Pepper Plants Not Producing Fruit? Try This.


It is frustrating to see your pepper plants flowering without producing any fruit, especially after you put a lot of work into growing them.  Luckily, you can address some of the common reasons that pepper plants fail to produce fruit after flowering.

So, why are your pepper plants flowering, but not producing fruit?  A lack of pollination will prevent pepper plants from producing fruit, even if they have plenty of flowers.  Extreme temperatures, poor soil conditions, and improper watering can also stress the plant and prevent peppers from growing.

A lack of pollination is becoming a more common problem as time goes on.  Let’s start off with how pollination works for peppers, what might prevent it, and how you can fix the problem yourself.  Then we’ll get into some of the other possible reasons that your pepper plants are not producing fruit.

Cause #1: Lack of Pollination

A lack of pollination can certainly prevent your pepper plants from producing fruit.  Sadly, this problem is becoming more common as time goes on.

The reason is that bee populations throughout the world are in decline due to increased use of pesticides and chemicals in farming, gardening, and yard care.  Let’s take a look at how pollination works for pepper plants, when it can fail, and what you can do to turn things around.

How Pollination Works for Pepper Plants

Pepper plants are self-pollinating.  This means that a flower on a pepper plant contains both male and female parts.

pepper flower
A pepper plant flower will not produce fruit without proper pollination.

If all goes well, the male part of the flower releases pollen onto the female part of the flower.  From there, the female part of the flower will begin to form fruit (a pepper).

It is important to remember that self-pollination does not mean automatic pollination.  A flower still needs help from pollinators, such as bees, to get started.

When a bee’s wings vibrate near a flower, it causes the male part to release its pollen onto the female part.  When there aren’t enough bees in your garden, you will see a decline in pepper production.

When Pollination of Pepper Plants Might Fail

If you or your neighbors are using pesticides or chemicals in your yard, then you may be repelling bees in the area.  Try to eliminate use of pesticides in your yard, and plant flowers to attract bees.  You can even ask your neighbors to do the same to create a “safe haven” to attract more bees.

bumblebee
If your bee population is in decline, your may get less fruit on pepper plants.

Even if you have plenty of bees in your yard, pollination can still fail.  If the humidity is too high, the pollen will be sticky.  As a result, the male part of the flower will not be able to release the pollen.

If the humidity is too low, the pollen will be released, but it will not stick to the female part of the flower.  Thus, conditions must be “just right” to ensure that pollination occurs.

You cannot control the humidity level outdoors, but you can take steps to increase the chances of pollination.  Here’s how to do just that.

How to Hand Pollinate Pepper Plants

Luckily, there is an easy way to pollinate your pepper plants by hand.  All you need is an electric toothbrush and a little time.

First, turn on the toothbrush.  The vibration will imitate the buzzing and vibrating of a bee’s wings.

Then, touch the toothbrush to each of the flowers on your pepper plant.  This will stimulate the male part of the flower to release its pollen onto the female part.

The more frequently you do this, the better the chance of pollination.  If you can hand pollinate at different times of the day, you are more likely to do it at a time when the humidity is working in your favor.

Just be careful not to be too rough – you don’t want to break off any of the flowers!

Cause #2: Extreme Temperatures

Pepper plants do best in a temperature range from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 29 degrees Celsius) during the day, and 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21 degrees Celsius) at night.

thermometer
High temperatures can damage your pepper plants, or slow their growth.

If temperatures are too high, a pepper plant may fail to pollinate.  In extreme cases, the plant may even drop its flowers.  Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about high temperatures outside.

If temperatures are too low, the pepper plant’s development may slow down.  In that case, you might want to use row covers or some type of garden fabric to keep your plants warmer at night.

It is also possible that a late spring frost damaged your pepper plants, which may prevent them from producing much fruit.

If you are growing your own peppers from seed, make sure to plant outside after the last chance of frost.  For more information, check out this article from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which calculates last frost dates based on your zip code.

