying them about half a centimetre (1/4″) deep means they’ll have some resistance as they sprout which’ll help them grow nice and strong.
Should I Presoak My Seeds?
I did an experiment this year testing out the effects of the most common presoak methods on seed germination that didn’t require a special trip to a chemist and the results were in favour of not presoaking.
Save yourself a day and skip the presoak.
Should I Germinate My Seeds with the Paper Towel Method?
Aside from it being fun to see your seeds little roots start to form, germinating your seeds in paper towels can save you a bit of cash and space as only the viable seeds end up going in soil.
Next year I’ll be doing an experiment to test out the germination rate between seeds planted in soil vs the paper towel method to see if either method has a better germination rate or is faster than the other.
What’s the Best Temperature to Germinate Seeds?
The ideal temperature for germination is 29C/85F. Once the seeds germinate you’ll need to turn it down to around 21C/70F.
If you don’t have a way to regulate temperature then find a warm spot like the top of your fridge.
How Long Will It Take For My Seeds To Germinate?
The earliest I’ve had seeds germinate in their moist paper towel sandwich is after 5 days but usually it’s around 10 to 14 days. If all your seeds are the same variety they’ll normally germinate within about a week of each other.
There are a lot of factors that can cause your seeds to take longer to germinate:
- Seeds germinating in cooler temperatures
- Hotter varieties
- Old/damaged/badly stored seeds
If my pepper seeds haven’t germinated within 30 days I tend to consider them dead, although, if you wait a bit longer you might end up with a few waking up.
When Should I Put My Germinated Seeds into Soil?
As soon as the radicle (the little white root tip on the leftmost seed in the picture above) starts to appear, plant them. The longer the root gets the more difficult it’ll be not to disturb or damage it while transplanting to soil.
I’ve done a whole post on how to plant over germinated seeds for any of you that forgot to check on your seeds for a while and are struggling to get them planted.
How Many Seeds Should I Plant Per Hole?
If you’re skipping the paper towel germination and getting your seeds straight into soil then pop two seeds into each hole. It means that you’re more likely to get at least one plant. If both seeds sprout, chop the smaller one off at soil level so that you don’t have two plants competing for space.
A lot of the pepper seeds I get say what the germination percentage is and it’s usually somewhere in the 90s so if you plant 10 seeds you should get 9 plants. When I only have a few seeds I’ll only put one per hole just because I don’t have any to spare.
How Deep Should I Plant Pepper Seeds?
Half a centimetre deep (1/4″).
How Often Should I Water Seeds?
Before the seeds have sprouted they need to be kept moist. I let the soil dry out ever so slightly between waterings – it shouldn’t look dry or have changed colour very much. The seed isn’t that deep so anything more than the very top layer of soil drying out is too much.
Should I Use a Humidity Dome?
Humidity domes help keep everything humid, traps the water that evaporates off the soil so that it doesn’t dry out and helps keep the soil temperature nice and warm – the perfect environment for a seed to sprout in. Unfortunately, it’s also the perfect environment for fungi to grow in.
I tested out whether humidity domes were worth it and aside from a slightly faster sprouting time, there wasn’t much difference. The humidity dome with vents worked the best when it came to the amount of helmet heads.
I did notice that once the humidity domes had been removed that the soil was more susceptible to growing white fuzz than the uncovered one.
If you’re sprouting in lower than desirable temperatures or your soil dries out too quickly then set up a humidity dome that has some air holes poked in it (I use clingfilm stretched over cups held in place with an elastic band that I poked holes in with a toothpick).
If everything’s good conditions-wise then it probably won’t make much difference whether you use one or not.
When Should I Take Off The Humidity Dome?
I take mine off as soon as I see the sprouts breaking the surface. The humidity dome might create ideal conditions for seedlings, but once they’re sprouted it’ll be too much.
If your seeds have been sprouted for a while inside the humidity dome then you might need to harden them off first by adding additional ventilation holes over a few days before removing it completely. Otherwise, they tend to look a little sad while they adjust to the more dramatic change in conditions – usually they recover within a couple of days.
If you’ve got unsprouted seeds in the same pot you should still take it off. Seeds can germinate quite happily without a humidity dome so they should germinate just fine and your sprouted seedlings will be healthier for it.
I’m sure I’ll have missed a big question so if you didn’t find an answer here pop it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it.
The next faq we’ll talk about looking after your new little seedlings.