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.

Visit my YouTube Channel with over 800 gardening videos: The Rusted Garden



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.




Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →


  • Hii yallugouda from India…We generally transplant from trays when seedlings are 4 to 5 weeks old…plz suggest at what stage I need to prune and after pruning how many days it is required to transplant to main field.

    Yallu Naganagoudar on
  • Hello! Thanks for the info. I have a couple pepper plants that seem like they are about to flower from the top, they are fairly bushy but very short and I’m not sure they can support the fruit. I have already cut one round of flowers, should I do the same again?

    Anthony on
  • HELP!!! I bought some bell pepper plants from a hardware store and planted them at the end of May. They had many little bells on them, ready to flower. I planted them and now that it’s at the end of June, I see no growth. So what I did is prune, like in your videos. I took off all the buds and lower leaves, I added some nitrogen and some worm castings around the base. I have seen new baby leaves at the top, but the plant isn’t growing upward like so many other plants I did in the last few years. We have had a lot of rainy, cloudy days could this be the reason? If they have 2 sunny days a week they are lucky. I’m ready to go out and buy new plants if they have them. What am I doing wrong or should I just hope that the weather gets better? Also, tried wood ash on the roots hoping this would help with diseases, was this the problem? What should I do?

    Gloria on
  • Thanks for the information. I have been totally confused with all the advice on cutting off the top of pepper plants and couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have bell peppers growing. Have decided to let them do their own thing. Just curious. Why do you call yourself the Rusted Garden?

    Carol Kuntz on
  • I have a sweet banana pepper plant, planted last year and has reached over 7ft tall! It is still producing but spindly. Can i top it off?

    Jammie Lewis on

Leave a comment