The Q&A Archives: Peppers that Fail to Flower

Question: After many years of success with California Wonder sweet pepper, the last two years in a row of have been disasters. Plants have either failed to flower or have flowers drop. Leaves on lower part of plants turned spotted and eventually broke off at the main stem. A few peppers matured very late in the season after the weather turned cooler. I suspect a virus in the soil. What do you think and advise? Do you have a virus resistant pepper similiar to your virus resistent tomatoes? The peppers have been planted near the tomatoes. Is that a problem. My disease resistant Burpee tomatoes have done fine. Joseph DiNunno Annapolis, MD

Answer: Your pepper problems may have been caused by environmental conditions. Peppers are a heat-loving crop, and are particularly sensitive to environmental stresses such as cool weather and drought. In particular, cool weather (and very hot weather) will cause pepper blossoms and/or young fruit to drop. When rotating crops in your garden, rotate by family -- that is, since peppers and tomatoes are related, don't plant them in the same spot in successive years. Rather, try a three-year rotation, planting peppers or tomatoes in that spot only every third year, and crops of different families in the intervening years. And keep an eye on soil fertility and pH. It is possible that your peppers have been affected by tobacco mosaic virus; symptoms include mottled, curled leaves, misshapen fruit, and overall stunting. Burpees does sell two sweet pepper varieties listed as resistent to tobacco mosaic virus: Gypsy Hybrid and Lemon Belle Hybrid.

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