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How To Save Pepper Seeds

When the growing season comes to an end and peppers are ripening, you may wonder how to save pepper seeds for next year. Saving pepper seeds is simple and can save you some money if you want to grow the same pepper varieties each year.

Our pepper seed saving method is easy, but there are some important tips you should know about. In this article, we will explain how we save pepper seeds for growing next year.

How To Store Pepper Seeds

Watch Video:

How To Save Pepper Seeds


Choose Ripe Peppers

The first, and most important step to storing pepper seeds is to choose fully ripened peppers. The reason for this is to ensure that the seeds within the peppers are fully developed.

Saving seeds from fully ripe peppers increases germination rates when you are planting them next season.

For example, if you are storing jalapeño seeds, you’ll want to choose a bright red pepper rather than a younger, green pepper. This is because red peppers are at the final stages of ripening.

How To Know When Peppers Are Fully Ripe

A fully ripened pepper will almost always go through a color change. Jalapeños turn from green to deep black and finally to red when fully ripe. Green bell peppers will eventually turn orange, yellow or red (red bell peppers are in fact just fully ripened green bell peppers!). Even banana peppers will eventually turn a red color.

Not all peppers turn red, for example, our Lemon Spice Jalapeno peppers ripen to a bright yellow color.

Another characteristic of fully ripened peppers is a softer texture. Under-ripe peppers are typically very firm. After ripening, the pepper’s flesh will soften slightly, and a simple *squeeze* will not cause the peppers to crack.

Under-ripe peppers will usually make an audible cracking sound when squeezed. This is especially the case for thicker-skinned peppers, like jalapenos, bell peppers, and banana peppers.

Ripe Lemon Spice Jalapeno
Color change of ripe lemon spice jalapeno.

To put it simply, look for these signs that a pepper is fully ripe:

  • Change in color
  • Softer skin (when squeezed)
  • Easier to pick

Learn more about harvesting peppers here.


Remove Seeds Onto a Plate (Not a Paper Towel!)

It seems logical to dry pepper seeds on a paper towel – they wick away moisture, so it should just speed up the process. However, we do not recommend using a paper towel due to the porous surface.

This can cause the seeds to start germinating instead of drying, especially if the air is humid. It is not too common, but to avoid this issue, simply use a ceramic plate, or anything with a smooth surface.

How to Remove Pepper Seeds For Storage

  1. Slice Off Bottoms & Roll Peppers.

    Slice off the bottom of each pepper just above the end. Most of the seeds are located at the top of a pepper. Squeeze and roll the peppers in your hand (using gloves for hot peppers). Allow as many seeds as possible to fall onto your plate. This helps speed up the process and avoid damaging your seeds.Rolling sliced jalapeno pepper in hand to remove seeds.

  2. Slice Peppers in Half.

    Slice the peppers in half, lengthwise to reveal the remaining seeds and placenta.

  3. Detach Placenta.

    Remove the placenta from the pepper using a knife, careful to avoid slicing seeds in half.Pepper Anatomy: Cross section of jalapeno pepper, showing seeds and placenta

  4. Remove Remaining Seeds

    Many seeds will remain embedded in the placenta. You can either remove them manually, or simply let the entire placenta dry on the plate. This will take longer to dry, but once it is dry the seeds will fall off much easier.

  5. Spread Seeds & Allow To Dry

    Keep your seeds in a well-ventilated area for 5-7 days. You can also use a small fan to provide better airflow.

Tip: Be organized! If you are saving seeds from multiple pepper varieties, be sure to dry them on separate, labeled containers to avoid confusing seeds.


How To Dry Pepper Seeds

Allowing seeds to dry takes a while. Just keep them in a well-ventilated room. Airflow and dryness is key! Jostle the seeds around every day to make sure both sides of the seeds are getting dried out.

In a typical climate with around 40% humidity, seeds should be adequately dried within 1 week. If the humidity is higher where you live, you may need to wait a bit longer or provide some additional airflow with a fan.

How To Dry Pepper Seeds

Drying pepper seeds is as simple as allowing the seeds to sit for several days at room temperature.

Steps:

  • Spread pepper seeds out on a plate so few are touching one another
  • Aim a small fan at the seeds on low if humidity is high
  • Jostle the seeds daily, careful not to mix up different seed varieties
  • Test for dryness after 7 days
Saving seeds from hot peppers
Pepper seeds drying for storage.

How Do I Know When Pepper Seeds Are Dry?

If you store your pepper seeds before they are properly dried, you may end up with mold growth or bacteria. This is bad news and can ruin your seeds or infect future plants. To make sure you have a fully dried pepper seed, use this simple method:

  • Break seeds in half – Properly dried pepper seeds should *crack* in half rather than squashing or bending. If they are not 100% firm, they are not yet dry enough to be stored.

