Slowest pepper germination on record?

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

Back in March I planted about 4 seeds each of 16 different varieties of peppers, some newly purchased, others obtained through swaps. Using same procedures as previous years I expected about 10-12 day germination with bottom heat. One week goes by, nothing happens, two weeks, more nothing, three, four, five weeks and I give up, take the tray off the heat and stop watering it. What with other veggie and flower seeds demanding attention I didn't have time to clean it up so I just stashed the tray on a shelf, where there was a little light from the window and normal (65) room temp.

Guess what, last week, over two months later, I notice a few sprouts pushing up through the bone dry planting mix. A little late for Easter, but definitely a resurrection! So I gave it some spritzes of water to see what would happen. This week I transplanted a dozen normal looking seedlings (8 different varieties) into 6 packs with new potting mix and there are signs of a few more pushing up. I have already planted out some peppers purchased from a nursery as an emergency backup, but I think I will try to coddle these dilatory seedlings along and see if I can get a late crop out of them.

I have been growing peppers from seed for many years and have no idea why they were so late this time. Has anyone had slower pepper germination than this? Maybe we could persuade Guinness to establish a new record category.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

What kind are they? It does seem like a really long time. Some of the ultra hots take longer but I didn't know that long.

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

Was a mix of about 40% bell or mild, 20% hot (not ultrahot), 30% ornamental. The ones coming up now are the bell, mild and ornamental varieties.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

OK I can say I've never had that happen. I guess they didn't like the bottom heat? I will say now that I start 1000s of seeds, the plants grow when they want to or the days get longer. I really don't know. I can tweek their conditions with lights and heat, but they still do what they want to,to some degree. Its strange that so many different kinds did that.

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

Late germinatiion update:
By the time these were planting size in late July, they were almost 2 months behind my usual planting date. I plunked them in gallon pots and since I had already put purchased pepper plants in their usual locations, I just stuck those pots into seed planting trays edging on a gravel driveway and watered the trays every 2-3 days. Seemed to work fine. They blossomed in August, and I started getting peppers from them in late September. I guess the moral is, never give up on those reluctant seedlings.

Thumbnail by DonShirer
North Hills, CA

I've noticed with some pepper seeds that if in 10-14 days they don't come up,let them dry out a couple days then water them.
For some reason this seems to wake up some seed varieties.Especially Chinense.

I've also found that no matter how long you wait for a seed to pop up it won't until you put a few replacement seeds in the same cell.
Preferably another variety since you are out of the original one.
Within a week you'll have all the seeds pop up and have to get rid of all but one.
You don't have a clue as to what sprouts are what now.
Doesn't matter in the long run.
The one you keep will die about a day after it's buddies got removed.
You get to do the whole thing over again.

Calgary, Canada

Did you use the same planting mix as you always do?
The reason I am asking is that on

They say never use peat pellets or peat pots and /or dilute peat containing mixes with perlite?

I had poor germination last year using peat pellets.

North Hills, CA

Isn't Ecoseeds/Redwoodseeds the same people who claim or claimed Tepins are the hottest pepper in the world and made up their own heat scale?

When I used them,peat pellets worked ok.
They just are hard to keep from being too wet or to dry.
They seem to be either or all the time.

Now I don't mess with that stage at all.
I soak my seeds then put them in a starter mini greenhouse with seed starter mix or directly into 4 1/2 inch pots.Depends on the amount of room I have on my shelves.

I think I get better growth by putting them directly in pots and not transplanting seedlings from cells to pots than into the final grow out pots.

This message was edited Dec 14, 2011 11:04 PM

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I have used peat pellets for years and never noticed any difference in germination compared to anyother seed starting medium. I start 1000+ a year.

I have noticed, like smokemaster, that the plants grow faster if I don't pot them up. Just put them directly in 31/2" pots, they seem to really like not being disturbed but sometimes I just don't have the room for larger pots in a warmer space. I have noticed that if I pot them up when they are really small they seem less bothered. But sometimes there just isn't enough room. Tomato seedlings will take the cooler temps the peppers get mad at me.

Don, I still think the situation is really strange. Could it have anything to do with the age of the seeds?Let's face it most of us would have tossed the seeds and given the vendor a bad review. Lol There is something to be learned from this unintended experiment.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from CLScott :
I had poor germination last year using peat pellets.

I quit using peat pellets a long time ago (back in grad school, some 30+ years ago now). I was never quite able to maintain that perfect balance between waterlogged and dried out. When the peat got waterlogged, my seeds mostly rotted; and when the pellets dried out too much (which they did all too quickly), it was almost impossible to re-wet them. Maybe they are made differently now.

