Please help...Serious trouble with germination

JuggernutsApril 6, 2011

I'm having the worst time getting my bhut jolokias to germinate. I received my seed from NMSU so I know they're actual jolokia's and of good stock. Here's my problem...

First 20 seeds--Planted in peat moss in a greenhouse. Stayed too wet-nothing sprouted.

Next 20 seeds-Planted in MG Orchid Mix soil, non greenhouse, 3" pots covered in aluminum-I think it dried out too much. Nothing has sprouted.

As you can see I went from one extreme to the other (due to research I found peat soil was a no no with these guys) so I decided to go with MG Orchid Mix from which I read does very well. Also I read that you need to keep the soil moderately moist but not soggy. I was pretty much letting these suckers dry out with every other day watering.

Since the Orchid Mix drains so fast I think I wasn't letting my seeds get wet enough. I soaked the soil the first day, then every second day would only get the top wet because I was afraid of overwatering. I think since I let the top dry out so much I killed them this way!!!

When it says "water your seeds" and you're using a high draining soil do you give them a good dousing or just a little bit of water? I would literally take a spray bottle (typical windex type bottle I got from the feed store. NO chemicals have been in it) and spray the soil 2 or 3 times and move on. I'm thinking I should be using more.


3" peat pots

Miracle Gro Orchid Mix for soil

Seeds planted 1/4"

Pots are covered in aluminum and set in aluminum trays. Bottom heat provided with mat

Light provided with 6500k blue light spectrum fluorescent (I know seeds don't need light, just kept them on a timer so when the first sprouts do come up I don't have to do anything).

Did not presoak seeds

Growing inside. 85 degrees day time 70-75 degrees night.

As you can see my setup is pretty generic and follows most of the guidelines for what hot peppers need. I know that I rambled, I just wanted to make sure I had all my info out there so the pepper gods could aid me to the best of their abilities.


2. Should I use more water?

3. Could I technically dig these up, soak them, and replant with any sort of success, or are all the seeds most likely dead? They've been in dry soil for the last month so I doubt they're rotted, and have not been in direct contact with light.

4. Should I just buy some more, pre-soak, and stop being such a baby and water these suckers while they're seeds.


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After many years of growing peppers I've found that soaking the seeds in a bowl of water for twenty four hours then planting them in a Jiffy seed starter kit works awesome. I just set the kit on a table in front of a south window to provide the heat. My bhut jolokia peppers germinated in about a week using this method.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 8:40PM
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Do you think it would be ok to dig the ones I planted up and try to soak them?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 8:52PM
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I myself have never done it but if they haven't germinated yet you have nothing to loose. As long as the shell of the seed has not split it won't drown them. I would try it myself, but after two weeks if nothing happens, i'd cut my loses and start with new seeds.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:05PM
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I bought 2 packets of seeds from NMSU last winter. Having read that they can be so difficult to germinate, I started them fairly early.

I sowed the first packet all on a heat mat using 3 different methods... moist paper towel rolled in a ziploc bag, small closed container with open topped paper towel, 1/4" under jiffy mix. Kept all seeds moist, not too wet. After about 6weeks with no sprouts, I gave up.

I couldn't figure if it was me or the seeds, so I opened the second packet and sowed 3 on top of jiffy mix and sprinkled just a dusting of mix on top. Spritzed a few shots of water every few days and finally one came up in 10 days.

If I can grow this thing out and actually get some production I'll be very pleased. If not, I'm not going to cry about it. There are plenty of other hot ones I'm growing and haven't yet tried.

Good luck to you.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I soak seeds in warm water for a few minutes, then I sow them in a very porous, gritty mix.
I cover the container with plastic wrap, and I keep the mix moist with a spray-bottle while
they germinate. Once the seedlings sprout, I pull the plastic.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:20PM
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Hi Juggernuts I am growing the Bhut Jolokia and germinated a few seeds from my dried pods from last season. My first set I germinated using orchid mix MG in small pots and went to the grocery store and bought a cheap throw away casserole dish you know the aluminum foil dish with the plastic lid works like a mini green house on the cheap. Placed next to a heat vent about a foot away about 80% germination. 2 weeks later germinated my second set using an egg carton the paper kind and cut the top and lined with foil to use as a water run off filled one side with organic potting soil and the other with orchid mix watered then covered with saranwrap left for one week covered no need to water during that week since it keeps moisture in, put under the same grow light I am using once my first set sprouted, then I removed the saranwrap let the soil dry then water as needed. I usually pour water from a cup that I let sit for a few hours allows chlorine to evaporate or so I'm told, until I just soke the top of the soil. Key is not to baby or over care for them they are seeds they want to grow and will. So let the soil dry give a little water let dry give a little more and you should be fine and make sure the mix you use allows for good draining so the plants don't drown in a soggy pot. Keep us posted on how you do and if any of our advice works for you.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:51PM
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esox07 (4b)


