How To & The Benefits of Topping Off or Pruning Pepper Plants: Several Video Examples with Control Plants

Posted by Gary Pilarchik on


By Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden) 

There are several reasons you may want to prune peppers. One reason is to help the pepper plants develop stronger sturdier stems. Another reason is to force or create a bushier plant with more side shoots which leads to more flowers and potentially more peppers.

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I want to be clear, you do not have to do this. If you haven't pruned peppers before, take the middle ground. Prune a couple plants and see how they respond. One of the things I love about gardening is that it is an ongoing creative experiment you can vary year to year. Create your own experiment, especially if you are growing several of one variety of pepper.

Your pruned plant will grow upward, it won't remain stunted, as new growing tips take over. If your variety is natural small and compact, I would not recommend removing the growing tip. Many 'Habanero' varieties tend to fit that category. Pruning is done differently, if at all, with smaller compact peppers.

Pruning helps plants manage high wind periods and better support heavy crops of peppers. Stronger stems means less breaking as pepper stems can easily snap. Removing the main growing tip will create more side shoot growth in 95% of pepper varieties. I found a few that don't seem to respond well or fare any better to the removal or topping off, as it is called, to the growth-tip..  'Banana' or "Bell' peppers are two. 'Banana' peppers seem to grow furiously own their own and pruning didn't improve production. My 'Bell' peppers seemed a little stunted and didn't really get a ton of side growth. In general, pruning, will create a bushier plant that will branch out and flower more.  The more flowers, the greater the yield of peppers.


Pruning or topping off of the growth-tip is fairly simple. Just remove it. Here is my original pruning video (2016) if you would like to see how it is done. Pruning can be done many ways. This is just one way I prefer. 



Pruning ultimately lets you make a stronger plant that produces more. I will be doing an ongoing series based on the peppers I am pruning for 2017. I will be using control groups when available. Here is what young pruned peppers look like (from the above video), about 1 month later after their initial pruning. This video is from 2016.  They are compared to unpruned peppers of the same variety so you can see the early changes.




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