Double Cup Method: How To Start Pepper Seeds




How To Start Pepper Seeds With The Double Cup Method

It is that time of year again here in Texas – it is time to start pepper seeds for the spring season.  There are different methods to start pepper seeds. 

Each of the different methods has pros and cons that make them a reliable way to start pepper seeds.

The Double Cup Method

The first of these methods that we will be taking a closer look at is the double cup method.  This method is a great choice for people who want to start pepper seeds because of a few different reasons. 

Here is a look at those reasons:

  1. Mini greenhouse
  2. Water/Nutrient Reservoir
  3. Re-Usable Supplies

The Double Cup Method: Creates a mini-greenhouse

The double cup method creates a mini-greenhouse because of the plastic bag that is used to cover the tops of the cups. 

When you put the zip-lock bags over the top – it helps to hold in moisture which creates a micro-climate for the seeds to have the optimal environment for germination.

This greenhouse effect is incredibly helpful for germination.

Here is a helpful video on how to start pepper seeds using the double cup method:

The Double Cup Method: Creates a water/nutrient reservoir

The double cup method also creates a water/nutrient reservoir which allows the soil and the plant in the top cup to “wick” water or nutrient solution from the bottom cup. 

This works on multiple levels because it helps the soil surface from being overly saturated which will help to prevent fungus gnats.

The “wicking” also allows the plant to only soak up what it needs and as it needs it.  Allowing the plant to decide when it needs water also prevents over-watering.

The Double Cup Method: The supplies are re-useable

The cups are reusable from one season to another.  I have used the same cups for five years now.

It is important to clean them with a light bleach solution before you put them up for the season.

The Double Cup Method: Starting the seeds

Starting pepper seeds using the double cup method is not much different than any other method of starting seeds.

You start by getting all of your supplies; your seed starting mix, cups, the pepper seeds, and the zip lock bags. 

You will also need some potting mix when it is time to pot up your seedlings.

Starting Pepper Seeds using the double cup method, starting pepper seeds, starting seeds, growing peppers from seed, Backyard Eden,,
Here are some of the supplies that I like to use.

Step 1: Moisten your seed starting mix

Start with your seed starting mix.  You can buy the seed starting mix or if you prefer to make it yourself – you can find a helpful seed starting mix recipe here! 

Also Read:  Can You Freeze Poblano Peppers Whole? (Answered)

First, pour your seed starting mix into a bowl or some other container that will hold some moisture without leaking. 

Add warm water and mix until the mixture can be formed into a clump. 

You want it to clump – but you don’t want water to squeeze out when forming.

Step 2: Prepare the cups

Next, you will want to put a hole into the cups you will be planting in.  For example, if you are planning on starting 5 different varieties – you will need ten cups total. 

5 of the cups should have a hole and 5 of them need to be left alone.  You then put one cup with a hole into a cup that doesn’t have a hole. 

This forms the double cup method – allowing for there to be a reservoir for the water.

Tip: You can use a drill with a bit to make the holes.  You want to make a couple of holes in the proper to provide proper drainage.  You will have to experiment with the combo of the holes and the seed starting mix.

Step 3: Filling the cups

Fill up your cups with the seed starting mix.  You want to press down lightly to ensure that the soil makes good contact with the bottom of the cup

If the soil doesn’t make good contact with the bottom of the cup – it will not wick the water up from the reservoir.

Step 4: Planting the seeds

After you have filled the cups with the seed starting mix – it is time to put your seeds in the cup.  You should put 4-5 seeds in each cup evenly spaced out.

Plant them about a 1/4 inch deep and cover lightly with soil.  Give them a light watering.

Step 5: Labeling the cups

Make sure to label your cups to avoid any mix-ups with the pepper varieties.  I have accidentally forgotten to label cups and I had no idea what seeds I had planted in them.

Step 6: Cover with the zip lock bags

The last step in this process is to place one zip lock bag over each set of cups.  The bag creates a mini-greenhouse effect and helps to hold in the moisture.

