Growing Padron peppers from seeds – the perfect tapas chilli pepper

We grow Padron peppers (Capsicum annuum ‘Padron’) for tapas and barbecues as they taste great and come with a surprise. 

And when we say surprise we are referring to the fact that the Padron chilies range from about 1000 to 8000 on the Scoville scale.

And yes, you may have guessed it. One out of every ten chilies is noticeably hotter in taste. And while 8000 Scoville is considered hot, most people find it “hot but ok” to eat, especially when cooked.

Always make sure people are made aware of the heat of the chillies and peppers you are serving. Also, Scoville ranges are approximate as there are several external factors like temperature, level of ripeness, watering, use of fertilisers, etc. that will affect how hot a chilli pepper grows. 

What makes a Padron chili pepper hot?

When it comes to Padron peppers – and chilies in general – it is all about the inside.

Chilli peppers belong to the Capsicum family and one of the components is called Capsaicin. 

When we eat and come into contact with capsaicin it creates a “burning sensation” that is usually described as hot or spicy. [1]

The Scoville scale is used to quantify this level of “hot or spicy” chili peppers using a measurement named Scoville Heat Units (SHU) that records the concentration of capsaicinoids and capsaicin.

Padron peppers and their easy to recognise shape
Padron pepper started in February (photo mid-May)

Examples of hot peppers include habanero peppers and the almost mythical ghost peppers like the Bhut Jolokia that is found in the interval of 750 000 – 1 500 000 SHU!

The Scoville scale was created by the American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. Please refer to the links below for a more thorough explanation. [2]

How to start Padron peppers from seed

Watch this video on YouTube.

Chilli peppers need a long time to grow and mature, which is why we start our seeds indoors as early as January / February.

Padron pepper seeds need warm soil to successfully germinate. Pots need to be placed on a surface that is 20-25 degrees Celsius / 68 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You can use a heat mat or even place your seeds on top of an electrical appliance that generates heat, like a refrigerator. 

But if you are unable to provide the needed heat, you are better off waiting and planting your seeds later in spring when the weather heats up.

Still here? Good. Let’s move on to how to start Padron pepper seeds in 5 easy steps.

5 steps to start Padron pepper seeds

1. Use starter pots with drain holes and fill them with a well-draining potting soil 
2. Water your potting soil and mix. You want a moist but not wet consistency
3. Use a wooden stick or a proper dibber (also called dibble) to make a hole for your seeds 

There is no need to go out and buy a dibbler to make holes in the ground for your seeds or seedlings. Any sterile wooden, plastic or metal stick of the right size will work just fine.

4. Place the Padron chili pepper seeds on the moist potting soil mix and cover with a thin layer of potting mix. Mist with water using a spray bottle
5. Place the pot under a plastic cover in a warm spot (20-25 degrees Celsius / 68 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit)

Now you need to make sure to keep the soil moist but not wet. Also, it is important that the pots are kept warm but not hot. Also, you want the heat to come from below and not from for example overhead lighting.

When the first leaves sprout, move the pots to a slightly cooler environment (18-20 degrees Celsius / 64-68 degrees Fahrenheit) and ensure that the young seedling gets at least 8 hours of good light per day.

When you start seeds early in the year you may have to use external grow lights to give your chili pepper plants enough light to grow strong and compact. If you are unable to provide enough light your seedlings will grow spindly and leggy.

Transplanting Padron chili pepper seedlings

When your Padron seedlings are 5 cm / 2 inches tall it is time to move them to their own slightly larger pot.

Choose a pot no bigger than 10 cm / 4 inches in diameter. Chilli seedlings respond well to a smaller growing environment when the root system develops.

When allowed to develop in smaller pots the chili pepper seedlings develop a strong and healthy root system.

Transplanting chilli pepper seedling with healthy root system
Transplanting pepper plant with a healthy root system

Be prepared to transplant your chili pepper seedlings to slightly bigger pots a couple of times more as they grow and develop.

