homepage logo

Garden Help Desk: Is there a difference between male and female peppers?

By USU Extension - | Jan 28, 2023

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Differences in the size, shape and flavor of bell peppers are determined by the pepper's variety and by the care the plant received before and after harvest.

I was buying peppers at a fruit stand last fall, and someone there said that female bell peppers are sweeter than male bell peppers. Is that true? Can you really taste a difference?

No, you can’t taste a difference between male and female bell peppers because there is no such thing as a male or female bell pepper or any other pepper.

The whole idea of male or female pepper fruits comes from a common myth that claims you can tell the gender of a bell pepper by the number of lobes (bumps) on the bottom of the pepper. According to popular claims, a male bell pepper will have only three lobes on the bottom of the pepper, fewer seeds than a female bell pepper and will be less sweet than a female pepper.

It’s true that we sometimes refer to some plants as “male” or “female,” but we’re talking about the kind of flowers found on the plant. For example, a maple tree will generally have flowers with either male parts (pollen bearing) or female parts (ovary and ovules) and so those trees are commonly referred to as male or female. Other tree species may have flowers with both male and female parts, or with separate male and female flowers on the same tree.

Fruits, whether they’re green beans, squash, peppers, peaches or cherries, are the ripened or ripening ovaries of flowers. There is no “gender” to the fruits.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

A broken African violet can be rescued by suspending the broekn stem in a container of water for a few weeks and waiting for new roots to form.

Most of the vegetables that you grow in your garden are plants that have flowers with both male and female parts. Cucurbits (squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, etc.) are an exception, and you can clearly see separate male and female flowers on the plants.

When it comes to the shape, size, flavor, and “seediness” of a bell pepper, those characteristics are related to the variety of the pepper, the growing conditions, how successfully all the ovules in the flower’s ovary were pollinated, how mature the pepper was when harvested, and the post-harvest and handling conditions for the pepper before it reached your table.

I knocked over my African violet while I was watering it and the stem broke. What is the best way to save my plant?

Accidents happen! African violets have a lot of water stored in their leaves and petioles, so they can handle some stress like this. As long as your plant was in good condition, with no stem or root rot, you can treat it like you’re rooting a cutting. Here are two simple options.

1 — Put some water into a small canning jar or glass and cover the top tightly and securely with a layer or two of plastic wrap. Make a small hole in the center of the plastic wrap. Remove most of the larger leaves on the lower part of your plant and trim the lower stem to a few inches in length. Push your cutting’s stem through the hole in the plastic so that the stem is submerged in the water.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

African violet leaves will root easily when their petioles are tucked into a container of water.

In a few weeks, you should see roots forming on the stem. Once you have several roots, cut away the plastic so that you don’t damage the roots and carefully plant your Africa violet into a pot with fresh potting soil. Water the soil well and follow up with your usual plant care routine. Remember that African violets like moist, well-drained soil but won’t tolerate wet soil.

2 — Remove most of the lower leaves on the plant and trim the stem back to healthy tissue. Gently scrape the stem with the edge of your knife a few times and then tuck the stem into a small pot of perlite or very porous potting mix. Some people like to dip the stem into a little rooting hormone, but I’ve had success without the hormone, too. Either way, you’ll need to water the perlite or soil and let it drain well. Loosely cover the plant and pot with a plastic bag. Check the moisture in the pot every week or two and water as needed. The perlite or soil should be moist, but not wet. After several weeks, there should be new roots on the stem, and you may see new leaves developing on your plant. You can check for rooting by very gently tugging on the stem. If there is any resistance, you’ll know roots are forming. If you used perlite, tip your rooted cutting gently out of the perlite and transplant it into a pot with fresh potting soil. Water the soil well and then resume your normal plant care routine.

You can add a few free African violets to your collection by rooting some of the leaves you removed using the same methods.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)