How To Germinate Pepper Seeds

The varieties are endless, the flavors are spectacular, and the plants look like ornamentals in the garden. There is a lot to love about growing peppers. Starting them from seed gives you complete control over their health. Provide them with the best soil, consistent moisture, and prevent them from becoming root bound. Your peppers will be healthier, larger, and grow faster than your friends and neighbors.



Pre-soaking loosens the hard coating and prepares seeds for germination. Soaked seeds germinate up to five days faster and at a higher rate of germination. It means a lot when each seed packet only contains a few.

Soak seeds in a cup of room temperature water that is not chlorinated. If your water has chlorine, distill it overnight before soaking seeds. Leave them in the water for 24 to 48 hours. Some gardeners use a half-strength chamomile tea to kill any lurking bacteria.


Sprouting seeds in paper towels is a convenient way to see them in action. Spread soaked seeds on a damp paper towel in a single layer. Fold the paper towel over them and place it in a plastic sandwich bag.

Keep the bag in a warm place like above a heater vent or on top of the refrigerator. Spray water into the bag daily to ensure the seedlings are kept moist. When they sprout, and it’s time to put them into the soil, rip the paper towel apart to separate the seeds and plant them paper and all.


Whether you pre-germinate seeds or plant them directly, a high-quality potting mix is essential for the health of growing seedlings. You can purchase organic potting mixes at garden supply stores, or you can make your own. Use equal parts screened compost, peat, and perlite to mix a fluffy and absorbent potting soil.

Plant seeds in trays or garden pots, just 1/4 inch deep. Transplant seedlings from trays into four-inch garden pots when they have two true leaves.

Temperature is an important factor in attaining success with pepper seeds. Seeds like to germinate at 80°F (26°C), and seedlings prefer temperatures between 70-80°F (21-26°C).

Pepper seed starting checklist:

  • Pre-soaked seeds germinate faster
  • High-quality potting mix
  • Keep between 70-80°F (21-26°C)
  • Start 8-10 week before last frost
  • Transplant to 4″ pots when two true leaves appear
  • Transplant outside 2 weeks after last frost

Tips and Tricks

Instead of heating an entire space, use heat mats placed beneath trays to keep the soil warm without heating the air. Bottom-water seed trays to avoid moisture related issues like fungus and damping off. Use supplemental lighting if germinating indoors to avoid lanky plants.