How To Transplant Pepper Plants – Simple Guide

Gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. Here at Pepper Geek, we love growing peppers, starting in the middle of winter and catering to our plants through to late summer.

However, getting healthy plants and big pepper harvests comes from attentive care throughout the season. One of the most important processes is transplanting the young pepper seedlings to larger pots.

In this article, we’ll share our process on how to transplant pepper plants. It is very simple, but timing and method are important to avoid damaging your plants or slowing down growth. Let’s get started!

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How To Transplant Pepper Plants

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How To Transplant Pepper Seedlings (Video):


What Is Transplanting

Transplanting is the process of moving a plant from a small-sized container to a larger one. This allows the plant to continue to grow a larger root system along with new leafy growth. Without transplanting, your plants cannot reach their full potential.

Why Transplant?

Keeping started plants in tiny seedling cells for too long can cause a number of problems. The main issue is that the roots have nowhere to expand and grow.

This means that the root system will become entangled, or ‘root bound,’ making a later transplanting more shocking and disruptive to the plant’s health. This is why it is important to get the timing of your transplant right.

Another problem that can arise from not transplanting is stunted foliar (leafy) growth. Without transplanting, your pepper plants will likely grow tall and leggy without many full leaves.

Stunted growth is caused by the root system’s inability to uptake the nutrients required to fuel a larger plant. This is why the size of your final planter will determine the maximum size of your pepper plant.


When To Transplant Pepper Seedlings

We start our seeds in small seed cell trays, 6 plants per tray. About 3-4 weeks after sprouting, pepper seedlings should be ready to move into larger pots. After the plants begin to produce their 3rd set of true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted.

Timing of potting-up can vary based on the variety of pepper. Learn when to plant pepper seeds here.

For example, hotter peppers tend to grow slower, meaning the root systems may not develop as quickly as bell peppers or jalapenos. If your plants seem too small by week 4, give them an extra week before moving them into larger pots.

Tip: If you’re not sure if your plants are ready, peak at the root system by gently loosening the plant from the seed cell. If you can see a strong root ball with white roots all the way to the very bottom, your plant is ready to be transplanted. Ideally, you want to transplant before the roots start to coil.

Transplanting Pepper Plants


Items You’ll Need For Transplanting

Transplanting is almost as simple as it sounds. You have your timing right, now all you need are a few items to ensure success. We’ve listed the items we use for transplanting our pepper plants, and where you can buy them online.

1. Pots (3 Inch) Amazon

These are the perfect size-up from seedling trays. They allow significantly more soil and retain water for much longer. They also fit nicely in seed starting trays. You can go larger if you want to move directly into your final pot, but we recommend gradually increasing the size of your pot until the plant is well established.

If you’re looking for larger pots, we use these on Amazon – we love them!

2. Pruning ShearsAmazon

Pruning shears are used to cut away any additional sprouts at the base of their stem. Each seed cell should have just one plant. We have heard of some gardeners allowing multiple plants to compete in close proximity, but we have yet to experiment with this. We recommend just one plant per pot.

Note: You’ll also want pruning shears if you plan to top off your peppers. Learn more about pruning here.

3. Potting Soil Amazon or Home Depot

After your seedlings have grown for 3-4 weeks, they are ready to handle nutrient-rich potting soil. The fertilizer is necessary for pepper plants to develop healthy foliage and structure. If your plants have any nutrient deficiencies, you will notice abnormal characteristics. These often include yellowing leaves or curling leaves on pepper plants.

Other household items needed:

  • Gloves (optional)
  • Water

How To Transplant Pepper Plants

So you’re ready to transplant! Now it is time to take the steps to get it done. We prefer to get this all done in one go, but it can be back-breaking if you don’t have the right space for it.

What Is a Rootball? This is just the root system of your plant, the part of the plant that is below the soil surface.

How To Transplant Pepper Plants (Steps):

  1. Get the required items.

    Make sure you have enough larger pots (we use 3-inch pots when transplanting seedlings) and potting soil.Transplanting supplies

  2. Label new pots.

    Organization is key! Don’t lose track of which plants are which. Use tape or a permanent marker to label each new pot with the plant variety.Labeling 3 inch pots for transplanting

  3. Prepare a work station.

    Transplanting pepper plants is messy. Ideally, you should work outdoors. If you don’t have an outdoor space, put down some cardboard or newspaper to save your floors from a dirty mess. This can also be hard on the back if you have a lot of plants, so consider spreading out the work over multiple days.

