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When To Plant Pepper Seeds (by Hardiness Zone)

Peppers do not like cold weather. As a result, most gardeners have to wait to plant pepper seeds until the winter weather is almost gone. It can be tricky to know when to plant pepper seeds, as it depends on your specific location.

We have grown peppers for over a decade. So, with the experience we’ve gathered over that time, I’ve created a pepper planting table that shows when to plant pepper seeds indoors for each hardiness zone. It also shows the average last frost date (32°F overnight temperature) for each climate.

Pepper seedlings

Keep in mind:

  • Frost dates are not guaranteed, they are averages
  • Always check your local weather every year
  • Transplant peppers outdoors only after nighttime temperatures are above 55°F
Hardiness ZoneLast Frost DateWhen To Plant Pepper Seeds Indoors
3June 3 – June 13April 22 – May 2*
4May 29 – June 10April 17 – April 29*
5May 16 – May 30April 4 – April 18*
6April 26 – May 8March 15 – March 27
7April 4 – April 15Feb. 21 – March 4
8March 3 – March 22Jan. 20 – Feb. 8
9Feb. 8 – Feb. 22December 28 – January 11
10-13No freezeAnytime

*Cold climate growers may need to plant seeds earlier than these suggestions, keeping the plants indoors for longer to extend the growing season. Check your first fall frost date to make sure you give the plants enough time to produce their yields!

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When To Plant Pepper Seeds (Video):

As you can see, the colder your climate, the later you should plant pepper seeds indoors. In extremely cold climates, you may choose to plant slightly earlier (1-2 weeks) to extend the growing season on the front-end.

Check your specific location’s last frost date here.

We have experimented with planting peppers early, and later, but we have found it is best to keep them indoors for as short a time as is truly necessary.

However, planting extra-early can sometimes be helpful, especially for superhot pepper varieties that require a longer season to ripen their fruits. Just be sure you have the indoor space and a good grow light for the young plants.

When To Transplant Peppers Outside

Generally speaking, pepper seeds should be planted indoors about 8 weeks before transplanting outdoors. This means you should sow seeds about 4-6 weeks before your local last frost date.

This is because most peppers should only be moved outdoors when the nighttime temperatures are consistently above 55°F. The last frost date is usually several few weeks before this occurs.

Calvin from Pepper Geek in garden
Transplanting peppers outdoors in spring.

After 6-8 weeks of growth indoors, pepper plants should be ready to move into their final location outside. This could be either a large container or into a raised bed or garden plot.

Learn more about transplanting peppers here.

Why Does Last Frost Date Matter?

The last frost date is an average value. It should not be considered a guarantee. Some years, the last frost will be much later, and others will be earlier.

Frost date is important because peppers are not cold-hardy. In other words, freezing temperatures will kill most pepper plants.

Peppers thrive in temperatures between 70°F – 85°F. Anything below 55°F can cause stress to your plants. For this reason, we recommend waiting a couple weeks after your last frost date to transplant peppers permanently outdoors.

When Should I Plant Hot Peppers?

Many hot peppers require a longer growing period when compared to sweet varieties. These include habaneros, ghost peppers, scotch bonnets, and many others.

For best results, plant hot pepper seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your location’s last frost date. This will give the plants a head start while the outdoor temperatures rise.

Transplanting scotch bonnet plant into 5 gallon pot
Hot peppers typically need more time to mature and produce fruits.

Once the overnight temperatures rise to above 55°F, you can safely transition your hot pepper plants outdoors for the growing season.

How To Protect Peppers In Cold Weather

Sometimes, the weather just doesn’t cooperate. Here in Southern New England, we have seen full on frosts happen as late as June! When your pepper plants are already outside and you are expecting cold weather, here is what you can do.

In cold weather, protect pepper plants by covering with garden fabric or plastic bags. This will insulate the plant during the cold, protecting from damage. You can also place a thick layer of mulch around the plants to help insulate the roots.

Young peppers under row cover fabric
Pepper plants covered with row cover fabric.

I hope this article is useful for deciding when to plant your peppers. Timing is important to get the most out of your pepper plants, so be sure to experiment with what works best for your climate!

Read Next:

Calvin Thumbnail


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.


Wednesday 6th of March 2024

How many grow light hours a day do bell peppers recommend?


Wednesday 6th of March 2024

Around 15 hours as seedlings, then you can cut it down to 12 or so when they begin to fruit.

Dominick Lupacchinot

Monday 4th of March 2024

looking for a light nitrogen fertilizer for seedlings

donald boots

Sunday 3rd of March 2024

i been growing peppers 40 years pittsburgh pa. my rule of thumb is june 1-8 into the garden. the soil is still cold. now i guess it’s zone 6. i’ll stick to my schedule. starting indoors march 30


Sunday 3rd of March 2024

There's no map showing what the hardiness zones are!

Rhonda Burch

Friday 9th of February 2024

Just looking at your list of when to start hot pepper seeds indoors. Thank you