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Should You Top Pepper Plants? Yes or No?

What’s the primary goal when gardening? Getting the highest yield possible of course.

At Bush Order, we’re always looking into ways of improving yield on our limited growing space and short growing season. This year, we are experimenting with topping pepper plants. The simple way of explaining the theory behind this is it can increase the number of flowers produced, and thus more fruit. Cutting off the main growing point of the plant redirects energy to the axillary buds and forces them to grow, creating a bushier plant with more side shoots which in theory leads to more flowers and potentially more fruit. Topping pepper plants also encourages plants to grow sturdier stems. Therefore, if you don’t have access to a greenhouse and your plants have little shelter from wind, they will be better equipped to withstand periods of high wind.

Since this our first year trying this technique, we are taking the middle ground and have only pruned a hand full of peppers plants. If this is not successful we do not want to lose our entire crop.

Topping peppers just below the growing tip.

Another pruning technique is to pinch off the first flower buds on your pepper plants. The theory behind removing early buds is to allow the plant to focus its energy on growing more height, a stronger stem, and healthy foliage before the switch to fruit production. We have decided not to go ahead with this technique since our growing season is short enough as is and we want to give our peppers as much time as possible to reach maturity.

One important thing to note is that topping pepper plants should be done a few days prior to transplanting. After a plant has been transplanted, it is putting all of its effort into developing a strong root system rather than producing other tissues (leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit).

An early flower bud.

Pruning is of course not absolutely necessary when growing peppers. There are mixed reviews whether it is truly beneficial or not. At Bush Order we’re simply too curious not to try. We will be monitoring our pepper plants trough out the summer months and can’t wait to share the results of the experiment with you.

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