How to Crossbreed Peppers
Thousands of varieties and species of peppers are grown worldwide, ranging in appearance, heat level and taste. One trait peppers share is that they are self-fertile, meaning each flower contains both female and male reproductive organs. To crossbreed peppers with nearly 100 percent success, you must emasculate the flower you plan to grow the hybrid on, preventing it from self-pollinating. Once the manual pollination is complete, the resulting pepper will almost certainly be a hybrid.
Locate flowers on one parent pepper plant that are nearly ready to bloom. They are easily distinguished by their unfurled sepals, or green outer petals, which reveal the flower’s inner petals. Use small scissors and latex gloves to cut away any bloomed flowers surrounding the unbloomed flowers, as they could pollinate them. Cut the bloomed flowers at least 1/4 inch down the stem leaving only the unbloomed flowers. Wash the scissors with rubbing alcohol and put on a new pair of latex gloves before proceeding.
Peel away the flower’s unbloomed inner petals with tweezers to reveal the interior of the blossom. You will see several stamens, the male organs of the flower. Use the small scissors to clip away the stamens, leaving only the pistil in the center of the flower. Wrap a twist tie around the stem of the emasculated flower to mark it and repeat with as many others as you would like. Wash the scissors and tweezers with rubbing alcohol and change into a new pair of latex gloves before proceeding.
- Locate flowers on one parent pepper plant that are nearly ready to bloom.
- Use the small scissors to clip away the stamens, leaving only the pistil in the center of the flower.
Repeat the process of emasculation on the second pepper plant with at least one flower. Do not discard the removed stamens. Slice up the side of one stamen with a dissecting needle and use its tip to scoop out the pollen from inside. Apply the pollen to the top of the exposed pistil, known as a stigma, on one of the other parent pepper plant’s flowers. Repeat with the remaining harvested stamens and exposed pistils.
Watch the pollinated flowers. Within three to four days, the ovary, located below the pistil, will begin to swell. This is a sign of successful pollination. The resulting fruit and subsequent seeds are the crossbred pepper species. If the ovaries do not swell, the pollination was not successful. The most common cause of unsuccessful pollination is damage to the pistil during emasculation.
- Repeat the process of emasculation on the second pepper plant with at least one flower.
- If the ovaries do not swell, the pollination was not successful.
- You can purchase dissecting needles from many specialty gardening and science supply websites and stores.
- If you do not wish to purchase a dissecting needle, slice up the side of the stamen with the scissors and remove its pollen with a cotton swab.
Serena Styles is a Colorado-based writer who specializes in health, fitness and food. Speaking three languages and working on a fourth, Styles is pursuing a Bachelor's in Linguistics and preparing to travel the world. When Styles isn't writing, she can be found hiking, cooking or working as a certified nutritionist.