Are your chile pepper seedlings weak, leggy or spindly?
It's common for our customers to ask us why their pepper seedlings (or any seedlings) are weak and leggy – and we have a simple answer – give them a breeze or pet them! No. Really! You can "pet" or brush your seedlings with your hands to strengthen the stems. Or, if you can setup a fan to blow a gentle breeze on your pepper seedlings, they will grow a lot stronger! Note: Wait until after the pepper seeds have germinated before doing this, as pepper seeds like warmth to hatch (ideally 80-90˚ F).
Leggy or spindly seedlings can also be due to low light conditions, so make sure you are giving them enough light as well. But we find that it is more common that they just need a gentle breeze – which simulates being outdoors, and can help prevent damping-off (which is caused by a fungus that kills young seedlings). Air circulation really helps curb this nasty seedling-killing problem.
No fan? Use your hands!
You can also simply brush the seedlings with your hands – just brush them back and forth gently. This helps because any motion helps promote cell division and raised chlorophyll levels in your pepper plants. Brushing plants with your hands helps them grow stronger and stockier, and more sturdy so they can better withstand transplanting outdoors.
Giving your seedlings a gentle breeze or daily brushes with your hands also helps with hardening them off for planting outdoors. You want to make sure their stems are strong enough to endure winds, so giving them a breeze or a brush with your hands daily will help them develop stronger stems that hold up to the weather outside. Of course, just doing this is NOT hardening them off completely, air flow and movement help them grow stockier, but when you're ready to start bringing them outdoors it is best to work up to a full day of sun gradually over a period of a week, starting out in dappled shade so they are not shocked by the strength of the sun. Learn more about how to harden off seedlings »
One more pepper seedling tip:
DO NOT OVERWATER PEPPER SEEDLINGS!
An important thing to note: one main cause of struggling pepper seedlings is overwatering! Many gardeners water their seedlings too often, resulting in wet, rather than damp, soil. Pepper seedlings DO NOT like to have wet or soggy feet, so make sure to let them dry out a bit between waterings. We've overwatered ours many times in the past, and they look sad and yellow when we do this. Easy cure, let the soil dry out between waterings.
Growing peppers from seed is easy! You can grow any of the hundreds of chile pepper varieties by growing them from seed, so you're not just limited to just the types of peppers you can get at your garden nursery. Sandia Seed sells all sorts of easy-to-grow Hatch chile seeds, green chile seeds, hot pepper seeds, sweet pepper seeds and even Heirloom tomato seeds!
Learn more about how to grow peppers »