Hand-Pollinated Peppers: How to Pollinate Pepper Plants by Hand

We have a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and literally busy bees, so this is the first year I can try to grow peppers. I’m excited every morning to see the resulting flowers and fruit, but in previous years I could never get fruit. Maybe I should have tried to pollinate my peppers by hand.

Pepper pollination

Some vegetable plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, are self-pollinating, but others, such as zucchini, pumpkins and other vine crops, produce male and female flowers on the same plant. In times of stress, these flowers (whether self-pollinated or not) need help to produce fruit. Stress can be due to a lack of pollinators or too high temperatures. In these stressful times, you may need to pollinate your pepper plants by hand. Although time consuming, hand pollination of peppers is simple and sometimes necessary if you want a good fruit set.

How to hand-pollinate a pepper plant

How to manually pollinate pepper plants? During pollination, pollen is transferred from the anthers to the stigma, or central part of the flower, causing fertilization. The pollen is quite sticky and consists of a multitude of small grains covered with finger-like protrusions that stick to anything they come into contact with… like my nose apparently, since I have allergies.
To manually pollinate your pepper plants, wait until the afternoon (between noon and 3 p.m.) when the pollen is at its peak. Use a small artist’s brush (or even a cotton swab) to gently transfer the pollen from one flower to another. Twist the brush or cotton swab into the flower to collect the pollen, then gently rub it on the end of the flower’s stigmas. If you have trouble getting the pollen to stick to the swab or brush, soak it in a little distilled water first. Remember to be slow, methodical and extremely gentle so as not to damage the flower and thus the potential fruit.
Avoid cross-pollination when you have more than one type of pepper plant by changing the brush or pad when hand-pollinating.
You can also shake the plant lightly to facilitate the transfer of pollen from one flower to another.

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