Is Pruning Early Flower Buds Off Pepper Plants The Key To A Bountiful Harvest?

Growing peppers would be more fun if you could get a single plant to grow more than just a few peppers. Gardeners who can't get enough peppers are always on the hunt for a way to make their plants more productive. If you've looked for ways to get the most out of your pepper plants, you've likely noticed that many gardeners recommend pruning flowers to produce more peppers. Should you try it? What could go wrong other than getting more peppers, right?

Even though plenty of people suggest removing flowers from pepper plants, there are a few arguments against it. There is very little scientific evidence that supports it, but anecdotal evidence is everywhere, making those who like hard evidence a little wary of pinching pepper plants. Whether you value a scientific report of plants or not, it's good to know if a nifty garden hack you read about online really works.

Why gardeners love to pinch the flowers

It's been said time and time again that pinching the first pepper flowers will help produce more peppers because it helps the plant focus on getting bigger rather than producing fruit. There's definitely some truth to this that shouldn't be ignored. Plants know when to start producing flowers because of their circadian clock, or the internal time clock that even humans have. When a plant detects a temperature change and the days grow longer, it will start to flower.

If you throw off a pepper plant's circadian clock, it will flower early. It may also flower early if it's growing in less-than-ideal conditions. The plant will stop growing larger, direct its attention to the peppers, and will be too small to grow as many as you would like for them to. Pinching off flowers is supposed to prevent this so you can have a sturdy plant with plenty of peppers. You can stop pinching pepper flowers about three weeks after the plant has been repotted or transplanted for the last time. This will have given the plant plenty of time to acclimate to its new location and develop a strong root system.

Reasons you might not want to pinch the pepper plants

Pinching flowers off your pepper plants isn't necessary if your peppers are growing in good conditions. Proper nutrients, sunlight, and water will give you healthy plants that aren't under any kind of stress, meaning they're growing as intended. If a plant is happy, it will flower when it's supposed to, according to its circadian clock. Removing flowers is reported not to make much of a difference if the plant is happy and may end up being a pruning mistake. It really only helps if the plant isn't happy and is trying to get an early start because of it.

One thing to note about flower pinching is that there isn't much said about it in terms of scientific reports. The evidence in favor of this method is almost purely anecdotal. Anecdotal evidence isn't a bad thing unless you're trying to write a scientific paper; it just means that the subject hasn't been properly studied and certainly doesn't mean that the idea should be discounted.

If you like to base your gardening practices on scientific evidence, though, you may want to note that a study on the International Society for Horticultural Science site reported that pinching off flowers didn't make a positive difference. Another study that appeared in the African Journal of Agricultural Research reports that removing flowers didn't make any significant changes, but pruning stems made a higher pepper yield.