Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pepper Seeds Won't Germinate? Some Tips.

Home gardeners who grow their tomatoes from seed usually get fairly quick results after sowing the seeds indoors. Given the right germinating conditions - a soilless planting mix, good drainage, plenty of light, plenty of warmth - tomato seeds can pop up in 8-10 days.
  
Pepper seeds are a different story. Why is it some peppers can take weeks to germinate?

"The important thing in getting your (pepper) seeds to germinate is to keep them warm – the soil temperature should be in the 80's", says Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden, a popular seed catalog based in Felton, California. "Germination is very much related to even moisture and warm temperatures. You should see germination within 2 to 3 weeks if it's warm enough. I strongly suggest using bottom heat to achieve the warmth the seeds need – most good nurseries carry good little electric seed starting mats which will keep your seeds at the right temperature to sprout. A local mail order source is Peaceful Valley Farm Supply."
For those who want to comparison shop, another source for heating mats for your pepper seeds: Amazon.

Another trick that some gardeners employ is soaking the pepper seed for a few hours before sowing to soften the seed coat. The value of that is open to debate.

"I have never heard of soaking pepper seed overnight and have never done it in 20 years of running a trial garden,"  says Shepherd.

On the other hand, Professor Debbie Flower of the American River College Horticulture Department sees the benefits of some "immersion therapy" for pepper seeds. "We soaked our pepper seeds in hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes," explains Flower. "That's not enough time to scarify (soften or break the seedcoat), or even get them soaked, but enough to kill exterior diseases."

Many sweet pepper varieties will show their initial leaves about two weeks after planting the seeds. But some varieties of peppers take longer to pop up than others. "The hot pepper varieties take longer to germinate, some to three weeks," says Flower.

But if you are experimenting with the really hot pepper varieties, such as the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper), it could take up to four months, says the Trade Winds Fruit website:
"Chinense species (e.g. Habanero's) generally take longer to germinate than most common peppers. Keep soil warm to very warm (75-90F) for better germination. Do not use acidic soil. Some Chinense peppers, in particular Bhut Jolokia, Naga Morich and related peppers are very slow to germinate, averaging 1-4 months germination time."

By the way, if you are growing the Bhut Jolokia...you're playing with fire. The Ghost Pepper is rated at 850,000 Scoville units of heat. For comparison, the habanero rates 200,000; the Jalapeno is 5,000; the Anaheim equals 1,000. And sweet bell peppers? 0.
This is as hot as I can stand. The Inferno: 4,000 Scoville Heat Units

Another factor that can determine the rate of germination of pepper seeds: the pH of your seed starting mix. One of the most common ingredients in most seed starting mixes is peat moss, which is highly acidic, with a pH around 4.0. Pepper heads, including the Horticulture students at American River College, have found quicker germination when Coir (coconut fiber) is substituted for peat moss. Coir has a closer-to-neutral pH: around 6.5. The tests at American River College bear this out after trying Coir in their pepper seed soil mix. "We've had the best germination of peppers ever!" says Flower.

And don't be in a rush to set them out in their permanent garden home. "Pepper seedlings need to be grown out until they have at least several sets of true leaves, and it is at least 55° at night before you plant them out," explains Renee Shepherd.  "And they will need a little time to get used to being outdoors, as well."

Here in the Sacramento area, that would be around  mid-May. Be patient.

18 comments:

  1. I planted my peppers indoors in a flat with a plastic bag sprayed with water (for extra moisture). The heating mat was underneath. It took the pepper seeds only 4-7 days to germinate. I am a huge fan of heating mats for peppers and tomatoes!!

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    1. I leave the seeds in the oven (off of course....)it's an old Americana very simple free standing range. The pilot will keep the temp around 90F. Don't forget to take them out before you turn it on and let anybody know about them. My girlfriend burnt a whole batch of great very hot chile seeds...

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  2. Great tip. This has demystified why it took so long for my Cayenne Peppers, etc. to germinate, etc.

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  3. Thanks for the tips! This year I planted the same pepper in two colors. The red came up like gang-busters. I am hoping the chocolate will be fashionabley late. Sowed in peat pot which clearly did not bother the red. Perhaps the chocolate strain is more pH sensitive.

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  4. I put my pepper seeds in a plastic container, in a papertowel, with enough water to soak the entire papertowel but not have run off. Then I place it on top of my cable receiver. Keep the lid slightly open, so the seeds don't mold. It took about 3-4 days for them to pop.

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  5. I also agree with the heating mat technique!

    Here is what I did...Take a clear plastic storage container (large enough to fit your germination cups with seeds), place a few moist paper towels at the bottom (inside the box), then place your germination cups on top of the paper towels and wet the soil in the cups a bit if you haven't already. Snap closed the lid on one end and leave the other end loose (for air circulation purposes). Place the box on top of your heating mat, turn it on low (or whichever setting will keep you in that magic 80-87F range) and let the heat take care of the rest!

