Successful pepper seed germination requires a few things: heat (80˚-90˚ F), consistent moisture, and moderate light.
Warmth is of the utmost importance, and you'll find if you provide heat (such as using a seedling mat or putting somewhere warm), you'll have a much faster & higher germination.
Keep in mind that some peppers take longer than others to germinate – the super hot peppers in the Chinense family usually take the longest, and, when stubborn, can sometimes take up to 4-6 weeks to germinate. Many faster growing peppers like Annuum varieties can germinate in 7-10 days. It's important to BE PATIENT with pepper seeds, as they will surprise you and sometimes sprout long after you've given up hope on them.
Some people also scar (rub) the seeds with sandpaper or a nail file to help them hatch.
Soak seeds overnight before planting. Pepper seeds need light, well-draining soil to germinate and then grow to a transplantable size. Seedling Mix and Sunshine Mix #4 works well or something similar with small particles and good drainage. Avoid heavy clay and potting mix. When your peppers are ready to be transplanted outside, it is always a good idea to amend your garden soil with mature compost prior to planting. This will ensure the plants have the nutrients they need straight away.
Sow one seed in each seedling tray compartment about 1/4” deep into the pre-moistened seedling mix. Provide constant bottom heat, such as from a heating pad. Make sure to keep the soil damp (but not soggy). Keep out of direct sunlight, but in a bright warm place.
Germination should occur within 7-21 days but sprouting can take up to 40 days, so be patient!
Make sure to provide Consistent Moisture!
There are ways to keep your seeds moist for germination. Keep the starter pots/pods in a tray and make sure to check daily to ensure the growing medium is moist. Aerogardens have great seed starter tray inserts that also keep seeds consistently moist without having to be watered everyday, which is nice. Another popular way to germinate seeds is using the Paper Towel Method.
Paper Towel Method:
Just lay a paper towel on the counter and spray or mist to dampen, then place pepper seeds about 1-2" apart in a grid on half of the paper towel. Fold over, then spray or drizzle more water to get the towel fully damp. Then, you can put the paper towel into a glass or plastic container with a lid or a ziplock bag to keep it moist. Place in a warm area (80-90˚) with moderate light (not full sun). Make sure the towel stays damp, and leave a little opening in the container or bag so a little air can get in. Once you see sprouts, you can tear the seedling with the paper towel and plant it in good seedling potting soil, or, if desired, gently remove the seedling from the paper towl and press into soil. With this paper towl method, you don't have to worry about the seeds drying out before they sprout! Just don't forget about them.
Why didn't my pepper seeds germinate?
This is a common question in the vegetable gardening world. It's not uncommon for experienced gardeners to have trouble starting peppers from seed. Make sure to use fresh seeds when you can, keep them moist and warm, and be patient. Read more about why pepper seeds don't germinate »
Sprouted Pepper Seedlings:
Once your chile pepper seeds sprout, give them a gentle breeze from a fan or brush with your hands to strengthen their stems. DON'T OVERWATER peppers, they do not like wet feet and will look yellowing and sickly if overwatered. Learn more about how to fix weak pepper seedlings »
Learn more about How to grow Peppers from Seed »