  4. Pre-moisten soil

    Start with a small amount of water and work the soil over to moisten evenly. Add water until it is just moist but not soaking wet! It should slightly stick together but not feel muddy. If it gets too wet, add more soil.

    Tip: Use gloves to avoid dirty fingernails
    .Pre moistening potting mix

  5. Fill 3-inch pots with ~1 inch of soil.

    Transplanting Peppers 3 Inch Pots

  6. Gently remove plants from seed trays.

    Loosen the plant by gently squeezing the seed cell on all sides. The plant can then easily be removed from the cell by turning the tray upside down and holding the plant by the base of the stem. Be careful not to squeeze the stem too hard.Pepper seedling plug

  7. Roll the root ball to loosen the roots.

    If the roots appear to be tangled or rootbound, gently roll the roots in your hand to loosen them slightly. This will allow the plants to more easily transition to the new soil.

  8. Place the plants in new pots and surround them with soil.

    Allow the soil to surround the rootball naturally, filling in empty spots. Fill the pots to about 1cm from the top. Don’t let any of the plant’s leaves to rest in the soil. If they are in the soil, they can contract bacterial disease – remove some soil to avoid this.Transplanting Peppers

  9. Gently pack down the soil and top off.

    Pack the soil gently with your fingers to ensure that there is good contact with the rootball. Top off with soil to keep the pots full.

  10. Water lightly.

    To ensure each plant has a healthy transition, water lightly. This will join the old soil with the new and begin delivering nutrients to the roots.Transplanted Peppers

  11. Prune any additional plants.

    If multiple seedlings sprouted in any of your seed cells, prune away the weaker looking plant with pruning shears.


When Do I Move Peppers Into Large Pots?

One question we see a lot is, “Why not just move the seedlings into a large container?” There are a few reasons that we gradually increase the size of the container for the plants.

Indoor Space

One reason to keep the young plants in appropriately sized pots is to save space. We grow many different pepper varieties each year (usually 50+ plants), and if we put each seedling into a 5 gallon pot, we would run out of indoor space before the weather was warm enough!

Hardening Off Pepper Plants

However, this doesn’t apply to all growers. If you only have 1 or 2 pepper plants to worry about, you may wonder if you can simply put the seedling-sized plants into their final pots right away. There is one other important reason that we would not recommend it.

Water Usage

When your pepper plants are small, they don’t drink too much water. However, a 5 gallon pot of soil will hold a lot of water that your plant is not yet large enough to use.

Without a large enough plant living in that soil to uptake the water, most of it will simply sit in the container. This moist environment in the unused soil is the perfect environment for other things to develop, such as mold and unwanted fungus. Not good!

By moving the seedlings into slightly larger pots, they will grow more quickly, and use the water within their pots more efficiently. The same is true for planting seeds – if you plant directly in a large pot of soil, the plants tend to grow more slowly.

The next step will be hardening off your pepper plants to acclimate them to the outdoor elements. Beyond this, your peppers will be on their way to producing harvests!


We hope this guide helps you learn how to transplant pepper plants this year! Don’t hesitate to ask questions or reach out with any suggestions. Happy growing, Pepper Geeks!

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.

19 thoughts on “How To Transplant Pepper Plants – Simple Guide”

  1. Hi, I have a few bell pepper plants (Cali Wonder & Carnival Blend) that are about 3″ tall but barely has 2 sets of true leaves. 2 of my plants I can see white buds. I’m assuming those are roots starting. Should I pot up even though I don’t have 3 or 4 sets of true leaves? This week will make the 3rd week of growth after sprouting.

    Reply
    • I would take a peek at the root system to make sure the rootball is developed enough to move up in size. Just make sure the roots are reaching the bottom of the seed cell, and you’re good to go!

      Reply
  2. Hi there, I think I am going to be ready to transplant to a larger pot size in a few weeks. I have everything in a seed starter right now, and I am just starting to get first and second sets of true leaves. Question: Since I planted 2-3 seeds per cup, is it absolutely necessary to trim back the “weaker” looking one(s)? I think I lucked out as most of the seeds took to the soil. Also, are red solo cups a good container for a next size up? Thanks and happy growing.

