Pollination and fruiting


4 min read

Chilies are easy to pollinate. The plants are self pollinating. It means that the pollen from the flowers of one plant can pollinate itself.

Pollination does not happen by itself. An outside intervention is needed.

  • In outside conditions bees and other insects carry pollen from flower to another. This is the most efficient pollination option.

  • Wind may rustle the plants and carry pollen with it.

  • You can shake the plants every morning and help plants to get pollinated. Just grab the plant and shake! Best for indoor plants.

  • You can use a pollination device, for example electric toothbrush to vibrate flowers.

Word on nutrients and conditions.

If your chilies just grow big but don't make flowers you need to consider their living conditions.

  • Does the plant get enough light? Adding electric lighting might help it grow better.

  • Nutrient balance. Make sure your fertiliser has the NPK balance for flowering. Change to fertiliser that has less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium.

Check out this resource for NPK tips.

Flowers and flower buds starting to appear on these pictures.

Chili padi flowers. The padi makes lots of small white flowers. Very ornamental. Pollination is easy - just shake the plant once a day!

Flower drop

Chilies make a lot of flowers. Not all flowers will result to peppers. Do not be overly concerned about flower dropping. It happens. It is time to worry if your chilies make flowers for several weeks but never make peppers. Flower drop can have many reasons

  • Pollination did not happen

  • Not enough light

  • Not right NPK nutrient balance. Too much nitrogen?

  • Plant is too young

  • Pests

  • Other. This is a mysterious area of chili knowledge. Maybe you didn't talk to your plants often enough?

Chili flowers have five petals. The bulge at the bottom is called Ovary. When pollination is successful the Ovary will start to bulge larger and forms the chili pepper. The five "antennas" are called "anther filaments". Anther filaments contain the pollen.

Most chilies have small white flowers like above. You will find several on plants and on the floor. When the anther filaments on flower are visibly extended the flowers are ripe for pollination.

Purple Cumari alongado chili flower (purple, picture by Piia Kopsa)

Some flowers are very cute and colourful like these.

If you compare these flower photos it is evident that it is hard to tell chili varieties from each other based on how the flowers look. Yet you will see these photos and questions about chili identification on hobbyist forums.

When asked about it you can safely say that a flower is hardly enough to identify a chili plant.

And the miracle of pollination happens eventually! The bulge at the bottom of the flower starts to grow and flower petals start drying off.

After whithering the petals fall off revealing a tiny baby pepper!

Peppers start growing in size. Most varieties start green and turn to their final colour eventually. The growth of the pepper may take several weeks depending on growth conditions.

Here we have some peppers on my hydroponics. They are fully grown but still green. When plants are large and mature and start making peppers expect a sizable yield. A big plant will reward you handsomely!

The pods are showing some color. Soon many of them will start turning red.

And finally the moment arrives that you've been waiting for. Peppers will start showing color changes. This one is carolina reaper blushing.

Although you may feel an urge to taste please hold your horses for a bit longer. The peppers gain most of their burn at the end of ripening.

Harvest peppers as soon as they are showing their full colours. It's good to harvest peppers in small batches often. This way the plant won't be wasting it's resources for peppers that are ripe. It will divert it's strength to ripen the next batch.

And here we go. First chili of the reaper harvest goes to tasting test. Pepper is ripe and glisters with capsaicin oil inside.

You will get many more peppers once the plants begin fruiting. This is one week's worth of hot peppers from two plants. More than enough for anyone's personal needs!

Happy harvesting and bon apetit!

// Chilious