I've mostly used either Fafard or Metro Mix seeding media - both of which are very fine, and both of which contain a lot of peat. The least successful media I've used contained pine bark, but that may be either because it wasn't sufficiently or properly aged (pine contains some substances that are toxic to many if not most seeds, and needs a long period of damp aging), or because the bark was too coarse and presented a physical barrier to the smaller seeds trying to break the surface.


Calgary, Canada

Thanks for the replies.
Pots of good potting mix is it.
Way too early here to start anything!

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

I just wanted to report that the late sprouters did grow and produce quite a few peppers, both hot and sweet types, although the bells were not as big as usual. I have recently been sorting out seeds for spring, and do have a few seeds from last year's pepper debacle left. I vow to keep a closer watch on them this year, and if they don't produce, out they go.

CLScott: For the last five years or so, I have used a sterilized mix for seed starting produced by a local company (and sold at an east coast chain of salvage stores) which does contain a lot of peat. No problems 'til last year and then only with peppers.

Brooksville, FL

Try presoaking the seeds for a day or two. I use GA,(gibberellic acid) and get great germination.

Calgary, Canada

Good idea to soak first as they are very dry to start.
What proportions of GA do you use? GA-3?

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I'm paying the price for not buying some fresh pepper seeds this year. The two non-bell sweet pepper varieties I depend on most are Gypsy and Carmen and I've been planting seeds of both from envelopes "packed for 2009". In 2009, 2010, and 2011 I got near-100% germination from these and since they've been stored in good conditions I figured they'd still be good for 2012. Apparently I figured wrong.

16 days after sowing indoors, I've only got 5 of 12 Gypsy seedlings up, and 0 of 9 Carmen. I'm not using a heat mat, but seeds of four other pepper varieties have sprouted just fine from the same egg cartons. I'm not giving up yet, as one of the Gypsy seeds only sprouted yesterday - but this will teach me to use fresher seeds.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Have you tried soaking them? I soak all my pepper seeds except the ones that come directly out of the pod, in H2O and a little H2O2. I soak them over night sometimes over many nights. Lol if I dont get around to them. I do use a heat mat, especially for the hot peppers. My peppers haven't germinated normally this year, even the fresh ones. I have some I sowed about a month ago and some of them (the same types) are big enough to be potted up and the one next to it is just germinating. Even the Maui Peppers you were kind enough to send me are doing that and they are fresh. I've also noticed a big difference in how fast they grow, as well as germinate. Strange....

Is there a chance they are by an a/c vent or draft? I've had my a/c on and one vent sets directly over the heat mat. I closed the vent and that did seem to help.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from Ozark :
I'm paying the price for not buying some fresh pepper seeds this year. The two non-bell sweet pepper varieties I depend on most are Gypsy and Carmen and I've been planting seeds of both from envelopes "packed for 2009". In 2009, 2010, and 2011 I got near-100% germination from these and since they've been stored in good conditions I figured they'd still be good for 2012. Apparently I figured wrong.

It happens, sometimes quite suddenly. Seeds are alive. No matter what you do to preserve them, they still slowly respire. As they do, they use up their store of energy. One sign of "too old" tomato seeds I've personally seen are seeds that produce a stalk but almost nothing for seed leaves; and generally no true leaves develop. They have simply run out of steam.


Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

I had a big fall of in some of my pepper seeds between last year and this year. I've also noticed the same thing as rjogden. They just run out of steam. I surgically removed the seed coat from one plant, but there was no leaves there.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I was just going to ask about the seed coat. I start 1000s of seeds a season so just by shear # there are bound to be some anomalies or mutations. But this year I have noticed more of my seedlings then "normal" arent losing their seed coat. I really cant figure out why. Many of these seeds I collected myself, just last season. So age cant be the reason, I was wondering if anybody knows why this would be happening. Surgically removing the seed coat was not successful.

I have had a few tomato seedlings that had "bunny ears" where the cotyledons were too large but they had what I would call a terminal stem, where no true leaves formed.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

I suspect in my case the humid is too low where I'm growing them and the seed coats harden. Almost all of the the cotyledons grow and pull out of them.

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

I see several responders have mentioned H2O2 or Gibberellic Acid pre-soaks. A thread in another forum has been recommending Hydrogen Peroxide for tomatoes, and J.L.Hudson Seeds has an interesting article on Gib:

My pepper seeds are planted already and although I used a heat mat this year and the sprouting rate has improved, it's still slower than I used to experience. I think I'll try replanting some with a presoak as you suggest. Thanks for the suggestion.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

My peppers were on a heat mat but being under the AC vent really made a difference. Our weather was hot then cold then hot again. So the AC was on then the heater it took me awhile to figure out the vent was blowing directly on the trays.

As of today the heat mat is turned off and everything is in the GH, for better or for worse. It's 85* in there right now. Oh I forgot to mention my heat mat is in my bed room. Lol

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

On this 18th day since sowing, I've now got 6 of 12 Gypsy seeds and 3 of 9 Carmen seeds sprouted. Some of the old seeds are alive, but sprouting very slowly.

