Garden Like a Pro: How to Start Peppers from Seed


Some gardeners buy their peppers as seedlings, but it’s not very difficult to start peppers from seed yourself. Whether you prefer sweet peppers or spicy ones, we know you’ll be thrilled when you see how easy it is to start peppers from seed.

hot pepper plant in container

Peppers are a popular container vegetable, so even if you don’t have your own backyard garden, you can enjoy growing your own peppers on patios, balconies and other small spaces.

The benefits of growing your peppers from seed

Let’s look at the great benefits of growing from seed.

More options

You’ll have access to a greater variety of peppers to choose from.

Usually, home and garden stores only carry a few of the best-selling varieties. You’ll be able to choose and experiment for a lot less money. You’ll also know how the pepper has grown from seed to seedling and can be sure that your plants haven’t been neglected or mistreated.

Ideal growing conditions

Peppers are tropical, so they need very warm conditions to get started in life. Start them 8 weeks before your last frost date. They germinate at a balmy 85 to 90° F, so you’ll need a heat mat to keep them nice and toasty. Place the mat underneath to keep the soil very warm until they sprout.

Once they have germinated, peppers need bright light overhead all day long. The seedlings will still need to be kept warm, so continue to keep the soil at least 70° F. After true leaves appear, thin down to one seedling per cell, or if growing a tray, one every two to three inches. This way, your plants don’t have to compete for nutrients and have plenty of airflow around the roots.

Hardening off your peppers

At around 6-8 weeks, your pepper plants should be 4-5 inches tall, and you’ll need to start reducing watering.

This is a good time to start hardening them off, but only bring them outside when the temperature is warm enough. Don’t rush this step if the weather is cool or wet, because your peppers will suffer. Nighttime temperatures need to be at least 50° F for peppers to thrive, with daytime temperatures around 70° or higher.

Time to transplant!

When it’s time to transplant, take care to pick a bright, sunny area for them. Make sure it’s somewhere you didn’t use to grow peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, or potatoes the year before. All of these plants are nightshades and are vulnerable to the same diseases and pests.

Rotating to different spots gives those plants a better chance of survival.

pepper seedlings

And with that, you’re off to a great start. It won’t be long until you’re enjoying your own home-grown peppers. You’ll find they’re even more delicious when you picked them yourself that very day.

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