In order to grow chili peppers they basically only need:
- Soil (or other medium to grow them in)
- And eventually some light
- And later also some nutrients.
Sounds simple enough right? Let’s go a little bit more in detail to understand what type of ways there are to germinate chili pepper seeds.
When you have this covered you should see little peppers coming out of the ground somewhere between 3 days to up to 3 weeks depending on the species of peppers.
Pots and containers
The easiest most simple way to germinate peppers is by simple putting a seed in a pot with some soil, watering it and wait until something pops up. But what are the ideal circumstances to germinate peppers in pots?
I normally start with a square plastic container which are called P9 pots. P9 stands for the length of the pot so these pots have a length and width of 9 cm and are deep about 10 cm (roughly 3,5 inch on all sides).
I fill these with soil almost up to the rim. With a finger I would press down in the center of the soil filled pot to great a small hole in the ground. This hole should not be deeper half a cm (0,5cm / 0.2 inch). This is deep enough to prevent the seed from drying out and with this depth the seed doesn’t waste too much energy to grow to the surface in order to catch it’s first rays of licht to grow further.
After you have make the hole, put in the seed and cover it up with the surrounding soil. Give it plenty of water and put it in a nice warm spot. Room temperature could be fine but the Chinense species will like a bit higher temperatures to germinate. My experience is at least 22 degrees Celsius (71 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).
Also keep in mind that watering the soil with only a single seed can be a bit tricky. If you simply pour in some water with a hose or a watering can you are able to move the soil away from the seed exposing it and that might ruin the germination. I always use a water spray to dampen the soil on top first and only after that I put in larger amounts of water. This way you will not move around any soil during watering and will keep the seed in its place.
The rule for watering is easy, give water when needed… Uhm… so what does that mean? It means you will need to learn to get a good feel for that. The soil is not allowed to be too wet or the seeds will rot and mold will show up. Too dry and you dehydrate the seeds and germination will fail. Water when you see the soil dry out but just before the top layer of soils is starting to turn dry. Also remember, if the top layer of the soil is wet it doesn’t mean the rest of the soil in the pot is also wet. Therefore when doing the first watering ever I really thoroughly water the pot so all the soil is wet. This helps create a sort of a natural buffer of moist in the pot to kickstart the germination and to prevent the seeds from drying out in the next week or so. Keep in mind that if you do this overwatering during the next watering session is a real risk.
I check the soil before I water the seeds by simply pushing my finger into the soil of the pot. If the top layer of soil is dry but darker dirt sticks to my finger when I take it out, there is still enough moist in the soil. If my finger comes out dry or without dirty or just some minor light soil (like the top layer) it is time to water the seed. Get a feel for this as situations differ and timing differs, my advice could work for 1 person but not for the other. When it is very hot water evaporates more quickly then in colder climates. Humidity also needs to be taken into account. When you are unsure what is the right way for you also sow double the seeds so you have room to correct errors. Water one part of the seeds more regularly to gain experience. I rather waste seeds for a couple of bucks than to not have any plants during the year.
As said somewhere between 3 and 21 days the seeds need to germinate and should show some signs of life. If not you can wait longer or very carefully take a peak by moving away some soil. Germinating seeds look like white or light green little worms coming out of the original seed. If they look grey and/or fluffy then the seeds has been too wet and mold has taken over and killed the seed.
- Simple to setup
- Easy to find the things you need
- Germination is a high percentage (roughly expect 70% to 80% with normal viable seeds)
- Not too much control over the germination rate if things go bad
- Takes up a relative about of space, also for the seeds that do not germinate.
Deno method (ziplock method – paper towel method)
We have read about simply putting seeds in pots with some soil. This works great and if you have the time and space or if you are just starting the hobby this is a perfectly fine way to start. However once you get the hobby going you might be interested in more germination and therefore need more control over the germination process. On way of doing that is by using the deno method.
You basically still need the same things as above to germinate seeds with this method however instead of soil we will be using a paper towel and instead of a pot we will be using a ziplock bag or some other form of container with a lid to prevent the seeds from drying out.
What do we need:
- Ziplock bag (or a plastic container)
- Paper towel
- Seeds (duh)
- Regular towel
- Water (preferably in a way you can gently spray the seeds)
Step 1: Put the seeds on the paper towel
You probably get why people call this the paper towel method. But first, we start with a regular towel. Put it on your kitchen counter followed by the paper towel. I normally fold the paper towel in half. This way I have a rectangle to put the seeds on. I put the seeds on the bottom half of the paper towel so you are able to fold the paper towel again without the seeds falling out. You can lightly spray the paper towel with some water to help the seeds stick to the paper towel but it is not necessary.
Step 2: Spray the seeds/paper towel
Once the seeds are on the paper towel spray them with some water (again). Spraying the seeds with water will ensure that the seeds and the sprouts have plenty of water to grow. The amount of water is crucial, too much water will stimulate fungus growth, too little water will dry out the seeds. I normally spray the paper towel quite well and in the next step we will get rid of any access in water. Now fold the paper towel so the seeds are in between the 2 layers of paper. This way the seed shells will be surrounding by water (moist) in order to soften the seeds making germination more easy.
Step 4: Remove excess water
As said it is important that the amount of water is controlled. This is a matter of experience. As the seeds will be in a closed ziplock the water in the paper towel / bag will not reduce. If the paper towel is dripping water when you pick it up, you have added to much water. Since the paper towel is on a regular towel simply dap the paper towel to remove excess water.
In case you added too much water you can leave the bag open for a while. If too dry simple add a splash or a spray.
Step 5: Secure the paper towel in the ziplock
So the next step is simply putting the folded paper towel in the ziplock bag and closing it. Germination will take somewhere between the 2 days and 2 weeks before you will really start to see something grow. Annuum is know to germinate quicker than Chinense for example. I have seen seeds take 3 weeks for them to start germination.
After about 2 weeks you could find seeds that have germinated as below:
Depending on your preference you can wait longer however the seedlings in the picture are a bit too long already to my opinion. The have already grown their roots through the paper so detaching them from the paper towel is a bit tricky now. You want to prevent the roots from breaking. So harvesting the seedlings earlier makes it easier. However either way it is still fine. I have transplated these seeds to sowing tray and managed to harvest 24 seedlings and unfortunately broke 3 in the process.
To be added shortly