When To Plant Pepper Seeds (by Hardiness Zone)

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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!

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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.

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24 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 100% newb question: when planting seeds indoors before the season, how many seeds do you place per individual cup?

    1. We’ll plant at least 2 per cell to make sure each pot/cell has a plant. If you have a ton of seeds, maybe plant 3, if you have limited quantities, you might want to plant just 1 seed per cell.

  3. Interesting, but probably not applicable to anywhere.

    In zone 10 here around Tokyo. Theoretically I could plant anytime, but we do have sometimes surprise snow as late as March here so I usually never put anything outside before April. Another interesting (maybe) fact about growing veggies in Asia in a sub-tropical climate is the moonsoon, aka rainy season. It starts in June, and usually lasts for about a month. LOTS of rain, and generally a temperature around 20-25°C (in central Japan) means a lot of growth, but also pests, root rot and sometimes strong wind that can easily drop a plant.

    Happy gardening!

    1. You can try, but it is unlikely you’ll get much of a yield from seed. I would buy plants from the nursery at this point, even in a warmer zone like yours

  4. i live in ohio. today is may 24. is it to late to grow fool ya peppers from seed? was going to buy the seed online. they said i would have them buy may 30th.

    1. You should be able to get a light harvest from seed still, given that “fooled ya” peppers take about 65 days from transplant. So from seed, it should take about 3.5-4 months to get a green pepper harvest. Next year you’ll definitely want to start seeds much earlier!

  5. Great reading. At 71, I last year for the 1st time I grew 3 bell peppers plants in 5 gal containers. The average yield was 5 – 6 peppers per plant. Not sure if that was a good or bad harvest, but the peppers were a beautifuI red. I had to cover them in tulle netting to deter the squirrels and birds from sealing the young peppers when they reached the size of a cherry tomato. This year I will continue with growing bell peppers in containers, but will also try planting a few bell peppers in the ground.

    Do you have any articles on growing the Cape Gooseberry (Physalis Peruviana) ground cherry from seed in containers for those of us in zone 6, 6b?

  6. I have read that when transplanting seedlings the seedling gets (shocked) from being moved and it takes a few weeks for them to fully recover and start taking off again. Because of this you start counting “days until harvest” from the time you transplant your seedlings rather than from germination of seeds. But with seeds sown directly in ground you start your “days until harvest” from seed germination. Have you found any truth in that? If it is so then there really is no point in starting seeds early because you will still have the same 100+ days until harvest for super hot peppers you are just starting that time with bigger plants vs newly germinated seeds.

    1. No, this isn’t true. The days to harvest for peppers is almost always from the date of transplanting. They are considered a “transplanted crop,” so the days to harvest are from that time, not from seeding. If the crop is a direct sowing crop, like corn, the days to harvest will usually be from the date of planting seeds rather than transplants. Don’t direct sow superhots and expect them to grow faster than transplants!

    2. @peppergeek, Thanks so if I understand you correctly the 150+ days to harvest on ghost peppers begins the day you transplant your seedlings, not from the time you start your plants in doors. So for me in grow zone 4 I have a snow balls chance in a fry pan at getting a ripe harvest on ghost peppers.

      1. That 150 is on the long side. You’ll just have to start a bit earlier and keep them indoors for longer in the early spring to extend the growing period.

    1. @Mike Gile, I’m in zone 5 Montreal Quebec Best time for me is May 30 June 3 I have tried earlier but it’s to cold and windy, start them mid march they will take a good to weeks with out heat mats and you will be ready for late May planting neve should you rush to plant them out side. and for best results put a shade cloth at the begging I use a balance fertiliser at vegetation stage like miracle grow 18 20 20 and as soon the plants start to flower use a 4 10 10 and you will have tall and productive plants.

  7. Our average (50%) last frost date is April 14 (10% chance is around May 5th).

    However the average night-time low only reaches 55F at the start of June and (on average) our last 55F night is around June 18. Our last 50F night is usually around June 2nd.

    Our urban heat island + proximity to Lake Ontario tends to lead to fairly stable weather so we’re less prone to freak late frosts – hence why our last frost occurs so early – at a time when the weather is still quite cool here.

    So I guess you’d recommend I plant them outdoors in early June rather than 2 weeks after our last frost and starting them indoors in early April?

    1. You could start them earlier if you have space to upsize the pots while they are still indoors, but otherwise yes. Those lows below 50 or 55°F will only set you back

  8. This kind of content is gold for me as a new pepper geek. Always been buying my own hotsauses, now its time to do it my self. Thanks for this post.

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