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Transplanting anything into the garden after being started inside can be a bit nerve-racking for even the most seasoned gardener. Every plant needs something a little different to get acclimated and thrive outside and peppers are no exception to that.
And, when it comes to transplanting anything in the nightshade family, you’re probably wondering if the stems can be planted deep in the soil.
Yes, pepper stems can be buried deeply due to their adventitious roots or roots that grow from their stems. It’s best to plant them so that the soil is level with their cotyledon leaves, also known as their sprouting leaves.
I’ll go over everything you need to know about planting pepper seedlings deeply including when and how to transplant your seedlings as well as why deep planting can be beneficial to them.
Why plant pepper seedlings deep?
There are several reasons why your pepper seedlings can benefit from being planted deeply. The first is that they have an adventitious root system. This means that they can develop roots all along the parts of their stems that touch the soil.
The deeper you plant the pepper, the more roots it can develop. The more roots a plant has, the stronger its ability to take up water and nutrients and the stronger it will be against forces like heavy winds and rain.
It’s important to note that tomatoes are also known for their very prolific adventitious roots. Peppers do not produce these stem roots as quickly as tomatoes and therefore can’t be planted quite as deeply.
Another reason to plant your pepper seedlings deeply is to help them recover and strengthen from any legginess.
When seedlings go leggy, their stems grow very tall and skinny in an attempt to reach more light. These skinny stems are not that strong and susceptible to breakage.
Planting leggy seedlings deeper helps to give them support while they grow and strengthen themselves.
How deep to plant pepper seedlings
How deep to plant your pepper seedlings will depend on how big the seedlings actually are. A general rule of thumb is to not plant them past their cotyledon leaves or their very first sprouting leaves.
Sometimes cotyledon leaves fall off before you get to transplanting. If this is the case with your peppers, then try to plant them so the soil level is an inch or two below the first leaves.
If you’re looking for an exact depth number, try to plant your pepper seedlings no deeper than 6 inches into the soil.
Although there are several reasons why it may be advantageous to plant your pepper seedlings a little deeper, as I mentioned earlier, there is one problem that you need to look out for: stem rot.
If pepper sprouts are planted too deep, especially if their stem has become woody, then their stem is likely to rot and ultimately kill the pepper plant. Definitely not what you want.
But, as long as the seedlings are still young with flexible stems, then it’s okay to plant them deeper than you would for other plants.
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When to transplant pepper seedlings?
Your pepper seedlings should be ready for transplant when they’re about 2-3 inches tall. This will be about a month from when you first seeded them. By now, your peppers should also have their first set of true leaves on them.
You also want to make sure that all risk of frost has passed before moving your peppers outside as they are not that tolerant to frost and cold weather.
To get them ready for their transplant, harden them off first. Hardening off helps your seedlings get acclimated to the outside world since they’ve likely spent most of their time inside.
To harden off your seedlings, simply place them outside for about 6 hours a day and then move them back inside at night. If the weather is pretty bad, don’t put them outside as high winds and heavy rains will likely damage their still fragile stems.
After about a week of hardening off, they should be good and acclimated to the outside and ready to be transplanted.
If your seedlings are getting pretty tall but the weather outside is still too cold for transplanting, then you’ll want to pot them up. Potting up is just another way of saying move them into a bigger container.
It’s important to pot up your seedlings to give them more room to spread their roots and keep them from becoming root bound. Once your seedlings become root bound their growth may be stunted because they’re not able to take up water and nutrients properly.
To pot up your seedlings, first, find what containers you will be using. These containers should be bigger than what the seedlings are already in. If you’re growing in plug trays, you can also pot them into the next biggest cell-sized plug tray.
For example, if your seedlings are growing in a 72-cell tray, try moving them up into a 50-cell tray.
In whatever container you choose for potting up, go ahead and fill it with soil so that it’s about ⅔ of the way full. You don’t want to fill it up with soil all of the way or else there won’t be room for the root ball to be planted.
Once all of your seedlings are potted up, make sure you water them in really well to help them get established in their new containers.
And potting up isn’t something you’re only allowed to do once, as your plants continue to grow, you can pot them up again and again.
How to transplant pepper seedlings?
Now that you’ve determined when and how deep to plant your pepper seedlings, it’s time to actually plant them! Transplanting your seedlings outside is similar to potting them up into new containers.
Find the spot in your garden where you wish to plant your pepper seedlings. It should be a spot that gets plenty of sunlight and has good loose soil.
Once you’ve found your spot, dig holes deep enough that the soil level reaches the cotyledon leaves. These are the leaves that first emerged from the soil after the seeds were planted.
Depending on how mature your seedlings are, their cotyledon leaves may have fallen off already. If this is the case with yours, go ahead and plant them up to where their first set of true leaves are.
Carefully remove the seedlings from whatever container they’re currently in. Try not to tug on the stem too much as this can break and kill the plant. If the seedlings are stuck in their container, try to poke them out from the bottom.
Place them into their new hole or container and gently pack the soil around them, filling in the rest of the hole with soil.
Although it can be tricky to figure out the best way to plant your pepper seedlings, you can rest easy knowing that planting them deeply will be beneficial to their growth.
If you have leggy seedlings or want to promote a robust root system, then planting your peppers deeply will definitely make that happen.
Just remember not to plant them any higher than their cotyledon leaves so that their stem doesn’t rot. And also make sure they get watered in very well after transplanting.
Follow these tips and your peppers will grow into the full and bushy plants that you’re looking for!
Check out these must-have gardening products
You don’t need much to start gardening, but some tools and products will make a difference in how comfortable and effective gardening can be for you. Here are my favorites:
- Garden Trowel. A good garden trowel will last you many years. I love how sturdy this hand trowel from WOLF-Garten is, the metal doesn’t bend and it has a nice grip.
- Trimming Scissors. I use them for delicate pruning and harvesting all summer long, and they’re super handy. These Teflon Trimming Scissors are extra nice because they don’t rust as easily.
- Dutch Hoe. Dutch hoes may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like a quick sweep through the topsoil to get rid of small weeds – no bending required. I love WOLF-Garten’s selection: this dutch hoe coupled with their universal handle.
- Grow Lights. These grow lights from Mars Hydro are super strong, yet dimmable, so they fit every stage of growth. They don’t put out too much heat and are very economical.
- Seedling Trays. There’s an art to choosing the best size for seedling trays so that it holds the perfect amount of water and gives the roots enough room to grow. These germination plugs are perfect when coupled with 1020 bottom trays.
- Liquid Fertilizer. You’ll need to feed your plants from the seedling stage, all the way to fruiting. This organic fish & seaweed blend is a very versatile option. Use it half-strength for young plants and full-strength for established plants.
Browse our list of tools, fertilizers & pesticides, indoor growing products and seed shop recommendations – we hope you find our selection useful and it saves you some time!