Watering In The Double Cup Method

When it comes to watering your seeds when using the double cup method it is fairly straightforward. While you are waiting for the seeds to germinate keep the plastic bags over the cups and just keep the seed starting mix moist.

You can do this by checking the cups to make sure the soil is moist. If it looks dry – touch the seed starting mix and if it feels dry then you can water it. You can do this by taking the plastic bag off and misting the soil or by watering from the bottom by putting water in the bottom cup.

If you choose to bottom water the cups, put some water into the bottom cup (without the hole) and replace the top cup into the bottom cup. The seed starting mix in the top cup will wick the moisture that it needs.

After about 15-20 minutes, pour out any water that is still in the bottom cup so that there is no standing water.

Once your seeds sprout, you should remove the plastic bag and keep the soil moist but not saturated. Check the every few days to see if the soil has dried out.

What’s next?

Once your seeds sprout – remove the plastic bags and place them under your grow lights

Also Read:  How to Grow Bell Peppers From Scraps (Never Buy Seeds Again)

If you do not put them under lights – your seedlings will become too leggy.  They will essentially become too tall and spindly reaching for the light. 

It is better to start all over if this happens as it is incredibly hard to correct.


Once your seedlings have sprouted, you will want to transplant them into their own cups as soon as you can. 

I have successfully transplanted seedlings with multiple sets of true leaves but this can be tedious because the roots can become tangled. 

It is best to transplant them before this.


You will want to start fertilizing your seedlings when they develop one to two sets of true leaves. 

You can use whatever type of liquid fertilizer you want as long as it is half-strength. 

I simply use a half-strength liquid fertilizer once every 7-10 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Double Cup Method For Seedlings?

The double cup method for seedlings is a gardening technique used to nurture young plants indoors before transplanting them outdoors. It involves using two plastic cups, one nested inside the other. The inner cup, with drainage holes, holds the seedlings and soil while the outer cup collects excess water. This method creates a controlled environment, promoting healthy growth for seedlings.

What Is A Double Cup?

In gardening, a double cup refers to the setup where two plastic cups are used together. The inner cup is filled with soil and seedlings, while the outer cup collects water draining from the inner one. This technique is employed to create favorable conditions for seedlings’ growth.

What Are The Cups For?

The cups in the double cup method serve specific purposes. The inner cup holds the seedlings and growing medium, providing a controlled environment for early growth. The outer cup collects any excess water that drains from the inner cup, preventing overwatering and ensuring proper moisture levels for the seedlings.

Double Cup Method Pros and Cons

The double cup method offers advantages such as better moisture control, protection for seedlings, and ease of transplanting. However, it requires more space and materials. Some gardeners find it beneficial for certain crops like peppers, but it may not be suitable for all plants. Consider factors like space and cost when deciding if it’s right for your gardening needs.

  1. Moisture Control: The double cup method allows for precise control of moisture levels, preventing overwatering or drying out, which is crucial for successful seed germination and early growth.
  2. Protection: It provides a protective environment for young seedlings, shielding them from environmental fluctuations, pests, and diseases that they might encounter outdoors.
  3. Easy Monitoring: Seedlings are easily visible, making it simple to monitor their growth and health, including root development.
  4. Transplanting Ease: Transplanting seedlings is straightforward as you can remove the inner cup without disturbing the roots, reducing transplant shock.
  5. Warmth: The double cup setup can create a warm and humid microclimate, ideal for germinating pepper seeds.
  6. Versatility: This method is suitable for a variety of plant types, not just peppers, making it a versatile choice for starting many different seeds indoors.
  1. Space Requirement: The double cup method can take up more space compared to other seed starting techniques, making it less suitable for gardeners with limited space.
  2. Materials Needed: It requires additional materials, such as multiple plastic cups, which can increase the cost of seed starting.
  3. Labor-Intensive: Setting up each double cup can be more time-consuming compared to simply using seed trays.
  4. Not Always Necessary: Some seeds, including peppers, may grow well with simpler methods, and the double cup technique might be overkill for certain gardeners.
  5. Potential for Overheating: If not monitored, the enclosed environment of the double cups can become too hot or humid, potentially harming seedlings.
  6. Limited Seedlings per Cup: Each double cup typically accommodates only a few seedlings, which may not be suitable for gardeners looking to start a large number of plants.
Also Read:  Starting Seeds Indoors: 7 Best Tips for Success

Ultimately, the decision to use the double cup method for starting pepper seeds depends on your specific needs, space, and preferences. It offers advantages in terms of control and protection but may require more effort and space compared to simpler seed starting methods.

