My pepper seeds aren’t sprouting!

seeding pepper plants

Don’t panic if your pepper seedlings are not coming up. Maybe they’re just not coming up YET.

Why haven’t my pepper seeds sprouted?

Growing chillis or other peppers from seed can be tricky – or actually deceptive is a much better word, especially if you are seeding your peppers around the same time as your tomatoes or tomatillos. Peppers can take a very long time to sprout – especially the hot peppers.

If it’s been a week or two since you seeded your peppers, and nothing has come up yet, don’t panic! Things are likely still fine. Here’s what you need to know:

seeding pepper plants

Pepper seeds can take up to a month to sprout

It doesn’t matter whether you are growing mild bell peppers or jalapeños or hot habaneros: all pepper seeds germinate very slowly. Tomatoes and tomatillo seedlings often break the surface within a few days of sowing the seeds – so if you don’t see your peppers coming up shortly after, it is easy to assume that something has gone wrong.

I have definitely made that mistake. After three weeks I planted new pepper seeds – in the same pot. The first ones sprouted shortly after – and then the next generation sprouted a few weeks later. What a tangled mess!

Lesson learned: be patient with your pepper sprouts.

Pepper seeds need light to germinate

Lots of people do not know this! And it’s a real key to pepper seed germination: the seeds need to “see” some light, so you need to sow them very shallowly.

One cause of an extra-long germination time for your peppers is sowing the seeds too deeply.

sprouting pepper plant

When I sow my peppers, I literally just make a tiny dent in the soil surface with my finger and lay the pepper seed on it.

Then I take a pinch of soil, crushing it finely between my fingers and sprinkle it over that indent.

You need heat to germinate peppers

Peppers are, after all, tropical to sub-tropical plants. The seedlings, especially need heat to germinate.

The best way to do this is by providing bottom heat, with a heating mat designed for plants. (The heating pads for people will be much too hot!)

If you don’t have bottom heat for the peppers, then you may have trouble growing them from seed. You can try putting the seed trays in the warmest place in your house. On top of a fridge is usually warm (but for peppers, you may not have a lot of light here).

Don’t put your seed trays on a windowsill – the draft coming off the window is sure to spoil your efforts!

Pepper seeds require daily moisture until they sprout

Since the seeds are sown so shallowly, and are also on a heating pad, it is easy for the top of the soil to dry out, killing your germinating seed before the sprout even cracks the surface.

So you need to keep a close eye on your seed trays. Make sure the soil is wet (almost saturated) when you first sow the pepper seeds. Then, I check mine every day, to make sure the soil surface is still moist. A plant mister is the best way to water them prior to germinating. Otherwise, gently dribble water down from close to the surface, so you don’t churn up the soil around the seeds.

It’s been a month and your peppers have not sprouted

I actually have some peppers just sprouting now, and they were seeded over five weeks ago!

freshly transplanted habanero pepper seedlings

But you can only seed so late in the season – so if your peppers have not sprouted within a month, you should probably re-seed, just to be sure.

These habaneros were seeded six weeks ago – but I just reseeded some of my other varieties, which did a no-show, last week.

If you know that something went wrong in the process (e.g., you planted your seeds too deep, or you know that they dried out) you should be fine to sow from the same batch of seed. But if you suspect the seed itself was old or off, then you should try with a new batch of seed.

If you have the space to do so, leave the old seeded trays going and continue to care for them. Those peppers may still surprise you!

Yes, some time is involved – but it is so worthwhile to seed your own peppers!

If you are growing more than two or three pepper plants, it is much more economical to seed your own peppers rather than buying seedlings. You can trade seeds with your gardening friends, too, for more varieties.

Also, when you purchase seedlings, you don’t know their history: whether they have been exposed to cold during transport (and may not thrive) or if they may harbour pests.

Personally, I love to seed my own peppers because I can keep my own special and unique seedlines alive from year to year.

I typically grow eight or ten varieties of peppers every year – most of them hot! Yes, it requires a bit of patience waiting for your peppers to come up and then caring for them, but to me it is worth it: I have a range of very special peppers that money could not buy!

Our food supply is increasingly threatened! The Food Garden project is aimed at helping everyday urban people to grow some (or even a lot!) of their own food in their yards or on their patios. For free info and insights, join theFood Garden Club – your info is safe for me, I will never share it or spam you!

Published by Jacqueline Windh

I'm a writer, photographer, and radio broadcaster who is concerned about our planet and how we live our lives - hoping my work helps people to find new ways of thinking about issues such as personal health, wilderness, the environment, food security, thinking about the future. These things are all connected, you know...

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