Starting Hot Pepper Plants From Seed

Hot Pepper Saplings - Pepper Joe's

Getting Started

Growing your own hot peppers from seed can be very rewarding. The selection of hot peppers available at the supermarket is very poor.  The selection of plants from a nursery or store tends to be a little better because there is a ton of terrific variety available when starting from seeds. And as hot pepper popularity continues to grow, the varieties just keep expanding. So, for starters, pick out your selections.

When planning out my garden, I LOVE this part. It's a blast in the dead of winter to plan out your garden and order tried and true seeds.  We're all addicted to trying out new and exciting variations, and it’s an enjoyable experience to grow different variations and learn more about them. I'll give you advice on choosing varieties that align with your different needs and preferences in a just a little bit.

Click here to see our large variety of Hot Pepper Seeds for Sale

Two Methods to Make the Germination Process Faster and Easier

If you live in a year-round warm climate such as southern Florida, you can directly sow your seeds into your garden. If you have a greenhouse, good for you!

The majority of my customers don't fit into these two categories, so I'll tailor this part towards them, although the same basics apply. There are many methods to germinate pepper seeds, but I am going to describe two methods.  These two methods are the Soil and Tray method and the Wet Paper Towel Method.  Read more about these methods below.

What are the Germination Steps for the Soil and Tray Method?

Before you start the stages of germination, read this checklist to make sure you have everything you need to prep:

  • Gloves (this is optional if you are dealing with super-hot peppers because you don't want the oil to irritate your eyes or skin- ouch!)
  • Water
  • Seed Starting Mix of Choice
  • Heat Mat
  • Seed Germination Tray with Humidity Dome 
  • Light Source

Once you have everything together, it’s time to start germinating your choice of seed mix.  Read the steps below for the best approach to germinating your seeds whether you are growing hot peppers, sweet peppers, ornamental peppers, etc.

  1. Place your germination tray on the surface and pour about six cups of water. After adding the water, place your seed starting tray on top of the germination tray. Check to see if you have ¼-inch of standing water in the tray.
  2. Fill the seed starting tray with potting soil all the way to the top
  3. Make a ¼-inch hole in the center of each seed starting cell. A #2 pencil eraser is a great tool for making these holes.
  4. Place the seed into the ¼-inch hole and cover gently with soil.  I plant 3 or 4 seeds per growing area.
  5. Apply the seedling heat mat to the bottom of the tray and cover the top of the seed starting tray with a humidity trapping dome. 

Keep the seeds moist, but not soaked, through the germination phase. They germinate best above 65 degrees (the ideal temperature is 75 to 85 degrees). Because most homes are not this warm, another tip is to place them on top of your refrigerator until seedlings emerge. It stays pretty warm there. When seedlings start emerging, this is when it is time to start transplanting!

Some seed varieties can be finicky and difficult to germinate. Be patient as some varieties can take 4 to 6 weeks to germinate. Others can show up in 7 to 10 days.  It depends on temperature, sunlight, soil and its variety. After they emerge, I believe in the mother nature theory: "Survival of The Fittest.”


This is all personal preference. We use Fox Farms Organic Ocean Forest mix as well as Pro-Mix HP for seed starting. We've used many different brands in the past and these two have been our favorites!

If you prefer to make your own mixture, go with 1/3 good garden soil (don't go with clay soil as it compacts badly), 1/3 composted cow manure or similar growing medium, and 1/3 sand. Mix all 3 ingredients together very well.

Hot pepper plants LOVE sand as many varieties originate in areas with sandy soil. Also, it provides excellent drainage.


You can use our germination kit and growing equipment, so look into our pepper growing supplies including temperature controllers, seed trays and heat mats, and grow lights. You can purchase them individually or save by getting our complete indoor grow kit



Paper Towel Method:

Let the tap water sit for 24 hours to evaporate the chlorine so it can avoid harming seeds.  To prepare for the paper towel germination, get some gloves, resealable bags, and paper towels.  Label your bags by seed variety and lay out a paper towel square for each variety, and spray water on the paper towels to dampen.  

Spread your seeds on half of the paper towel, fold over to cover the seeds, and then place the paper towels in a zip lock bags.  Seal the bags, leaving about 1-inch of the bag open to let in some oxygen.  Place the zip lock bags in a warm area, around 80-85 degrees, with moderate light.

Remember to keep paper towels damp. Germination can take anywhere from a few days to a month, so be patient. Once they develop a small tail or sprout, they are ready to transfer to indoor soil or a green house.

Location, Location, Location

Find a good and warm sunny windowsill. Seedlings prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight, the more the better. Hot pepper seeds need to be coaxed through the germination and transplant stages. Remember they all originated from a tropical environment. But keep in mind you'll be rewarded with a healthy, robust, prolific plant for your patience.

As they develop their first set of leaves, I'll use scissors to snip off the weakest one. As they develop their second set of leaves, I'll snip off all but the healthiest one. If any variety starts to grow tall and too "leggy", open the window just a little bit to shock the plant with cooler air. This will slow down its growth and make its stem thicker and more conducive to transplant. Once you have healthy seedlings after the germination period, you're ready for the transplant and growing stage, then the harvesting stage, then my favorite - the cooking and eating stage.

Pepper Joe's "Best & Worst" Hot Pepper Seed Ranked

Most varieties available in Pepper Joe's online store.

Happy Gardening!!!