Pruning pepper plants is one of the more controversial topics when it comes to growing these popular plants.
Some people will tell you that it is essential to prune your plants, while others will say it is the last thing you should be doing!
The method of pruning peppers that comes in for the most debate is topping. This is the action of snipping the entire top of the plant off.
This promotes bushier growth, which is true and will definitely happen. The controversy comes when discussing harvests.
Does topping the plant increase the number of peppers you get? Or does it just slow plant growth? Some people will tell you one thing and others another.
One general consensus I have picked up is that this topping is better on smaller fruiting plants. So ones that produce lots of smaller peppers rather than a few big bell peppers.
These are the peppers I recommend you grow in the UK, so this is a particularly interesting question for UK gardeners.
Does it increase yields?
Let’s cut to the chase already. Should you top your pepper plants? The simple answer is, I don’t know… yet!
This year, I am running a small trial comparing topping to not topping, using a few different pepper varieties.
I obviously won’t have the results until the end of the season, so watch this space! And sign up for my newsletter to keep up with the latest results.
How To Top A Pepper
The actual process of topping a pepper is simple enough. You want to do it when the plants are still small, roughly around six inches.
Take a pair of sharp secateurs, scissors or a knife and cut out the main growing top of the plant. Aim for right above a leaf node.
This removes the growing tip of the plant. As a result, the growth hormone within your plant will now be redistributed lower down.
This will result in the plant branching out, and you will end up with much bushier growth.
This will give the plant more leaves, so, in theory, it should have more energy to promote fruit growth. It will also give the plant a lot more places in which to flower and set fruit.
The varieties I will be testing this out on are:
These are three varieties that all produce smaller fruit, rather than large bell peppers. Our climate is much more suited for these types of peppers.
If you have been put off from growing peppers due to meagre harvests of large bell peppers, then I urge you to give one of the above a try.
Other Pepper Pruning
I always recommend removing any leaves that look diseased or old and tired. This tends to happen to the lower leaves first, as they will be the oldest leaves on the plant.
It can also be a good idea to remove any leaves that are in contact with the soil as your plant grows.
This just helps reduce the chances of soil-born infections getting into your plant.
It can also be a good idea to remove the first set of flowers that appear on your plant if it is still young.
Peppers can start to flower while still very young plants. If you think yours is flowering a bit prematurely then removing those flowers will divert the plant’s attention into extra growth rather than creating fruit.
While this can be tough to do, it can lead to a larger harvest in the long run.