    The heat from the mat underneath will evaporate the water in the paper towels and keep it nice and it will create a greenhouse effect, keeping it nice and humid in your box, so you wont ever have to water. If it takes longer than a week I would switch out the paper towels so you don't get any mold or bacteria)

    But in my case I saw sprouts in one week exactly with everything I planted (habaneros, ghost chilis, and trinidad scorpions)!

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  6. I built a small 'grenhouse'...size 72 inches long x 5 ft high in the back tapering down to 4.5 ft high in the front...built a shelf 20 inches of off the ground...using 1 inch x 1 inch slats....with an 1 inch space between them...bought a small fan forced heater with a thermostat from wal-mart...put that under the shelf...built everything out off pt 2 x 4's...put a small outdoor thermometer in to be able to keep track of my temperature,and covered the whole structure with poly...leaving openings,about 8 inch, on each end to allow for adequate air circulation..cost to build was about 30 dollars(I used lumber left over from another project)..have germinated 344 tomatoes,have them planted in garden already...and now i am germinating 8 flats at 48 cells per flat of peppers(jalapenos,bell peppers,serrano,ghost pepper an poblano)...SO FAR SO GOOD....mike b.

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  7. That was some good ol info there.. I was wondering why my pepper seeds were not germinating, now I know.

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  8. I am about to go try the heating mat method. I have ghost pepper plant and my dogs knocked it over killing the 2 seedlings BUT all isnt lost I found 5 seeds ungerminated so I replanted and now I will try the mat. Rite now! Hope it works

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  9. Excuse me. The Bhut Jolika or Naga chile is Indian and not Chinese. I had the privilege to visis Nagaland in India's NE region about 50 years ago. The plant is grown all over Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland. The Naga and Mizo tribals are said to have warred over the chillie's owerniship. Both tribes worship the plant

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    1. He is referring to pepper category "capsicum Chinese": There was initially some confusion and disagreement about whether the Bhut was a Capsicum frutescens[5] or a Capsicum chinense pepper, but DNA tests showed it to be an interspecies hybrid, mostly C. chinense with some C. frutescens genes.[6]

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  10. Hubby has put me in charge of trying to propagate a variety of old pepper seeds we had stored in our pantry closet. He's the master gardener. I just tinker, but I'm out of work now so have more time than he does to goof around with this. Does anyone know of a special technique to get older seeds to germinate? These are all seeds we collected from the produce he'd previously grown. We are in Florida and our highs are about 81 right now with the lows about 65.

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  11. I very successfully germinated my pepper seeds in a damp, folded coffee filter that was placed in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. The seeds germinated (and had leaves!) in a week. My challenge is then, I laid the germinated seeds on top of the soil in their containers and put a thin layer of soil on top. They popped right out of the soil in a few days and looked great. Then, several of them stopped growing.. It's like they stunted. I don't know if it was because they were around my husbands construction (he was refinishing a bathroom) and got drywall dust on the top of the soil or what. My question is around caring for these little baby plants after they have sprouted. How can I make them thrive? I have them under grow lights and keep the soil moist... Thoughts?

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  12. this has always worked for me... take a scotch glass... fill it with 6 oz of water plus a literal pinch of epsom salts (a single layer of crystals between both fingers not bigger than a dime in area). cut a small rectangle of paper towels dampen in the glass and line seeds individually across the top 1/2" of the paper... cover with another rectangle of paper towel... mist with 3% hydrogen peroxide and place in glass of water. Stick the paper to the side of the glass but make sure to keep the seeds above the water line. Leave next to the stove and add water periodically when towel by seeds start to dry out (approximately 3-5 days)... fresh from fruit seeds germinate in 2-7 days and dry seeds approximately one month (Scorpion and True Jamaican Scotchbonnet peppers)

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  13. Well I am in Spain so warmth isn't an issue, have them in a greenhouse at the moment. They (Jalapenos and Seranos) still take several weeks at times. Biggest problem is Sunlight. (Sunroof is WAY too hot, talking about 120F in the sun to grow anything) and on the balcony where the green house is there is not enough sun (bummer). So I have some grow lights coming now, hope it'll help.

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  14. Do some plants get #nuked# to help them last longer and in so doing the seeds are killed ?

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  15. So far growing hot peppers indoor is doing great. Only using 100watt cfl using actual (23) Watts. Use 5000k up Kelvin. Use daylight bright bulbs. Using paper towel method and once they sprout ( when the root is twice as long as the seed) put in soil asap. Keep warm and have the light on 16/8. Hope this helps

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