Peppers are a wonderful and flavorful addition to any garden, and pruning pepper plants can help control their growth and keep them healthy. Spicy or sweet, most varieties of peppers can benefit from a little intervention when it comes to different points in their growing season.
But how and when should you prune your pepper plants, and what are the reasons for pruning? Let’s explore these questions and more, to make sure this is your best pepper growing season yet!
Do peppers need to be pruned?
As is the case with the pruning of many popular garden vegetables, there are many opinions on whether or not pepper plants have to be pruned.
Well, it really depends on whether or not you have the time. Pepper plant certainly do not need to be pruned, and you will still be able harvest many peppers from unpruned plants, but there are a number of great benefits that can arise if you do prune pepper plants.
What are the benefits of pruning peppers?
Pepper plants can benefit from pruning in a number of ways. Reduced foliage provides better air circulation amongst the leaves and fruits and reduces the likelihood of disease spreading.
Gaps in the foliage also allows for pests to be spotted and dealt with more quickly, and provides fewer places for them to hide.
Too many heavy branches that are all allowed to produce fruit can also cause the plant to snap or topple, and pruning helps even out and balance the plant.
Once the fruits begin to ripen, pruning can expose them to a bit of sunlight which can enhance the flavour. It will also benefit the fruits by helping them ripen more evenly and quickly if there is unfavorable weather on the horizon.
Sometimes pruning can even improve yields by enhancing the quality of existing peppers and reducing the likelihood of pest and disease attacks ruining fruits.
When should peppers be pruned?
If you do have the time to prune your pepper plants, there are three main times of year that are best, all with slightly different pruning strategies and goals:
Avoid pruning your peppers right after they have been irrigated or after rain, as wet plants are more likely to spread fungal spores and bacteria to other plants. Instead, prune them on a dry day in the morning or evening before temperatures have gotten too hot.
How To prune peppers at different times?
Since the way in which peppers should be pruned varies depending on what stage of growth they are at, the following instructions detail the pruning technique for the three main pruning periods.
You should always use clean, disinfected tools when pruning!
1: How To Prune Pepper Plants Early In The Season
The main ways that young peppers at the beginning of the season should be pruned is by removing side shoots, flowers, and the very topmost growing point of the plant.
Some of these techniques may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is to help the pepper plant focus its energy on establishing itself, and encourage outward, branching growth.
Here are the main steps you can follow for early season pruning of your pepper plant:
2: How To Prune Pepper Plants In The Middle Of The Season
In the middle of the season, pruning pepper plant becomes more like general maintenance as diseased leaves are picked away, lower leaves are pruned, and suckers are removed.
The idea with mid season pruning is to prevent the plant from developing any diseases or being attacked by pests during this important period of growth, and to generally keep it under control.
Follow these steps in the middle of your pepper growing season, on a more continuous basis than early and late pruning.
3: How To Prune Pepper Plants Later In The Season
Late season pruning entails removing leaves around ripening fruits and topping plants at the very end of the season.
At this point, the plant has set its fruit and the peppers are fully developed but need to finish ripening.
Although most all types of peppers can be eaten when they are still green, many will develop distinct flavor palettes and nuanced tastes when they are allowed to ripen on the plant.
Late season pruning should be done at least one month before the first frost to allow sufficient time for the fruits to gain color.
Tips On Pruning Pepper Plants
Maja is a freelance content writer and avid gardener currently based in Southern Sweden. She gained her BA in Environment and Geography in Montreal, Canada, which is also where she first learnt about the detriments of the industrialized agricultural system. During the summer she began farming through the WWOOF program, and over the next six years has continued to grow and learn at a number of organic farms and gardens across the US and Canada. She is passionate about the role of regenerative agriculture in wildlife conservation and climate change mitigation, and thinks growing your own food is a key part of revolutionizing the system. In her free time she likes to read, garden, and pet nice dogs.