Since we start our peppers indoors in the winter, it may seem too early to see flowers in mid-March or early April. So that begs the question, should I cut the flowers off my pepper plant? We’ve got the answers for you here at Pepper Geek.
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In This Article:
- What are pepper flowers?
- Should you prune pepper flowers?
- How to pick pepper flowers
- When to stop picking pepper flowers
- Why are my pepper flowers falling off?
What Are Pepper Flowers?
If you are new to growing peppers, you may be seeing flowers on your plant and wondering what they’re for. I remember wondering this the first time I ever grew a pepper plant, before I had some experience growing.
Well, I left the flowers alone and low and behold, they turned into peppers!
Yep, that’s right, the flowers on a pepper plant will become the actual peppers. They ultimately serve two purposes. One is to pollinate the plant. Outside, bees, flies and other insects will be attracted to your pepper plant’s flowers.
The pollen from the flowers drops off onto the insects, and is carried from flower to flower. This process initiates the seeding process of the plant, which in the case of a pepper plant is to produce pepper pods.
If you grow your peppers indoors, you may need to do this yourself by brushing the flowers with a small paintbrush or on your fingertip.
However, sometimes pepper plants will begin flowering too early. This can be caused by a number of factors, including small pot size, not enough fertilizer, or irregular temperatures.
Should I Pinch Off Early Pepper Flowers?
If you are waiting for your plants to be ready to go into the ground in early spring, your plants may start producing flowers. This is a pepper plant’s natural response to limited soil space. If the plant doesn’t have enough soil space to grow more foliage, it will begin the next stage of growth, producing fruit.
To avoid your plants focusing energy on producing fruit too early, you should prune away early pepper flowers. However, depending on the stage of growth, you may or may not want to pinch off early pepper plant flowers.
If you are growing slower-to-produce varieties like ghost peppers or habaneros, you may want to leave early buds to ensure that your peppers ripen. However, if you are growing faster varieties like jalapenos or bell peppers, early flowers can be pinched back.
Timing is everything. If you have just planted outdoors (within the last 3-4 weeks), you should pick off pepper flowers. This will allow your plants to focus energy on producing a large root system and lots of foliage. However, if your plants have been planted for a month and have grown large, leave your pepper flowers on the plant to develop.
If your plants have been properly transplanted to larger pots, the leafy growth should continue to expand. Pepper plants will hold off on producing flowers until the plant has reached a mature size. Be sure to learn how to transplant your pepper plants properly.
Also, plan ahead by scheduling your seed starting according to your planting zone. There’s nothing worse than planting too early and having root-bound plants eager to get outside!
Using the right fertilizer in early stage pepper growth will determine how many early flower buds your plants produce. During early plant growth, all plants need lots of nitrogen. This helps the plants produce plenty of stems and leaves as opposed to fruit. If your fertilizer is low in nitrogen, consider switching to something with a higher volume.
For early stage growth, we recommend using one of these fertilizers for pepper plants:
After your plants have reached maturity (usually mid to late July in the Northern hemisphere), you can either stop fertilizing or switch to something with less nitrogen.
How To Pick Pepper Flower Buds
The last thing you want to do is to damage your pepper plants while pruning flowers. You’ll want to work carefully to avoid removing any leaves in the process. To help you avoid this, here are a few tips for picking early flowers.
- Use tweezers or pruning shears for small flowers
- If using fingers, don’t pinch, just pluck in an upwards motion
- If the buds are tiny, leave them alone
Pepper plant flowers tend to grow in tight bunches right around leafy growth. Each flower is usually surrounded by new leafy growth. If the flowers are tiny, it is probably best to simply leave them be until they are either easier to pick, or you are ready to move the plants outdoors.
We found that using tweezers helps get a more precise pluck. With larger flower buds, it is safe to just use your fingers and pluck the flower in an upward motion.
If you have any small peppers growing too early in the season, pick those off too! When peppers are growing, the plant is focusing all of its energy on growing the fruits.
When To Stop Picking Pepper Flowers
So we have established that you should pick off early pepper flowers. However, when should you stop picking pepper flowers off?
Simply put, you should stop picking pepper flowers when your plants have been in their final planting location for 3-4 weeks. This allows the plants enough time to grow a healthy root system and get acclimated to the weather. In the Northern hemisphere, we stop pruning flowers around early to mid June (Zone 6a).
After 3-4 weeks of being in their final location, the pepper plants should have matured to a healthy size. The plants will then be ready to set fruit and begin producing peppers. Give your plants enough time to produce fully ripened peppers by the end of the season!
Why Are My Pepper Flowers Falling Off?
During late stage growth, you want your pepper plants to have lots of flower buds. The more flowers, the more peppers. So why are your pepper flowers dropping off instead of growing into peppers? There are a few reasons this could be happening. Let’s go through the possibilities.
After your plants start to produce flower buds, it is time to change up your fertilizing regimen. We switch from a high nitrogen fertilizer to a lower nitrogen blend. If you continue to use a fertilizer high in nitrogen, your plant will continue to expand and produce more leaves.
By reducing your fertilizer amount or make-up, you help encourage the plant to begin producing flowers. Providing too much nitrogen is a leading cause of pepper plant flowers dropping off.
After we start to see lots of flower buds on our mature plants, we switch to Fox Farm’s Big Bloom fertilizer. The 3-stage regimen keeps things simple for fertilizing our peppers with confidence.
However, some pepper growers simply stop fertilizing all together in early August. We have yet to experiment with this, but it could be simpler than continuing to fertilize.
If you’ve read our article on watering pepper plants, you’ll know that over-watering is one of the most common mistakes home gardeners make when growing peppers. It is easy to over-care for your peppers, and providing too much water is not good!
Pepper plants are happier when slightly dry as opposed to soaking wet. They need to have moist roots, but they require good drainage.
Whether you have pepper plants in pots or in a garden bed, make sure that water can escape from the root system of your plants. Too much water will suffocate the roots and can cause yellowing leaves, leaves and flowers dropping off, and even root death.
Peppers like warm weather during the day. This means daytime temps around 75-80° Fahrenheit and night-time temps above 60° Fahrenheit. Having temperatures above or below these can cause stress for your plants.
Hot temperatures are usually not an issue, just ensure your plants have plenty of water to endure the heat. However, cold temperatures at night can be a bigger danger, potentially causing pepper buds to drop off.
If you are expecting some cold weather below 40°F, consider bringing your potted pepper plants indoors for the night. If you have plants in the ground, you can temporarily surround them with bubble wrap before temperatures drop. The air-filled pockets of bubble wrap provide insulation from the cold the odd chilly night.
There could be other reasons for dropping flower buds. Your plant could be infected with disease, though there would be other obvious signs of stress.
I hope this guide helped you decide how to treat your early pepper flowers. Are you planning to pick them all away? Just some of them? Let us know in the comments below or share with us on social media.