The Best Way to Germinate Chili Seeds

The Best Way to Germinate Chili Seeds

In this post, you will learn how to germinate seeds. More specifically, you will learn the best method to germinate chili seeds.

If you are new to growing chili, you may have asked yourself the question, “how do you germinate capsicum seeds?”

There are several ways to germinate hot chili seeds and in this post, you will find the best way to germinate chili seeds. Whether you are growing incredibly hot peppers (like the Carolina Reaper) or mild peppers (like the red chili pepper) to germinate the chili seeds need a relatively hot environment.

Generally, the optimal temperature is between 25℃ and 30℃. If you have ever wondered why the seeds don’t germinate, it may be due to low temperature. Read on for a thorough guide to chili seed starting!

Hint: the greatest way to germinate pepper seeds includes using a heat mat and a temperature controller. Keep on reading, and you will find out why!

Table of Contents

When Will the Chili Seedlings Start to Appear?

In this section, before learning how to germinate chili seeds, you will get the answer to the question “how long does it take chili seeds to germinate?” Now, regardless of what method you choose to use, the seedlings will start to appear after one or two weeks.

However, It may be worth knowing that some capsicum species will germinate slower. For example, capsicum chinense will take more than three weeks to germinate but capsicum annuum will take one to two weeks.

How to Germinate Seeds Directly in Soil

What you need:

  1. Soil (bought and/or the soil in your garden if growing chili outdoors)
  2. Pot (if the plan is to grow chili in pots)
  3. Room tempered water
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Small pot

One of the first ways I used to germinate chill seeds was to put them directly into the soil. This method is quite simple, and all you need is a small pot (e.g., 6 cm big) and the chili seed(s) you want to germinate.

First, put your seed in a glass of room-temperature water and let it soak for about 24 hours. Second, use the best soil for growing chili plants and fill a small pot with the soil. Third, it is wise to put some water in the pot before placing the seed in the soil.

Preferably, the water should be at room temperature. Fill the watering can with water one day before and we will have water that is at the right temperature.

Rocoto Canario seed germinating
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Rocoto Canario in water

After the soil is moist with water, you can put the seed in the soil. Make sure you don’t put your seeds too deep into the soil (roughly 5mm). It is now important that you keep the soil relatively moist until the chili seed has germinated and your seedling has appeared.

One way of doing this is to keep track of the soil and add water as soon as we see that it’s becoming to dry. Another way is to make small holes in a small transparent plastic bag and put it over the pot. By using a rubber band you can make the plastic bag stick to the pot.

This is, maybe, the easiest way to germinate a pepper seed. Don’t forget to open the plastic bag from time to time or else the seed can get fungus or rot. You don’t want to kill your precious seeds or seedlings!

Choosing the right growing medium can, of course, make a big difference. Recently, if you are interested in mixing your own medium, I have written a blog post on how to make the best soil mix for chili.

How to Germinate chili Seeds Using Paper Towels

What you need:

  1. Paper towels
  2. Pots (if you grow indoors)
  3. Soil (bought and/or what you have in your garden)
  4. Room tempered water

Many of us already have paper towels at home and using these towels to germinate chili seeds is, therefore,  also a very cheap method, I have used this method a lot. In fact, in the growing season 2017, all my chili seeds were germinated this way (for instance, see my posts on growing Carolina Reaper, Jamaican Bell, and Apocalypse Scorpion Chocolate).

First, take a piece of paper towel (maybe 10 cm) and put the seed in the middle. Second, wrap the paper towel so the seed cannot fall out. Preferably, no light should be able to pass through the paper, but you can also place the paper towel somewhere dark.

Once your seed is wrapped in the paper towel, moist it with water. If you happen to have zip lock bags, put your paper towel, with the chili seed, into one. This way, the paper will stay moist for a longer period of time, and the temperature will be higher.

If you are using paper towels to germinate your seeds, use organic paper (non-bleached). Again, remember to open the zip lock so that some oxygen will get in. I typically leave the zip-look bags open.

