Successfully pre-growing peppers and chili

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:16 pm

Some plants try coziness: They germinate and grow slowly, bloom quietly, and then still take plenty of time to let their fruits ripen. Of course, this is mainly due to the climate in this country, because bell pepper, chili and hot bell pepper plants originally come from warmer climates. We can still grow them in our country if we move their nursery indoors and later provide them with a sunny and sheltered location.

A little commodity knowledge

Actually, chilies and hot peppers are nothing more than small varieties of peppers that come in different shapes, colors and degrees of hotness. All three plants belong to the same species. The confusion of terms is a bit difficult to understand at first sight, because everything is called bell pepper: both the genus (Capsicum) and the species (Capsicum annuum) and also the variety (there are then peppers, chilies, hot peppers,…).

Successfully pre-growing peppers and chili

All bell pepper varieties belong to the same plant family, the nightshade family. Other family members are tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes, all three of which belong to the same genus (nightshade), as well as the goji berry, which in turn belongs to a different genus (buckthorn).

Successfully pre-growing peppers and chili

The right time

Tomatoes and eggplants are also grown early in the year. With tomatoes you can start at the end of February at the earliest, but early to mid-March works even better. Eggplants are then also the turn from the end of February or beginning of March. With both, however, later growing is still possible. It’s a bit different with the peppers, as the plants grow so slowly that it’s hard to harvest anything if you sow later.

Did you miss the sowing date? Don’t worry, with young plants you can still enjoy peppers, chili & Co. When you buy them, they should look healthy and fresh and have already grown vigorously.

If you’re itching to start gardening at the beginning of the year, you can grow the first chilies and peppers as early as January. However, such an early cultivation is more recommended for the very hot varieties, which need longer until they can be harvested.

Chilies and hot peppers: Hot early starters

Both chili and hot pepper plants should be advanced about 12 weeks before they are planted out. With a planting date in mid-May (after the ice saints), that gives a mid-February sowing date. However, since plants do not function as precisely as clockwork and they place more value on suitable temperature and light conditions than our weekly calculations, it can happen that the 12 weeks are not quite sufficient or are too generous. Therefore, the value serves only as an orientation. If you want to be on the safe side, you can sow as early as the beginning of February. Those who decide late still have time until the end of February. After that, however, it really becomes too tight, as the small pre-pulled young plants could then only move into the bed or onto the balcony from June onwards. At this time, these are still much more tender than purchased young plants.

See also  Plants For Full Sun: These Plants Are Easy To Care For

Peppers: Mild early risers

For peppers, a value of 10 weeks serves as a guide: this is roughly how long it takes for the seed to grow into a plant that can be planted out. Therefore, sowing is recommended at the end of February. However, the possible sowing window opens as early as mid-February and closes in mid-March.

The right seed pots

The seeds of the different bell pepper varieties are reasonably large and easy to handle. Depending on the pot size, different numbers of seeds are sown. In our photo you see pots with a diameter of about 6 cm or a size of 5 x 5 cm. In each pot we sow only one seed.

Successfully pre-growing peppers and chili

A standard size for pots is about 10 – 12 cm, in which you can also sow 2 – 4 seeds. With more seeds, potting will be more difficult later, because the small roots can grow together and you have to be careful not to crush the other plants in the pot.

Quick homemade are upcycling pots from old Tetrapak packaging. Simply cut them off at the desired height, clean them and possibly poke a few holes or cracks in the bottom. But even without drainage, the cultivation succeeds if you water sparingly.

Successfully pre-growing peppers and chili
Various plastic packaging also lends itself to successfully raise the plantlets

The right soil

Use special growing soil for sowing, often also called herb soil. This is particularly low in nutrients. Too many nutrients would stimulate the small seedlings to grow much too rapidly: they would shoot up long and sparse. But we want the roots to develop vigorously in search of nourishment.

Growing soil can also be mixed yourself with a little effort, but this is more something for people with a garden. As a basis for this is best suited loose garden soil, which is conveniently often dug up for us by moles, especially in the spring. This is mixed in equal parts with sand and compost. As compost soil, for example, soil from the leaf compost is very suitable, but you need to create it in time in the fall. Alternatively, you can buy compost in smaller quantities in bags.

Garden and compost soil can be sterilized at 120 degrees for about 30 minutes, so that other seeds contained in it can no longer germinate. However, heat treatment in an oven or microwave will also kill any small soil inhabitants. Alternatively, the soil can be sieved to remove seeds, small stones or bugs.

For old soil that has been overwintered outside in a bag or comes from previously planted containers, sterilization is more advisable to eliminate pathogens such as fungi or small pests. These can quickly kill off young seedlings.

