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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.

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).

Pepper seedlings

Keep in mind:

  • Frost dates are not guaranteed, just estimates
  • Always check your local weather each year
  • Transplant peppers outdoors only when 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

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!

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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.

Nicolas Derome

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

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?

peppergeek

Thursday 5th of August 2021

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

Rasmus

Monday 17th of May 2021

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.

peppergeek

Monday 17th of May 2021

Good luck!