As you’ll learn in a moment, the reasons a gardener should prune peppers depend on when the pruning is done. When timed correctly, proper pruning promotes strong, robust stems, good branching, reduced disease and pest pressure, rapidly and uniformly ripening fruit, and also results in better yields for many bell pepper varieties.
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Do you have to prune peppers
Pruning plants is not 100% necessary, but it can improve the health of the plant. Do you need to prune out your peppers to get a good crop? Certainly not. But once you’ve perfected the pruning techniques below, there’s no doubt that pruning plants has many benefits that are worth your time and energy.
When to prune plants
There are three main seasons for pruning bell pepper plants, and the type of pruning depends on the season. The three main seasons for pruning are: Early season, mid-season and late season. These three times and the specific techniques to use during each period are explained below.
Pruning at the beginning of the season
The main objectives of pruning in the early season are:
– improve the branching of the plants
– to promote a good root production
– to ensure good air circulation
The three main methods for pruning bell pepper plants early in the season:
1. cut off the shoot tip for better branching.
Cut out the main growing point when plants are very small. At the transplanting stage, simply remove the top 1 to 2.5 inches of growth except for one set of leaves. Cutting out the central growing point of a young plant will encourage branching and bushy growth.
2. Remove early bell pepper flowers to promote healthy roots.
Cut off early flowers to encourage root growth. It may seem counterintuitive to remove the flowers if you want lots of bell pepper plants , but when planting young plants in the garden, the plants should first focus on forming a sturdy, extensive root system before putting their energy into producing flowers and fruit. Pruning bell pepper plants by simply cutting off all flowers that form in the first 2 to 3 weeks after planting is a good way to get plants established quickly. If your plants already have flowers when you buy them from the nursery, remove the flowers before planting.
3. Cut out extra side shoots for good air circulation.
Cut young plants back to a few main shoots early in the season to open up the plant and promote good air circulation. This method of pruning limits disease and increases the amount of sunlight reaching the inside of the plant. Since fungal diseases thrive in wet, humid conditions, pruning additional side shoots – especially those that form very low on the plant – provides good ventilation and allows the foliage to dry quickly after a rain.
Stripping peppers plants in the middle of the season
The main goals of pruning bell pepper plants in the summer are:
– Protection from pests
– to limit diseases
– to prevent the plants from becoming too leafy
The three main types of mid-season pruning of bell pepper plants:
1. pruning plants to control pests means removing the lowest leaves.
Cut off the lowest leaves to keep them away from soil-dwelling pests. Slugs and other pests find bell pepper leaves delicious. Use sharp scissors to cut off all the lowest leaves on your plants until the lowest 6 to 8 inches of the stem are leafless.
2. Stripe peppers to prevent disease and limit their spread.
Cut off any damaged leaves to prevent the spread of disease and remove any leaves that come in contact with the soil to prevent soil-borne diseases. Fungal diseases spread quickly from leaf to leaf. Pruning plants weekly to remove yellowed, spotted, or rotted leaves will go a long way toward containing fungal diseases that are common in peppers.
3. Cut off shoots to promote good plant form.
Remove shoots from large-fruited varieties to promote good plant form. Large-fruited peppers have a natural Y-shaped growth habit. We recommend cutting off any offshoots that threaten this natural shape (offshoots are small shoots that grow from the nodes where the leaves meet the stems). Allowing offshoots to grow creates a very top-heavy plant that puts a lot of energy into growing leaves and stems instead of focusing on fruiting. However, for peppers with smaller fruit that have a bushier habit, DO NOT remove offshoots and side shoots . For these varieties, the more shoots you have, the more fruit you can harvest.
Methods of pruning in the late season
The main goals of pruning at the end of the season are:
– to “color” the peppers more quickly
– To bring the fruit to maturity before the frost arrives.
There are two main methods for pruning bell pepper plants near the end of the season:
1. cutting off the excess leaves to allow sunlight to reach the developing fruit.
By pruning the plants, removing any leaves or branches that hang directly over the fruit, the plants receive maximum sunlight at the end of the season and mature faster. While you can eat all peppers when they are still green, many varieties are said to get a lighter color that better attracts mammals and birds that eat and spread the seeds. They also often taste better when they have reached their full color. Many (but not all) varieties of red, orange, yellow, and even purple peppers must remain on the plants for a long time before they develop their rich colors. Other varieties show their bright coloring when the fruits are still immature. If you are growing a variety that needs to “get color,” cutting off overhanging leaves will speed up this process.
2. pruning plants ensures that they ripen faster and reach their full size and color.
To cap bell pepper plants, cut off all shoot tips about 3 to 4 weeks before the first expected frost. This will force any remaining plants to mature and develop their full color. Use pruning shears to cut off the top 3 to 6 inches of all branches and side shoots. Also remove all flowers and immature fruits that will definitely not ripen before frost. This way, the plant will be forced to put its energy into the ripening process. This is the easiest way to get the fruit to color before frost.
A few more tips for pricking out
- Make sure your loppers are clean. Because disease can spread through equipment, spray your pruners with a spray disinfectant or soak them in a 10% bleach solution before use.
- Always cut on a dry day. Fungal spores like to enter plants through cut wounds. They also love moisture.
- Always throw diseased foliage in the trash, not the compost.
- Always wear gloves when pruning if you are a smoker. Peppers are susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus, which can easily get into pruning wounds from a smoker’s hands. Plants infected with this virus must be eradicated.