I'm trying growing out chilies for the first time (well, first time from seed, last year I bought some and aphids obliterated them after one happy month), and I'm having some mixed success.
The cayenne pepper has been growing much faster than the hotter variants I've planted. The plant looks happy enough, but the stem is quite thin and for a while it needed some support. I've read that lanky growth is sometimes caused by too much fertilizer promoting leaf and vegetative growth too early, so I cut back on that. I can see a sturdier stem with cellulose forming, but as a window plant I would be afraid to take it outside for a few hours on a good day, as I am not sure it would withstand any sort of wind.
It has been started exactly two months ago (28/02/2019), which, in hindsight, considering how much sun the UK-midlands get, might have been a bit too early, but I was very eager (or was I?).
I've been looking at what I can do to thicken the stem and make the plant stronger. I've since removed the supporting stick and the cloth binding it to it (I've seen on this site somebody comparing support to an arm cast - your arm feels weaker when you remove it).
The one technique I've found used, especially on young chilies, aimed at promoting stronger stems and bushier growth, was topping (example with pictures). All the examples I found showed great glorious success. However, all of them were done on somewhat younger plants than mine, suggesting to top just after the first fork appears. However, my cayenne already made a second fork by the time I found out about topping, and it's putting out flower buds (better seen on the close-up below).
My questions are as follows:
- Is it too late to top my chili?
I am leaning towards "not too late" here, and while doing it, I'm also considering trying to clone what I cut off while topping, as suggested in this discussion. (I think it's one of those things which will hurt me more than it will hurt my chili).
As I literally just repotted it, I would first give it 2-3 days (or more if needed, but the previous times it recovered after a day) for the repotting to take, and then top it.
- If I am still on time, where do I top it?
My options here are:
- Top below the red arrow (second picture), or at the thinner red arrow to leave an extra node. This is the ideal height around which I would like it to "bush", and it is below the first fork. But it means cutting quite a lot of things off.
- Top at the purple arrows (on the same picture). This would be topping below the second forks. But it is quite high up the plant, and I am not sure if it would get the stem sturdy enough to allow it to support that height.
- If it is too late, do you have any other suggestions on how to make the stem sturdier?
PS: In my research I've come across this post on chili pruning and topping, but that one is talking about pruning/topping in the spring, on old plants which have overwintered
PPS: (Bonus question) If I do go ahead and top it, I will definitely try to clone the parts I cut off - there is nothing to lose at all since I would be cutting them off anyway. Since they have flower buds on them, should I remove the flower buds from the potential clones, to allow it to route more power to the leaves and developing roots?