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I have a few bell pepper plants out in the garden and they are finally starting to bud. Is it a good idea to prune the older and larger leaves below the buds to encourage larger fruit?

I am growing them in a Topsy Turvey™ and they are doing quite well. The ones I planted in containers seem to be getting their leaves munched on a bit which is why I have been pruning those.

What is the best practice with regards to pruning leaves in peppers or other simple leaf type plants?

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I haven't ever heard of anyone doing that, and don't understand the logic of it, if it does work... pulling off leaves just means you collect less energy. –  Grady Player Jun 27 '12 at 16:53
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As @Grady says, removing leaves could result in more harm than good. Some people prune the tops of tomatoes and peppers to keep them within a certain size. I don't do this with my peppers - they have space, and I just let them grow. More plant = more peppers down the road.

In the case of peppers (and most fruiting plants), removing fruit can enhance growth. This varies - for example removing peaches from a peach tree will result in larger fruit (same resources going in to fewer fruit). Peppers flower and form over a period of time (unlike peaches where a tree's blossom occurs all at the same time) - so the presence of peppers on a plant can inhibit the growth of new flowers and fruit. So I remove peppers when they are ripe enough to eat. Having too many on the plant will reduce flowering and formation of new peppers. Also the longer they are on a plant, the more likely you will risk pest damage (individual daily risk is small, but if they're on the plant twice as long, then they're twice as likely to get damage).

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+1 -- removing leaves just takes away energy. I don't know about peppers, but pruning tomatoes (suckers & tops) means that the plant can put more energy into the fruit instead of building new vine, setting new flowers, etc. Conventional wisdom for tomatoes is to prune the growing tips 30 days before frost so that the remaining fruit can ripen. But removing (healthy / non-diseased) leaves doesn't make any sense at all. –  bstpierre Jun 28 '12 at 16:24
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