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How and Why You Should Prune Pepper Plants

I’ve been growing my vegetables and flowers on top of a fenced-in concrete patio for the past three years. It’s a pretty big learning curve, because I haven’t quite figured out my growing zone yet. I live in zone 6b, but the concrete slab under my patio garden heats things up to similar temperatures as Arizona in summer! Trying to keep everything alive and productive is half of the fun.

Speaking of productive plants, let’s talk about helping pepper plants produce better.

What is the best way to increase productivity in peppers?

How do you fix a leggy pepper plant so it gets bushier and produces a better harvest?

This year is my first year growing peppers from seeds. In the past, I’ve purchased seedlings from a local greenhouse and the only tending I did for them was pinch off the first blossoms so they’d grow bigger before fruiting. The seedlings were always well shaped and had leaves all the way up the main stem and branches.

My How and Why You Should Prune Pepper Plantshomegrown seedlings were started indoors a few weeks too early (first time seed-growing excitement is to blame), and, as a result, they have started to get leggy while waiting for it to be warm enough to plant them outside. They are a foot tall but have over an inch, or even two, between leaf sets on the main stem. Since it’s warm enough to put them outside during the day, the tops of the plants were getting more densely leaved, but the stem was still virtually leaf-free. Without more leaves and branches on the lower levels of the stem, my pepper plants would be weak, trying to carry all their peppers at the top.

I did some digging through the internet and found several people who prune their pepper plants at about the height mine are, and it helps the plants grow more leaves and branches down the stem. All of this bushing out will create more strength for carrying peppers, and produce more branches for peppers to grow on, thus increasing my harvest (I hope!).

After watching a few quick videos (including Gary Pilarchik’s – his are the best!), I gave it a go.

 

How and Why You Should Prune Pepper Plants:

How and Why You Should Prune Pepper Plants

The result of pruning peppers after only a few days.

What you will need:

  • Small pruning shears or scissors, depending on how thick your main stem is. I like to use my small Fiskars hand pruners.
  • The willingness to hurt your plants to make them better.

Steps:

  1. Assess where the uppermost large set of leaves is. It’s typically going to be about an inch down from the top bushing section. You’ll want to cut right above them.
  2. Gently hold back the leaves below where you’re pruning to avoid cutting them off. Make sure not to accidentally break them off, either. You want to leave at least 4 or 5 leaves in order for your plant to be able to provide enough energy to grow bushier.
  3. Clip the stem.
  4. Try very hard not to freak out about what you’ve done to your pepper plants. (Optional)

Here is my post-pruning Instagram story in which I freak out about what I’ve just done to my pepper plants.

Once I had clipped the tops off them, I was left with a pile of beautiful pepper leaves, and sad, naked pepper plants. Without their bushy tops they look pretty pitiful. The good news is, just 24 hours later, I noticed tiny leaf nodes forming on the stem where the big leaves are attached! So, it would appear the plants are already putting their energy into new leafy growth. It’s exciting to see, and hopefully they bounce back quickly from their pruning.

Pruning isn’t necessary for pepper plants, but if you find yours getting leggy like mine, you can try this method to make your plants bushier and stronger. If you’ve tried this, let me know your results! It’s still too early to tell what will happen with mine, but I’m very optimistic. Good luck, and I hope you have an excellent growing year!

Here are some of the tools that are used.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.

  • Such a great post! This is so helpful as my peppers are just baby seedlings right now and I’ve been wondering what to do with them. The video was very clear, as were the steps 🙂 Thanks so much Lana and Julia for sharing! Cheers, Mary Jane

    • Lana

      I’m so glad it helped! I think the general rule is, it’s not super necessary unless your plants are crazy leggy like mine, so you may not even need to.

      • Beauty! I’ll keep an eye on them 😊