Tomato and Pepper Blossom Drop


“All of my tomato and pepper seeds I ordered Baker Creek grew fine. Only no fruit. Tomatos would bloom, flowers would fall off. Peppers would bloom, flowers would fall off. Next year I’ll buy my plants from Home Depot. Thanks for recommending a crappy company.

Michael”

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Hi Michael,

Thank you for the email regarding your peppers and tomatoes.  It’s sounds like the plants were not the problem, but the environment that they were grown in, as your plants suffer from blossom drop.

Blossom drop is a common tomato and pepper growing problem that can be extremely frustrating to the home gardener. Otherwise healthy looking tomato and pepper plants set flower blossoms, only to have them dry up and fall off the plant before a fruit is formed.

Blossom drop can be attributed to several causes, most often related to either temperature and / or stress.
–Temperature Too High or Too Low
–Lack of Pollination
–Nitrogen – Too Much or Too Little
–Humidity Too High or Low Humidity.
–Lack of water
–Stress from insect damage or disease
–Too Heavy Fruit Set

The best way to combat the problem is to grow varieties suited to your climate.  Often times, hybrids are able to grow anywhere but still need ‘optimum’ conditions.  Gardeners that experience this problem often decide to grow heirloom varieties that are native to their region along with the hybrids so they are always assured of having a crop from one or the other or both.

The most frequent cause of tomato and pepper blossom drop is temperature:
–High daytime temperatures (above 85 F / 29 C)
–High Nighttime Temperatures (Below 70 / 21 C)
–Low Nighttime Temperatures (Below 55 / 13 C)

Tomatoes and peppers grow best if daytime temperatures range between 70 F / 21 C and 85 F / 29 C. While tomatoand pepper plants can tolerate more extreme temperatures for short periods, several days or nights with temps outside the ideal range will cause the plant to abort fruit set and focus on survival. According to the University of Wisconsin, temperatures over 104 F / 40 C for only four hours can cause the flowers to abort immediately.

Gardeners in cooler climates should not rush to get their tomatoes and pepper planted in the spring. Wait until nighttime temperatures are reliably above 55 F /13 C or protect them with a cover at night. You won’t gain any advantage by setting them out too early. Choose early maturing tomato and pepper varieties for spring growing in cooler climates. (Early Girl, Legend, Matina, Oregon Spring, Polar Baby, Silvery Fir Tree Tomatoes; Chablis, Jupiter, King Arthur, Mini Belle Blend, North Star, Banana Bill, Boris, Gypsy, Chichimeca, Early Jalapeno, and Stoked Peppers)

Select heat a heat-tolerant (“heat set”) tomato and pepper varieties for areas with long periods of hot or humid weather. High nighttime temps are even worse than high daytime temperatures because the tomato or pepper plant never gets to rest. (Florasette, Heat Wave, Solar Set, Sunchaser, Sunmaster, Sunpride, Surfire Tomatoes; Chinese Giant, Canary Belle, Mini Bell Chocolate, Mini Bell Yellow, Napolean Sweet, Atris, Felicity, Pimiento L, Balada, Burning Bush, Caribbean Red, Habaneros, Fish, Fatali, Minero, Orange Thai, Serrano Chili, and Zavory Peppers)

Tomatoes and Peppers need some help to pollinate. Either insects, wind or hand shaking of the flowers is necessary to carry the pollen from the anthers to the stigma. During weather extremes, there are often no insect pollinators in the garden.
It sometimes help attract more bees if you plant nectar rich flowers in your vegetable garden.

Don’t automatically feed your tomato and pepper plants every week. Make sure your soil is healthy, with adequate organic matter. Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting and again when fruit forms. Too much nitrogen encourages the plant to grow more foliage, not more fruit.

The ideal humidity range is between 40 – 70%. If humidity is either too high or too low, it interferes with the release of pollen and with the pollen’s ability to stick to the stigma. So pollination will not occur.  If humidity is too low, hose the foliage during the day. This will both cool the plant and raise the humidity. This is not recommended in areas with high humidity or when fungus diseases are present. Gardeners in high humidity areas should look for tomato varieties that aren’t bothered by humidity. (Eva Purple Ball, Flora-Dade, Grosse Lisse, Jubilee, Moneymaker, Sun Gold, Taxi, Yellow Pear Toamtoes, any pepper variety)

Water deeply, once a week, during dry weather. Tomatoes have very deep roots, sometimes going down into the soil up to 5 feet. Peppers can go to 2 feet deep.  Shallow watering will stress and weaken the plants.

Keep your plants healthy. Use good cultural practices and treat for disease as soon as symptoms appear.

Nothing will guarantee fruit set. Things like temperature and humidity are out of the gardener’s control. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for conditions to correct themselves. If the weather seems fine and other gardeners in your area are not having fruit set problems, you should consider the cultural causes of tomato and pepper blossom drop. Choosing a suitable variety and keeping your plants healthy will give you an edge.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 thoughts on “Tomato and Pepper Blossom Drop

  1. “Next year I’ll buy my plants from Home Depot. Thanks for recommending a crappy company.”

    Okay, that’s hilarious. Somebody call the whaaaaaambulance. When multiple crops of different species fail miserably, should one blame a notable and much-loved seed company… or their sorry self?

  2. Agree! I too love Baker Creek — I wish my garden was large enough to grow every variety they sell and Jere Gettle is the person I would pick if I could ever have dinner with one celebrity. My peppers didn’t do great either this year, but it was across the board with many varieties from different companies and saved seed. It’s something I did or the weather did, not the seed/nursery companies!

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