    Reply
    • Some swear by leaving multiple plants growing in close proximity for better yields, so feel free to try it! The other option is to carefully separate the root systems without damaging the stems and transplant them into individual pots. Good luck!

      Reply
  3. Hi! Question about transplanting….
    Peppers have long tap roots. Is it o.k. to prune these back? I know with nursery plants we often prune roots at planting time, but not sure if we can/should prune roots when transplanting from germination cells to 4″ pots the first time. I have roots growing through the bottoms of the cells, long enough to reach the bottom of the 4″ pots they are to be transferred to! I have been told to “prune them back”, and “don’t prune, soil/spread them in the pot” That last suggestion seems bad to me?

    Reply
    • We do not prune the roots, however they should be able to handle it if you wish to do it. Even with partially root bound plants, we haven’t pruned roots during transplanting!

      Reply
  4. When you transplant from small pot to larger pot, do you plant at original depth or should you plant them deeper?

    Reply
  5. I’m about ready to transplant my seedlings from their 3 inch pots to their final 3 gallon pots. Is there a right time to know when to do this? They’ve been in their 3-inchers for about two weeks, but it’s also approaching cold season (central Florida) so I’m wary of moving them to the porch when it’s cold out.

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly,

      Peppers will tolerate temps down to about 40°F without dying, but anything below 50°F and they will begin to suffer (drop leaves, drop flowers, grow more slowly, etc.). You can keep them indoors under grow lights until weather starts to warm back up in the Spring.

      As for transplanting, if the plant’s roots have reached the bottom of the 3″ pots, you can transplant them to the 3 gallon pots. You can check by lifting the plant out of the pot by the base of the stem. We usually allow our plants 3-4+ weeks in the 3″ pots before transplanting up, but it will depend on the pepper variety and the rate of growth.

      Enjoy!
      -Calvin

      Reply
  6. I am germinating a carolina reaper seed in hydroponic and when it gets bigger when can I put it in a 4″ pot? Or can you give me suggestions on it

    Reply
    • We have not tried transplanting from hydro to soil, but once the plant produces 3-4 sets of true leaves it should be ready. Let us know how the transition goes!

      Reply
  7. Good Morning 🌞
    Another HOT day in Central Texas, great for my CHILIS!
    I need to transplant my Ghost Chili’s plant (with fruit) to a larger planter.
    I suspect there will be some shock to the plant but it’s outgrown its existing home.
    Best soil mixture?
    I use liquid seaweed along with Fish emulsion & Epsom salts for nourishment.
    Any pointers?
    Jim

    Reply
    • Hi Jim,

      For potted peppers, we typically recommend using storebought potting mix, like a Fox Farm Ocean Forest or similar (miracle gro, etc.). If you have any compost or organic matter, mix about 20% into the soil beforehand. We also use blood meal and epsom salt to enrich the soil before transplanting. You could also add a bit of perlite for better drainage.

      Hope this helps, and good luck with the ghosts!
      -Calvin

      Reply
  8. My pepper plants were about a foot tall with flowers and someone pulled them out of the garden. After a week the pepper plants showed up back in the garden. Can I just replant them or should I trim the plants back and take off the blossoms. They are a hot variety

    Reply
    • Hi Wendy,

      This sounds pretty serious, not sure how this happened! I would just gently replant the peppers and water thoroughly. No need to trim them back. Give them some water and allow them to adjust over a few weeks.

      Best,
      Calvin

      Reply
  9. Hey Pepper Geeks!
    So glad to have stumbled upon your website – thanks for putting so much work into it, it’s so helpful!

    I’m wondering if you could answer some of my transplanting questions for me. I recently bought some mature seedlings at a nursery (Shishito and poblano) and they both were about 6-8 inches tall and already had about 8 leaves or so. I transplanted them into 4 inch plastic container pots since I had read that it’s better to gradually increase pot size vs jumping from seedling to big pot. What guideline can I use to know when to transfer into a bigger pot? Just look at the roots and see if they are reaching the bottom of the pot? Also, once they are ready, would it be ok to then transfer these directly to their final home or should I continue gradually increasing pot size? Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi MK,

      Thanks for reading and reaching out! Glad you’re growing some peppers, we love shishitos!

      As for the transplanting, we go straight from 3.5 inch pots to a final destination. We have a few that did go into 5-6 inch pots before a large pot, but the difference in growth rate is unnoticeable.

      Hope this helps!

      -Calvin

      Reply

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