If I want to plant 2 different species of chili pepper, should I be careful to prevent cross pollination? I heard that chili are self-pollinating, but I don't understand this. Wouldn't any plant become self-pollinated if we use their anther to brush their stigma?

In addition, I wonder whether different genus plant can be hybridized, because I want to plant sweet basil, together with holy basil and wonder if it'll cross-pollinate with the chilis.


4 Answers 4


My understanding is that some plants will reject pollen that is like their own. Also some plants (eg. holly and papaya) have male and female plants. One plant has male flowers, the other has female flowers. So they can't self-pollinate.

In the case of peppers, they do cross-pollinate with other varieties, as long as they are cultivars of the same species (most peppers are C.annuum). For example two years ago I grew some sweet paprika and one of the plants produced some fruit which were hotter - they had cross pollinated with some anaheims in the next bed. So the cross-pollination influences the fruit that is produced as well as the plant produced by the seed (the paprika actually seeded itself and the plant that came up was a moderately hot paprika).

I usually grow about half a dozen varieties each year, and do not take any precautions against cross-pollinating other than keeping each variety together - and this is mainly for my own memory. I wouldn't describe it as a big problem - just don't be surprised when you get the odd cherry-shaped bell pepper, a cherry red "chocolate" pepper, hot paprikas, etc.!

re. @bstpierre's comments, I would only note that natural hybrids are much more common with plants than animals. Yes they usually have to be between species in the same genus, but plants like Sarracenia (trumpet pitchers), and Opuntia (prickly pear) form natural viable hybrids (within their own genus) in the wild. The only larger animal I'm aware of that naturally produces viable hybrids would be ducks - which are quite randy creatures anyway! (mules are domestic, but they're also sterile).

  • It seems to me that peppers cross a lot more easily than you're indicating. It sounds like you're talking about an odd fruit out of many on the same plant in the same generation as the cross-pollination. While I concur that odd changes in fruit do sometimes occur as a result of cross-pollination, most cross-pollination becomes evident in the following generation. You don't have to see any differences in the first year for there to be a cross (if you do see changes, 100% of the seeds may not be crossed, either). Do you harvest your own seed and replant, or do you buy new seed/plants every year? Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 9:12

"Self-pollinating" refers to the process by which a given plant's flower transfers pollen from anther to stigma without outside assistance. For example, pea flowers are "perfect" (have both stigma and anther) and "self pollinating" (the pollen transfers without the help of an external pollinator).

As a general rule, two different species are unlikely to cross pollinate. For example, pumpkins may belong to C. pepo or C. maxima. Two varieties of pumpkin within the same species may cross, but they will not cross with a pumpkin variety of a different species.

It may be possible to cross some plants of different species within the same genus, but the likelihood of crossing becomes less the more different the two contributors become. (Think about animals -- you can cross a donkey with a horse to make a mule, but you can't cross a monkey with an eagle, thankfully. And even in the former situation, the mule is sterile, so it's not a stable cross.)

Given that basil and chilies are in different plant orders (Lamiales vs. Solanales), it seems highly unlikely to me that they would hybridize, even if you were manually pollinating one plant from the other.

  • Huh. I have seeds from an orange-fleshed zucchini (which was not supposed to be orange-fleshed). I believe it was grown by a Buttercup squash. Someone grew out the seeds and the offspring sounded to be of a vining habit (rather than bush like the parent zucchini). I haven't heard from that person again, yet. So, I might have to grow them out myself next year. I wonder if this is a C. pepo x C. maxima cross. They say it doesn't really happen, but I had something similar happen before, too. Anyway, the general rule may often be true, but not always (as with several different pepper species). Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 9:03
  • This chart can be helpful with pepper species: malusrustica.dk/capsicum/X/info_X-ing.htm But yes, I concur that basil and peppers probably aren't going to cross into a pepper-basil plant. Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 9:03

No you can't cross-pollinate basil and chili peppers.

Not only are they a different species but not even in the same genus, family or order. That is, they're vastly different genetically speaking and therefore interbreeding is not possible.

The definition of species is generally considered to be that there's enough genetic similarity for pollination to occur and produce a viable seed. If you exclude the requirement for viable seed then occasionally pollination outside the same species (hybrids) but within the same genus may occur, (even outside the genus within the same family - e.g. bear hybrids in the animal kingdom) but certainly not across different families or different orders.

If you are concerned about unwanted cross pollination between your plants, you normally only need to worry if you're growing, closely placed:

  1. different species in the same genus (e.g. jalapeño chili Capsicum annuum x birdseye chili Capsicum frutescens); or
  2. different cultivars within the same species (e.g. jalapeño chili x cayenne pepper).

Basil and Chilis won't interbreed. That's like crossing a dog and a dolphin.

Chilis of different types can quite easily cross polinate, just some wind could do it. Unless you want pure seeds off of them that's not a problem though.

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