Should You Pinch Off Pepper Plant Flowers?

If you’re growing peppers, you want to get the most out of each plant. Pruning is one of the ways to potentially achieve higher yields, but should you pinch off early pepper flowers?

Since we start our peppers indoors in the late spring, it is not unusual to see flower buds beginning to form in April or May. So that begs the question, should I cut flowers off my pepper plant? We’ve got the answers for you here at Pepper Geek.

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Pepper Plant Flower Buds

In This Article:


Should You Pick Pepper Flowers? (Video):


What Are Pepper Flowers?

If you are new to growing peppers, you may see flowers on your plant and wonder what they are there for. Before we had any experience growing, we wondered the same thing.

Well, I left the flowers alone and low and behold, they began forming into peppers!

Pepper Plant Flower Buds
Early pepper forming.

The flowers on a pepper plant will turn into the actual peppers. Essentially, the flowers attract insects to your pepper plants, and they pollinate the flowers. Bees, butterflies and other insects fertilize the peppers, and the peppers bear seeds.

Peppers self-pollinate, meaning that each flower contains both male and female organs. This means that you don’t have to worry about growing multiple plants side by side to get good harvests from your peppers.

However, sometimes pepper plants will begin flowering too early. A number of factors can cause this, including small pot size, not enough fertilizer, or irregular temperatures.


Should I Pinch Off Early Pepper Flowers?

If you are waiting for the weather to warm up so that your plants can safely move outdoors, 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 to continue growing more roots, it will begin the next stage of growth, producing fruit.

Before you move your plants outside, we recommend that you prune early pepper flower buds off of the plant. Be sure to allow the flowers to grow large enough so you don’t damage the young leaves when picking. However, there are some cases when we don’t recommend pruning pepper 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.

Early Bell Pepper Flowers and peppers
Early bell pepper and flower buds.

Timing is everything. If you have just planted outdoors (within the last 2-4 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 before switching to fruiting mode.

However, if your plants have already been planted outside for a month and have adjusted to the elements, leave your pepper flowers on the plant to develop into fruits.

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.

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!

Fertilizing Properly

Using the right fertilizer in early stage pepper growth can change how many early flower buds your plants produce. During early plant growth, all plants need lots of nitrogen.

This helps the plants produce stems and leaves as opposed to flowers and 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 or damaging any leaves in the process. To help you avoid this, here are a few tips for picking early flowers.

  • If the buds are tiny, let them grow larger before picking
  • Use tweezers or pruning shears for smaller flowers
  • If using fingers, don’t pinch, just pluck in an upward motion
Picking Pepper Flowers
Unopened flower buds on pepper plant (too early to pick without damaging young leaves).

Pepper plant flowers tend to grow in tight bunches right around newly developing leafy growth. Each flower is usually surrounded by new leaves. If the flowers are tiny, it is best to leave them until they are easier to pick.

We found that using tweezers helps get a more precise pluck. With larger flower buds, it is safe to just use your fingers and pull the flower off in an upward motion.

Tip: It can be painful to remove your plant’s progress, but fret not! Pepper plants will always produce more flowers later on.

If you have any tiny 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 and seeds rather than leaves and branches.


When To Stop Picking Pepper Flowers

So we have established that it is generally a good idea to pick off early pepper flowers. However, when should you stop picking them?

Simply put, 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 mid June (Zone 6a).

After 3-4 weeks of being in their final location, the pepper plants should be maturing 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!

Note: Nutrients will help dictate when your peppers will stop growing foliage and start growing more flowers and fruits. Switching to a lower-nitrogen fertilizer halfway through the year is key!


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 potential peppers. So why are your pepper flowers dropping off instead of growing into peppers?

There are a few possible reasons this could be happening. Let’s go through the possibilities. Learn more about pepper flowers dropping here.

Over-fertilizing

After your plants 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 may continue to expand and produce more leaves rather than buds.

By reducing your fertilizer amount or nitrogen content, you help encourage the plant to begin producing flowers. Providing too much nitrogen is a leading cause of pepper 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 peppers with confidence.

Some pepper growers even stop fertilizing all together in early August. We have yet to experiment with this, but anything is better than providing too much nitrogen.

Over-watering

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. That is why growing in pots is recommended, especially for first-time pepper growers.

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.

Hot or Cold Temperature

Peppers like warm weather during the day. This means daytime temps around 75-80°F and night-time temps above 60°F. Having temperatures above or below these can cause stress for the plants.

