Pepper Plants

RustyMarch 10, 2014

I have a question about transplanting peppers.
I started some from seed,
but didn't have enough light,
And it's been too cloudy to put them outside.
So they are quite 'leggy'.

What would happen if I pot them up into Styrofoam cups,
(They are in those peat 'cubes' now,)
But set them farther down into the soil,
Like you do tomato plants?

I've never started peppers from seed before,
Only bought the young plants,
So this is a new problem for me.

Thanks for your thoughts on this subject.


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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

I don't understand "too cloudy" as long as the temps are warm enough, cloudy is fine. Despite how our eyes see light, a plant actually receives far more light on a cloudy day outside then even under the brightest of fluorescent bulbs. Photon measurements show that under a light set up seedlings received ~50-100 õmol/m.s, on a cloudy day I was around 500-800 õmol/m.s (a sunny day was ~1500-2000 õmol/m.s).

In fact if you haven't hardened them off, cloudy days are a perfect time to start. The less intense light allows them to adjust gradually to 5-8 times more light rather then a sunny day at 15-20 times more light. It is often recommended to transplant on cloudy days as well because the less intense light and slightly cooler temps are supposed to reduce the shock.

I do recommend potting up, not matter if they are leggy or not. How long have they been in their peat pots? In reality, you can bury them up the seed leaves, especially when still very young, most people don't recommend it with peppers though. While peppers CAN grow adventitious roots along them stem, like tomatoes, they are not quite as good at it.

If you have very young seedlings, I would re-bury them up the cotyledons. If they are on the verge of transplant I would not. I would put them outside (temp. depending) and allow the sun and wind buff them up.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 3:05PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

That's right about light. The darkest overcast days knock down the light from sun by about a factor of ten. That is, all day on a cloudy day, there is about 1/10 the light a plant would get from the sun straight overhead. So averaged over the day, worst case is about a factor of five. Maybe about 200 watts/square meter.

Now this is dramatically different than what you get from artificial lighting. Simple case -- assume one 100W incandescent bulb. Pretty bright, no? But an incandescent bulb is about 3% efficient. So you beam that light over one square meter of plants, they're just getting 3 watts. You do a bit better if you shine all that light on a smaller area. 30 watts on a square foot of plants from that bulb. Your eyes fool you.

So a cloudy day is really pretty bright on the scale of what plants are likely to get indoors.

Now shade is different. You can get a lot darker outside if you're under a lot of trees and you can't see as much of the cloudy sky.

That being said, I doubt that peppers will form roots out of stems like tomatoes do. The hairs on the side of tomatoes turn into roots. Peppers don't have those hairs. In fact, I've heard that keeping pepper stems moist promotes rot.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 4:35PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Dan, I always thought of watts as a measure of energy usage/bulb rather then a measure of light output. (In my brain) the idea that you can have a constant measure of lumens/lux/whatever with a variable amount of watts (I.E. LED's vs. Incandescent-you can have an equal amount of measurable light, but the LED's have a much lower wattage). I may be completely off base here, and mostly just curious, and that's why I am asking.

This post was edited by ZachS on Mon, Mar 10, 14 at 18:47

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 6:43PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Watts is power, whether it be in electrical power supplied to the bulb, or light output. My point was that incandescent bulbs aren't very good at converting the former into the latter. The efficiency is only about 3% or less. The rest of the electrical power (97%) comes out as heat, or infrared light that we (and plants) can't see. (Well, I guess if you need heat, incandescent bulbs make it almost as well as a plug-in heater of the same wattage!) Compact fluorescents are much better -- about 10%. That's why a compact fluorescent bulb that puts out as much light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb only needs 30 watts of electricity to do it. LEDs are even more efficient, but I don't have the number handy.

You pay for electrical watts, but you use light watts. So CFLs and LEDs give you a lot more to use for what you pay for. Those people who like incandescent bulbs are likely those who drive 10 miles-per-gallon cars instead of 30 miles-per-gallon cars.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 7:17PM
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Yes, I would if I were you.
I did that with some tomato plants last year and they did fine.

