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.
To make things a bit easier, I’ve created a pepper planting table that shows when to plant pepper seeds indoors for each hardiness zone (excluding those that are too cold for peppers). It also shows the last average frost date (32°F overnight temperature).
Keep in mind:
- Frost dates are not guaranteed, just estimates
- Always check your local weather each year
- Transplant peppers outdoors only after nighttime temperatures are above 55°F
|Hardiness Zone||Last Frost Date||When To Plant Pepper Seeds Indoors|
|3||June 3 – June 13||April 22 – May 2*|
|4||May 29 – June 10||April 17 – April 29*|
|5||May 16 – May 30||April 4 – April 18*|
|6||April 26 – May 8||March 15 – March 27|
|7||April 4 – April 15||Feb. 21 – March 4|
|8||March 3 – March 22||Jan. 20 – Feb. 8|
|9||Feb. 8 – Feb. 22||December 28 – January 11|
*Some cold climate growers plant seeds earlier than these suggestions, keeping the plants indoors longer to extend the growing season.
When To Plant Pepper Seeds (Video):
As you can see, the colder your climate, the later you should wait to begin planting seeds indoors. In extremely cold climates, you may choose to plant a bit earlier the extend the growing season a few extra weeks.
Check your specific location’s last frost date here.
We have experimented with planting peppers early, but we have found it is best to keep them indoors for as short a time as is truly necessary.
However, planting early can sometimes be helpful, especially for superhot pepper varieties that take a long time to ripen fruits. Just be sure you have the indoor space and a good grow light for the plants.
When To Transplant Peppers Outside
Generally speaking, pepper seeds should be planted indoors about 8 weeks before transplanting outdoors. However, our recommended sowing dates are about 6 weeks before the average 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 a few weeks before this occurs.
After 6-8 weeks of growth indoors, pepper plants should be ready to move into their final location. 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?
Hot peppers usually require a longer growing period than sweet varieties. These include habaneros, ghost peppers, scotch bonnets and many others.
For best results, plant hot pepper seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your location’s last frost date. This will give the plants a head start while the outdoor temperatures rise.
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 New England, we have seen full on frosts happen in 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 mulch around the plant’s stem to help protect the root system.
I hope this article is useful for choosing 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!