The correct sowing

The seeds of various peppers can be soaked in warm water before sowing. This works well overnight and speeds up germination a bit. If you want to get started right away, this is of course possible without soaking.

Fill the soil into your seed pots. You can leave some air on top, place the seeds on the moistened soil and cover them with a layer of soil about 1 cm thick. Or you can simply press the seeds with your finger 1 cm deep into the already full pots and cover the resulting holes with soil again.

See also  Mealybugs: Detect, Control And Prevent Plant Pests

In any case, the soil can now be moistened again well, this works best with a spray bottle.

If you want, you can cover the pots with foil or put them in transparent plastic bags. This will create a greenhouse climate and the soil will stay moist longer. Otherwise, the soil will dry out quickly, as the seeds like to have it very warm for germination.

The right location

Place the growing pots in a bright and warm place. Above a slightly turned up heater is ideal, because the chili and pepperoni seeds need temperatures of 22 to 28 degrees. About 25 degrees is perfect for them. The bell pepper seeds need about 22 to 24 degrees. After 10 to 14 days you may see the first tender green growing out of the soil, but sometimes germination takes up to 28 days. When all seeds have germinated, you can move the pots to a cooler place or turn down the heat. 20 degrees is now more than sufficient and especially important is the light. The young seedlings should get the brightest place you can find. If they are too warm or dark, they will die. That is, in search of light and stimulated by the temperatures, they become quite thin, long and unstable.

The pricking

In brief:

  • Prick out the plantlets when they have four leaves.
  • Place them in more nutrient-rich soil and give them more space.
  • Plant them about 1 – 2 cm deeper.

First the so-called cotyledons appear on the plantlets. These always look a little different than the later leaves. After another two weeks, most of the plants should have developed four leaves, which means it is time for pricking out. This means that the plants are transferred to larger pots. However, it is also possible to maintain the size of about 10 – 12 cm, but give each plant its own pot.

You can also prick bell pepper or tomato plants twice and use smaller pots the first time. In our experience, pricking once is also enough. Depending on your mood and time, you can try out what suits you more.

First you can prepare the new pots. First fill them completely with soil. Do not use pure growing soil, but mix it with nutrient-rich potting soil. If you mix the soil yourself, you can reduce the amount of sand. Drill a hole in the center using a pricking tool of your choice (more on this in a moment).

Now move the plants. They are very delicate and must be removed from the soil very carefully. Under no circumstances should you pull on them! What you use for pricking out is a matter of taste. There are special pricking sticks that fit well in the hand. However, thick knitting needles or even chopsticks work similarly well. Flat handles of teaspoons are also suitable, or even a spoon itself. Depending on how big your growing pot is and how dense the plantlets are in it.

See also  When Does Lavender Bloom?

A kind of lever technique works best: Loosen the soil carefully and place the tool of your choice at some distance from the plant in order to lever it out of the pot together with the soil. If you pry too closely into the soil, there is a high risk that you will injure the roots.

You can now place the plant about 1 – 2 cm deeper in the new soil than it was growing before. Bell pepper plants, just like tomatoes, can also form roots on the stems when they are in contact with the soil. Thus, the young plant becomes more stable.

You may wonder if it’s even necessary to prick out the plants, but instead just use larger pots right away. This is a good idea in itself, but not for the bell pepper varieties. These benefit greatly from being set deeper and having more nutrients available in the new pot. They are heavy growers and would not grow vigorously enough to last the time until planting out otherwise. Squash and zucchini are also heavy growers, but are not necessarily pricked out. This is not a contradiction, because the cucurbits are sown only from the beginning of April – their time in the pot is therefore much shorter than for peppers, tomatoes & Co.

Successfully pre-growing peppers and chili
If in addition to the two cotyledons have formed four leaves, the plants can be pricked

The time until planting

Congratulations: you have done a good job and successfully raised your seedlings! Your chilies, hot peppers or peppers are no longer in their infancy, but have already made their first move and are getting bigger every day. Slowly it’s time to think about their final move out. In order for them to cope well, you can put them out into the fresh air for a few hours during the day in good weather from mid-April onwards. Very important: It should be at least 15 degrees and the location should be protected from the wind and bright, but not sunny. The wind and strong, unfiltered sunlight are unfamiliar and can damage the delicate leaves.

However, this hardening off is a super thing and will make your plants even hardier. Also, if you don’t have that much time, you can put them out for an hour in the late afternoon, for example.

Everything at a glance

After germination
PrickingPlanting out
Chili and
Hot peppers
Beginning until
End February
22 to 28 degrees C18 – 20 degreesfor four leavesMitte Mai
PaprikaMiddle of February
until middle of March
22 – 24 degrees C18 – 20 degreesfor four leavesMitte Mai


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.