My little pepper seedlings are just poking their heads through the soil. Put them under the lights today. First year doing peppers from seed. Did tomatoes last year and it was pretty successful.

Hope your plants thrive.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 8:56PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Okay that makes more sense now, thanks Dan!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 2:32AM
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Light is measured in lumens - power is measured in watts. There is no such thing as "light watts". Other than that, Dan is correct - CFLs and LEDs are more efficient so put out the same lumens (light intensity) for fewer watts than an incandescent. Most of the energy used by an incandescent is dissipated as heat. So Zach, you were correct too - although packages are labeled as "100W equivalent" or "75W equivalent" it's just a handy reference for people who are used to buying incandescents and have never heard of lumens.

Color or "temperature" (measured in Kelvin or K) is also a factor - "cool" lights are down in the 2700K range, "daylight" (good for grow lights) is up around 6500K. I have to go today to return some CFLs, I thought I bought the same as I did 2 years ago for my plants but when I got home and looked more closely I found I had bought "soft white" or cool CFLs rather than "daylight" even though the packaging looked the same. Sometimes the color can be hidden in the small print, you really have to search for it (and lumens, though I expect as incandescents are phased out people will start buying by lumen and wonder what the "equivalent" means).

And yes, very young pepper plants (before the stems get woody) can be potted deeper but they take longer to develop roots along the stem than tomatoes. When at transplant size, not recommended to plant deeper like you do with tomatoes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Comparison of Incandescent to LED/CFL

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:11AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

"Light is measured in lumens - power is measured in watts. There is no such thing as "light watts"."

Sorry, that's just wrong. There is a subtlety, though. It's not quite as simple as meters/yards conversion. Watts measure all kind of energy, including radiant energy like light (whether we can see it or not). Lumens just measure radiant energy we can see. That's why an incandescent bulb has an efficiency of 3%. Most of the light watts that incandescent bulb puts out is light we can't see. That 3% is what we can see. If I wanted to talk lumens, I wouldn't be talking about that 3%.

I think you're getting confused by the electrical power that we put into a light. For lighting systems, we're used to talking just about electricity in watts.

You can measure light in lumens if you want. For an incandescent light, the ratio is about 15 lumens per "light watt", as noted in the table you pointed to. (It really depends a bit on the incandescent lamp, because some are hotter than others.) Sunlight is about 93 lumens per "light watt". That difference is because more of the power of sunlight is light we can see. Now, remember that a 100 watt incandescent light bulb puts out 100 "light watts" of light, but most of it is infrared, either from the filament itself or from the glass globe it heats up.

The "solar constant" is about a kilowatt per square meter per second. That's how much light (visible, ultraviolet, infrared) falls on the ground from the overhead sun on a clear day. Of course, only a fraction of that is usable by plants. But we can still use watts to measure the amount that does.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:19AM
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I don't think I'm confused. I do remember *some* things from 6 years of engineering school and 2 degrees in electrical engineering.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 12:31PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Well, we could compare degrees, but lets not bore people with that.

You are right that lumens are good units for measuring visible light. But you can measure visible light in watts as well if you take into account "luminous efficiency", which is what fraction of the total light is actually visible. That was the 3% I was talking about for incandescent lamps. Watts are a unit of power, and visible light is power. That's the only point I was making in responding to you.

You said that there is not such thing as "light watts". Well, you're just making up a phrase. You won't find that phrase anywhere else, so in that respect you're correct. But I can measure watts of visible light. I can give you a number. So I can certainly and absolutely measure "watts of visible light".

Were we talking about peppers ... ?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Thanks, all.
Very interesting info about light.
Although it's TMI for me.
I would be very happy with a simple 'yes', 'no', or 'maybe'.