You can also check out my article on how to protect your plants from cold and frost.

Cause #3: Poor Soil Conditions

Poor soil conditions can also prevent your pepper plants from producing fruit.  Two things to look out for are pH imbalances and nutrient imbalances.

pH Imbalance

The ideal soil pH for a pepper plant is between 6.0 and 6.8.  Any higher or lower, and certain nutrients may become unavailable to the plant, even if there is plenty of the nutrient in the soil.

To know for sure, you should do a soil test.  You can buy one online or at a garden center and do it yourself.

soil
A soil test can tell you if the pH if off in your garden.

You can also send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension for testing.  The advantage of this is that you will get detailed information, including soil pH and nutrient levels.

If you send information about what you are growing, you will also get some good advice about how to treat your soil in the event of unbalanced pH or nutrient deficiencies.

For more information, check out my article on how to do a soil test.

If your soil pH is too high (alkaline), you can reduce the pH by adding elemental sulfur.  For more information, check out my article on how to make your soil more acidic (lower pH).

If your soil pH is too low (acidic), you can increase the pH by adding lime (calcium carbonate).  For more information, check out my article on how to make your soil more alkaline (raise pH).

Nutrient Imbalances

Even if your soil pH is within acceptable limits, you can still have a problem with nutrient imbalances in your soil.

For instance, nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for plant growth.  However, too much nitrogen will cause a plant to grow lots of green foliage, at the expense of fruit or flowers.

If you suspect this problem, stop adding fertilizers that contain lots of nitrogen.  Look for fertilizers that contain phosphorus and potassium only. For more information, check out my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.

Also, be careful about adding certain supplements to your garden soil.  One frequently praised supplement is Epsom salt.

magnesium sulfate
Epsom salt can be a useful soil supplement if you have a magnesium deficiency – do a soil test to check before adding any supplements to your soil!

Too much Epsom salt can cause excessive magnesium in your soil.  In turn, this can prevent a plant from absorbing calcium from the soil, causing blossom end rot in peppers.

In summary, always do a soil test before adding any supplements to your soil.

Other Causes

There are a couple of other reasons that your pepper plants may fail to flower: lack of sunlight, or improper watering.  You can control both of these factors to some extent.

Not Enough Sunlight

Pepper plants need full sunlight, which means 6 or more hours of exposure to direct sunlight each day.  If you planted your peppers in an area that is shaded by trees most of the day, then they may not be getting enough sunlight.

sunlight through forest
Pepper plants need full sunlight – that means 6 or more hours per day of exposure to the sun.

Transplanting your peppers late in the season may kill them, but you could try it as a last-ditch effort to get some peppers.  Unfortunately, you may just need to choose a sunnier spot next year, or trim back some tree branches to allow more light into your garden.

Improper Watering

Too much water and not enough water can both be deadly to pepper plants.  Even if improper watering does not kill them, it can prevent fruiting or flowering, or cause flowers or fruit to drop off the plant.

If you over water your pepper plants, the soil will stay moist too long, which can lead to root rot.  Once this happens, the pepper plant will start to show signs of dehydration, since its roots are dead and can no longer absorb water from the soil.

For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.

Use your hands to check the soil every day, down to a depth of a few inches.  When the soil feels dry, it is fine to water, as long as there are no rainstorms on the way.

The best time to water is early in the morning, when temperatures are still cool and the sun is lower in the sky.  That way, the water will have a chance to soak into the ground before evaporating.

Make sure to water deeply less often, rather than providing shallow water more often.  If you seem to struggle with soil that is constantly dry, you may need to add organic material to help with water retention.  Mulch can also help to prevent evaporation of water.

dry soil
Yikes – this soil is WAY too dry!

For more information, check out my article on treating dry soil.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article gave you a good idea of the reasons that your pepper plants are not producing, along with ways to solve the problem.  Start with pollination, and then work your way through temperature, soil conditions, and other causes.

I hope this article was helpful.  If you have any questions or advice of your own to share, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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