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Transplanting Seedlings

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

I've got some Carmen, Bounty, and Gypsy sweet peppers started indoors in plastic egg cartons, under lights along with a bunch of tomatos. They're up, but I know the peppers will grow slower than the tomatoes, and I'll have to set them on a wood block to maintain the right distance as I raise the lights for the tomatoes.

The only peppers I've grown from seeds before were meant to stay in outdoor pots, so I just planted seeds in the pots and let them go. With these, I'll have to transplant into larger containers and then transplant them again into the garden.

How big should they be when they're ready to transplant into bigger containers - do I look for two sets of true leaves like with tomatoes? Also, I'm sure peppers don't grow new roots from a buried stem - so I'll transplant them at the same ground level and not deep like tomatoes, right? Thanks.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)


BocaBob asked a similar question about the transplanting depth:

Sizewise, I let mine get fairly large (3-4 inches tall) in the peat pellet before I planted in pots.


Helena, MT

Sam, I've had nothing but trouble with planting hot pepper seeds until this year. I have been collecting as much information as I could find here in DG. Much of the information comes from the Pepper Forum. I believe I read a similar thread on transplanting, but as I recall the stems had to be 'woody' before they stopped setting on roots.

The method I selected to start my seeds was to take a dozen or more seeds of one variety and plant them in a single 3-inch peat pot, with eighteen peat pots to a single tray. All the seed except two packages were either saved from the fruits on plants I purchased from a local nursery, or left over seeds from packages I had purchased the previous two years. I placed the flat heat pad (w/o thermostat control) and covered the trays with a three inch tall clear cover and a black sheet of plastic over the cover.

All the seeds sprouted within two weeks time, habs being the last to sprout. As the seeds in each peat pot sprouted I removed the peat pot to another tray which I then placed under a 4-bulb 48-inch long florscent light fixture.

I decided not to wait until the true leaves had formed since the small seedling stems were two or more inches tall. I transplanted them individually to 3-inch peat pots and burried the stem as deeply as I could. Looks like they are doing fine so far, but I can't honestly say the stems are developing roots.

The nice thing about this method is the ability to remove the individual peat pots from the starter tray as the individual peat pots begin sprotting. I made a real mess of things last year when I tried planting different varieties of hot pepper seeds directly into a single flat.

As you mentioned, I also plan to pot some of the plants in 2.5 gallon plastic pots, while others will go directly from the peat pot to the garden when it warms up enough to plant outside. When transfering to the garden or the plastic pots I don't plan to burry any of the stems. I have also read in DG that the potted pepper plants can be brought indoors in the fall and will continue to produce throughout the winter months, and possibly for several years.

Hope this helps Sam.


Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Morgan, yes that helps.

I just transplanted 117 tomato seedlings into 3" square pots in flats. I planted my peppers the same day (all in egg cartons). The peppers are smaller than the tomatoes, they're all about 1 1/2" tall and just starting their first true leaves. I think I'll let the peppers go a while longer before transplanting.

Yes, you can sure keep hot peppers going for years in a pot by bringing it indoors in the winter.

About 10 years ago a lady in Hawaii sent me some Maui Purple Pepper seeds and I grew them in my garden that year. I love that pepper - it has purple foliage, purple blooms, little 1 1/2" purple peppers turning to red, it's wicked hot, and it has great flavor. Nine of those little peppers put perfect heat in a 1/2 gallon of my garden salsa.

At the end of that garden season I transplanted one of the Maui Purple Pepper plants into a big pot and brought it inside. Ten years later, I've still got those peppers growing in the pot.

I'd say the individual plants only last 2 or 3 years. I just let multiple plants sprout in the pot and give them Miracle Gro once in a while. When a plant dies or gets ratty-looking I pull it out but there are lots of volunteers to take it's place. The pot looks great - it lives on our patio during the warm months and by a window in my office through the winter, and I've got a permanent source of "heat" for my salsa.

- Sam

Helena, MT

Sam, your Maui Purple Pepper sounds similar to the Pretty-in-Purple Pepper plant I found at a nursery when my attempt to grow peppers from seeds failed. Gread looking floage and the purple peppers were about thumb size, turning to red, and muy picante. Planted a whole flat (18) from saved seed for a border plant on the south front of the house.

