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Less than thrilled with your pepper plants' productivity? Have you watched your perfectly healthy pepper plants set a plethora of blooms only to witness them all fall off? If this sounds familiar, your pepper plants may be experiencing the all-too-common blossom drop. While this phenomenon may strike the novice gardener as terrifying, the truth is that it's really not out of the realm of ordinary.
Peppers can lose their flowers for a variety of reasons, and in this article, we'll explore the causes and some preventative measures for blossom drop in pepper plants.
Causes for Pepper Plant Blossom Drop
When the pepper flowers start falling, gardeners are often too quick to blame themselves for this shortcoming. So, for those of you out there questioning your abilities as a gardener, there is some good news to be had! Pepper blossom drop is normally not caused by gardener error but, instead, by uncontrolled environmental factors. Before you beat yourself with a stick, check to see if any of the following conditions are present in your situation.
- Extreme Temperature Fluctuations: Peppers, like most other garden plants, have their own ideal temperature range for optimal growth and fruit set. When temperatures exceed or drop below this ideal range, the plants tend to abort fruiting in favor for survival. With some minor exceptions, the optimal daytime temperatures for pepper plants are in the range of 70-85°F, while nighttime temperatures should range from 60-75°F. A majority of the time, the plants will need to be exposed to temperatures above or below these ideal ranges for several days to induce flower dropping, but extremes such as daytime temperatures over 105°F or nighttime temperatures below 50°F can cause blossom drop in a matter of hours.
- Humidity Too Low or Too High: Although pepper plants are of a tropical origin, they only require moderate humidity for proper pollination. (In the range of 35-70% humidity). Levels too low or too high can reduce the viability of the pollen and lead to blossom drop.
- Improper Pollination: Even if temperature and humidity levels are in their proper ranges, peppers may still exhibit blossom drop due to poor pollination. A lack of pollinating insects, or poor air circulation may cause pepper flowers to drop instead of setting fruit. Since pepper flowers are self fertile, they require some sort of vibration (a bee's wings) or gentle airflow (wind) to help release pollen from the male stamens and allow it to stick to the female stigma.
- Nitrogen Levels: Nitrogen is an essential macro nutrient for plant growth, but too much or too little can cause havoc on your pepper plants. Soil where nitrogen is deficient can cause stunted pepper plants that cannot support bountiful blooms. On the other hand, if excess nitrogen is supplied, peppers will tend to produce lush foliage at the expense of blooms and fruit.
- Over- or Under-watering: Both over-watering and drought-like conditions cause unnecessary stresses in pepper plants that can easily lead to blossom drop. Since this factor is normally more controlled by the gardener, water only when the top 2-3 inches of soil have become dry. Deep infrequent watering is generally preferred over shallow frequent watering. The goal is to keep the soil moist but never soggy.
Ways to Prevent/Cure Blossom Drop
Since environmental factors compose such a large part of pepper blossom drop, this natural plant response is sometimes completely unavoidable. Though gardeners often find themselves at nature's whim, there are some preventative measures that can be sought.
- Temperature: Unless you're growing peppers in containers and are able to move them indoors during hot or cold spells, temperature extremes are very difficult to combat. To help ease blossom drop from warm temperatures, plant peppers in an area where they will be allowed full access to the morning sunlight and be shaded during the intense afternoon sun. If this method still fails, you'll at least find comfort in knowing that once the temperatures stabilize back into the ideal range that your pepper plants will once again bloom, and hopefully begin setting fruit!
- Humidity: Much like temperature extremes, humidity is also another factor that is difficult to get a control on. Gardeners facing low humidity may find slightly better results if the pepper plants are misted lightly with water a couple times throughout the day. This process raises the relative humidity around the plants, but should not be done in areas with high humidity, or when fungal diseases are present. Once again, if all else fails, wait for the humidity to stabilize and the peppers should set fruit.
- Improper Pollination: If temperatures and humidity levels are in the ideal ranges but pepper flowers are still failing to set fruit, improper pollination may be the cause. Luckily, this can be more easily corrected by the gardener. If only a couple of plants are growing, manual pollination, such as a flick of the flower or a Q-Tip, may be used to gently pollinate each blossom. For larger pepper gardens, try planting flowers that attract natural pollinators to do the work for you.
- Nitrogen Levels: The best way to ensure the proper levels of nitrogen is to first start off with a fertile soil. To do this, add a good amount of compost to garden soils before planting peppers. A majority of the time, this compost will be more than enough to carry the young pepper plants through their vegetative growing phase. If more nitrogen is necessary, supply plants with a diluted nutrient or fertilizer solution up until the first blooms begin to set. Once the first blooms set, reduce nitrogen and instead supply ample phosphorus and potassium.
