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Speeding Up Pepper Germination

If like me you don’t get round to planting your peppers early then there are a couple of ways you can speed up the germination and growth of your chilli plants in the early stages of their life.

In this post we’ll take a look at how you can speed up the germination of your chilli peppers, helping you get your chilli growing season back on track.

Chilli Pepper Germinationphoto by grass-naps

Some chilli pepper varieties are renowned for being slow to germinate. While common varieties such as Cayenne or Jalapeño can germinate in just a few days, harder to grow varieties such as Naga or Bhut Jolokia can take up to a couple of months to germinate.

How I Speed Up Germination

Seeds love warm constant heat. Giving them this will help to speed up the germination process significantly. Unless you leave your central heating on all day and night it can be very hard to supply your seeds with a constant heat.

I use a heat mat designed for a reptile vivarium. These mats emit a constant warm temperature and use very little power and are intended to keep snakes and other reptiles nice and warm in their tanks. I discovered a while ago that they also make great heat mats for chillies and other plants!

Germination Heat Mat

I simply use standard 24 cell seed trays and regular potting compost (sieved) to plant my seeds. On each heat mat i can place two seed trays. I simply plug the mat in and bingo, my seeds have a steady stream of heat at the perfect temperature required for germination.

I have found that using these heat maps can speed up germination by as much as four times. In addition I believe that they also increase germination rates.

One word of caution – be sure to check your seed trays moisture levels more often as the extra heat will mean they are more likely to dry out quicker and need more watering.

Have you got any tips to help speed up the germination of your plants? If so please let us know by leaving a comment below.

50 comments… add one
  • antonio March 8, 2015, 7:17 pm

    Thanks for your article. I am a freak about any kind of hot, and I mean hot, chillies. I decided to grow my own, just for fun. A friend gave me some seeds he got in Angola, once an African Portuguese colony and the story began.
    To germinate the seeds, I used cd boxes. The ones you get when you buy 10 or 20 virgin cds. I drilled some small holes on the base ans covee, the compost is on the transparent half, with the seeds placed 90° to each other and I keep the boxes inside the cabin of the heating boiler of the house, as the seeds need no light to germinate. After a week, I had signs of life; hairlike stems with 2 very green leaves on top of each one. I moved the cd boxes, without the cover to a glass covered varanda, hidden from direct sun ligjt and I am waiting for the second set of leaves to give them a little more groud and space. My improvisation has been based on your tips and I thank you very much.

    • The Chilli King March 25, 2015, 10:36 am

      I’m glad some of my tips and advice helped you. It just goes to show you don’t need to rush out and buy lots of expensive kit in order to get started growing hot peppers.

  • Paul February 23, 2015, 1:49 pm

    Hi , just a couple of questions.
    Can you grow new chilli plants that will fruit from last years crop as my son grew for the first time a variety of chillies that looked amaizing and had a good crop so we saved some of the seed pods , i have heard conflicting comments that i may have new plants but highly unlightly that they will fruit, if this is not true what do we have to do with the seed pods now, cheers Paul.

    • The Chilli King March 25, 2015, 10:40 am

      A lot will depend on the strain of chilli in question and whether it has been cross pollinated or not. Take a look at this article for some more details information.

  • Andy February 1, 2015, 5:13 pm

    I read this page a few weeks ago and decided to invest in the heat pad you mentioned. I planted Tabasco, Anaheim, Hungarian hot wax, Jalapeño and Demon red seeds. I put them in Miracle grow seed compost and left them in my conservatory on a metal tray.
    I checked them yesterday (1 week) and the Jalapeño’s are already up and the Demon reds are starting to poke through the soil.
    Didn’t think they would germinate so rapidly so thanks for the tip and info you provide.

    Cheers, Andy

    • The Chilli King February 1, 2015, 6:23 pm

      Great stuff, glad to be of service 😉
      Have a great growing season

  • Craig January 16, 2015, 2:24 pm

    When you used the heat mat, what did you place it on? I’m anxious having the bottom of it straight onto the windowsill. I’m guessing you just put the seedtrays directly on top.

    • The Chilli King January 28, 2015, 3:42 pm

      I just placed it on a piece of ply wood with the seed tray directly on top – more to keep any stray soil/compost off the windowsill. These mats are very low wattage so don’t get ‘hot’ to touch, just warm.

