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In the past 2 months, I tried to germinate some pepper seeds, but all of them failed. I used some tiny pots to contain the soil (don't know more about it; just black soil in general) and the planted the seed about 1 cm below the surface. I have placed nothing on the pot as cover and I water them with a watering pot once a day. The room temperature is about 29°C (84°F).

What else should I do in order to encourage the seeds to germinate?

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How old were the seeds? – Shule Oct 15 '15 at 11:08
up vote 9 down vote accepted


  • Is watering once a day enough? Is the soil drying out between waterings? You want to provide evenly damp soil. You may need to lightly water morning and evening to keep the soil damp.
  • Are you using fresh seed? If your seed is old and hasn't been stored in ideal conditions, the seeds may be dead.
  • Are they purchased seed or seed you saved yourself? If it is seed you saved, and you didn't collect or store it properly, it may be dead.

If you have a large enough batch of seed, you can do a germination test to see if the seed is viable:

  1. Take a sample of the seeds. 10 is enough, but if you have a larger batch, 20 will be a better sample size.
  2. Get a damp paper towel (not sopping wet, just damp) and a ziplock bag.
  3. Place the seeds in a row in the center of the towel. Fold over the towel so the seeds are covered. Place the towel and seeds in the bag. Seal the bag.
  4. Place the bag in a warm place.
  5. Check after a week. Count the number of seeds that have sprouted and multiply by 10, this gives you your germination percentage.

If fewer than 50% germinate, then your seed is weak -- even the ones that germinate are unlikely to be strong plants. In this case, buy new seed from a good supplier and store it properly.

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I got some fresh habanero seed from my friend and they germinate quite good. – lamwaiman1988 Mar 28 '12 at 6:37

Water (as covered by bstpierre) is my first thought, and his comments about seed quality are good - this could easily explain very poor germination rates.

Which kind of pepper seeds? Some species cultivars are harder to germinate. Most varieties such as bell peppers, jalapeños, etc are in the easy category.

Soaking the seeds for a few hours in salt petre (Potassium Nitrate) is recommended for the harder to germinate varieties. I do this as a matter of course but should probably do a comparative test - I'm not convinced it has a great affect.

Finally, I plant at a much shallower depth, sprinking the potting compost over the seeds to cover them up. Due to vagaries of my technique and that I push exposed seeds in with a finger, some definitely end up 1+cm down and still germinate (I don't know what percentage germinate at this depth).

If there are any kids reading all this, the above could make a good junior science fair project!

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Since you don't know what your soil contains and since didn't use a potting mix, that could easily factor into unsuccessful germination.

For a good discussion on potting mixes take a look at the below question here on SE:

Also, your room temperature of about 29°C (84°F) is a little too high for ideal germination temperature.

  • Ideal germination temperature:

    • 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C).

    • Some cool-season vegetables prefer a slightly lower temperature, 55 to 65°F (13 to 18°C).

  • Growing seedlings from University of Missouri Extension

Temperature Most annual plants and vegetables prefer night temperatures between 60 and 65°F (16 and 18°C) (Tables 1 and 2). Day temperatures may run about 10°F (5°C) higher. If temperatures are warmer than this, plants become leggy. Cool-season vegetable crops and a few flowers prefer night temperatures no higher than 55°F (13°C) and day temperatures near 65°F (18°C). An unused bedroom, basement or sun porch is often a good location for these plants.

The above links offer good "growing plants from seeds" information (IMHO).

Soil temperature is crucial for seed germination. Ideal temperature is 75°F (24°C). However, the air temperature for seeding should be 65°F (18°C).

"Do not place covered containers in direct sunlight. Place the containers in a warm location with optimum temperature range of 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C) for most vegetables. Some cool-season vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas tend to do well when started at temperatures of about 55°F (13°). After germination, remove the plastic film or glass cover and move the cool-loving plants to a cooler location."

So, long with adequate moisture, ideal temperature, suitable potting medium, are the seedlings getting enough good quality light?

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I concur that the soil can be a big problem. I've found that peppers germinate much less in two certain environments: 1. If the soil is baked topsoil. 2. If there are too many partially composted wood chips in the potting soil (and hence probably not much nitrogen at all compared to potassium and calcium). They also refuse to germinate if it's too hot, or if the soil is too dry. They probably don't like germinating in moldy soil as much, either. My uncovered peppers seem to have preferred at least 75° F for germination, but probably warmer. I'm not sure how much was too hot, though. – Shule Oct 15 '15 at 11:03

In my experience, those peat pots that you moisten and they grow up are bad. Don't try those! Try a nice seed starting mix with really thin texture perhaps with vermniculite. Keep them warm and moist to start. Once you see them sprout, place them under some light.

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