QUESTION: When is it too late to prune pepper plants? I don’t want to end up harming the plant and making my pepper harvest worse than it already is. – Bettina V
ANSWER: To determine when you’ve missed the window to prune your pepper plants, you must first determine the estimated date of your first frost of the year.
Once you know the date, count back four weeks and know this is your deadline for pruning peppers.
The reason being, is it would be a waste of your time pruning them less than a month from frost. When you’re considering pruning your pepper plants later in the year, the purpose is to salvage any fruit left on the plant prior to frost.
You do this by removing any flowers and smaller fruit which won’t ripen in time before the frost. This is important as it encourages the plant to direct all of its energy into the fruit left that does have time to ripen.
Pruning should also consist of removing any foliage that blocks the sunlight from reaching the fruit that you’re trying to ripen faster.
Over the course of approximately four weeks, the fruit should ripen in just enough time to remove from the plant before being nipped by frost.
After the fruit has ripened, you may allow the plant to remain outdoors and be killed by the frost. This is typical if you’re growing peppers as annuals.
However, should you want a jumpstart on the growing season next year, you may choose to overwinter your pepper plants.
If you choose this second option, dig the plant up, plant it in a container, and bring it inside. Rinse the pepper plant to remove any pests and store it in a cool location such as a garage or basement.
During its time indoors, the pepper plant should only be watered when the soil is almost completely dried out.
You’ll also notice the leaves will shrivel and fall off the plant. This is a sign the pepper plant is entering dormancy.
When this occurs, you may prune your pepper plant one final time only leaving the original stem and a few shorter shoots branching from the stem.
These are the appropriate times to prune a pepper plant later in the season. Late pruning is mainly about salvaging the last fruits of your plants while growing outdoors.
However, a final indoor pruning (over the winter months) can help your pepper plants survive the colder portion of the year and allow you to enjoy peppers earlier the next growing season.