      • craig February 18, 2015, 7:58 pm

        Thankyou! Would you recommend keeping the chilli plants on the heat mat long after germination, even when repotted, just to keep them warm? Im growing mine fully inside but obviously overnight the room temperature drops.

  • Jenny September 28, 2014, 8:42 am

    I have Manzano chillies in the ground and this will be their 4th year. It is spring in Tasmania, Australia, they have masses of leaves and I’m hoping they will fruit again. I grow habanero, jalapeno and cayenne annually but the manzano are the only ones to live through the cold winters. Is this normal?

    • The Chilli King October 2, 2014, 10:56 am

      Hi Jenny,
      Yes, certain varieties cope with the cooler winter temperatures better than others. It sounds like you’ve had good success with over wintering your chillies!

  • Lisa April 18, 2014, 8:40 am

    Hi, after growing jalapeño chillies last year I’ve been more adventurous this year & am growing demon reds, purple tigers & Trinidad Morugas. My demons & tigers are growing well & are about to be repotted, my Morugas are not doing so well. I’ve put all 3 varieties straight into compost & have invested in a seed mat as well but the Morugas are just not growing! I’ve also got seeds in a pot, between kitchen towel on the mat but they are not doing anything either. I’m trying to ensure they’re kept moist by using a spray bottle to avoid overwatering or soaking them. They’re on the window sill in the kitchen which gets lots of light, what else can I do? I potted the Morugas over a week ago now & would have expected to see some start of life. Can you recommend anything else or should I just be patient?! Thanks.

    • The Chilli King April 23, 2014, 2:54 pm

      Hi Lisa,
      Chinense varieties like the Morugas are a lot tougher to germinate. They require a more stable temperature than chillies like Jalapeno and they also take a lot longer to germinate, even in perfect conditions. Stick with them and they should pop up in the next few weeks!

  • malcolm April 12, 2014, 11:57 am

    i have just potted chilli seeds bought in a packet with each different type (4) in a seed disc, what is your opinion of this method as it is my first try, they are in a heated propagator.

    • The Chilli King April 23, 2014, 2:50 pm

      Seed discs work really well. However if I were you I would only plant 1 seed per disc. Once the seeds have germinated you may have issues separating them when you want to pot them on. When you do try this soak the discs/plugs really well in water for 20 mins or so as this will help you separate the roots while potting them on.

  • Paul Blackman March 21, 2014, 10:37 pm

    Hi all
    I germinated lots of different varieties of seeds which they all germinated , I have repotted them and some of them ie cayenne have shot up to 12inches in height with big leaves but some ie scotch bonnet and mourga red are very small still but with big leaves same as cayenne! Is this normal as the mourga and bonnet don’t seen to be growing up just out !

    • The Chilli King March 28, 2014, 1:13 pm

      Paul – What you are describing is perfectly normal. Cayennes tend to be quite ‘leggy’ plants (tall and spindly) whereas the chinense varieties tend to be bushier and often start of short, spread out before shooting upwards later in the season.

  • Paul Blackman February 10, 2014, 8:56 pm

    Hi just starting out in growing and was wondering where the best place is to put the heat mat and obviously can’t get it wet ! Can I ? So what’s the best solution for this

    • The Chilli King March 3, 2014, 10:12 am

      Hi Paul,
      I place my seed tray (which has holes in the bottom) in another seed tray with no holes in it then place this on top of the heat map. That way when I water the seedlings no water can drip through onto the map.

      • Paul blackman March 11, 2014, 3:35 pm

        Hi thanks for the info !! I’m really doing well with growing for a first timer !! I have 9 different species from jalapeños to mouga red and Carolina reaper and 40 out if 45 plants have sprouted and are in bigger pots !! My purple cayenne have reached 10 inches already in height and my mouga are about 2-3 inches and there the smallest !! Any tips for me At this point ? I have bought a little plastic tomato green house to put in outside in a south facing garden . I Live on the south coast of England is it wise to start introducing to the green house? I have been using the flouresent light stage as I have just started another 7 species some sweet ones for my kids to try but if there is any tips it would be appreciated
        Thanks again ur sight has helped so much

  • Craig Smith May 13, 2013, 7:29 pm

    Hi all

    Just a quick question as I don’t want to be being impatient. I am trying to get a number of chilli varieties going which I know will take longer. Including Bhut Jolokia, Habaneros and some others.