Patience Is a Virtue!
Whatever your situation, don't give up! Your peppers will set fruit once the proper conditions are met. Most likely, you'll just be waiting for good ol' mother nature to scoot along some favorable weather. Stay patient, keep up your gardening duties, and sure enough, you'll have a harvest of the sweetest bells or the hottest chilies!
Thanks for reading this article on pepper plant blossom drop. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have.
© 2012 Zach
David Kpakelah on April 12, 2020:
How can I know that, my pepper plants lack of nutrients, causing blossoms drop?
Timmie T on October 26, 2019:
I found my dropping to be a flux in weather change and high winds
Mark MacCilli on October 23, 2019:
My problem is that there is NO pollen, Whats with that?
Are my superhot chillis ALL sterile, or something?
Tiffanie C on July 25, 2019:
Thank you for your clear & concise explanation. I have a ton of flowers but they were mostly dropping off and yes; I thought it was me. Thanks for not making me feel bad. We’ve had unhappy high heat and humidity. I’m hoping that’s the cause and soon these will start peppering rather than dropping. Thanks for your article.
Bill Schjmberg on August 16, 2018:
Thank you for the info, we have had a hot year , jalapenos are doing good but sweet peppers not setting blossoms. I hope temp is cause since I think I have water and fertilizer under control .
Aavash Adhikari on February 23, 2018:
thanks for sharing knowledge.
Anjela Deka on February 12, 2018:
It was informative n it will be very much helpful for my research work.
Dustin on November 28, 2017:
Just read your article I'll apply some of that towards my peppers hopefully it helps
6Figure Mommy on October 08, 2017:
Thank you so much. I feel so so much better!
Ivanhoe on June 15, 2017:
I lived in central Florida and being growing hot peppers for many years, I encountered this problem mostly in the summer time. This year due to the hot and dry spring and with the rain falling daily now I see a rapid increase in falling flowers. Can this also contribute to the plant lacking any nutrient
GM Thomas on May 05, 2017:
What a great article. Very clear information about bell pepper plants. I had no idea the tiny peppers were sensitive to hot temperatures, and now I alter the environment. And who knew too much nitrogen would lead to bloom drop? My pepper plant in the back yard is doing great now.
JR Krishna from India on August 11, 2015:
Very informative hub
I had few bird's eye chilli plants. They all died because of white flies. The flies come in flock and eat up the whole plant
It was very sad to see healthy plants dying...
stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on February 21, 2015:
Hi, I am going to try peppers this time and see how they do in North Fl. Interesting about the humidity. I did good with tomatoes, maybe peppers will do good. Thanks for the informative hub. Sharing, voted up.
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on February 21, 2015:
Congratulations on the HOTD award. Well done! Thanks for sharing the information as I am a hobby gardener. Happy weekend!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on February 21, 2015:
Very helpful information. I may need to plant my peppers in a better location as they do get a lot of hot, afternoon sun. Good to have this advice for future reference. Congratulations on a very useful Hub of the Day!
Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on February 21, 2015:
Hi Joe, I use a lot of these kinds of peppers, so I should be growing my own. Thanks for the helpful advice.
Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on November 27, 2012:
I enjoyed this, I haven't grown peppers for a few years, but I will start again after reading this. A good informative and well set out hub. Well done, and thanks for the information, sharing.
Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on August 24, 2012:
Hi Joe, very good info. I am so glad it isn't my fault! We had super hot conditions just when my peppers tried to set fruit. Now that things have gone back to normal (close to normal) temperature-wise, my peppers are doing fine. I only hope they have time to mature before it becomes too cold! Voted Up, Interesting,Useful, Shared and Pinned
Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on August 18, 2012:
This is a great article, Joe. Very informative and I love your formatting. I'm sure there are a lot of gardeners experiencing blossom drop this year (myself included). Voted up, pinned, and shared :)
Dianna Mendez on August 17, 2012:
This is interesting and you have made it all very enjoyable to read. I have learned much about this plant and how to best grow it in the ground.
ignugent17 on August 10, 2012:
Thanks for sharing this hub. I always wonder why our peppers are small unlike the peppers in the supermarkets. Now I know that it is a very delicate plant. Voted up and useful.
Angelo52 on August 10, 2012:
You covered the basics very well. I grow peppers in planters in the partial shade of an Oak tree. I'm in South Florida and the summer sun down here added to the humidity will just make you melt. I noticed the plants had the same problem so I moved them to partial shade. Since then they have perked up and produced much better.
Voted up + and shared.