Topping and Bending Pepper Plants

Bend Jalapeno After a Couple of Weeks
Purposefully bent jalapeno, 19 days later, with new growth sites forming

In an effort to produce a more bush-like plant with better yields, some recommend topping or cutting pepper plants. The hope is many new growth sites will be forced to emerge on the leftover stem to produce a sturdier plant with several main branches toward the base of the stem.

Similarly, we've noticed on plants that grew bent on their own, that if we didn't get around to staking them, many times they'd start multiple new growth sites on the bent portion creating a bushy plant.

Our Experience, So far

While the jalapeno is one of our favorite peppers to eat, our plants have typically produced only a modest amount of branching and fruit. All of the jalapeno plant varieties we've tried, thus far, tend to set their first branches around 12 inches and every 4-6 inches thereafter. These plants usually only produce around 10-20 peppers a piece through a growing season. On the other hand, most of the other pepper varieties we grow tend to branch more often resulting in more bush-like plants with better yields.

In an effort to improve yields, we've tried topping and bending our beloved jalapenos a few times without success. The plants do survive, and initially, we see encouraging signs of multiple new branch sites forming along the remaining area. Though, typically only one of these new growth sites progress, resulting in one dominant branch that forks similar to the unbend/uncut plant with the added disadvantage of being about 2 weeks behind the unaltered plants. Based on our observations up to this point, it leaves us wondering if the plants have a built-in growth model that they tend to follow.

More Testing Needed

We've only tried topping and bending a few times – usually in our raised beds which receive less than ideal sunlight. Also, it's possible that when topping the plants, that we did it too soon, usually when our plants were about 10-12 inches high and hadn't fully established their first branches. With a closer review of others who've taken this approach, we've noticed their plants were more mature before topping – around 18 inches and had established their first set of branches with the cut being made just below that first set of branches.

Based on this, we'd like to try topping on potted pepper plants, side-by-side in optimal lighting after the plants have established their first set of branches. Similarly, making the cut just below the first set of branches to leave a single stem. This is typically how we prune our plants when overwintering, with which, we've had good results. So we're hopeful.

Additionally, in our bending tests so far, we've bent relatively immature plants at a severe angle. We may attempt bending again. If so, we'd wait until plants are more mature and bend more moderately, though at this point, we have more interest in topping as it would be a simpler way to accomplish the same thing.

This is a newer topic for us. We'd definitely be interested to hear from others who've had experiences trying these methods.

Additional Resources