Can You Grow Peppers In A Solo Cup?

You can start pepper seedlings in solo cups as a temporary measure, but they should be transplanted into larger containers or the garden as they grow. Solo cups don’t provide enough space for mature pepper plants to develop their root systems fully. Transplanting into larger pots or the garden will ensure healthier and more productive pepper plants.

How Do You Grow Peppers In Cups?

To grow peppers in cups, follow these steps: Start with the double cup method or use individual cups. Fill each cup with seed starting mix, plant pepper seeds, and keep the soil consistently moist. Provide adequate light and warmth for germination and growth. Once seedlings are established, transplant them into larger containers or the garden, maintaining proper care.

How Do You Plant A Seed In A Cup?

Planting a seed in a cup is simple. Fill a clean cup with seed starting mix, make a small hole in the soil (the depth depends on the seed type), place the seed in the hole, and cover it with soil. Water gently, and provide appropriate light and warmth for germination.

How Long To Keep Seedlings in Solo Cups?

Seedlings can typically stay in solo cups for 4-6 weeks after germination, depending on their growth rate and environmental conditions. It’s important to monitor their development and transplant them into larger containers or the garden before they become root-bound or overcrowded.

Are There Other Methods For Starting Pepper Seeds?

Yes, there are other ways to start pepper seeds and other types of seeds. I have personally used all of these methods and can say that they all work.

  1. The Bulk Method: This method is about starting a bunch of one type of seeds in a 1020 flat or another container. Then you transplant the seedlings out before they get too big
  2. Regular Seed Starting: This method uses the traditional seed starting mix and containers. The containers can be seed starting cells or small pots.
  3. The Plastic Bag Method: This method uses moist paper towels to hold the seeds and then you put the paper towels into a zip lock bag to hold in the moisture. This doesn’t use seed starting mix or containers so you can start a lot of seeds in a small place. You transplant them into containers later.
  4. Rockwool: This method is primarily used for starting seeds for hydroponics. You plant the seeds in rockwool cubes which are then dropped into net cups in a hydroponic system.

Can Peppers Grow In Small Pots?

Peppers can grow in small pots, but their size and productivity may be limited by the container’s capacity. It’s important to choose pots that are at least 2 gallons (8 liters) in size to provide ample space for root growth. Smaller pots can be used for temporary seedlings, but for mature pepper plants, larger containers are recommended for optimal growth and yield.

Can You Grow Tomatoes In The Double Cup Method?

Yes, you can grow tomatoes using the double cup method. Just like with peppers, this technique can help create a suitable environment for tomato seedlings to thrive before transplanting them into the garden. Proper care, including light, warmth, and moisture, is essential for successful tomato seedling growth using this method.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, using the double cup method to start pepper seeds can be a helpful way to give your seedlings a strong beginning. This method offers precise moisture control and protection for your young plants, making it easier to monitor their growth and transplant them when they’re ready.

However, it’s important to consider the space and materials needed, as well as the potential for added labor. While the double cup method has its advantages, it’s essential to weigh them against your specific gardening needs and preferences.

Whether you choose this method or another, the goal is to nurture healthy pepper seedlings that will thrive in your garden and provide you with a bountiful harvest.

Starting Pepper Seeds using the double cup method, starting pepper seeds, starting seeds, growing peppers from seed, Backyard Eden,,

Hi, I’m John.

John grew up on a farm where his family raised chickens, goats, rabbits, and grew a huge garden. John has a family of his own and gardens to know where his food comes from. Learn more..