How to Pinch Pepper Plants (and why)

How to Pinch Pepper Plants

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Do you know how to pinch pepper plants?  I recently learned how to pinch off the flowers, buds, and first, tiny peppers in order to yield stronger, healthier plants and a greater harvest in the end.

How to Pinch Pepper Plants | Roots & Boots
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How to pinch pepper plants 

It’s pretty simple and requires zero tools.  Just two fingers!

  1. To pinch pepper plants, simply pinch off any flowers, flower buds, or tiny fruits prior to transplanting.
  2. Continue to pinch flowers, buds, and fruits for 2-3 weeks following transplanting into the ground.

I made a quick video to show you how to pinch pepper plants…

Why to pinch pepper plants

Pinching off the fruits and flowers of your young pepper plants allows them to direct energy towards growing strong roots and leaves.  In the end, this leads to a healthier plant and a greater pepper harvest.

Sounds good to me!

This year’s pepper line up

We go through a lot of peppers at my house every year.  One favorite way to eat sweet bell peppers is to slice them, saute in coconut oil, and season with unrefined sea salt.  Recipe here.  We eat them this way at least once every week.

I also cook with peppers: adding them to eggs, carnitas, beef & veggie soup, chili, taco meat, and more.  And of course peppers are an ingredient in my home canned salsa.

We grew lots of peppers last year, but not enough sweet varieties.  Our poblano, jalapeño, and banana pepper supply lasted all year long but we ran out of sweet peppers way too early.  This year I plan to fix that!

I’m growing several old favorites, as well as a few new varieties.  The first five on this list are old favorites, while the rest are new to me this year.  Time will tell which ones make the cut for next year!

  • Poblano
  • Jalapeño
  • Banana
  • Lipstick
  • Orange Bell
  • Aura
  • Glow
  • Jimmy Nardello
  • Ajvarski
  • Doe Hill Golden Bell
  • Sweet Chocolate
  • Highlander
  • Anaheim

More pepper tips

1. Transplanting: Aim to transplant young peppers in the evening, so they’ll have all night to recover before sitting under the hot sun.

2. Sun & space: Once transplanted, peppers like sun, and lots of it.  Make sure they are not shaded by other plants, and try to space them 18-24″ apart.  This is easier said than done, as I know from personal experience.

3. Water: Peppers need adequate water, about 1-2″ per week, but they are also sensitive to over-watering.  If the leaves start to look yellow or wilted, consider letting their soil dry out for a day or two.

4. Harvest: Use a knife or garden snips to harvest peppers, removing each pepper with a bit of stem attached.  Trying to tear off the peppers will only damage the plant.  Just like with tomatoes, you can harvest red and orange peppers as soon as they begin to blush.  They will finish ripening on your kitchen counter, allowing the pepper plant to focus on producing more peppers.

5. Rotation: As with most vegetables, it’s best to rotate your pepper crops from year to year.  In other words, you’ll want to avoid planting peppers this year where last year’s peppers grew.  If possible, try to observe a 3-4 year rotation.  This practice helps to avoid diseases that could trouble your pepper plants.

6. Deseeding: Try this speedy method for deseeding your ripe, harvested peppers: The Easiest Way to Deseed a Pepper.

Do you grow peppers?  Which varieties are your favorites?  Have you ever pinched your pepper plants?

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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Kendra Schultz on 06/04/2020 at 2:03 am

    Thanks Kathleen…I’m going to try this pepper pinching!

    • Kathleen on 06/04/2020 at 5:00 pm

      Sure thing! Let me know how it goes…

  2. Jollity Hardy on 07/03/2021 at 9:41 am

    Hi I am perplexed over sweet pepper pinching out as I find contradictory advice. Some guides say encourage side shoots, some say get rid of them. Is this a matter of timing and different action at different times? I was going to pinch out like tomatoes, then I read that the flowers come out of the leaf forks next to the stem?! Really would appreciate some clarity please.

    • Kathleen Henderson on 07/12/2021 at 1:56 pm

      Hi Jollity, I simply pinch the early flowers & fruit to allow the plant to become better established with a strong root system before putting on fruit. I’m in zone 7a and this still leaves plenty of time for a large pepper harvest. I wouldn’t worry too much about side shoots–I don’t remove any branches, only flowers and fruit, and only at the very beginning. Either way, you’re sure to get peppers!

  3. Jeanne on 05/16/2023 at 2:00 am

    Hi! How long should I continue pinching the buds off once I plant them in a permanent location such as in ground and/or container?

    Also, I used Espoma bio tone starter when transplanting the peppers in the container. I think it says it’s good for about a month until switching to a different fertilizer, but I’m wondering if I should continue using liquid fish fertilizer every 7-10 days like I have been doing ever since they were tiny seedlings?

    • Kathleen Henderson on 05/16/2023 at 3:32 pm

      I usually do one good pinch of all my plants, and then let them bud after that. About the fertilizer–I actually never use fertilizer on any of my plants, sorry!

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