Using a paper towel is a great way to germinate chili seeds. I added this YouTube Video for the paper towel method. Note I am using a plastic bag instead of a zip-lock bag:

How to Germinate Using Peat Pellets or Rock wool

What you need:

  1. Pellets or rock wool
  2. Pots
  3. Soil
  4. Room tempered water

Another great method to germinate chili seeds is peat pellets or rock wool. I have used both peat pellets and rock wool but now I only use peat pellets. Both pellet and wool have the benefit that they stay moist for longer periods compared to, for instance, paper towels.

The main advantage is, however, that when your seedling has started to grow the pellet can be put directly into the soil. For the hydroponic grower, rock wool is your choice. Just add the rock wool to whatever pots you are using.

Peat pellets are typically put in water so they can absorb water and grow in size. As with germinating directly in soil and using paper towels, you can put your peat pellet or rock wool in a plastic bag.

Again, make sure to make some holes in the bag and open it fully occasionally. You don’t want fungi or rotten seeds.

Grow chili from seed using a pellet
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Chili seedling

Enhancing germination

There are, of course, some methods you can try to use to enhance the chili seed germination process. One is making use of potassium nitrate to soften up the seeds. If you don’t have an environment that is warm enough, another way to speed things up is to increase the temperature.

Potassium nitrate

Regardless of the method, you use to germinate your seeds, using potassium nitrate is a very good way to obtain the best results. Potassium nitrate, KNO3, is better known as Salpeter and has the ability to soften the tough coating of the chili seeds.

If you use potassium nitrate, make sure to wear plastic gloves, as getting the solution on your hands may irritate your skin. It may also be wise to wear goggles and a dust mask.

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Salpeter Crystals


  1. Put 1/2 teaspoon of potassium nitrate in a jar of 5 deciliters (roughly 1 pint). Add warm water and let the potassium nitrate dissolve.
  2. Put your seeds into the jar and let the seeds soak for close to 4 hours (but no longer).
  3. Put your seeds into your pots containing soil, moist paper towels, peat pellets, or rock wool (see instructions above for each germination method).

Increase the Heat

What is the best temperature for germinating chili seeds? As I wrote at the beginning of the post, the best temperature for germinating chili seeds is between 25℃ and 30℃. Whether if you are planning on growing your chilies indoors or outdoors, you will probably not have a temperature above 25℃.

At least, a few places in my home have temperatures at these levels. The cheapest way to increase the temperature may be to put plastic bags or zip lock bags, depending on what method you use to germinate your seeds, close to a lamp. Remember that your seeds need to be in the dark and keep your lamp on 24/7.

Heat Mat Chili Seeds
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Heat mat for speeding up seed germination

Improve Germination With a Heat Mat

A better way is to buy yourself a seedling heat mat and, preferably, a heat controller. With more heat, the seeds can germinate at half the time it otherwise would take!

This is great, and if you keep using a heat mat when your seedlings are growing, they will probably be healthier than if you don’t. They may even grow faster and develop a better root system. A heat controller may be useful if the temperature in your home varies during the day.

Summary: what is the best way to germinate chili seeds?

All methods here are useful whether you grow chili outdoors or indoors and are relatively cheap. However, you may still ask which of the methods are the best way to germinate chili seeds. To summarize, I will give you my answer to that question.

I have used all three methods to germinate seeds. I think the best seed germination method is peat pellets or rock wool. Why? Well, while germinating in paper towels is very easy, I have also encountered some problems. First, the roots from the seeds may get entangled into the paper, and the seedling can get hurt when you move it to the soil.

The main benefit of peat pellets and rock wool is that both are easy to move into the soil. If you are not careful, moving the seedling from a paper towel may hurt and kill it. Therefore, I think it is the best germinating method for chili seeds. To speed up the process I use potassium nitrate and put my peat pellets on a heat mat.

I have written other posts that you may find useful if you want to grow peppers:

I’d love to hear what method you think is the best to germinate seeds when growing peppers indoors (or outdoors).

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One Reply to “The Best Way to Germinate Chili Seeds”

  1. Thank you for the articles i found them extremely helpful.

    Just a question i have transplanted all my seedlings in to a better soil but i have lost 30 of my 40 seedlings any advice to help this from happening again

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