Most chili pepper seeds do not need to be soaked. Only those varieties that have difficulty germinating from seeds need to be soaked. For all other chili pepper seeds, it is optional to soak them.
If you want the seeds to germinate faster, then soaking may be an option to consider. Let the seeds soak for 12-24 hours and no more than 48 hours. You may experiment with which amount of time works best for your seeds.
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Chili seeds can be soaked in plain water, various teas, detergents, etc. The main reason for soaking the seeds is to break down the seed wall, such that the seedling can get through it with ease.
I have been growing chili plants for a while now. Right now, I want to take my knowledge of chili peppers to the next level. For this reason, I have been researching various aspects of chili growing. In this short article, I am presenting the results of my research concerning the soaking of the seeds before germinating them.
Below I will discuss why you may want to soak your chili seeds to make them germinate faster. After that, I'll mention two methods that you can use for soaking the seeds.
Table of Contents
Why soak chili seeds to make them germinate faster?
An example of a variety of chili pepper that needs its seeds to be soaked before they can germinate is the original type of hot pepper. This pepper is called the Chiltepin. If you don't soak these seeds, only a maximum of 10% will germinate. The germination rate can be increased by using tea or some detergent to soak the seeds.
Warm water can work for soaking chili seeds, but using a somewhat acidic liquid may be better. By using an acidic solution, you are essentially imitating the workings of the digestion of a human or animal that has eaten fruit from a chili plant. Digestion uses acids to break down the food that is eaten.
The chili seeds have evolved in nature to be eaten by an animal (or human). When eaten, the seeds then move through the digestion acids and then, at last, to be defecated onto the ground. From there on, the seeds can proceed to germinate.
The acids in the digestion break down the seed coats or the outer barrier of the seeds. When the seeds end up on top of the soil, and the seed coats have been weakened, then the seedling can easily grow through it.
Furthermore, when the seed senses that it is surrounded by water or a liquid solution, it will be safe for it to start germinating. The water acts as a kind of signal to the seed that it can begin growing a seedling.
How to soak chili seeds before germination?
There are probably many methods for soaking seeds before germination. Nevertheless, here I mention two ways that I have found popping up on multiple websites.
Do note that, when using tap water, you may want to filter it to remove chlorine and other additives.
The most common way of soaking seeds is to use chamomile tea. Chamomile tea is only slightly acidic, but it, on the other hand, has an anti-bacterial effect. If you need a more acidic solution, you may try black tea.
The process of soaking seeds with tea is straightforward:
- Brew the tea twice with the same teabag.
- Let the tea from the second brewing cool down to room temperature. The tea from the second brewing should be a little weaker than the first.
- Add the seeds and soak them for 12-24 hours. For some, 8 hours works fine too.
- Plant the seeds into soil for germination.
Please note here that it is, in fact, possible to over-soak the chili seeds. Do not let them soak for more than 48 hours. Also, be sure to let the tea cool down. Do not use boiling water for soaking the seeds.
Paper Towel Method
Another method for soaking seeds is called the Paper Towel Method. This method is a bit more involved than the common method:
- Take one paper towel.
- Spray the towel with water or (room temperature) tea to moisten it.
- Squeeze out excess liquid if this is present.
- Place the chili seeds on the towel.
- Fold the paper towel in quarters or more.
- Put the towel with the seeds in a Ziploc bag (or similar).
- Put the bag on a warm spot like a seedling heat mat, for example. 20°C - 27°C is an ideal range of temperatures. Make sure that the towel stays moist. To achieve this, you may have to respray it after a couple of days.
- Check the seeds regularly to see if any have sprouted. If so, cut out the part of the towel that contains the seedling and transfer it to the soil for further germination.