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Peppers Seed Starting Tips

Seedling Peppers in tray
Pepper seedlings
Pepper seedlings

Peppers are a tender, warm-weather crop.

  • Start peppers indoors 8 to 6 weeks before the average night time temperature is expected to stay above 55°F (13°C) if you plan to transplant seedlings directly into the garden.
  • Start seed indoors up to 14 weeks before the last spring frost if you plan to harden off seedlings under cover before transplanting to the garden.
  • Set peppers in the garden after nighttime temperatures are consistently greater than 55°F (13°C)—unless you plan to protect them from the chill under a plastic tunnel or row covers.

Detailed pepper growing tips: How to Grow Peppers.

There are two basic kinds of peppers: sweet and hot. Sweet peppers are mild in flavor; they include bell peppers. Hot peppers are pungent and range in flavor from spicy to extremely hot.

Peppers ripen to red, yellow, orange, purple, and brown depending upon the variety.

Peppers mature in 55 to 80 days from transplanting. Seedlings ready for transplanting—whether you start them yourself or buy them at a garden center—will be about 40 to 50 days old. That means peppers from sowing require 90 to 140 days to reach maturity depending on the variety.

Pepper Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Grow from seeds or seedlings.
  • Seed is viable for 2 years.
  • Peppers are commonly started indoors in a greenhouse or warm, well-lit sunroom or kitchen.
  • Sow peppers in individual pots of light potting mix 6 to 8 weeks before you intend to set plants out.
  • Do not set peppers outdoors until the night time temperature is consistently greater than 55°F (13°C)—unless you plan to protect the plants from chill under a plastic tunnel.
  • Sow 3 to 4 seeds to a pot or across flats; then clip away the weaker seedlings once the strongest seedling is about 2 inches (5 cm) tall.
  • Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch (7-13 mm) deep.
  • Germination soil temperature is 75-95°F (24-35°C); the optimum soil temperature for germinating seed is 85°F (29°C).
  • Keep the seed starting mix just moist until seedlings emerge.
  • Pepper seed can be sown directly in the garden if the soil temperature is warm enough—and there are enough days in the season for plants to reach maturity.
  • Germination takes 7 to 10 days at 85°F (29°C) or warmer.
  • Seedlings started indoors should be kept under grow light or in a sunny window after germination. Keep the indoor nighttime temperature above 62°F (17°C).
  • Water to keep the seed starting mix from drying.
  • Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble complete fertilizer at half strength.
  • Transfer seedlings to a larger container once they are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) tall; be sure that seedlings have sufficient room for root growth. This process is called “potting up”; continue to pot up seedlings as they outgrow containers—until they are transplanted into the garden or a very large container.
  • Transplant peppers after they are at least 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall into medium rich garden soil 24 inches (60 cm) apart in rows at least 24 inches apart.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of transplanting.
  • Peppers prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8.
  • Grow peppers in full sun for best yield.
  • If you plant seedlings started by another grower, select plants 6 to 8 weeks old; usually in a 4-inch (10 cm) pot. Check the bottom of the pot to be sure roots are not growing through and the plant is not root-bound.
  • Avoid planting peppers where tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants have grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Protect early plants from cold weather under lightweight spun poly row covers supported by wire hoops. Cold nights will cause blossoms to drop producing bushy plants without peppers.
  • Keep wire hoops—tomato cages will work—in place through the growing season to protect brittle branches from injury or breaking.
  • Common pest enemies include aphids, Colorado potato beetles, flea beetles, tomato hornworms, and others.
  • Common diseases include blossom end rot, bacterial spot, and soft rot.

Interplanting: Plant peppers with bush beans, chives, cucumbers, lettuce, marigolds, eggplant, tomatoes.

Container Growing Peppers: Choose a 10-gallon container or larger.

Pepper Planting Calendar

  • 14-10 weeks before last spring frost: start seed indoors for transplanting into a plastic tunnel.
  • 7-6 weeks before the last frost in spring: start seed indoors for transplanting into the garden.
  • 4-2 weeks before last spring frost: transplant seedlings into a plastic tunnel to harden off.
  • 1 week after last spring frost: transplant hardened-off seedlings into the garden; minimum soil temperature is 60°F; protect plants from nighttime temperatures below 55°
Pepper plants
Time pepper seed starting so that young plants go into the garden after nighttime temperatures are consistently greater than 55°F (13°C).

Types of Peppers

There are two basic kinds of peppers: sweet and hot.

  • Sweet peppers are mild in flavor; they include bell peppers. Hot peppers are pungent and range in flavor from spicy to extremely hot.
  • Hot peppers are commonly measured for their hotness in what are known as Scoville heat units; be sure to test a pepper low on the Scoville unit scale before trying hotter peppers.

Botanical Name: Capsicum annum (mostly sweet peppers), Capsicum chinense, Capsicum frutescens (hot or chili peppers).

Peppers are a member of the Solanaceae family, other members of this family are tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes.

Related Articles:

How to Grow Sweet Peppers

How to Grow Hot Peppers

Pepper Problems Troubleshooting

 

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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