How To Breed Peppers: 6 Tips for Success

How To Breed Peppers

There are many varieties of peppers grown across the planet. They are different in terms of taste, heat level, and appearance.

The many varieties of peppers are the creations of many men and women across the globe who are crossbreeding different pepper species to combine their traits and breed more desirable pepper plants.

If you are interested in crossbreeding pepper plants to create the hottest, tastiest, or most aesthetically pleasing pepper plant the world has ever known, this is the article you should read. Because in this article I will share with you all the important details you need to know to successfully crossbreed peppers. 

Without further ado, let’s begin. 

How to Breed Peppers

Before I share with you the exact steps you need to follow to breed peppers, there is one thing you should know: peppers are self-fertile. This means that they have flowers with both male and female plant organs.

Therefore, to be able to breed them, you need to emasculate them and prevent them from self-fertilizing/ self-pollinating. After emasculating them, you need to do manual pollination. This is how to breed pepper plants and it is what I am going to explain in the steps below. 

How to Breed Pepper Plants

1. Grow The Two Pepper Plants You Want To Breed

Breeding pepper plants is all about combining the traits of two pepper plant varieties to yield a more desirable pepper plant. Therefore, you cannot breed pepper plants without growing the two varieties you want to breed.

So buy seeds for the pepper plant varieties you want to breed and grow them. The plants used for crossbreeding are known as parent plants or “parents” and the resulting pepper plant is known as the hybrid. 

2. Locate the Flowers of The Parent Pepper Plants Just Before They Bloom

This is the most important part of crossbreeding. This is because plant flowers contain their reproductive organs and crossbreeding peppers is all about manipulating the organs to prevent self-fertilization and carry out manual fertilization.

So, locate the flowers of the parent pepper plants just before they bloom. Pepper plant flowers that are just about to bloom can be identified by their green outer petals/ unfurled sepals. The fact that they are about to bloom means they are mature enough.

3. Cut All Bloomed Flowers

After locating the flowers that are just about to bloom on both plants, you should cut bloomed flowers around them. The purpose of doing this is to prevent them from pollinating your unbloomed flowers.

When cutting bloomed flowers, you should cut them about one centimeter down the stem. Wear latex gloves and use a pair of scissors to cut the bloomed flowers. And when you are done, clean the scissors using methylated spirit and discard the gloves. 

4. Expose the Pistils Of Unbloomed Flowers on One Pepper Plant

You should do this by peeling away the unbloomed petals gently using tweezers. Make sure you wear gloves and proceed slowly and carefully. If you do this correctly, you will see several stamens.

Stamens are the male reproductive organs of plants. After revealing the stamens, you should emasculate the flowers (cut the stamens) using small and sharp scissors. This will expose the pistil in the middle of each flower. Do not touch or damage the pistils. Tie small strings around the stems of the flowers you emasculate on the first parent pepper plant.

When you are done tying the strings, discard the stamens you have cut and the gloves you are wearing. Clean the cutting scissors utilizing methylated spirit.

5. Harvest Stamens from the Second Pepper Plant

As mentioned earlier, crossbreeding is about preventing self-fertilization and carrying out manual fertilization. Cutting the stamens in unbloomed flowers in one pepper plant variety prevents the flowers from self-fertilizing and allows you to manually fertilize them using stamens from the second pepper plant variety.

So put on a new pair of gloves and harvest stamens from the second pepper plant carefully. Harvest stamens by peeling away petals from unbloomed flowers and clipping them carefully.

6. Manually Fertilize the First Pepper Plant Using Harvested Stamens

After harvesting stamens from the second pepper plant, cut one open carefully utilizing a dissecting needle. Then use the needle’s tip as a scooper to scoop the pollens inside it.

Apply what you have scooped utilizing the needle on the pistils you exposed on the first pepper plant. Don’t just apply the pollens anywhere on the pistils; apply them to the top part. The top part of pistils is referred to as stigma.

So apply the pollens from stamens you have harvested from the second pepper plant variety to the stigma on the exposed pistils on the first pepper plant variety. This is known as manual pollination. 

7. Observe the Flowers You Have Manually Pollinated on The First Pepper Plant

Once you have done manual pollination, your work is done. You just need to observe the flowers you have pollinated. If your manual pollination was successful, the ovary of the flowers will start to swell.

The ovary is located under the pistil. And when the ovaries of the flowers you have pollinated swell, they will grow and become fruit. The fruit will be hybrid and so will the seeds in it. In other words, if the fruit is exactly what you wanted to make, you should use its seed to propagate your new crossbreed pepper species. 

N/B: In case the ovaries of the flowers you have manually pollinated do not swell, the problem is usually a damaged pistil. So be very careful not to damage pistils when clipping stamens. 

By following the steps above, you should find it very easy to crossbreed pepper varieties and make hotter or tastier peppers than what is readily available in your region.  