    I started a new phase off about a month back in paper towels, in a plastic bag and on a heated propagator. There isn’t much sign of germination at the moment but the paper towels are getting increasingly mouldy with a green mould taking over most of the sheet.

    Is this going to affect the seeds or shall I put them in fresh paper towel while I am waiting for action?


    • The Chilli King May 20, 2013, 9:12 am

      Craig – Mold is not good. I’d move them to new paper and maybe cut a couple of smal holes in to allow some small airflow. What temperature are the seeds being held at? I would have thought you should have seen some signs of life by now. Maybe try popping them somewhere warmer for a bit (airing cupboard)…

  • TrevorBasti April 6, 2013, 5:49 pm

    I think when you are in the tropics (Philippines) where temps are blazing 33c to 36c, putting them in paper towels and placing inside a sealed plastic will do just fine.

  • ash November 17, 2012, 7:13 pm

    not tryd and tested yet but about 2 start germination in a reptile egg incabator hoping that because i can adjust temp and humidity might make a impact

  • Judy July 15, 2012, 10:49 pm

    Hi All, I just got an email from someone who bought some Trinidad Scorpion “Moruga” chili pepper seeds from a seller on Ebay, like I recently did for $13.99 for 10 seeds. He claims the seller is a rip-off sending out “Banana” chili pepper seeds NOT “Moruga”and complained that the seeds might not sprout out! Well, I planted 4 seeds of the so called “Moruga” (which came in a small baggie, labled: Trinidad Scorpion . . and when I asked the seller about that, he said since he sells TS and has only a few “Moruga” seeds, he didn’t bother to lable it as such – but told me I DID get “Morugas”), and 4 seeds have sprouted, in soil pots on my balcony with Sunlight. They have dark green 2 leafs at the moment & took about 2-3 weeks to sprout! I also Have a TS – Butch T growing well, with many leaves + TS – Jolakia “Ghost” 2 seeds that are light green with 2 leaves so far! They seem to grow slowly, but am now wondering how to tell IF I got Moruga seeds or Banana seeds like that guy said? Are there photos of these seed sprouts available, so perhaps I can SEE the difference? Help would be appreciated. Thanks! =Judy=

    • The Chilli King July 16, 2012, 2:35 pm

      Judy – I’m afraid buying seeds off ebay often ends this way. The only way to know will be to grow them and see what/if any fruits you get. Though not always cheaper buying seeds from reputable suppliers is well worth it in my opinion.

  • Louise July 13, 2012, 2:21 pm

    i found that using seed fresh from the pod, usually a pod that is overripe almost rotten, those seeds sprout within a few days. My method is a shallow tray of fine compost that is not too wet, and a layer of clingfilm over the top. leave on top of a radiator if your heating is on, or above your digital box, making sure no holes in the tray will leak water! The constant heat from the digital box is enough for normal type chillis cayennes etc, if you want to germinate naga morich and the super hots then radiator heat being much higher is better.

  • Babs May 15, 2012, 1:41 pm

    I use egg boxes in a plastic box to plant in once germinated, makes it easy to repot once the seedlings get to a bigger size! love the heat mat plan, will have to get one. I also have a friend who uses the plastic chinese/indian tubs with lids to germinate – easier than messing about with clingfilm.

    good luck all!

    • The Chilli King May 18, 2012, 11:23 am

      Babs – I love the egg box idea!

  • Mr. Cayenne May 9, 2012, 4:42 pm

    I just use the paper towel method and place it on top of my internet modem ^-^
    I’m a beginner, so I only used one seed, that has thankfully germinated.
    Its now starting to get its first set of true leaves.
    I don’t use any lights or plant food, or heat mats.

    I just stuck it in front of the windowsill 🙂

  • John March 27, 2012, 4:33 pm

    Fill some planting pots with compost. Plant your seeds a few cm apart and cover with 0.5cm of compost. Spray the compost lightly with water, wrap some cling film on top and put in the airing cupboard. Check them daily as when they germinate you’ll need to take the cling film off and put them on a sunny warm window sill.

    Good luck and hope this helps!

