To have a garden full of the ripest chile peppers around, you need to first get the pepper seeds to “germinate.” When chile pepper seeds “germinate” it means that it ends its dormancy and the seedling plant parts push through the soil. Besides providing the necessary soil and water, there are a lot of other factors, such as the season and soil temperature, that affect the germination cycle.
Pepper Growing Season
It is essential that you know the best season of the year to begin germinating pepper seeds. In Europe or North America, you should aim to begin the germination process at the start of the year. For indoor or greenhouse cultivation, January or February is the best time to plant peppers. If you are eventually going to keep your plants outside, timing will greatly depend on weather conditions as well. When starting early in the year, keep in mind that the plant cannot be put outside before the last frost is over; therefore, consider light and space when you plant chillies indoors.
Pre-Soaking Pepper Seeds
Chili seeds, when presoaked for a few hours in water, may germinate faster because the outer casing of the seeds are softened and it’s easier for the seed to swell. Weak solutions and vinegar are suggested liquids for soaking seeds and are even thought to prevent plant diseases, though plain water works just as well.
Ideal Pepper Seed Conditions
The key for successful germination begins with heat and moisture. Chili pepper seeds should be planted about 2 to 3 mm deep in an organic, multipurpose compost, placed somewhere warm and the soil should be moistened lightly with a mister. For the necessary heat, some common methods include using a grow lamp and heat mat to warm your seeds from above and below the plant container to easily keep your emerging seedlings toasty. If you prefer not to use these tools, you can also place your seeds in moderately hot areas of your home such as airing cupboards, on top of a computer monitor or on top of your refrigerator to encourage growth. Regarding moisture, lightly mist the top soil of your soil with water, but do not allow the seedling to become too drenched because this can kill the plant. If you are unsure about whether your soil contains too much water, you can use a soil moisture tester to take the guesswork out. After watering, you can cover the plant container with a plastic bag or a propagator lid to help retain moisture in the soil.
Soil temperature is crucial for successful germination. Ornamental chile pepper seeds like the NuMex Twilight germinate well at lower temperatures, whereas the bhut jolokia or habanero germinate better at warmer temperatures around 70-90ºF. Soil temperature has a massive impact on the success rate of germination. As a result, it is important that you ensure your chili seeds are kept in a warm environment during this phase.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, check out the "Grow Your Own Jalapenos and Super Hot Peppers in Containers" e-book for detailed, step-by-step instructions that explain how to grow all of your favorite chillies from beginning to end.