You can buy seeds or collect them yourself. If the seeds are fresh, there is no need to dry them. Put them below 2-3 cm of unfertilized soil, and they will germinate in less than a week. You will need to keep the soil moist and warm.
I have been growing chili peppers in my living room for many years now, and I will share some of my experiences here in this article.
It all started when I had gotten a recipe for Mexican red salsa from a friend of mine. For the dish, I bought a load of chili peppers in the local supermarket. The recipe said that I should remove the seeds from the hot peppers before using the peppers in the salsa. I thought it would be a shame to throw those seeds away, so I dried them and stored them.
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At some point, I decided to see if I could make them germinate and grow actual plants from them. This worked out with great success. As far as I can remember, most of the seeds germinated, and the resulting plants produced quite some chilies.
Yet, there was one thing that bothered me. The plants looked dead-ugly. The branches were skewed and grew in all directions. Therefore, I chose to look for an online seller of chili seeds and ordered many different varieties. The resulting plants were all beautiful, as hot pepper plants should be. Since then, I have grown several dozen varieties from seeds, including from my own collected seeds.
In the following, I discuss where you can get chili seeds and when it is the right time to start those seeds. Then I mention what you need to do to prepare the seeds for germinating. After this, you are ready to grow the seeds, and here I'll tell you how to do that. Finally, I discuss what you can do about seeds that don't germinate.
Table of Contents
Where to find chili seeds?
As mentioned before, it is possible to collect seeds from chilies (the fruit) that you buy in a grocery shop or at a vegetable market. Yet, as mentioned in my experience, the resulting plants may not be aesthetically pleasing. In addition, you won't be sure which variety of chili you're dealing with.
So, the safest bet is to buy the seeds in a packet from a reputable source. This source can be an established seed seller, a plant nursery, an Etsy or eBay seed shop with good reviews, etc.
When you purchase such a packet, you can be sure that the name of the variety mentioned is correct. There will often be some instructions for how to grow the plants and some data like the time to maturation and the size of the plant.
Seed packets typically contain 10-15 seeds.
Of course, once you have grown your own chilies, then you can collect the seeds from the fruits of those plants you are the most satisfied with. If you don't intend to sow these seeds straight away, then you may want o dry them and then store them in a paper envelope in a dry and dark place.
When should you start chili seeds?
If you intend to place your chili plants outdoors (in the northern hemisphere), then the best month to start germinating the seeds is likely in February if they have a maturation time of +/- 70 days. In the case of Habaneros or Rocotos, you may start even earlier, like January. This is because these chilies have a longer maturation time of +/- 100 days.
So, when your goal is to place your chilies outside at some point, you should take into account that the maturation time is somewhere between 70 to 100 days. This corresponds roughly to 2,5 and 3,5 months.
If the climate at your locale allows it, you can plant out the seeds immediately after germination. Still, otherwise, you should keep your seedlings and small plants inside until the outdoor temperature is above [??].
On the other hand, if you wish to keep your chilies indoors, you can start the seeds whenever you see fit. Chili plants can be grown all year round when kept inside.
How do you prepare chili seeds for planting?
First of all, please make sure to wear gloves when handling chili seeds. Don't touch your face or sensitive body parts before you have thoroughly washed your hands.
Chili seeds do not need to be dry before sowing them. You can sow fresh seeds that come straight out of a chili fruit.
On the other hand, if you wish to save seeds for sowing later, you'll need to dry them before storing them. Save the dried seeds in a paper envelope in a place that is dark and dry.
If you start with dried seeds, you can plant them as they are, but you may also choose to soak them first. In this case, you can soak the seeds for 24 to 48 hours before sowing them. It is possible to soak your seeds in water, but some recommend using (room temperature) chamomile tea or even black tea.
The idea of soaking the seeds is to weaken the outer walls of the seeds such that the actual seedlings find it easier to break through them. In addition, the teas can work to kill bacteria and stimulate growth.
How do you germinate chili seeds?
Once you have your seeds ready, you can sow them. You can use a growing medium like unfertilized loose soil or Jiffy pods (or similar) for this. Make sure that the medium is moist and at least 20°C warm.
If you are using pods, then you may sow multiple seeds into the same pods to increase the likelihood of at least one seed germinating per pod. Should several seeds germinate, then you can try to separate them or discard the smallest.
Sow the seeds at a depth of about 0,5 cm.
You can place the seeds in their growing medium in a mini greenhouse which you keep at 25°C to 28°C. For this, you can use a heat mat. In addition, because such a mini greenhouse is closed, there will be a humid environment. This is ideal for chili seeds to germinate and will very likely result in a higher germination rate.
Most chilies will germinate within a week. For some varieties, it may take a few weeks longer.
In this case, you may choose to sow many seeds and then simply continue growing those seedlings that appear first and discard the rest. In this manner, you are essentially performing an artificial selection of the seedlings that are the best fit for the current environment.
Once the seedlings have grown to a height of a few centimeters, you can transplant them into a (larger) container. As the seedlings develop, you may transplant them into progressively larger pots.
What do I do if my seeds don't germinate?
There is, of course, the possibility that the seeds are simply not viable - which is not a good thing if they came from a seed packet!
Yet, before following this hypothesis, you should try out variations of what I have explained above.
Try different growing media - like a seed-starting mix, Jiffy pods, coconut source tabs.
Perhaps also try to germinate your chili seeds at room temperature at first and if this does not work, try using a heat mat below your growing medium. A further thing to try out is to use a mini greenhouse that keeps the air inside humid.
Before sowing the seeds, you may also try to soak them for 24 to 48 hours instead of using them dry.
Here in this article, I have described how to get your chili peppers started growing from seeds. I mention where to get your seeds, prepare them for germination, germinate them, and what to do if they don't grow.
Once your chili plants have started from seeds and have a specific size, it is time to transplant them into larger pots. From there on, you need to care for them as maturing and flowering plants.