Pepper Plants Not Producing Fruit? (5 Causes & Solutions)


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 prevents pepper plants from producing fruit, even with plenty of flowers. Extreme temperatures can cause dropped flowers or frost damage on pepper plants. Poor soil conditions, lack of sunlight, and improper watering can also stress the plant to prevent peppers from growing.

With bee populations suffering in some areas, a lack of pollination is becoming more common as time goes on.

In this article, we’ll start off with how pollination works for pepper plants, what can prevent it, and how to fix the problem yourself.  Then we’ll get into some of the other possible reasons that your pepper plants are not producing fruit.

Let’s get started.

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.

bee on blueberry flower
Bees are helpful in pepper pollination, but their populations are declining in some places.

The reason is that bee populations throughout the world are in decline, due to the 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 (they are called perfect flowers – you can learn more from the Michigan State University Extension).

pepper flower
A pepper plant flower will not produce fruit without proper pollination (bees or wind can help with this).

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 guaranteed pollination.  According to the Colorado State University Extension, pollinators (such as bees) or the wind will help to improve pollination for peppers (and other self pollinating plants.)

When a bee’s wings vibrate near a flower (or when the wind blows), 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, you may be repelling bees in the area.  Try to eliminate pesticides from your yard.

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

Also, plant flowers that are native to your area to attract more bees.  You can also ask your neighbors to do the same to create a “safe haven”, which will hopefully attract more bees.

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.

pink peach flowers
Plant some native flowers or fruit trees to attract more bees to your yard.

If you are growing peppers indoors or in a greenhouse, you might be lacking both wind and pollinators in a closed environment.

You cannot control the humidity level outdoors. However, you can take steps to increase the chances of pollination for your pepper plants – 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).
  • Next, 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 of the flower).
  • Then, repeat once or more per day (the more frequently you do this, the better the chance of pollination).
electric toothbrush
The vibration of an electric toothbrush simulates the buzzing of a bee’s wings, helping to hand pollinate pepper plant flowers.

If you 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.

You can also simulate wind with a handheld fan. Another option is to shake the pepper plant gently, which will stimulate the release of pollen in the flowers.

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

chili pepper plant
You can use a handheld fan to simulate the wind, or shake a pepper plant to help pollinate the flowers.

You can learn more about pepper plant pollination (and how to improve pollination) in my article here.

Cause #2: Extreme Temperatures

Extreme temperatures (either too high or too low) can prevent fruit on your pepper plants.

According to the Texas A&M University Extension:

  • Bell pepper plants do best in a temperature range from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) during the day.
  • Hot pepper plants do best in a temperature range from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 29 degrees Celsius) during the day.

According to the Michigan State University Extension, the ideal nighttime temperature for pepper plants is 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21 degrees Celsius).

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 (temperatures over 90 Fahrenheit or 32 Celsius), the plant may even drop its flowers!  Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about high temperatures outdoors.

If temperatures are too low, the pepper plant’s development will slow down, and it may drop its flowers.  In that case, you might want to use row covers to keep your pepper plants warmer at night.

A late spring frost will also damage unprotected pepper plants, which will prevent them from producing much fruit. If they have already flowered when frost arrives, the cold will damage the flowers and prevent fruit formation.

frosted leaf
A late spring frost can damage pepper plants or their flowers if you transplant outside too early.

Pepper plants are warm-weather crops (they are tropical in origin!) So, if you are growing your own peppers from seed, make sure to transplant outside well 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.

To learn more ways to keep your plants warm, check out my article on how to protect your pepper plants from cold and frost.

The table below summarizes temperature ranges for pepper plants.

Temp
Range
Effect
On
Pepper
Plants
Below
32 F
(0 C)
Death from
frost, unless
protected by
row covers.
33 to 40 F
(1 to 4 C)
Chilling
injury.
41 to 50 F
(4 to 10 C)
Slowed
growth.
51 to 59 F
(10 to 15 C)
Flower
drop.
60 to 70 F
(15 to 21 C)
Ideal
night
temp.
71 to 80 F
(21 to 27 C)
Ideal
day
temp.
81 to 89 F
(27 to 32 C)
Marginal
(high)
daytime
temp.
90 F (32 C)
or above
Flower
drop.
This table summarizes the effect of
various temperature ranges
on pepper plants.

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

According to the Michigan State University Extension, the ideal soil pH for a pepper plant is between 6.0 and 6.8.  Any higher or lower, and certain nutrients start to become less available 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.

soil test kit
A soil test will tell you the pH and nutrient levels in your garden. Pepper plants like a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.

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

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.

pepper plant
Too much nitrogen causes lots of green growth (leaves and shoots) on pepper plants, but not as many flowers or fruit.

If you suspect this problem, stop adding fertilizers that contain lots of nitrogen.  Look for fertilizers that contain phosphorus and potassium only (or fertilizers that have lower amounts of nitrogen).

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 – but get a soil test to check before adding anything to your garden!

Although it can be helpful in some cases (magnesium or sulfur supplement), too much Epsom salt can cause excessive magnesium in your soil.  In turn, this can prevent a pepper 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 garden.

Other Causes Of Lack Of Fruit On Pepper Plants

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.

Lack Of Sunlight

Pepper plants need full sunlight. According to the Texas A&M University Extension, this means 6 or more hours of exposure to direct sunlight each day.

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

If you planted your peppers in an area that is shaded by trees for most of the day, then they may not be getting enough sunlight.

Transplanting your peppers late in the season may kill them, but you could try it as a last-ditch effort to get some peppers.  A better option is to trim away some tree branches (if possible) to allow more sunlight through.

pruning shears
Prune away some branches from trees to give your pepper plants more sunlight during the day.

Unfortunately, you may just need to wait and choose a sunnier spot for your pepper plants next year.

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 the plant to drop its flowers or fruit.

If you over water your pepper plants, the soil will stay moist for too long, which leads to root rot (due to lack of air in the soil).  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.

roots
Root rot occurs when the ground stays too wet and causes a lack of air in 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 is no rain in the weather forecast.

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.

watering can
Water pepper plants early in the day. This gives the leaves a chance to dry off before nightfall.

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 also helps to prevent evaporation of water, keeping soil moist for a bit longer.

dry soil
Yikes – this soil is WAY too dry!

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

Conclusion

Now you have a good idea of the reasons that your pepper plants are not producing fruit. You also have some ways to solve the problem: start with pollination, and then work your way through temperature, soil conditions, and other causes.

You can learn about proper depth and spacing when planting peppers here.

You might also be interested in reading my article on when pepper plants produce fruit.

You can learn about 15 of the best pepper plants to grow in this article.

I hope this article was helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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