Other Important Details You Need To Know About Crossbreeding Peppers

Six Important Tips for Breeding Peppers

  1. Buy Quality Supplies. To be able to successfully breed peppers, you need to buy quality supplies. So go to a reputable gardening store to get pepper seeds and gardening implements including short scissors, tweezers, gloves, and dissecting needs. If you cannot find these things at your local gardening store, get them online. Make sure they are quality if you want to do a good job and get good results.
  2. Clip Bloomed Flowers around Your Unbloomed Flowers. After identifying unbloomed flowers, many people usually proceed to emasculate them and manually pollinate them without clipping the bloomed flowers around them. If you do this, your “experiment” will probably result in failure because bloomed flowers will most likely pollinate the unbloomed flowers you will peel and emasculate. 
  3. Do Not Damage the Pistil. The pistil is very important when crossbreeding pepper plants. This is because it is the female reproductive organ of plants. When emasculating the unbloomed flowers of the plant you are going to manually pollinate, you should be very careful not to damage their pistils. Because if you do, the pistils are not going to be able to receive the pollens from the second parent pepper plant and this is going to make manual pollination (and crossbreeding) impossible. Damaged pistils are the most common reason behind unsuccessful crossbreeding attempts.
  4. Wear Gloves And Remove Them At the Right Time. Gloves are important when handling pepper plants. If you do not wear them, you will likely end up with pepper in your eyes and that is something you do not want. Trust me. Removing gloves before handling the next plant is important to avoid confusion and accidentally self-pollinating pepper plants even after removing their stamens.
  5. Throw Away The Stamens of The First Plant After Removing Them. To avoid confusion and pollinating the first plant flowers with pollens from their own stamens, you should throw them away. Otherwise, you could accidentally use pollens from the stamens you have removed to fertilize the pistils of the first plant which will essentially be manual self-fertilization and, therefore, zero work.
  6. Don’t Give Up If You Fail The First Time. This is perhaps the most important tip on this list. Do not give up if your first generation fails. When you crossbreed for the first time, you will most likely have a first-generation that has hybrid vigor/ improved characteristics of its parent plants. But it probably won’t be stable. It may take several generations for you to make it stable. So don’t give up. If your second generation does not look like your first generation, continue crossbreeding and you will most likely produce what you are looking for.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Crossbreeding Peppers

What is Crossbreeding?

Crossbreeding is the process of combining two plant or animal breeds to produce an offspring with the characteristics you want. The crossbreeding of plants is also referred to as plant breeding.

Plant breeding is commercially done in laboratories by seed companies and major food producers. However, just about every adult can do it because it is easy to do. While the crossbreeding process is easy, the results are not always guaranteed in the first-generation offspring. So if you want to crossbreed two varieties of pepper, you have to be prepared to cross them several times or for several generations.

Why Do People Crossbreed Peppers?

Most individuals who are crossbreeding peppers are trying to create stable varieties of very hot peppers. Most commercial breeding is also concentrated on creating hotter and tastier peppers. While many large scale farmers who are crossbreeding peppers are doing it to increase the quality and quantity of their produce.

What Is The Most Famous Pepper Crossbreed Species?

It may come as a surprise to you but Ghost pepper is not actually an “original” pepper plant species. It is a crossbreed pepper species that was produced by crossing Capsicum frutescens and Capsicum chinense pepper species. 

Are Crossbred Peppers GMOs?

No, they are not. Crossbred peppers are not genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified foods are made in the laboratory by altering their biology at the cellular level, while crossbreed foods are naturally produced through natural selection of plants with ideal characteristics. Crossbreeding is kind of like what happens when we humans date to find the ideal partner for us to make our offspring.

Are Crossbred Peppers Safe?

Well, the process of plant breeding is predictable. Unlike genetic modification or mutation breeding, plant breeding almost always results in nothing more than a hybrid plant with the characteristics of both parent plants. So if both parent plants are safe, the hybrid plant is almost guaranteed to be safe. In contrast, the result of genetic modification and mutation breeding are unpredictable and can yield unsafe plants.

Is Mass Selection Plant Breeding?

Yes, it is. Mass selection is regarded as the easiest form of plant breeding. It involves simply visually identifying crops that look superior and using their seeds to plant in the next planting season.

For example, if you note aesthetically pleasing peppers with higher yields, selecting the seeds from these peppers to plant the next line is considered mass selection and it is a form of plant breed. The method of plant breeding described in a step by step manner earlier in this article is the most reliable and is known in science circles as hybridization.

The Final Word

I hope you enjoyed this article and the plant breeding steps and tips I have provided in it. Crossing pepper plants is always exciting and the results are usually amazing to share with family and friends. So try it. You never know – your pepper crossbreed could quickly become the go-to ingredient in the culinary world.