    • Paul March 29, 2012, 1:11 am

      Thx John, Its sort of what i have done, but the cling-film is a good idea!!, as i had just put them in tray with soil and put a lose board over the top, But now iv replaced it with as u say C-Film, Also i germinated them on a shelf at the back of my PC (see my earlier posts) when do i put them in pots and what size is best, (Sorry for the questions but this is all new to me for all i no these things could grow 1ft or 20ft tall?????) after i while can i use tomato plant food as i have some, Thx Paul

      • Steve July 12, 2012, 6:25 pm

        I’m using cheap tomato food from Tesco (after a bit of growth) and my various chilli plants are growing scarily large. To think I got these seeds from chillies I used for cooking, expecting nothing. The ones in the smaller pots seem to be more dense with fruit. I’ve actually ended up growing bushes rather than individual plants, but thanks to the Chilli King, next year we’ll have some even better results. I germinated and grew on with a large yoghurt pot, with a lid, take the lid off when they get the two leaves. Great site Chilli King, thanks for all the help.

  • Paul March 19, 2012, 11:49 pm

    Ok 12 out of 12 seeds all starting to sprout white shoots could do with any advice please as the web is mixed on how best to plant them best??, so a help from a person in the know would be nice il send you free seeds or a plant for the help. Thx Paul

  • Paul March 17, 2012, 11:33 pm

    Ok 7-10 days on and the seeds have started to shoot, !!!! HOW BEST NOW TO PLANT THEM ie how deep ect ect , any advice please, Thx Paul Butch T Trin………..

  • Paul March 10, 2012, 10:56 am

    I luv peppers (red) but hate chillies!!! , so im starting with good old “Butch T Trinidad Scorpion”, im using a shelf at the back of my Gaming PC to start them off, as my PC is on 24/7 and gives off loads of heat, So if i dont electrocute myself first il die by my chillies, Wish me luck !!!

    • The Chilli King March 14, 2012, 10:21 am

      Paul – Nice tip to use the heat from the PC to help with germination! Good luck and let us know how you get on!

  • Sluggo February 21, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Did an experiment with naga jolokia, Soaking vs Scarification (sliced off a bit of the seed shell with a scalpel)

    12 days later the scarified seed has germinated!

    • The Chilli King February 22, 2012, 9:32 am

      Sluggo – Interesting, which bit of the seed pod do you cut?

  • Catherine February 8, 2012, 10:56 pm

    I have just planted my ceyenne chilies and bought a heat mat as you suggested instead of using the seed tray I have used polysteren cups with a hole in the botom I also cut the bottom off soda bottles to act as proporgators so wish me luck as its my first time at growing anything

    • The Chilli King February 9, 2012, 1:50 pm

      Catherine – It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Good luck!

  • Liz H August 3, 2011, 9:51 pm

    A quick germination tip is to keep them in the boiler cupboard, or an airing cupboard. If space is limited in there and you don’t have any propagator trays, then clean plastic (or foil, better still for conducting heat) takeaway trays with sieved moist compost and covered with clingfilm. I stack them up and check on them daily and make sure the compost is kept moist.

    Once they sprout move them to a sunny spot.

    Propagator trays work the best as you don’t get the roots tangled up, but maybe if you have an empty box of chocolates with plastic trays for each chocolate they could work – costs around the same as a propagator…

  • billy July 18, 2011, 7:11 pm

    Hi andy,
    More likely the yellowing is being caused by too much water.

  • Gordzilla May 13, 2010, 8:14 pm

    It’s too cold for the to be outside at the moment. Bring them in until at dusk and put them out again only when it’s warm. Hopefully summer should be here soon but until then keep em in.

  • Andy Mahoney May 3, 2010, 12:14 pm

    Hi there,

    I purchased 4 types of chillis this year including the Ghost Chilli! All of those germinated and have grown vigorously. I have been having a problem with the leaves dying off and going yellow from the deep green they were. I have 90% of them outside in Lincolnshire England. Will they survive or is the yellowing a sign of it been too cold or are they suffering from something else?

    Andy Mahoney

    • The Chilli King May 3, 2010, 8:33 pm

      Andy – I suspect the yellowing is almost certainly a sign of the plants being too cold. Hopefully they should survive (frosts should be over) and flourish once summer finally sets. If you can bring them inside until the weather improves I would do as it will only help your plants.

      Good luck and let us know how they get on!

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