Excessively hot temperatures can be a cause for dropping flower buds. If you expect to have a heat-wave with temps above 100°F, plan to move your plants into the shade and feed plenty of water. This will help avoid too many dropped flower buds.

If you are expecting cold weather below 55°F, consider bringing your potted pepper plants indoors for the night. If you have plants in the ground, you can temporarily cover them with plant fabric or floating row cover for some protection.

There could be other reasons for dropping flower buds (poor pollination, disease, etc.), but these are the most likely culprits.


Read Next:

I hope this guide helped you decide how to treat your early pepper flowers. Are you planning to pick them all off? Just some of them? Let us know in the comments below or share with us on social media.

Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

25 thoughts on “Should You Pinch Off Pepper Plant Flowers?”

  1. I have a few jalapeno plant in 8 inch pots. They got sun scalded when I moved them outside. I placed them in a greenhouse since and there are still growing. I see flower buds forming on them. Should I let the flowers grow or should I pick them off. I live in Ireland. the peppers plants are not that tall for 1/2 feet to 1 feet tall.

    Reply
    • At this point, you can do either – you can leave them on and the nutrients you provide will encourage more leafy growth. Later in the season, reducing nitrogen will then help trigger a strong harvest.

      Reply
  2. I planted my peppers a couple weeks ago on the first week of may. They were starter plants and few of them are already starting to flower. I should pick the flowers correct? I’m in California and usually the weather is nice but the weather has been 70 or below the past week and for the next few days.

    Reply
  3. I have a Trinidad maruga scorpion pepper plant that is about 18 inches tall and has been overwintered. I live in an apartment so I cant put it outside. It is in a large pot about 13″ across by 15″ deep. When I overwintered it, I pruned all the foliage and cut the stem down to about 6″ (not sure if I did this right). Anyways about a month ago I put it back in the window that gets the most sun. it has grown very quickly and now it has around 30 buds and 2 open flowers. I cant put it in a bigger pot and cant take it outside. Should I clip off my buds or just let them be? I am in Denmark and today is the hottest day of the year (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit)

    Reply
    • Considering you are in Denmark, I would leave those flowers on and let the plant do what it can do to produce fruits. If you were here, where things are only just beginning to warm up, I might say prune the flowers to allow the plant to grow larger first, but you don’t have as long a season to work with.

      Reply
  4. Hello Calvin,
    Thank you for your reply. I am growing in an iDoo hydroponic garden that has the same size pods as Aerogarden. In addition to the plant from store bought sweet mini pepper seeds I am growing Jalapeño M, Mini Belle, and Pretty and Sweet. Upon closer inspection it does look like the Pretty and Sweet and the Jalapeño have one or two tiny buds.
    I have never grown peppers. I am concerned that if I cut the buds off I will never see any peppers. Conversely, I am afraid if I leave them on the tiny plant/s can’t support the peppers. This garden comes with the ability to stake items. However the stakes are six-seven inches tall and I would have to move the light way up away from the plants, (3” inches is the tallest).
    Thank you for your advice!

    Reply
    • I would remove the flowers until the plants reach a mature size. Then let the flowers develop. Don’t worry, as long as they have access to nutrients, they will continue to put out new flowers.

      However, depending on the reservoir size, the plants may become crowded. For 4 pepper plants, the reservoir should be several gallons, especially for larger pepper varieties. This is why they always provide smaller varieties for the smaller systems.

      Pluck the flowers for a few weeks and allow the plants to produce more foliage, and once they seem to be maxing out, let the flowers mature. Btw, if you are indoors, you may need to self-pollinate. Check out our post on the Aerogarden here for more info on how to do that.

      Reply
  5. Hi Calvin,
    Thanks for the great article on flowering peppers. I have a question: I started a hydroponic garden on 09/07/20. I have four types of peppers growing. One of them (seed from store-bought mini sweet peppers), appears to have over a dozen tiny flower buds starting. It’s barely been a month. The plant is only 3-4 inches tall. Should I remove all the buds? How can I be certain they are buds? They look like the ones in your pictures. Any help will be appreciated greatly. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Valerie,

      If you want your plant to grow larger, you can prune away the flowers. However, what size is the root chamber you’re growing in? The smaller it is, the smaller the plant and the sooner it will flower and produce fruit. Type of nutrients can also encourage flowering.

      Do any of the other pepper plants have flower buds yet? It could just be the variety of pepper…

      We are also planning to do a winter hydroponic pepper grow this year, so we’ll definitely have a bunch of new info on our site/youtube channel in the coming months!

