Bell peppers are popular garden plants grown throughout summer. They are easy to grow, and the fruits that are harvested can be used in a huge variety of dishes. It’s easy enough to buy seedlings from a garden center but have you wondered whether you could grow bell peppers from seeds?
You can grow bell peppers from seed, but because it takes around 60 to 90 days before you can harvest your first fruits, it’s best to start these indoors. You can collect the seeds from bell peppers you’ve grown yourself or even from store-bought ones. Packets of seeds are also freely available.
Here’s everything you need to know about growing bell pepper from seed.
Collecting the Seeds
Of course, you can just buy a packet of bell pepper seeds but if you want to collect your own, make sure that you gather seeds from ripe bell pepper. You see, seeds collected from a green bell pepper that has not ripened fully are not developed enough to give you a reliable germination rate.
You can even let the pepper ripe fully on your kitchen counter before collecting the seeds, as they will continue to mature even when the fruit has been picked.
Can you Plant the Seeds Straight Away?
It’s definitely possible to take the seeds from ripe bell pepper and plant them straight away. They don’t have to be treated or dried if you want to do this.
However, if you want to save the seeds for the following season, it’s a good idea to let them dry out for a few days to ensure that they don’t end up going moldy. Here’s how to dry and store your pepper seeds:
- Remove the seeds from the pepper and ensure that they don’t have any flesh attached.
- Lay them out in a single layer on a piece of paper towel for up to 1 week.
- When the seeds are fully dry, pop them into a small plastic bag and store this in a cool, dry spot away from direct light.
- Pepper seeds can be stored for 2 to 5 years, but their viability will decline over time.
It’s important to note that peppers of all varieties tend to cross-pollinate quite readily. Therefore, if you have a number of different types of peppers growing in your garden, the plants that you’ll get from the seeds that you collect may not be exactly what you thought. Even store-bought peppers may not grow true to form.
However, this can provide quite a bit of diversity to the plants that you end up growing, and you could even end up with your own unique hybrid variety of pepper.
Bear in mind that it’s not only bell peppers that have a habit of cross-pollinating. If you’re also growing jalapenos or habanero peppers in your garden, you might find that these can cross-pollinate with your bell peppers, and you could end up with a different variety of hybrid pepper.
For experimental gardeners, this could be a fun project to see what kinds of peppers you can actually end up with.
How Long will it Take to Grow your Bell Peppers from Seed?
In general, it can take around 60 to 90 days to grow bell peppers from seed until you can harvest your first fruits. It should only take a few days for the seeds to germinate, but even this can take more than a week.
For this reason, if you don’t live in an area with a long growing season, it’s best to start your pepper seeds indoors. You should plant your seeds at least 2 months before the last expected frost date in spring.
Testing the Viability of The Seeds
If you have some seeds that you’ve stored for a while or have collected seeds from a store-bought pepper, there is a way to test their viability before you go to the trouble of planting them. Here’s what to do:
- Gather together a plastic bag and some absorbent paper towels.
- Wet the paper towel and squeeze out any excess water.
- Lay the paper towel out flat and place the seeds on top of it.
- Fold the paper towel with the seeds enclosed and place it into the plastic bag.
- Seal the plastic bag to keep the moisture in.
- Place the bag in a dark, warm spot.
- In around 5 to 7 days, open the bag to release excess condensation.
- If the paper towel has dried out a little, you can use a mister bottle to moisten it. You can also add a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the water to prevent mold from growing on the seeds. Alternatively, you can mist the paper towel with chamomile tea to prevent any fungal growth.
- Check the seeds in around a week to see if any of them have sprouted. You can remove any sprouted ones very carefully with a pair of tweezers or a toothpick and plant these into the soil.
- Continue to monitor the seeds and plant any sprouted ones.
Sowing the Seeds
Sowing bell pepper seeds is as easy as following these steps:
- Fill a seedling tray or a number of small pots with a good quality seed-raising mix.
- Plant the seeds ¼ deep in the soil.
- Water the soil, being careful not to dislodge the seeds.
- For optimum germination, the soil should be kept at a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). If your inside temperature is not warm enough and you don’t have a sunny windowsill, you can purchase a heat mat onto which you can place your pots or seedling tray. This will ensure faster and more even germination.
- Make sure that you keep the young plants moist and warm, especially once they start putting on growth.
Harden off your Seedlings before Planting them Outside
Bell peppers are particularly susceptible to transplant shock, so it’s very important that you harden off your plants before you transfer them to the garden. You should start doing this at least 2 weeks before the last expected frost date. Here’s what to do:
- On day 1, place your seedlings or young plants outdoors during the day if the temperature is not too cold. Only leave them outdoors for around an hour before bringing them back in again.
- On day 2, leave the plants outdoors for around 2 hours and then bring them back indoors.
- Continue to expose your plants to outdoor conditions by leaving them out for an extra hour each subsequent day.
- Once they’ve been outdoors all day and there are no more frosts expected, you can plant them in the garden. Make sure that outdoor temperatures are relatively warm and that the soil has had time to warm up a little too.
Transplanting your Bell Peppers into the Garden
Once your bell pepper plants have been hardened off sufficiently, they can be planted out into the garden. Wait until the soil temperature has reached around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).
If you’re planting a few, ensure that you space them around 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) apart. They should be planted into well-drained soil that has been enriched with plenty of organic matter.
Once they’re in the garden, water them in well to help settle the soil around the roots. Bell peppers also respond well to a layer of mulch applied around the base of the plants. This helps to keep weeds at bay and will avoid too much water evaporation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you grow bell peppers from seeds collected from store-bought ones?
This is entirely possible as long as the pepper is ripe. It’s best not to try this with green bell peppers because you’ll have very poor germination due to the immaturity of the seeds.
Do you have to dry bell pepper seeds before planting them?
If you intend to plant the seeds straight after collecting them, they don’t have to be dried. However, if you want to store the seeds for the next season, you should let them dry for around a week before storing them.
Will bell peppers grow indoors?
It is entirely possible to grow bell peppers indoors as long as you give them the right conditions. They need plenty of light and warmth to produce fruits. If you have a really bright south or west-facing window, you might have some success.
However, the best way to grow bell peppers successfully indoors is to put them under a grow light. Not only will the grow light provide sufficient light, but it will also supply the warmth that the plants need to grow successfully.
Can you grow bell peppers in pots?
Absolutely, as long as you choose a pot that is at least 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and has adequate drainage holes. Bear in mind that the soil in pots does dry out faster compared to the soil in your garden. Therefore, bell peppers grown in pots will require more frequent watering.