I'd still like a few more plants of those varieties, so I soaked some seeds of both in water for 20 hours, then put them in folded, wet, paper towels in a sunny window (it was 88 here today and we're not running the AC yet). How long do you think it'll take to see some sprout in wet paper towels?

Columbus, OH

I use GA-3 from JL Hudson with my super-hot pepper seeds and a few others that have been picky about germination. I mix it up at 1:500 and put it in a small spray bottle. I use about 3"x6" pieces of paper towel, moistened with a 1:20 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water (3% hydrogen peroxide), lay some seeds down on the moistened towel, spray with the GA-3, and fold the towel over, place in a snack size baggie, and throw baggies on a heating mat. Works well for most peppers. I got germination on ghost, fatalii, 7 pot, nosegay (not hot but a pain to germinate), etc.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

I must just be really lucky. Ive grown everyone of those, except Fatalii, and they germinated easily. I didnt know Nosegay could be hard to germinate? One thing I have noticed about peppers, and it seems worse this year, is that they stall out at a certain point and NOTHING will get them going. Then all of sudden they get a growth spurt and I think "Wow, those need to potted up yesterday".

I have Chiltepin seeds from 2009 I sowed them again this year and had close to 100% germination, within 10 days. I have no idea why I dont have more problems. I did have a few types that didnt germinate or had a low%. I have them in a pile and during the "dog days" of summer Ill try again. It always amazes me how I can try one time and get NOTHING and the next time they all germinate. As far as I know I didnt do anything different.

Celene-Thank you for the info. I didnt even realize that was available.

Ozark-How are your seeds doing? Are they now plants?

Thumbnail by 1lisac
Columbus, OH

I agree that plants will kinda sit and look at you for a couple of weeks sometimes, then jet right up and need immediate transplant. I thought it was absent-mindedness and timely fertilization, lol.

I had no trouble germinating chiltepins just in plain old flats with bottom heat. I only use the Deno method for ones that are pricey seeds, or that I think might be hard to germinate.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Celene-Thats whats strange. I dont fertilize until I pot up so I dont know why they take off all of a sudden. I had some Numex Twilight, I went out there one day when they were about 31/2 weeks old, thet were 3" tall. They literally grew overnight. They were so ugly and leggy, I let their stems get a little thicker and now they look great. I just had the same thing happen with "Lemon Drop" but at least I know now that they will grow into themselves.

What problems have you had with Nosegay and where did you get the seeds?

Columbus, OH

I got seeds from SSE and someone on Ebay. They have never germinated well for me, so I'm going to make a point of saving seed this year. Much of the time, seed I've saved germinates better.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Pepper seed is just plain weird at times. I planted 15 seeds I saved from a habanero from the store. Six seeds came up in 12 or 13 days. It then took 13 more days for one more to come up and then 2 days later 4 all come up together. I can see a bunch all coming up together and then individual one coming up sporadically, but have a whole group come up together. It's not like they had been saved and you could say maybe they experienced different conditions in the drying and storing period. I took them out of the pepper and planted them.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"Pepper seed is just plain weird at times."

Yes. My pepper seedlings are pretty small for mid-April, but I finally got everything I wanted sprouted and transplanted under lights. I had to re-plant Italian Pepperoncini, and I have no idea why. The first time only 3 of 12 seeds came up within 17 days. The second time I got almost 100% germination with seeds from the same envelope planted in the same conditions.

I'm raising 32 tomato seedlings, 42 peppers, and 20 cabbages. The peppers are (sweet) Gypsy, Carmen, Corno di Toro, and (mildly hot) Highlander Anaheim and Italian Pepperoncini. I'll only transplant about half the pepper seedlings to my garden, the rest are for friends and family.

I'm no longer very worried about a late freeze, but now we're getting severe thunderstorms. I don't want to transplant into the garden just in time to get seedlings flattened by hail!

Thumbnail by Ozark
Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Ozark I was reading you post quickly and had to go back and reread you last sentence. I thought you had written seedlings flailed by hail and was doing a groan.

Denison, TX(Zone 7a)

Much as I hate to say it, I'm glad I'm not the only one having this slow-germination problem! Seriously, you guys give me hope, whereas I was about to chuk the whole thing and just not have peppers this year. (perish the thought!)

Back in March, I got some peppers (corbachi, marconi, melrose, & sweet antigua) to germinate, but then we went on a week's vacation and the people I had sitting the house overwatered everything. I came back to find my flats swimming, and fungus gnats EVERYWHERE! Needless to say, I couldn't get the Bt ordered in fast enough, nothing else seemed to work, and everything withered and died.

