Topping Pepper Plants | Quick Tips On How to Top Your Plants

The theory behind topping is fairly simple:  When the apical bud, or primary growing point (tip), of a stem or branch is removed it will stimulate new growth at each bud site along the remaining stem. So in more practical terms what does this mean for us?

Peppers naturally want to grow up towards the sun, concentrating most of their growth on the main stem, leaving you with a tall skinny plant.  If we were to cut our main stem above a bud site this natural growth would cease.  Now, instead all of that growth will be redirected back down along the remaining stem leading to a thicker stem, and new lateral stem growth from the bud sites along the stem.

three days after topping
three days after topping

Bottom line with a pepper plant, topping will give you a shorter, bushier plant.  Under some circumstances, especially when growing under artificial light it can even lead to higher plant productivity.

So sounds like everything is perfect and everyone should top everything all the time then right? Well not so fast, Since by definition we are removing large portions of the plant this will slow down things quite a bit.  If you live in an area with a short growing season, or if you happen to be growing a variety that grows slowly like some peppers are known to do, you might have to think hard about topping your plants.

Some plants are naturally bushy already and don't really need to be topped.  Also not every plant is created equal and if your growing multiple plants you might try one or two at a time first to gauge how your plants react.

When can you top your plants?

Pepper plants should not be topped until they have at least three sets of real leaves. Outside of that there really is no rules.  If your plant has at least three sets of real leaves and is healthy it is probably safe to top.


Along any stem you will have leaf nodes.  When pruning the stem you will want to leave at least 1 set of leaf nodes.  Cut the stem at a 45 degree angle (use something sharp: cut don't crush) at least a cm above one of these leaf nodes.

After topping you may want to leave it out of direct sunlight for a day or so, but that's it.  Let it recover and don't over stress it for a few weeks, and before you know it you wont even notice that you cut off half your plant.