Pollination of Peppers - Knowledgebase Question

Edmonton, US
Question by tracyw
February 14, 1998
At work, we have 2 habenaro pepper plants, growing indoors. There has been a debate among us as the how these plants are pollinated. Here is the history. Plant A is now 3 years old. The first year we tried cross-pollination by using the pollen from a green pepper plant because the flowers were dropping off, we also used a brush in an attempt to transfer pollen from flower to flower and gently shakeing the plant daily. It produces 2 peppers. Was this a result of cross-pollination or did the plant just self-pollinate? We planted a seed from one of the peppers and this resulted in plant B. Plant B is now taller and has larger leaves than plant A. The second year, plant A failed to produce any fruit, just many flowers that dropped, dispite the same attempts as with the first year. This year both plant A and B have been producing many flowers, plant A now has once again 2 peppers. We also now have Thai Dragon Hybrid plant (2 years old) that has been producing peppers. We have been tranfering pollen between flowers of each plant as well as between all 3 plants. Both these plants are in front of a south window. Are the flowers dropping off because of lack of pollen (from another plant) or are they lacking something else? This is the debate at work, please can you put an end to it.

Answer from NGA
February 14, 1998


Both green peppers and hot peppers have the botanical name Capsicum annuum.

The flowers of all peppers are perfect and self-pollinating, though in the garden insect cross-pollination is common. A "perfect" flower is one that have functioning male and female parts within the same flower; the term "self-pollinating" means that fertilization generally takes place within each individual flower, and doesn't depend on insects, wind, or some other method of transferring pollen.) Some studies have shown that fruit set in certain varieties of peppers is improved if the flowers are cross-pollinated; other studies show little difference.

Pepper blossoms will drop if temperatures get too cold or too warm; they may also drop if the plant is stressed in any way. Your blossoms may be dropping because the plant isn't getting enough sun in its south window location--especially during the short days of winter. It is probably not because they are not being pollinated.

Interestingly, the gene that produces the heat in hot peppers is dominant, so, if you cross a sweet green pepper with a hot pepper, and plant the seeds of its fruit, you will probably get a relatively hot pepper.

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