Here is my 2 cents. I am not an expert by any means. But, I think letting the seeds dry out was not good. Moist is good, soaked is bad and dry is worse. Second, it doesnt sound like you had any kind of cover over them. You should have some kind of cover to keep in the moisture. They should not dry out completely in one day and the cover will keep them moist and humid and hold in heat which is great for germination. You can use one of those multi compartmented mini green houses but if you want to skimp on money, that is fine, just use cups of some sort and put plastic cling wrap over them. Or use one of the other ingenious contraptions people use. Then, I think the peat is a problem too. Many caution against the use of it. Others seem to have good luck. I used MG Orchid Mix and had great results. My first three seeds I ever planted, I did in a cup with a lid and all three came up in about 10 days. Then, you have temp. I would go for leaving them at room temp for about 14 hours and then boost them up to about 80-85 for about 10 hours. You dont have to use a heat mat but that makes it easy. Just check the temp with a thermometer of some type. Those mats can go haywire sometimes. I actually put mine in the oven for 10 hours a day. It has a pilot light and if I kept the door open just enough, it kept a good 80-85 inside. I had a thermometer right beside the plants and checked it often until I was sure it wasn't fluctuating. I had to put a sign on it so my wife wouldn't fire it up to preheat it for cooking....ahhahhahaha. Then, one other pitfall that I can see is how deep you planted them. When I planted my first three test plants, I planted them one eighth inch deep. They all came up in 9 or 10 days. When I planted my mass planting, I planted them a bit deeper at about one quarter inch and had about 80% for all my peppers and a little less for the Bhuts so I will be planting more like one eight inch from now on.

Here is a pic of my original test planting of the three Bhut seeds after 13 days (note the toothpicks sticking out of the soil. I put them in to mark the location I planted the seeds)

Here is a pic of my best Bhut from the original test planting. It was taken a couple days ago. The gallon milk jug is for size reference.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:38PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Wow, that Bhut's lookin' good...!


    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:45AM
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Juggernuts - Get rid if the peat pots! They have been my worst enemy.
John A

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 8:41AM
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Get a paper towel and fold it in half. Get a zip-lock bag

Spread the seeds on the paper towel

Insert the paper towel in the zip lock bag and wet the paper towel....not sopping, just wet. Close the zip-lock bag and put it in a place where it's 85-95F (measure the temp) and wait. Some chiles take longer than 30 days to germinate.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 8:48AM
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chicagopepper(5b Chicago)

Great advice from everyone here. What a great community.

I second what Josh (greenman28) wrote: soak the seeds in warm water for a little while, then plant about 1/8" deep and cover / seal the container with plastic. Preferably, put the container on a low heat source of some kind.. a heating mat, the cable box, etc. I have close to 100% germination using this method.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:07PM
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x2 for the paper towel method. I've been doing it that way for 6+ years and get awesome germ rates.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:27PM
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I started my bhuts in earl January thinking i would get a head start. They took 45 days to sprout. I was just about to give up. It was weird. The first one popped up and two days later another one . Had 4 in a quart pot 50% germination. Several times they dried out but apparently that didn't matter.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 1:08PM
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Thanks for all the great advice guys...I may dig the ones I had sitting in the soil up and try again after a good soaking. This was a little un-nerving as it was my second try and I live in a very warm (southeast texas) climate. Hopefully I have some luck. I'll try soaking them and planting under a cover, and try the paper towel trick.

So everyone agrees to keep the soil moist and everything else will follow?

BTW thanks for all the pictures! Means a lot you took the time to show me what to do. Great looking Bhut's too :P

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Yeah, keep the soil moist but not soggy, and keep it above room temperature and you should get sprouts without much trouble.

One thing I'm going to do with my next batch (which should be arriving in the mail any day now) is to put each one in it's own little private greenhouse made out of a coke bottle.

Basically just cut a plastic soda bottle in half, drill a few holes in the bottom, fill with starter and one seed, then put the top half back on. Viola, instant one plant greenhouse. Should make knowing when to transplant them much easier as well. Just have to look at the clear bottle, if I see roots, time to transplant!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 10:13PM
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I also had issues getting my Bhut's to sprout. After a good bit of trial and error I found out that rock wool that has been PH adjusted works awesome for me.

Since I also grow in Hydro I'm able to use low PPM level hydro nutrients to help give them a head start before I put them into soil.

I also use a seedling heating mat as well. I think this helps a good bit with getting them to sprout.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 8:49PM
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I soak mine for 24 hours in boiled water that has cooled to about 80 degrees. I then plant the seeds in styrofoam egg cartons using organic seed starting mix. Lightly water, cover with saran wrap and place in room conditioned with humidifier and heater.

When they pop up in about ten days, I remove saran wrap. When they reach about 2 inches I move them to 4 inch diameter plastic pots with organic potting mix and feed them a fish/seaweed fertilizer.

Start getting them acclimated to sunshine at this point starting on partly sunny days so they don't get sun-burnt. Also keep oscillating fan running for air movement and to help with stem strength.

Have 25 thriving Bhuts right now which I'll be re-potting again in mid to late May.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 12:55PM
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