      -Calvin

      Reply
  6. Is it normal for the petals to fall off of ghost pepper flowers but not the stamen? I have lots of buds and as they flower the petals all drop off after a few days. Is this the same thing as flower drop?

    Reply
    • Hi Zach,

      Yes, this is totally normal. The pistil can also remain on the pepper all the way through to harvest. Once the fruit begins to develop, you can carefully pluck all of these pieces away (if you wish).

      Best,
      -Calvin

      Reply
  7. I have a pepper plant in the ground with lots of leaves & little wee peppers, but the peppers aren’t getting bigger. Do you know what the problem could be?

    Reply
    • Hi Laurie,

      This happens often for the first few peppers that are produced, however you should make sure the plants have the nutrients (fertilizer) they need to develop fruits. If you are unsure of what your soil contains, best to use a well rounded fertilizer like Fox Farm’s trio.

      Another possible reason could be temperature. If it gets very hot (over 90F degrees), the plants may have stunted fruit production.

      Best,
      -Calvin

      Reply
  8. I want to say thanks . i learned more in this article than most others . now u just have to deal with wild rabbits . ( an on going issue no matter what has been planted) i live on former marsh land so all my plants do fairly well .
    Thanks again.

    Reply
  9. This is my first year planting anything. I planted cherry and Roma tomatoes and Serrano and jalapeño peppers. I planted them in 12 gallon canvas bags. They are kind of like grocery bags. They said they were good for air circulation and avoiding over watering. They have been planted for almost two months and are about a foot and a half tall. Covered in flowers and about 10 peppers each. How often to you think I should water. I’ve been doing an every other day thing or when the bag feels lighter. They are on the side of my house and get full morning sun and then shade at about 3pm. Also should I take some of the flowers off. They are covered in them and most of them have little nubbies starting. Also do you have an article on how to know when to pick them. Lol.. This is all new to us. My son and I started them as a science project for the new home schooling regimen where all going through.

    Reply
    • Hi Valerie,

      Sounds great! How many plants are in each of the 12 gallon bags? That is a lot of soil, so it should take a while to dry out (though it has been hot).

      For watering, check out our article on watering peppers here. Generally, we water when the soil is almost completely dried out, or when the plants begin to wilt. Peppers hate being overwatered!

      As for when to pick your peppers, we do have an article – read all about harvesting peppers here. Most peppers change color when fully ripe, but you can also pick them earlier. Generally, wait for them to stop growing in size, and ideally allow them to change color.

      Hope this helps and best of luck with your peppers!

      -Calvin

      Reply
  10. Do you think this is a pepper? The flower florescent has 4-6 teeeeny flowers. One group has started to produce fruit from all flowers in the group. I did not intentionally plant pepper seeds in the bed they started from so I have no idea and can’t find any pictures to match. I might have to just wait and see.

    Reply
    • Hi Jane,

      Without a picture it is hard to say. Pepper flowers are typically 1-2 cm in diameter, so it doesn’t sound likely…

      Let us know what ends up fruiting!

      -Calvin

      Reply
  11. Many of my pepper plants (wide assortment) each have produced 1 pepper after being transplanted in the garden 3 weeks. It is now 6 weeks since transplant (June 30) and they are not getting very tall, they are only about 8-10″ and have no other flower buds. We had a lot of rain here early on and the leaves were a little yellow but now the tops are getting good greens leaves. Would it be a good idea to pick the one fruit from each plant to get it to produce better in the long run?

    Reply
    • Hey Brian,

      I would recommend taking away the one peppers to allow the plant to focus on foliage. Since each plant only has 1 pepper, it isn’t much of a sacrifice. You should end up with better harvests later on as a result. Also, the early peppers are still edible (though they likely won’t have much heat or flavor yet).

      Good luck, and check back to let us know how everything turns out.

      -Calvin

      Reply
    • That’s a tough question. I would pot it immediately and allow the flower buds to produce at this point in the season. Ghost peppers (and other superhots) take a long time to ripen, so pulling off flowers this late may cause you to lose out on some of the harvest.

      Good luck!
      -Calvin

      Reply
  12. Thanks for mentioning the watering aspect in this article. I am the guy that keeps everything wet , probably too wet. I’m growing my peppers in a raised garden this year, (stupid squirrels) as opposed to mounds on the ground. They do seem to like it so far, but we’ll see, since it has great drainage.

    Reply

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