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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.

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.


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.


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


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.


Monday 29th of November 2021

And they are bell peppers


Monday 29th of November 2021

Thanks for the info. What if you had the plants about 1 month in the elements in a fairly small pot because that is all the space you have and they started to flower.. Should I pick the flowers then or leave them? Oh and I live in a tropical country.


Monday 29th of November 2021

If you do not plan to up-pot, then leave the flowers on. Bell peppers may struggle to produce full-sized pods in a smaller container, but no need to pluck flowers either way!


Sunday 20th of June 2021


I live in a tropical country, I've planted in my garden my Farmer Market Jalapenos once they had 3 sets of true leaves like 2 weeks ago.

One is starting to produce flower buds despite having no more than 5 set of true leaves. Should I pinch those when they get bigger ? The plant is still small (but it gets a lot of direct sunlight, like 7 or 8 hours a day), I would say no more than 20cm. And I doubt it's be able to support full grown jalapenos.

Thank you for your input !


Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

Hi, I would see how the plant naturally progresses without plucking. If the flowers begin to form fruits, you could consider picking them.


Tuesday 25th of May 2021

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.


Tuesday 25th of May 2021

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.


Tuesday 18th of May 2021

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.