Actually, my seeds were started outside.
Brought them in because of cloudy days,
Thought that was why they were getting so sprangly.
Put them under an Ott light.
Probably not near enough light,
But it's all I have.
Also, the wild temperature fluctuations worried me.
(31 one morning, 91 36 hours later).

I guess I will put them into some Styrofoam cups tomorrow,
And see what happens.
It setting them deeper messes them up,
I'll just start over.
I have plenty of seed left.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 1:40PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It setting them deeper messes them up,

It won't. For some reason it seems to be debated but deep planting of peppers has been a standard practice for many for decades. Especially in the warmer climates where keep the roots cool is more important.

Personally I have always done it and yes, while they are slower to develop adventitious roots, they do it just fine and the stems don't rot.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 2:11PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

First of all, I apologize to the Therustyone for hijacking this thread. Hopefully you have been able to glean some useful information out of all the chatter. This conversation has delved into something much different then what you asked, and is definitely more suited for the growing under lights forum. Once again, I am sorry

Ajsmama, if I may elaborate (and keep in mind I have a biology background rather then engineering or physics, much less photometry):

Color is measured as a wavelength in nanometers (violet/blue being 400-500 nm and orange/red being 600-700 nm). Photon energy, a very important aspect of photosynthesis, is an inverse relation. The lower the nm, the higher the photon energy. That is; a blue photon has more energy then a red one.

In light bulbs, we are given the color as a temperature rather then a wavelength, measured in Kelvin. This is, to my observation, an "opposite" number rating. Whereas Blue light is ~500 nm and Red ~700nm, in a K measurement blue has a higher number rating (usually around 6500K) and red a lower one (I think 2500-3500K).

Nevertheless, based on absorption spectra (and actually a gentleman named Engelmann back in late 1800's did an experiment using algae and bacteria that proved the same point), we know that plants (specifically their chlorophyll) love blue light, and like red light. So, I always buy my bulbs based on their Kelvin rating above anything else.

As I said, Chlorophyll A & B absorb light at the blue end of the spectrum and the red end (more so at the blue end) with little to no absorption of light in the green spectrum. To me, light absorption is the key to growing healthy plants (after all, reflected light as a matter of principle cannot be used for photosynthesis) and I know what color they absorb best so I'm going to use that as my benchmark. Also, as a matter of pure physics, to my knowledge lumens has no relationship to wavelength (I could be wrong but I do remember research saying something to this effect). Quite simply, there is no conversion calculation between the two. You have to go through a lot of intermediary calculations that we cannot find based on a basic light bulb package. A basic light bulb packages does give me color in the form of temperature though, and color, whether it be in nm or K is what I care about.

Is this the ONLY way to do it? Absolutely not. It is how I do it, and it works for me. I am assuming Dan uses watts as his benchmark and it works for him, I would bet money that his seedlings are at least as healthy as mine.

This post was edited by ZachS on Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 15:57

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 3:53PM
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Didn't mean to start a debate. Dan mentioned light and "light watts", efficiency. You mentioned lumens. I just was trying to clarify what is on a light bulb package in terms of watts (a measure of electrical power, handy that we're billed in kWh) and lumens, and noted (agreeing with Dan) that CFLs and LEDs are more efficient, putting out more lumens per watt and generating less heat than incandescents. May have been TMI for OP, but while we were on the subject of light and plants I'd thought I'd mention color "temperature" which has nothing to do with colors of the rainbow. Just what they label the packages with (and I'm not going to get into a discussion of Kelvin temperature and black-body radiation, or lumens, or foot-candles, or electromagnetics, anyone interested can go to the simplified chart at the link I gave, or consult more scientific sources if they want to delve deeper).

Just wondering, though, are you saying that young seedlings should receive some light from 2700K bulbs as well as "warmer" (but blue) 6500K? Or are the 6500K bulbs sufficient?

My apologies to the OP for the hijack.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 4:20PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

All this light stuff is discussed ad infinitem over on the Growing Under Lights forum and the Growing from Seed forum. Since it appears it is going to drag on, why not take it there?