So I've started over. And now I'm like everyone else...waiting waiting waiting. This time, everything AROUND the pepper cells are coming up (well, ok, except the Thai Roselle, but I'm used to them being weird), but no peppers. I don't get it. Ambient outside temps were COLDER the first time I tried this. (I start my seedlings in the greenhouse on a heat mat.) So why, now that we're in the 80's-plus during the day, am I now having germination issues???

I thought I would mention, about the Chiltepin...we managed to start a good, robust plant two years ago from some seed a friend in Tyler gave us. I never would have thought anything would come of it, but now we have a beautiful bush that returns every year from the rootstock!

Jacksonville, FL

I've had my chilitepin mother plant since 2001 and have it's youngins in the garden they come back every year they just take a little longer to produce. Mama goes in and out with the cold snaps. Here is a pic.

Thumbnail by Plant_Thang
Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Rookerie- off topic but I'll get back to peppers. What's with your Thai Roselle? Did you soak the seeds?

I'm potting up peppers as I type. I have some Chiltepins that I started on 2-23, 45 germinated and are potted up and outside in 3" pots. I have 5 other varieties in the seed tray so it's still getting watered, well today I noticed 3 more tepins have germinated but it's 5-13 so nearly 3 months strange.

Ozark-you can grow cabbage now?

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"Ozark-you can grow cabbage now?"

Sure, I've got a real nice row of cabbages now, just starting to make heads. Around here, I've found it's best to grow the earliest cabbage variety I can find (Farao, 63 days), start it inside, then transplant to the garden about the average date of our last freeze, April 15. That way it gets harvested in the middle of June before the worst of our heat, and my adjacent rows of potatoes, beets, and turnips come out at the same time or earlier - clearing those rows for a June planting of sweet corn with the proper row spacing and soaker hoses already in place. My homemade sauerkraut is GOOD.

Back to peppers, I ended up with 27 plants in the garden, all doing good: 8 Gypsy and 4 Carmen (sweet), 5 Corno di Toro Rosso (should be sweet but some report they have a little heat), 5 Pepperoncini (mild hot for pickling, I like 'em with sandwiches), and 5 Highlander (a mild Anaheim-type for chiles rellenos). For real serious heat in salsas, I rely on the pot of Maui Purple Peppers I've kept going for many years.

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

Your Maui Purple Peppers seem to like Texas too. They got a late start but they are for a wholesale order and this was when they wanted them and given our unusually wet cool weather none of my peppers are growing very fast but they seem happy. : ) did you know your name is in the 2012 SSE members catalog?

If I grow cabbage I usually do so in the fall. I just can't imagine being able to grow cabbage this late in the year.

I actually made a list of all the peppers I started this year. I enjoy growing the pepper starter plants more then I do tomato plants, the pepper plants all look so different and have different growth patterns. If they germinated as predictably as tomatoes I'd be really happy. This is just a strange yr. My garden plants aren't growing nearly as fast as I remember from years past, but they look healthy. Hey, did you know tomatillos can be planted deep like tomatoes? That makes them less leggy. I'm growing those, Inca berries and Ground Cherries. Not sure where I'm going to put everything but...

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"did you know your name is in the 2012 SSE members catalog?"

Really? Wow. I always thought I might amount to something, someday. Autographs will be 5 bucks. :>)

As per the cabbage, that's the difference between gardening in Zone 8 and Zone 6. Many summers we don't hit 100 degrees here even once, and except for summer okra, peppers, and such things that linger into fall I don't do any fall gardening. The crabgrass and stink bugs have taken over by that time, and it's just too hard to grow a crop of anything here in the fall. That's the time to clean up the garden, put it to bed for the winter, and go deer hunting!

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

It is cold this year guys, I really believe the plants are waiting 6 wkd longer to take off than previous years- just like ourr harvests kept going later the last few years, I have elephant garlic that sprouted outside just this month- and it was planted in Feb! I also believe lights and mats not withstanding that the cool year is affecting how plants are behaving

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

"It is cold this year guys, I really believe the plants are waiting 6 wks longer to take off than previous years"

That's local. Conditions up here are the exact opposite. We had the warmest winter and early spring on record, and that's continuing with day after day now in the 80's. Lots of folks here got away with planting tomatoes and such in their gardens six weeks early (I didn't chance it) and farmers are getting their first cutting of hay now in the middle of May. Believe me, that's remarkable in an area where the average date of our last killing frost was only a month ago. Different areas, different conditions, and we've got it real warm.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

I know, I had dill coming up early- and Houston had a mild winter warm spring and is raining unlike last year- I am sitting in Rochelle, Illinois and it is cold. That's what I mean, it warmed up and stalled In a chill. Oklahoma and Tx panhandles are blowing winds, I also have plants that have decided to start later than usual as well as those that started way early, and Mo is not as hot as usual, not yet for any length of time anyway...

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