Pepper Seeds Not Sprouting? Here’s Why and How to Fix Them 

How to Fix Pepper Seeds Not Germinating

By Lexanne Garcia

Growing your pepper plant is a long journey that starts with making a pepper seed germinate. This stage will either make or break your pepper gardening experience. 

To help you get off on the right foot, we’ve prepared this guide to pepper seed germination, including tips and tricks to help you germinate your pepper seeds. Let’s get started!

Why are my pepper seeds not germinating?

Why pepper seeds not germinating
Image: Plant Food at Home

Pepper seeds fail to germinate because of improper soil temperature, watering, or the use of old seeds.

Let’s discuss each cause and how they prevent pepper seed germination.

1. Improper Soil Temperature

Improper Soil Temperature
Image: Horticultural Society

How To Fix:
Plant pepper seeds at the right soil temperature.

Pepper seeds need warm temperatures to sprout and germinate successfully. 

If the temperature’s too low, the pepper seeds will dry and die on warm soil. It’s the seed’s way of protecting itself from growing into an environment where it will not survive, for instance, due to cool weather or frost damage. 

If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to start your pepper seeds indoors between 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

Once your pepper seedlings have germinated and have a few sets of leaves, you can transplant them outdoors. Wait until the soil temperature has reached 70°F to help your pepper seedling adjust to the outside world.

In sum, here’s a table of the ideal soil temperature for pepper plants.

TemperatureFahrenheitCelsius
Minimum6016
Ideal65 to 7518 to 24
Maximum9535

Timing is also critical when it comes to transplanting. If you transplant them too early, they might be killed by a late spring frost, but if you’re too late, they may take a long time to produce fruit before the first frost of fall.

How to Plant Pepper Seeds at the Right Soil Temperature

DifficultyEasy ●●○○○
SpeedFast-acting
Things You Need• Pepper seeds
• Soil thermometer
• Seedling heating mat
• Bottle sprayer with water

How To Do
1. Use a soil thermometer.
Check the temperature of the soil to see if it fits the ideal germination temperature of pepper seeds at 65 to 75°F.  
2. Use a seedling heating mat to adjust the soil temperature. 
3. Spray some water to keep the soil moist.
4. Wait up to 2 weeks for the pepper seeds to germinate.

2. Improper Watering

Improper Watering
Image: The Girl with a Shovel

How To Fix:
Mist the soil regularly.

Pepper seeds are highly sensitive to the water or moisture level in the soil. They prefer moist soil and will fail to germinate if it becomes too wet or dry.

Once the pepper plants are established, you can water them less often, as long as the soil is moist. 

After the transplant, we recommend that you water your pepper plants in the morning to give the water time to soak into the soil before the hot sun evaporates them.

3. Old Seeds

Old Seeds
Image: Calendula & Concrete

How To Fix:
Soak pepper seeds.

Generally, pepper seeds take 1 to 3 weeks to germinate, depending on the seeds’ temperature, moisture, and age. 

For instance, hot pepper varieties take longer to germinate than their sweet counterparts because their seeds have a thicker coating. 

Pepper seeds have a 2 to 5 years lifespan as long as they are kept in good condition. However, as the seed grows older, its germination rate gradually declines. 

Different Ways to Soak Pepper Seeds

Different Ways to Soak Pepper Seeds
Image: Bazram

Soaking seeds is an excellent gardening technique to speed up the germination process. This is because when you soak the pepper seeds before sowing, you give them ample time to absorb all the water it needs to sprout later. 

Here are the different ways to soak your pepper seeds.

1. Weak Tea Solution
Image: Dawabio
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration• 10 to 15 minutes for preparation
• 24 to 48 hours for soaking
Things You Need• Pepper seeds
• Cup of chamomile tea

Soaking your seeds in a weak chamomile tea solution will speed up the germination process and help kill off mold spores, bacteria, fungi and other pathogens that may be present in the seeds and infect the plant later on.

How To Do
• To make the weak tea solution, prepare a cup of chamomile tea.
• Soak the seeds for 24 to 48 hours before planting.

2. The Bag Method
The Bag Method
Image: Pinterest
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration10 to 15 minutes
Things You Need• Pepper seeds
• Paper towel or coffee filter
• Spray bottle
• Ziplock bag
• Heat mat

We recommend the bag method for difficult varieties like hot pepper seeds that need help sprouting using the traditional seed starting mix. 