    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 5:13PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

ZachS, thank you. What you say regarding lumens is (mostly) right. The one thing I'd add is that lumens *do* depend on wavelength, but it's kind of complicated. Lumens are the integral of the radiated power times the wavelength dependence of human vision. Arrgh. Sorry about the jargon. A good way to think about it is that lumens are the power added up over all the wavelengths/colors of human vision, which go, as you say, from about 400-650 nm (blue to red). An incandescent lamp puts out radiated power (I call that "light", though not necessarily "visible light") over a much larger range of colors.The unit size of a lumen is a bit bizarre, but it works back roughly to the visible light power coming out of one candle. Of course the unit size of a watt is similarly strange, being based on stuff like meters and seconds and kilograms.

A radio station puts out lots of "light", but none of it is visible light. So it may put out a lot of watts of (radio) light, but zero lumens.

And ajsmama, thanks for the discussion. You're right, of course, that we don't usually talk about visible light in watts, except in that incandescent bulbs are thought of in that way. I was using watts for my own shorthand. Again, that efficiency of 3% for incandescent bulbs is the amount of "light" that comes out in colors that we can see. For a 100W light bulb, 100% of it comes out as "light", but very little is light that you can see or plants use. Of course, the sun is the same way. Very little of the light coming out of the sun is light that we can see, or than plants can use.

As to the color of bulbs one should use, I don't use bulbs much for growing, so I can't give practical experience, but both "warm" and "cool" bulbs put out light at all colors, though the distribution of colors is a bit different. For a given number of watts or lumens, a 2700K bulb will put out somewhat more red light than a 6500K bulb. So you have to decide for yourself if your plants need extra red or blue light. Yes, there are probably lots of places to look for info about that. Of course, if they need extra red or blue light, you could just give them more light.

With all due respect, we can conclude this conversation here because, well, we're all here!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 5:27PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

The nature of an internet forum makes communication much more challenging. The lack of tone I think conveys a lot more "argument" then is intended.

"Just wondering, though, are you saying that young seedlings should receive some light from 2700K bulbs as well as "warmer" (but blue) 6500K? Or are the 6500K bulbs sufficient? "

The 6500K are proficient. Furthermore, two 6500K lights are better then one 6500K and one 2700K. Why?

What we know about chlorophyll is that it absorbs light at both blue and red wavelengths. However, it absorbs blue light better then red light. That is, it reflects more red light then it does blue light.

Here's a hypothetical equation:

-If 100nm of blue light fall on a leaf, it will absorb 80nm of that light and the remaining 20nm will be reflected back out.

-If 100nm of red light fall on the leaf, it will absorb 60nm and reflect 40nm.

Any light that is reflected cannot be used for photosynthesis and is not helping our seedlings grow.

Red light does play an important role in plant cells, so I don't mean to downplay it. However, since seedlings started indoors are living in what amounts to total darkness in comparison to what they get outside, giving them the most amount of useable light is the most important thing, and blue light will deliver more useable light then red.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Thanks - I found the color temperature info on the Hot Pepper forum a couple of years ago, but figured that I'd ask you since you mentioned it. Not sure if both colors were needed for different cell functions. I don't know much biology (quoting Paul Simon) :-)

I did go buy 6500K CFLs today, had some left over but another thing I read is that after a year or 2 (of course, this wasn't continuous use, but a couple of months of 16-hour stretches) the intensity drops off, even though it's not perceptible by us. So it's best to use the older bulbs for general household lighting and not grow lights. HTH someone ;-)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 6:17PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Sure. I hope that it was helpful, maybe it will come up in some one's google search two years from now lol. I would like to thank both you and Dan for the information presented from your various expertise, I have learned a lot. I would also like to thank the OP for not beating us all over the head after we completely destroyed the intention of this thread. Once again, Rusty, I am sorry.