Once they are properly dried out, you are ready to store your pepper seeds for several months (or even years!) until it is time to plant.


Save Seeds in Sealed Container

When your pepper seeds are dried, they must be kept dry and cool. Label your seeds and store them in a sealed container. You can use ball jars or heavy-duty Zipoc bags.

Ideally, keep your dried pepper seeds sealed in the refrigerator around 40°F.

If you plan to store your seeds for an extended period of time, keeping a food-grade desiccant packet inside can help keep the seeds fully dry. Buy some on Amazon.

Labeled and Stored Seeds
Always label!

Tip: Always label your seeds! Even if you are only storing one pepper variety, it is best to record the date and type of seed to make things easier later on.

After you have packed away your dried seeds, don’t forget to use the remaining fresh pepper flesh for drying, or one of the many other alternatives for preserving peppers! Don’t let your hard work go to waste.

Next year, use our pepper growing guide to use your saved pepper seeds!

How Can I Tell If Old Pepper Seeds Are Still Good?

Over years of gardening, you may accumulate old seeds. Pepper seeds can remain growable for several years if properly stored. However, you can run a simple test to determine which seeds are more likely to sprout.

The viability water test – To check old seeds for viability, place them in a glass of water. Wait 24 hours, those that have sunk are viable and will more likely germinate.

Note: Only run this test when you are ready to plant your pepper seeds. After soaking the seeds, they should be planted right away, as the moisture may initiate germination.


Avoiding Disease When Saving Pepper Seeds

One important thing to consider when saving pepper seeds is the possibility of viruses or bacteria. Some viruses are seed-borne, meaning they can be spread from a seed into the plant. Here are a few things to consider before saving pepper seeds.

Never save seeds from a diseased plant. If you suspect that your pepper plant was infected with a disease, whether it be viral or bacterial, don’t save those seeds. Many viruses, including the prevalent mosaic virus, can be seed borne. This puts you at risk of spreading the virus to next year’s plants through this year’s seeds.

Learn more about pepper plant diseases & issues here.

If you have a variety that you really want to continue growing, look into seed sterilization methods to minimize the risk of spreading.

Sterilize seeds if you suspect infection. Depending on where your pepper seeds came from, you may worry that they carry infection. There are many methods to sterilizing seeds, some more intense than others.

While this is not usually necessary, if you are trying your hardest to avoid disease, this can help mitigate the risk. Note: Sterilization should be done at the time of planting, not during the pepper seed saving process.


We hope this helped you learn how to save pepper seeds for planting next year. Almost nothing is more satisfying than growing a new plant from your very own pepper seeds!

Good luck, and let us know if you have any other recommendations for keeping pepper seeds.


Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

Simon

Wednesday 15th of June 2022

Thanks Calvin. I harvested a huge Jalapeño on a bush whilst all the others area nice size. It was still green, can I use the seeds or did I cut it off too soon

peppergeek

Monday 20th of June 2022

They might be viable, but always best to wait for ripening. You can run a germination test with ~10 of the seeds to see what % sprout.

Leigh

Saturday 29th of January 2022

How likely is it that if I grow from seeds that I harvest from ripe pepper that I grew among many others that I will get that same one and there won't be some type of hybrid or a different variety? I grew a dozen varieties in my garden last year and have saved seeds from a couple different plants.

peppergeek

Tuesday 1st of February 2022

I am not sure what exact percentage chance there is, but it is definitely a possibility. If you want to be certain, you'd have to isolate flowers before they open to make sure each plant is only able to self-pollinate. Once the pod starts to form, you can remove the isolating fabric (paint strainer/cheese cloth). We don't really bother with this unless it is a new hybrid, etc.

Meredith

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Can you use the seeds of a dried pepper? I pull it off a month ago and let it natural dry. Some of the seeds are brown others are a nice yellow.

Charlotte

Monday 3rd of January 2022

@peppergeek, I came to ask the same question, many thanks!

peppergeek

Friday 26th of November 2021

Definitely! As long as the seeds were not frozen when fresh or in temperatures over ~120°F.

Donna

Thursday 28th of October 2021

Next year I want to make my own crushed red pepper. What different variety of peppers should I consider planting?

peppergeek

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

Cayenne are a classic, or for less heat use something like a jalapeno or Ms. Junie and allow them to ripen fully to red.

Donna Callaham

Tuesday 26th of October 2021

Thanks for your article! I was looking up "how to know when to pick". This is my first time growing peppers. I learned so much more!