New to growing peppers? Read How To Germinate Your Pepper Seeds In Paper Towel.
It's as simple as it sounds and it will save you a bit of time, space, and soil!
Why germinate seeds in paper towel? Well we wouldn't germinate all seeds this way but let's say you have pepper seeds that take a bit of time to germinate and require warmer temperatures. By placing these seeds between moist paper towels you can see when viable seeds have germinated and don't have to worry about wasting soil on any seeds that aren't viable. Compare this to a sprawling tray of potting mix, it's easier and more energy efficient to keep a small packet of moist paper towel warm until germination.
This is a standard method used to test germination rates but it's not typically used by large nurseries to make seedlings. However, this is very effective for a germinating a few seed packets at home.
Much of the failure we see with seeds not germinating is caused by too much soil or soil that is too wet. This can especially be an issue with seeds that take even just a few days longer than others to germinate. Soil without roots running through it that is wet for an extended period can lead to unhealthy conditions for a number of reasons. With a paper towel it's fairly easy to tell when it's too wet and you can change it out every 3-5 days to keep it fresh, or when you want to discard dead seeds that may show up.
Tip: If you prefer using cells/soil for seeds that take a long time to germinate, we recommend using the smallest cells possible and transplanting as soon as the roots have permeated the cell. If you must use pucks, avoid peat pucks and opt for coco pucks. The pH of coco pucks is often between 5.8-6.3 and it drains well.
Paper Towel For Germinating Seeds
Clean uncontaminated water
Fresh paper towels
Resealable bag or container
Mark your resealable bag with the variety of seed you're planting and the date.
Take about 1/2 of a full sized paper towel for up to 20 pepper seeds and fold it in half 3 times.
Moisten with water and lightly press excess water out so that it's not dripping wet.
Arrange your seeds on one half of the paper towel and fold the half without seeds over to cover the seeds. Gently press the paper towel together ensuring contact with all seeds. Other seed types, like cucumber, may require more space.
Place the paper towel in your resealable bag and place in a warm location.
We recommend using a heat mat with a thermostat. If you don't have a thermostat, placing a case of bottled water on the mat is great for providing a consistently warm temperature due the buffer it provides and the heat it retains.
If you don't have access to a thermostat or heat mat, the top of a fridge can work, or any place that feels warm (gaming consoles, computers). We recommend at least a thermometer making contact with the surface your seeds are sitting on.
The optimum temperature for 'Super chili' is 26.6°C/80°F which can cause them to germinate in 3-4 days. In contrast, some other peppers with an optimum temperature of 30°C/86°F can take 5-7 days. At 21°C/70°F, many peppers can take longer than a week. We generally set our mat for 26.6°C/80°F and typically recommend that. In this case we have our mat set to 30°C/86°F since we'll be adding many other varieties that like it warmer. This temperature might slow down the germination of our 'Super chili' seeds a bit since it's higher than optimum, but it will speed up the germination of the other cultivars.
Inspect the seeds every 24-36 hours for signs of germination, and to exchange the air in the bag. Once germination is apparent you can plant the seeds like normal. With good quality seed most of the seeds should germinate within 24-36 hours of each other. Don't wait too long to plant after germination, it can be done later but it's easier to work with seeds that have a small taproot.