How To Do
1. Fold a paper towel or coffee filter in quarters. 
2. Spray on the paper towel with water until damp.
3. Place your pepper seeds in between the fold.
4. Put the paper towel with pepper seeds in a ziplock bag.
5. Place the bag on a warm spot, such as a plant heat mat or refrigerator.
6. Spray the paper towel and seeds daily to absorb water and stay damp.
7. Check for sprouting seeds daily.
8. After germinating, bury the seeds under a light layer of sterile seed starter mix in a tray.

3. The Cup Method
 The Cup Method
Image: Little Bins
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration10 to 15 minutes
Things You Need• Paper towel
• Jar with a lid
• Water

Another way to germinate pepper seeds is by using a lid jar. This method is ideal for germinating smaller quantities of seeds. 

It’s also a more portable method so that you can place the seeds in warmer locations around your house.

How To Do
1. Dampen a small paper towel
2. Place it at the bottom of the cup and the pepper seeds on top of the paper towel.
3. Put the lid on the cup and place it on a seedling heat mat.
4. Dampen the paper towel every day to keep the environment moist.
5. Wait for the pepper seed to germinate within 7 to 10 days.

4. The Freezer Method
The Freezer Method
Image: Pinterest
DifficultyEasy ●○○○○
Duration10 to 15 minutes for preparation
Two days for freezing
Things You Need• Ziplock bag
• Freezer
• Paper towel
• Water
• PlateBowl

Freezing pepper seeds, known as cold stratification, can help break dormancy and germinate. 

At first, the cold temperature mimics the winter conditions of the seeds when they’re dormant. It prepares them for the spring season when the temperature rises, and moisture and light will break out the seeds from their dormant state.

How To Do
1. Place the pepper seeds in a ziplock bag and put it in the freezer for two days.
2. After two days, remove the ziplock bag from the freezer.
3. Open the bag and remove the pepper seeds.
4. Place the seeds on a folded paper towel.
5. Dampen the paper towel with water.
6. Fold the paper towel over the seeds and place it on a plate.
7. Cover the plate with a dark bowl.
8. Place the plate on a warm surface like a plant heat mat.
9. Check the seeds every day and dampen the paper towel when needed.
10. Wait for the pepper seed to germinate within 7 to 10 days.

How long does it take for pepper seeds to germinate?

How long does it take for pepper seeds to germinate
Image Get Busy Gardening

Pepper seeds germinate within 7 to 10 days from sowing, but it can also take up to a month, depending on the growing conditions, pepper variety and age. 

When should you sow peppers for reliable germination?

When should you sow peppers for reliable germination
Image: Dengarden

Generally, pepper seeds should be sown within 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. 

Depending on your location, here’s a table of when you should sow your pepper seeds.

PlaceTime to sow
USAMid to late-March
Northern EuropeLate-March
Southern EuropeMid-March

Why should you start pepper seeds indoors?

Why should you start pepper seeds indoors
Image: Youtube

You should start your pepper seeds indoors to give your plants a head start to germinate under ideal conditions before transplanting them outdoors.

Starting your pepper seeds indoors early in the spring is essential, especially in a cold climate. This will allow your plants to sprout and help them avoid late spring frosts.

A rule of thumb is to count back eight weeks from your area’s last spring frost date to find out when to start your pepper seeds indoors. For instance, if your area’s later spring frost date is May 15, you should begin sowing your pepper seeds indoors on March 25.

Once your pepper seedlings have germinated and grown a few sets of leaves, you can transplant them outdoors. Make sure to harden off your seedlings before transplanting them so that they can adjust to the warmer outdoor setting.

How to Germinate Pepper Seeds

How to Germinate Pepper Seeds
Image: Grow Hot Peppers
DifficultyAverage ●●●○○
Duration1 to 2 hours
Things You Need• Pepper seeds
• Seed starter mix
• Seed cell trays
• Humidity dome
• Seedling heat mat
• Pencil
• Spray water bottle

How To Do
1. Add water to the seed starter mix until moist
2. Fill the seed cell trays with the pre-moistened seed starter mix about half an inch from the top.
3. Using a pencil, poke a one-fourth-inch-deep small hole in each cell of the seed cell trays.
4. Plant one to two seeds in each hole.
5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of seed starter mix.
6. Use a spray bottle to mist the soil with water until moist.
7. Place the seed cell trays on a seedling heat mat and set the temperature to 80°F (27°C).
8. If you do not have a seedling heat mat, place the seed cell trays in a warm location, like above the refrigerator.
9. Cover the seed cell trays with a humidity dome.
10. Mist the soil with water daily to keep it moist.
11. Wait for the pepper seeds to germinate within 7 to 10 days.
12. Once the seeds have germinated, remove the humidity dome and place the seed cell trays in a sunny location.