Anyways, I think Dan said it best:

"With all due respect, we can conclude this conversation here because, well, we're all here!" And I hope this clears the way for someone, like Dave, to add their insight to the actual topic, which is, if I remember correctly, something about broccoli?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 6:30PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I have read that plants actually sense the color of light for growing "cues". That is, light in the morning and afternoon is redder than light during the middle of the day. Phototropism in plants is much more sensitive to blue light than red light. I guess that's because if your plant is going to lean to get more light, don't lean towards the direction of the rising or setting sun, but best lean toward the direction of the midday sun. By the same token, red light signals plants to speed up or slow down growing. I think flowering is often triggered by red light, but I'm not sure why.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 6:35PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

That's right about phototropism. A blue light photoreceptor called phototropin cause the bending of the seedling towards the light source. Another blue light photoreceptor, cryptochrome (so named by scientists in the 70's who found these receptors to be particularly elusive) is responsible for the slowing of hypocotyl growth. I'm not sure about cryptochrome, but phototropin is actually not activated at all by wavelengths any longer then 500nm.

I have read that too, about red light and flowering, though, the most current source on my bookshelf mostly talks about day length (photoperiodism) effecting flowering and devotes only a snippet to the effect of red light on the process. Basically saying that it is red light receptors that detect day/night length. I'm sure if I was to do a little more research I could find a better answer lol. My guess is that it has to do with the position of the sun at times of the year and the wavelengths that are most prevalent at the time. I.e. more red wavelengths coming through the atmosphere at the height of summer than in late winter/spring trigger flowering because this is the optimal time for pollinators and seed setting before winter. This is really a very loose hypothesis because I don't actually know the effect of sun position on wavelength entering the atmosphere, though, I am fairly sure there is a relation. Once again, a little more research...

And here I go again. Dang it Dan, we ought to start our own thread, of if this forum does private messages that would be great haha.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 7:26PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Okay back to Rusty now.

"Put them under an Ott light.
Probably not near enough light,
But it's all I have.
Also, the wild temperature fluctuations worried me.
(31 one morning, 91 36 hours later).

I guess I will put them into some Styrofoam cups tomorrow,
And see what happens. "

If you have peppers growing at 31F I'm shocked. They usually don't tolerate the cold at all. If you have consistent 91F temps, that could be cause for legginess, especially in nutrient devoid peat pots. Extra warm temps spur extra growth and without the nutrients to support that growth, you wind up with leggy seedlings. Have to transplanted yet? I'm interested to know how it goes.

Also, as far as the light goes, you sad that they were growing leggy before you brought them in, so, I would start to look for other factors. That is kind of strange though, I have never noticed leggy seedlings outside, unless they were covered by something or growing in dense shade.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 8:20PM
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No need for anyone to apologize,
All the info shared is very informative.

Perhaps I didn't make myself very clear.
The peppers were started inside,
on my kitchen counter under an overhead fluorescent light.
As soon as they popped up,
I took them outside,
where they stayed as long as the temps stayed 'friendly'.
(we're only talking about 16 little peat pellet pots,
so they are easy to move around)
But as it has been very cloudy,
I thought that was why they were so leggy.
So I brought them back in and dug out the Ott light.

They were inside during the 31 degrees,
Also during the 91 degrees.
They are back outside now,
In dappled sun.
My intentions to pot them up yesterday
Were derailed when I woke up with a sore throat, cough, migraine, etc.
Hopefully I will get them potted up later today or tomorrow.

Again, thanks to everyone for all the information,
And also again, no apologies necessary!

I will post an update when I see how they react
To being set deep into the Styrofoam cups.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 11:48AM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

My guess as to the legginess was not the clouds, but due to the lighting indoors on hot/cold days. The shifting light values from bright sunlight to dark indoors light is, to me, your most likely culprit. Your best bet is, if starting seeds early, to leave them inside under lights until you are ready to harden off and transplant. Unless you can keep them outside during daylight hours and only bring them in at night until transplant.

P.s. pepper seeds don't need light for germination, so, save yourself a few extra $$ and leave the light off until they sprout ;)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 6:23PM
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