How to Pollinate Pepper Plants

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Growing pepper plants in your garden can be a healthy way to add more flavor to salads, appetizers and meals. While many pepper varieties rely on insect pollinators, when you grow peppers in a greenhouse or a controlled environment in your home, you may need to pollinate peppers plants by hand. Luckily, hand pollination of peppers can be done in minutes. Watch your pepper plants as they grow so you know when they begin to flower.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean, fine-tipped paintbrush or cotton swab
  • Wait until the afternoon when the blooms are fully open and the pollen is ripe, typically between noon and 3 p.m.. Although pepper plant flowers are small, you can judge how ready they are by the petals extending away from the center of the bud.

  • Rub the tip of the brush or swab along the inside center of the pepper flowers lightly to collect the pollen from the flower. Look over the tip of the brush or swab to ensure you have picked up small flecks of yellow pollen.

  • Brush the pollen-loaded cotton swab or paintbrush along the inside of a flower on another plant. The pollen from the first flower should now be transferred to the second. As you brush the first flower's pollen onto the second flower, you'll also be picking up new pollen from the second flower.

  • Continue lightly brushing inside new flowers until you have pollinated multiple flowers along multiple plants.

  • Switch to a new, clean brush or swab any time you are going to begin pollinating a different variety of pepper plant. This will avoid cross pollination between species and keep your resulting peppers pure and the seeds usable.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are having trouble gathering pollen on the brush or swab, try dipping the tip into a drop of distilled water before Step 2.
  • If the variety of peppers you are growing are self-pollinating, hand pollination isn't necessary. You won't harm the flowers if you brush them accidentally.
  • With some self-pollinating flowers all you need to do is shake the plant lightly every day when flowers are present.

References

  • "Vegetable Gardening: Your Ultimate Guide"; Robert J. Dolezal; 2000
  • "Growing Fruit and Vegetables"; Richard Bird; 2003
  • Photo Credit Lee Pettet/Photodisc/Getty Images
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