Flower Drop

This week in the Flog:

  • The sadness of flower drop, its causes, and what to do about it

It’s one of those terrible outcomes you see in your garden periodically. You work at getting everything right – the soil, the light, the water, the nutrients, and your plant absolutely flourishes!! It’s just bursting with life! Loving it, it just grows like crazy and makes you so happy watching it conquer unfathomed airspace.

Then the moment of glory, buds start popping up all over the plant, peeking out slow and then opening up into glorious bright flowers. This is so awesome! We have flowers! This beautiful plant is going to fruit like nobody’s business, showing off with it’s bounty of tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, whatever..

And then BOOM! The flowers fizzle. One by one they shrivel, their moment of glory replaced by pallid colors, sad droops, deflated egos..

They drop like flies, one by one sprinkling the ground at the foot of their once celebrated origin.

Why did this happen?!! WHY?! I don’t know. Don’t ask me, I’m as frustrated as you. I am, it’s happening to me now! Those big bad beautiful Jalapeno plants are popping up flowers and dropping them just as fast. There is only one that I think MIGHT stay on the plant and set fruit. There are some likely culprits….

Temperature and humidity: The most likely causes, you just can’t help these sometimes. If it’s too hot or too cold, you’re going to experience flower drop. You have to wait while your plants just drop flowers like it’s going outta style, wait and pray you get some fruit later when the weather corrects itself. It’s the same situation with humidity. I’m telling you, this is the most common cause, and the hardest to deal with. Try hosing the plants down if it it’s hot and dry, that kind of thing.

Pollen and stigma disconnect: In plants that require pollination to set fruit, you need the pollen to actually get to the stigma for fertilization to occur. If you don’t have insects to do this, you’ll have to shake the plants, or expose them to wind, or if you have the time, take a small paintbrush and use it to manually pollinate the flowers. That can be time consuming.

Fertilizers: Too much Nitrogen can hinder fruit set in many plants. During flower and fruiting stages, plants will want more Phosphorus and Potassium and less Nitrogen.

Too much fruit!: Look if you have this problem don’t even bother with this article. But yeah, if your plant is maxed out already, it will stop setting more fruit. Harvest the fruit! Thinning fruits will allow more nutrients to go to the remaining, as well as allow the plant to keep setting more.

Insects/disease: This is a huge topic so I’m just lumping it together. Watch for symptoms of disease and treat accordingly, the earlier the better. As far as insects go, just go for a walk in your garden. Stop. Observe. For 20 minutes. In the morning, the evening, and during the middle of the day to get good variation in your sampling. This will work for the larger insects, although some like mites are practically microscopic. Get real close and just observe one leaf at a time, preferably with a magnifying glass. You’ll see them, even the smaller ones.

Water: Ah, an environmental condition you can affect. Low water will definitely cause plants to drop flowers. If your plant is thirsty, you can’t expect it to think it’ll be able to produce a big juicy fruit! Too much water can be a problem too, flushing nutrients out of your soil or drowning the roots. Just like anything, this stress will make a plant drop blossoms.

Bottom line, fruiting takes a ton of energy and is an “extra” for the plant.

For the plant it’s like “Hey I’m alive and growing like crazy or whatever. I’m doing great. I don’t need to fruit, but that would be great for my species so lets try. But if I don’t feel up to it, screw that!” If your plants are stressing about something, they’re gonna drop blossoms:

Flower Drop - Part 1

Fallen soldier

I think in my case it might be the weather. We’re getting some really hot temps these days, high humidity and temperature during the day and night. But I’m not sure. Look what I found!

Flower Drop - Part 2

Ants hovering. Collecting pollen I suppose though hard to tell from their behavior.

They don’t take the flowers out, just hover around there, I assume going after the pollen/nectar. It’s hard to combat ants, they are pretty ubiquitous here so I’m hoping they aren’t the problem. We’ll see.

What can you do about flower drop? Well first check the factors above. If your plants look pretty great but the weather has been outside their preferred range, that’s probably the problem. Growing plants more suited to your climate is the solution to this (I could possibly use that advice). Otherwise if your plants look a little sad, time to play doctor and see if you can fix ’em!

One thing I’ve heard seen around is to spray the blossoms with apple juice. I’ve also heard vinegar. I dunno about these remedies. I think if the conditions aren’t right or your plants aren’t happy, no amount of stuff is going to make them fruit. Just try to make them happy and ride it out if you have to.

What have you experienced this phenomena with? What was the cause? Did you eventually get fruit outta the plant? Share share share 🙂

  • Drew

    Patrick,

    Sorry to here about the “bloom doom”. Perhaps your plants found out that you were leaving for two months? Safe journeys to you and yours.

    • Patrick

      That’s what I should have named the article – bloom doom. I’m a bit ahead of the garden in terms of posts – I think they were just sweating a bit in our heat here! Thanks Drew, should be a good trip, first long haul with the little one, phew!

  • Henry

    Patrick,

    I have been suffering the same fate with my tomatoes (Black Krim). Constant rain with temperatures reaching 100 degrees have caused havoc. Very disheartening to say the least. My friend I really feel your pain!!

    • Patrick

      Haha thanks Henry! Yeah that’s pretty rough huh. I suppose we just have to wait it out. I’m ahead of the posts here (like a good responsible blogger) so I’ll let you know a little spoiler – I got peppers! Eventually…

      • Henry

        Patrick,

        Funny you say this about peppers. Not unlike you my peppers were not phased a bit about the harsh conditions (tons of fruit). Tomatoes on the other hand suffered severely.

  • Hi Patrick,

    Just stumbled across your blog and thought I could contribute. I am a soil/plant nutrition specialist who travels the world teaching large scale growers how to grow nutrient dense food without chemicals. You might be interested in my TED talk called “Hunus Saves The World.” Just google “.Graeme Sait TED”.

    The most common nutritional cause of flower drop is a boron deficiency. Boron is a huge player in reproductive efficiency. it can increase the length of the male pollen tube and make a big difference to the fruit to flower ratio. A boron foliar spray before flowering is one of the single, most productive strategies I advise for all clients. Just try it and you will be impressed

    Warmnregards

    Graeme

    • Patrick

      Wow, that is awesome, I watched your TED talk and was impressed. Thanks for visiting our site!

      Thanks for the advice. I will try a foliar spray of boron and see if that can help my issues!

      Cheers,
      Patrick

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