It is a bit of extra work but your plants will grow stronger and give more fruits.

The phenomenon is referred to as air pruning and essentially means that the roots will grow until they hit the edge of the pot where the soil is drier. Here the roots will come in contact with a higher air content in the soil (as air and water exist in soil in an inverse relationship). When the roots come in contact with the air they stop growing and the plant instead uses its energy to grow more and stronger lateral roots. 

Moving your Padron pepper chili plants outdoors

When there is no longer any risk of frost and your Padron chili pepper plants are 15 cm / 6 inches tall, they are ready to be hardened in preparation for being moved outdoors.

We grow all our chillies in grow bags. Grow bags are made from breathable material and help the chilli pepper plants develop strong root systems.

Harden your plants by moving them outdoors for a couple of hours per day. Next, gradually increase the time spent outdoors over 7-10 days.

When you are ready to move your pepper plants outdoors, find a location with at least 6-8 hours of full sun per day with minimum exposure to wind.

How to look after Padron pepper plants

Padron pepper plants want moist and well-draining soil with minimum wind and full exposure to the sun.

If you are growing Padron peppers in containers or grow bags you will need to water more often as the soil will dry out more quickly. Also, the plants are unable to reach for moisture like ground-growing plants do.

Mulch your chili plants with hay, straw, or grass clipping to help the soil retain moisture. The mulch will also create a layer protecting your chili pepper plants from soil-based pests and diseases.

When possible always bottom water your grow bags, pots, and containers. If bottom watering is not an option, water your plants early in the morning or late in the evening. Avoid watering midday when it is hot outside.

Bottom watering chilli pepper seeds and plants
The soil turns darker as it absorbs water

Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering and try to establish a regular pattern where your soil is always moist but never soaking wet. Wet leaves can attract pests and fungus and also increase the risk of sunburning the leaves.

Feed your chilies and organic compost fertilizer once every one to two weeks. Chilies respond better to being given a lower dosage of fertilizer on a weekly basis when watering than a couple of large and infrequent doses over the growing season.

Padron pepper plants respond well to being pruned when they are established. You can also pinch tops when the plant is a minimum of 20 cm / 8 inches. Pruning and pinching tops can help grow a more compact and bushy plant.

When your plant starts to flower you can help pollination by placing several plants close together. Buds and flowers dropping from your plants is a sign of insufficient pollination. Much like with beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, you can gently shake the flowering plant midday to help pollination along. 

How to harvest Padron peppers

Most chilies and peppers go from a green color to a red, yellow, orange, brown, black, or any number of colors to indicate that they are ripe and ready for harvest.

Harvest Padron peppers bright green or wait for full red color
Harvest Spanish Padron peppers green or wait for the mature red color

Here Padron peppers are a bit different. Padrons are often harvested when they are bright green and then fried in olive oil and rock salt. But you can of course also wait for the pepper to reach its full maturity and vibrant red color.

To harvest the peppers simply grab the fruit and gently press it up against the stem for the fruit to snap off its branch. 

How to use Padron peppers

We grow and store many types of chillies and peppers. 

We pickle chilies to be used in marinades and for barbecues. Others are dried for rubs, chili flakes, and powders. We also use chilies to flavor oils, for hot sauces, and freeze ground-up chili mixed with for example salt and garlic in ice cubes.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy Padron peppers is to simply fry them in olive oil, season with rock salt, and then enjoy them warm from the pan as finger food.

Padron peppers ready for the pan
Padron peppers ready to be fried in olive oil and salt

We have never stored any Padron peppers. Why? These tapas type chilli peppers are just so easy to eat as appetisers or as a side with barbecues that they never last. Even when we do have several plants.

Growing Padron peppers at home from seeds for tapas chillies
Padron peppers are perfect tapas chillies and can be harvested from light-green and onwards
Helpful resources:

Wikipedia [1] [2]



Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.