I recently pruned my chilli plants after watching some videos on topping.

I was more aggressive on plants where there were signs of new growth further down the stem. In other places, I left some side branches.

After seeing some overwintering videos, how aggressive can I be with pruning in the spring? I'd essentially like to keep the plants, but for some of them, I want to "start over" because I don't like how tall and thin they have become and want to avoid staking.

Pruned chilli plants

2 Answers 2


I'll help with a few suggestions on pruning. First however, you need to know that those leaves FEED your plant. Topping to make a plant thicker is fine but this usually works best with lots of sun. Your plant is struggling to make enough food for itself. It is long and lanky because it is not getting enough light. The leaves get thin and larger to be able to have more surface area with which to do photosynthesis. Do not cut any more leaves from your plant. The leaves make carbohydrates from the energy of the sun, or light. Take leaves away, you are taking away the food making factories of your plant. Not that critical out of doors but indoors in 'deep' shade is a big deal.

Okay, see the 'stubs' where you cut? Cut stubs off all the way to the main stem supplying water and nutrients. When you cut back always chose a bud that will grow outwards and away from the center of your plant.

Otherwise, pruning will not help you much without more light. Trying to grow plants indoors that are meant for flowers or fruit is not going to be successful without adding artificial light. Also, you need to be aware of daylight versus darkness schedules. Pollination needs to be enhanced by you with a paint brush or a way to get pollen to the pistil. Reducing nitrogen relative to phosphorus and potassium is critical to produce more reproductive growth instead of vegetative growth.

I like your landscape btw outside that window. Very inviting. What are you using for fertilizer? Have you had any flowers?

  • Thanks for the reply. Do you mean cut back to the first 'Y'? Or literally to the main stem? Yes, I get flowers. Generally quite a lot, but the number that make it to full fruit are rare. I use blood and bone diluted to slightly less than recommended on the bottle every 2 weeks.
    – Megasaur
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 14:13
  • 1
    For now, cut the stumps off to the stem the stump is attached. The stumps have no leaves. You have lots of growth happening, that is a good thing. Do you want or do you expect to grow peppers? Where do you live? Not only are you lacking light, you are using too much nitrogen. Fast release at that. Blood and bone meal is very high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is higher than the phosphorus/potassium and that balance promotes vegetative growth not reproductive growth or peppers.But you've had lots of flowers? When you get flowers again you will have to manually pollinate..I'll be back...
    – stormy
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 2:04
  • Get a boring fertilizer such as Osmocote 14-14-14. Wait for a good month to apply it, use only half the number of applications. Blood and bone meal are not good for flowering and fruit. As well as not 'balanced'. Pollinating I'll check back after a little research...what kind of pepper is this? More light, less nitrogen. In a month, we should know more and perhaps a tiny bit more pruning depending on the response of your plant. Would a grow light be out of the question? There are lots to chose from and they aren't that expensive anymore.
    – stormy
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 2:13
  • I'm in Sydney. I actually have 3 types in one pot: Bird's Eye, Haberanos, and Carolina Reapers. I'm definitely trying to maximise fruit production. This started as a learning experiment but they seem to be doing well even in cramped quarters. I actually have a couple of spot lights on them already. I don't know if they are the correct colour temp or not though.
    – Megasaur
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 10:06
  • Megasaur you are a gardener! Woo hoo! Tell me the wattage and type of bulb you are using. Are you telling me that this pepper in your picture has had supplemental artificial lighting? From the beginning? Let's check out your lights. This plant is showing it is not getting enough light. You should be able to grow as much as you can stuff into 4X4 space that is lined with white or foil type material, drainage, fans with just one good light. Tell me what you've got, how far above the plant it is set. Let's help you get successful. Peppers are a great choice! You will...
    – stormy
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 21:56

How aggressively probably depends on how strong a root system the plant has. I'm in Brisbane (so subtropical) and I have wanted to remove a number of chilli plants, which I usually do by just chopping the main stem off at soil level. But invariably within a few weeks the plants always sprout new stems and leaves. I haven't yet managed to kill a plant this way, but I am in a very warm climate and the plants in question are usually quite well established (in pots), with plenty of healthy leaves, and stems usually at least 5mm in diameter when they get lopped.

For a less well established plant, such a complete "prune" could be too much. So really it depends a lot on how well the plant is doing.

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