The Best Way to Germinate Chili Seeds

The Best Way to Germinate Chili 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 doesn’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!

When will the chili seedlings start to appear?

Regardless on what method you choose to use, the seedlings will start to appear after one or two weeks. It may be worth knowing, however, that some capsicum species will germinate slower. For example, capsicum chinense will take more than 3 weeks to germinate but capsicum annuum will take one to two weeks.

Directly in Soil

What you need:

  1. Soil (bought and/or the soil in your garden if growing chili outdoors)
  2. Pot (if plan you grow chili in pots)
  3. Room tempered water
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 tempered 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 putting the seed in the soil.

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

Rocoto Canario seed germinating
Rocoto Canario in water

After the soil is moist by water, you can put the seed in the soil. Make sure you don’t put your seeds to 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 have appeared.

One way of doing this is to keep track on 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.

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 was 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 that 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, you can moist it with some 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 paper towel is a great way to germinate chili seeds. I added this YouTube Video for the paper towel method. I am using a plastic bag instead of a zip lock bag:

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 to use peat pellets or rock wool. I have used both peat pellets and rock wool but now I only use peat pellets. Both pellet and the wool have the benefit that they stay moist for longer periods of time 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 from time to time. You don’t want fungi or rotten seeds, right?

Grow chili from seed using a pellet
Chili seedling

Enhancing germination

There are of course some methods you can try 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 have 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 googles and a dust mask.

NitratesSalpeter
Salpeter Crystals

Instructions:

  1. Put 1/2 teaspoon of potassium nitrate in a 5 deciliter (roughly 1 pint) jar. 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 not 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

As I wrote in the beginning of the post, the best temperature for germinating chili seeds are 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, there are few places in my home that have temperatures at this levels. The cheapest way to increase the temperature may be to put the 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
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! T

his is great and if you keep using a heat mat when your seedlings are growing they will probably be more healthy compared 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 outdoor or indoor and are relatively cheap. However, you may  still ask which of the methods that is 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 using either peat pellets or rock wool. Why? Well, while germinating in the 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 with 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 grow peppers:

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

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