I planted eight left over Pizza Pepper seeds on the third of this month and potted them up to individual peat pots a little over a week. Four of the plants were small so I doubled up with two per peat pot. One pot made it with both seedlings looking good, so I split those up today. Sure enough, the stems which were burried to the cotyledons had little root threads coming out of the side of the stem.


Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

morgan - those Pretty-in-Purple Peppers sound similar, all right.

The lady I got those seeds from said they're a native plant on Maui. She has a permanent hedge of them in her yard, and I'd guess it would be like the ones in my pot - the individual plants die in 2 or 3 years but are replaced by seedlings from dropped peppers. These bloom and have peppers twice a year, winter and summer. It must be nice to live where it never freezes, huh?

I'd sure like to transplant my pepper seedlings, but I think I'd better wait a week or so. They're only 1 1/2" high and just starting the first true leaves, the stems are only about half the diameter of a matchstick. I think that's too small to transplant.

On the other hand, I don't want to wait very long because I've got as many as 4 plants to an egg-carton hole and they'll get overcrowded real quick.

Helena, MT

Sam, I tried the moist coffee filter inserted inside a fold over plastic sandwich bag method of sprouting five 2008 Tiny Tim tomato seeds after reading about the method in DG earlier this year. I understand that the method is primarily used to determine viability of old seed, but I wanted to see if the method worked before trying this as a method for germinating hot pepper seeds. One out of the four sprouted seeds survived transplanting, so I nixed that idea of germinating hot pepper seeds.

After several months of debating which hot pepper seed germination method to use, the multiple seeding of a single 3-inch peat pot for a single variety of hot pepper seed was selected as my method of choice. The seeds germinated quichly, however I was still very leary of trying to transplant them to individual peat pots while the seedlings were still in the cytolyodon stage. I went ahead and did it anyway, and they have done well. Now I have no fear of transplanting pepper seedlings in the cotyledon stage.

The egg carton method is a lot like using peat pots Sam, however I like the peat pot method for watering. I realize there is a considerable amount of negativism towards peat pots for germinating tomato and pepper seeds. One of the principal complaints about peat pots is they dry out quickly on a heat pad and wick water away from the media.

My preference for using peat pots is they will tell you when it's time to water. When the peat pots appear dry on the outside I fill the tray with water and let them soak until saturated, which may take quite a bit longer than the 20 minutes most people use when watering seedlings from the bottom. When the top of the media appears dry I use a turkey baster to apply a single dose of water to each peat pot. At night I cover the trays with the clear high (7-in domes). Something I have learned by observing the amount and size of water droplets attached to the underneath side of the domes is that also tells me when its time to add water to the trays. I'm carefull not to let the media too moist, and I use a small fan during the day to make sure the top media does not develope mold, or any other of the nasty problems associated with too much water. I can't say that I would recommend this method to anyone that doesn't have time to keep and eye on their plants since I check mine regularly throughout the day to make sure conditions are ideal. So far I can say that I believe I have concord my jinks of gerinating hot pepper seeds. Fingers Crossed!

One other observation on pepper seedling is mine developed a long deep root rather quickly in the peat pots after germination. If you are waiting for one or two true leaves to set on before transplanting your root system might be somewhat inhibited. Just a thought Sam.


Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Morgan - I took your advice and transplanted the peppers last night. I'm glad I did, I had no idea how root bound those little seedlings were getting in the egg cartons. Some of them had roots 4" long wound around in there.

They did fine, they're not even wilted this morning and I swear they grew some overnight. I've got all my plants under lights in 3" square cells now - 46 tomatoes, 16 tomatillos, and 28 peppers.

- s

Helena, MT

Yea Sam, I thought the same thing when I transplanted my peppers...they are really growing nicely. Got carried away though...ten flats or 180 pepper plants. Three of the flats I'm planning on planting outside the window were my plant stand sets. They are all ornamental types which is my idea of a flower bed. Wife may not concur with that one, but she did give me the nod for a one time trial. Next year she claim the bed!

I'm planting two flats of tomato seeds today once I figure out where to put them. I've thought about the tomatillos, but have never even seen one. Heard they were good in picanti sauce.

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