Blossom End Rot

Need to know

  • Blossom end rot is most often found on tomatoes but also may occur on peppers and summer squash. 
  • Blossom end rot is characterized by dry areas that appear on the bottom or blossom end of the fruit, turning into brown and leathery patches. 
  • This is a problem born of calcium deficiency, most often the result of erratic watering

Overview of blossom end rot

Blossom end rot is most often found on tomatoes but also may occur on peppers and summer squash.  This disease can lead to premature ripening as well as inedible fruit. 

Image of blossom end rot on tomato.
Blossom end rot on tomato.

Symptoms of blossom end rot 

Blossom end rot is characterized by water-soaked areas that appear on the blossom end (bottom) of the fruit. The affected tissue desiccates, becoming brown and leathery. Secondary fungi and bacteria may colonize the dead tissue, causing it to turn dark and rot. Blossom end rot is most common on the earliest maturing fruit that ripens in July and early August. 

Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in developing fruit. Fluctuating soil moisture due to overwatering or drought, high nitrogen fertilization, and root pruning during cultivation are conducive to blossom end rot.

Signs and symptoms of blossom end rot 

This abiotic disorder is not caused by a pathogen. Secondary (saprophytic) and opportunistic organisms structures may develop in the dead tissue but are not causing the symptoms. If the tissue crack or is wounded (mechanical or insect) a secondary rot may develop.

Type of Sample Needed for Diagnosis and Confirmation

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic can help you to investigate and confirm if your plant has this disease. Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on collecting and packing samples. Contact information for each state's diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents.  If your sample is from outside of Iowa, please do not submit it to the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic without contacting us.

Management of blossom end rot

This is a problem born of calcium deficiency, most often the result of erratic watering. When the plant is allowed to get too dry or given too much water over periods of time then its ability to uptake calcium from the soil is diminished. To reduce blossom end rot, water tomato plants on a weekly basis during dry weather to provide a consistent supply of moisture to the plants. (Tomato plants require about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week during the growing season.) Mulch the area around tomato plants to conserve and maintain uniform soil moisture levels. Also, avoid applying large amounts of nitrogen to tomatoes as excessive nitrogen fertilization may contribute to blossom end rot. Adding calcium to the soil is generally ineffective.

Pick and discard fruit affected with blossom end rot. The removal of the affected fruit will allow the tomato plant to channel all of its resources into the growth and development of the remaining fruit.

Last reviewed:
January 2022

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 1, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.