Tips on How to Make Sure Pepper Seeds Germinate

Tips on How to Make Sure Pepper Seeds Germinate
Image: Greens Guru

Here are tips on how to make sure our pepper seeds germinate and how to keep the pepper seedlings healthy.

1. Keep the soil balanced and healthy.

Keep the soil balanced and healthy
Image: Trees Unlimited

Before the growing season, add compost or manure to your garden soil. This will replace the nutrients your plants used last year and add organic material to the soil. 

Organic material also helps the soil stay moist in dry weather and drains well in wet weather. You can also add fertilizer to supplement any nutrient deficiency of your pepper plant.

As a rule, always test the soil before adding anything to it. For instance, too much nitrogen prevents flowering, while too much magnesium prevents plants from absorbing calcium.

Pepper and most other plants grow best when the soil pH is ideal. For pepper plants, it’s between 6.0 to 7.0 or slightly acidic. You can adjust the soil pH by adding lime if the pH is too low or sulfur if the pH is too high. 

2. Plant pepper seeds at the proper depth.

Plant pepper seeds at the proper depth
Image: Backyard Digs

Pepper seeds need to be planted at the proper depth so they can germinate successfully. The ideal depth is between one-fourth to one-half inch. 

When planted near the top, they’ll just dry out and die. Conversely, if you plant them too deep, they won’t get enough water and oxygen, essential for germination.

On the other hand, if you plant them in your garden, space the seedlings between 18 to 24 inches apart.

Finally, if you’re building rows of peppers, make sure they’re 24 to 36 inches apart to give you enough room to work the soil, water and fertilize your plants, and harvest them later. 

3. Use a seed heating mat.

Use a seed heating mat
Image: Ali Express

Temperature is one of the most essential factors in germinating pepper seeds. 

Most homes must be warmer to keep the soil at the ideal temperature for pepper seed germination. In the case of pepper seeds, they germinate fast when the soil is kept between 80 to 90°F. 

Seedling heat mats are a great way to achieve this ideal germination temperature. It is a thermostat-controlled heating pad that measures soil temperature and applies gentle heat to ensure your pepper seeds have the perfect germination environment.

If you don’t have a seedling heat mat, you can still place your seed trays in a warm location, like above the refrigerator or near a window.

4. Keep it humid.

Keep it humid
Image: Michigan Live

Keeping the air humid is another important factor for germinating pepper seeds.

You can use a humidity dome, a transparent plastic dome that fits over the seed tray. It helps trap the soil’s moisture and create a humid environment.

On the other hand, you can use a spray bottle to spritz the soil with water daily to keep it moist. Refrain from overwatering because pepper seeds can rot if the soil is too wet. 

FAQs on Pepper Seed Germination

Do pepper seeds germinate better in light or dark?


Pepper seeds germinate better in the dark because it breaks their dormant state and kickstarts the germination process.

Do pepper seeds need light to germinate?


Pepper seeds do not need light to germinate. In fact, exposing them to light can prevent and slow down germination.

How long does it take for bell peppers to grow from seed?


It takes about 8 to 10 weeks for bell peppers to grow from seed to transplantable size, depending on the pepper variety and growing conditions.

What do you do after germinating pepper seeds?


After the pepper seeds have germinated, you can remove the humidity dome and place the seedlings in a bright spot. Once the seedlings have developed their first true leaves, you can transplant them into a larger pot or outdoors.

How many hours of light do pepper seeds need to germinate?


You can raise lights between two to four inches above the seed tray for 16 hours daily. The heat from these raised lights will help speed up the germination of the pepper seed.

Why do seeds grow faster in darkness?


Seeds grow faster in the dark because it forces them to rely on their own stored chemical energy to power the growth of their own leaves and stems.

What are the most difficult seeds to germinate?


Some of the most difficult germinating seeds are spinach, nasturtiums, moonflowers, morning glories, sweet peas, lupine and milkweed seeds. This is primarily because other the hard coating that hinders fast germination for these species.

Which seed can grow as fast as three days?


Chive seeds can germinate within 2 to 3 days after sowing. 

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