Planting & Seed Saving Notes

Watch: Starting Peppers and Eggplants from Seed

Pepper and Eggplant Seed Starting

Peppers (both hot and sweet) and Eggplants are two crops from the Solanaceae family that have similar seed starting characteristics and are generally started around the same time. They are both frost sensitive annuals which require a fairly long and hot growing season. For this reason, they are starting indoors under controlled conditions and then transplanted into the garden as small plants once the soil has warmed and all danger of frost has passed. This article will take you through the easy steps to starting your own pepper and eggplant seeds. Starting your own seeds gives you access to many varieties and is very economical. However, if you miss the seed starting window, or run into difficulties, you can always buy ready grown transplants from gardening centers nearer to planting time in your area.

  • Peppers and Eggplants are slow to germinate and slow to grow.
  • Peppers and Eggplants require warm soil to germinate.
  • Peppers and Eggplants are planted outside after all danger of frost.
  • Ideal seed starting time for Peppers and Eggplants is 6-8 weeks before your last frost.

Don’t know your last frost date? Find it HERE.

Percentage of Normal Seedlings Produced at Different Temperatures* **

The first number is the germination rate as a percentage. Numbers in ( ) are the days to seedling emergence.  Numbers in red equal optimal daytime soil temperature for maximum production in the shortest time.

Crops 32ºF 41ºF 50ºF 59ºF 68ºF 77ºF 86ºF 95ºF 104ºF
Peppers   0   0   1  70(25)  96(13)  98(8)  95(8)  70(9)   0
Eggplant   0   0   0   0  21(13)  53(8)  60(5)   0   0

* The above data was taken from a report published in the mid-1980’s.  Author, affiliation, and publisher are not known. 

** The above table was derived from experimental data.  Certain logical inconsistencies exist due to crop failure or to bad batches of seed (note the low eggplant germination).  They do not interfere with the overall interpretation.

 Data taken from

Five Steps to Happy Seeds

Step One: Good Quality Soil

Below is an experiment we did with mixing different ratios of vermicompost (worm castings) with normal potting soil and monitoring the results. The pictures are from a Collard variety called Vates, but based on the results I now do a 10% mix of vermicompost with all my seed starts. It can help prevent damping off (a fungal disease), increase vigor and potentially even affect germination.

Even if you don’t use vermicompost, you want to start with a high quality potting soil for starting seedlings.

Step Two: Clean Containers

Starting pepper and eggplant seeds with clean containers is important

Step Three: Sow the Seeds

Pepper seeds are ready for planting. Seeds are small.

  • Plant 3-6 seeds per section of a 4-pack (1-2 if you’re using smaller plugs). I sow more seeds the older the seeds are because germination rates drop over time. However be prepared to thin seedlings out if all your seeds germinate because we only want one healthy plant per section, not four competing plants.
  • Pepper and Eggplant seeds want to be planted about 1/4″ deep. I achieve this by pressing the seeds into the soil and then sprinkling a thin top layer of soil to cover to the right depth.
  • This isn’t an exact science, you don’t need a ruler or to spend all day fretting. Remember, seeds are pretty amazing.
  • Make sure you label the pots with the seed variety – you will not remember what is what if you don’t!

Sterile soil is important for starting eggplant and pepper seeds indoors.


Step Four: Water and Cover

Water and cover the seeds for good even germination - pepper and eggplant seeds.

Seeds require water and temperature to germinate (and oxygen, so don’t drown them..). During germination they definitely don’t want to dry out. I cover mine with a damp paper towel to retain moisture, you can also cover with plastic lids to trap in moisture and keep them warm (like a mini greenhouse). I have my four packs in a tray which I can add water too without disturbing the seedlings, the water will wick up through the soil and encourage root development.

Step Five: Keep Warm and Moist

Eggplant and Pepper Seed staying warm and moist for germination

I use a heating pad to keep temperature sensitive seeds like peppers and eggplants warm, but sometimes the heat of a grow light can be sufficient or just a stable indoor room temperature (it may just take a little longer – see the chart above). The seeds don’t require light until they have germinated, but you’ll want to be ready to provide good light once they do. Ideally we’ll expose our pepper and eggplant seeds to 16hrs a day of full spectrum light. This is something a sunny window cannot provide in winter.

Specific Cultivation of Pepper Seeds

St Croix Peppers and Seeds

Sow pepper seeds indoors eight to ten weeks (six at the latest) before the last frost date. Plant seed 1/4-1/2″ deep in 3-4″ pots. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 65-85°F and seeds will not germinate below 55°F. Seeds will sprout in 8-25 days.

Transplant outdoors 2-3 weeks after the last frost, when the soil has warmed. Black plastic or row covers can help speed up soil warming and plant growth. Mature plants should be spaced 18-24″ apart in rows 2 -3′ apart. Pepper plants tend to be self-supportive, but taller varieties and those with large, heavy fruit may need to be staked.

Specific Cultivation of Eggplant Seeds

Long Purple Eggplant Growing

Sow eggplant seeds indoors eight to ten weeks (six at the latest) before the last frost date. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 75-90°F.

Sow seeds 1/4″ deep. Seeds will sprout in 6-21 days. Harden plants off before transplanting outdoors. Transplant outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are 60°F and above. Mature plants should be spaced 24″apart.

A note on tomato seeds

Tomato transplants grown from seed

Tomatoes are often lumped in with peppers and eggplants and there are many similarities to support this. All the techniques in this video and growing guide can be applied to starting tomato seeds, however there are a few differences:

  • Tomato seeds are quicker to germinate and grow, so start a few weeks after you would start your pepper and eggplant seeds.
  • Tomato seeds don't require quite as much heat and will happily germinate around 70-75F.
  • When you plant tomatoes outside you can bury the transplants very deep because the hairy stem can produce roots, so you'll have stronger healthier plants. 

Check out this blog post: Top Five Tips for Successful Tomato Transplants.



Article Written by: Angie Lavezzo

About the Author: Angie Lavezzo is the former general manager of Sow True Seed. Beyond her professional role at Sow True, Angie's passion for gardening extends into personal hands-on experience, fostering plants and reaping bountiful harvests.