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Why Do Some Peppers Grow Upwards

There are few things as rewarding as peeking through your growing pepper plants and seeing tons of peppers beginning to grow. Whether you have grown these plants from seed yourself or purchased a mature plant from a nursery, there is a chance that you may notice a few or even all your peppers growing upwards! 

While it is not cause for concern, it can be slightly alarming. So, why do some peppers row upwards?

Many pepper plants naturally grow upwarddue to the pepper plants’ placement. If the pepper plant is contained in a cage or staked, sometimes the pepper can be forced to grow upwards if growing downwards is blocked by physical barriers. 

Why Do Some Pepper Plants Grow Upwards?

Sometimes, pepper plants will naturally grow their peppers in an upward fashion. While it may seem counterintuitive and against gravity, this process is entirely natural and helps these pepper plants spread their seeds in the wild.

Most of the time, pepper plants that grow upward naturally have small peppers. These peppers are susceptible to birds as they are extra appealing and easily accessible. Pepper plants would have relied on birds to help spread the pepper seeds without human intervention, so it makes sense that these pepper varieties would attract birds.

While attracting birds is great for pepper plants in the wild, it can be a nuisance for gardeners trying to harvest their peppers.

Pepper plants that grow upward are a magnet for birds and other foragers, but if the pepper plant you are growing is not native to your area, birds will tend to leave it alone. This is because local birds do not recognize the pepper plant, and the peppers are not part of their regular diet. 

But what causes these pepper plants to grow upward-facing peppers? It comes down to science and genes. Growing peppers upward is a recessive trait, and growing peppers downward is a dominant trait.

For the peppers to grow upward, they need two genes for upward growth. If they have one upward and one downward gene, the downward growing gene is dominant, and the plant will present its peppers in a downward growth pattern.

Physical Barriers 

Like most young plants, pepper plants can be manipulated to grow in different patterns. If the small young pepper buds are placed in an upright position, the pepper will begin to grow upward. This usually happens if the pepper plant is against a physical barrier. 

Many people grow their pepper plants in cages or staked, similar to how tomatoes will grow. If the buds are pushed upward because they are resting on the cage or stake, the peppers will continue to grow in the direction they are facing.

This is not cause for concern with smaller peppers as they tend to be very light and well-balanced on their stalks. However, large peppers like bell peppers can become quite heavy. The unnatural positioning of the upright bell pepper can put extra strain on the stem. This can cause the stem to become weak or even break off prematurely.

The best action is to keep an eye out for upward-facing peppers on naturally downward-facing pepper plants. If it is early enough, you can turn the pepper downward without damaging or breaking it. However, if the pepper is too far along, attempting to rotate the pepper can cause issues or even damage. At this point, adding extra support to the pepper is best to prevent it from falling off the vine prematurely. 

Does Growth Direction Change the Peppers Flavor?

Many peppers that naturally grow upward tend to be small, hot pepper varieties. However, not all hot peppers grow upward. Hot peppers tend to be smaller and lighter pepper variety types. This allows them to grow upward easily and not put any extra strain on the pepper stem.

Even though hot peppers tend to grow upward, wide varieties of hot peppers still grow downward. It will not change the flavor if you force a naturally downward growing pepper to grow upwards. 

The flavor will change if the pepper were to be picked prematurely or if the pepper falls off, becoming ripe due to strain and breakage on the pepper’s stem. 

Are There Advantages to Growing Pepper Plants Upward?

So should you manipulate your pepper plants to grow upwards? What are the benefits of allowing your plants to grow upward?

Forcing pepper plants to grow upward can create a more ornamental and aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. This will help create more visual interest in your garden and add beautiful pops of color. 

Another benefit to forcing your peppers to grow upward is that harvesting your peppers will be easier. Accessing your pepper plants will be much easier when they grow upward and out of the plant’s foliage. 

Even with these benefits, forcing your pepper plants to grow upward is not necessary. There may be more cons than pros when you list out reasons for which direction to grow your peppers.

Upward-growing peppers are easier for birds and other foraging animals to find and eat, meaning protecting your pepper plants can be challenging. 

Forcing your peppers to grow upwards can also create extra tension on the pepper’s stem. This can cause the stem to break off prematurely before the peppers ripen properly. It is best to force smaller peppers to grow upward and avoid putting any larger pepper varieties in this position. 

Bell peppers, jalapeños, and larger-sized sweet peppers are too large to sustainably grow upwards. Choose a small pepper variety if you want to grow peppers upward for ornamental purposes. 

Naturally Upward Facing Peppers

Almost all Thai pepper varieties, Tabasco peppers, Chinese 5-Color peppers, Aji Charapita, Filipino Bird’s Eye, Facing Heaven Pepper, Piri Piri, Prairie Fire, Bahamian Bird, Numex Twilight, and Black Pearl peppers are all naturally upward facing peppers and make a great addition to your pepper garden.