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Topping chili pepper plants for higher yield

Chili plant topping Chili plant topping is a technique used to promote plant branching and preventing top heavy plants, that could break because of heavy fruit yield or wind, ultimately leading to a higher yield. The main stem is cut bellow the firt "Y" forming on it. When the tip of the plant is removed, plant will reroute it's growth hormone auxin lower down the stem, making the plant branch out. Most of the hormone is stored at the tip, so it will take couple of days after topping until the plants recovers and you will see new leaves and branches forming. As I found out, not all varieties respond to topping in the same way. Here I'm gonna discuss my results and mistakes.

This year, I've planted 13 different chili pepper varietes. I've kept 2 plants from each, as one plant will stay in a pot on my balcony so I want them as compact as possible. Other one will be transplanted to a greenhouse, so it can get as big as it wants. This was a perfect opportunity to test chili plant topping and compare overall yeild from the plants. I've topped the plants on March 18th 2015. Comparison pictures were taken on April 3rd 2015.


Check out my 2016 Season Summary


Topping Cheiro Roxa (C. Chinense)

Cheiro roxa chili plant topping Topped Cheiro roxa chili plant

Comparing these two plants is little bit difficult, as the topped one was much weaker. There are many new leaves and branches forming.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Cheiro Roxa Chili plant topping

Topping Caramel Bhut Jolokia (C. Chinense)

Caramel Bhut Jolokia chili plant topping

Caramel Bhut Jolokia responed to topping really well.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Caramel Bhut Jolokia Chili plant topping

Topping Aji Rico (C. Baccatum)

Aji Rico chili plant topping

Aji Rico get spindly easily. I've cut it quite high but the results are good. New leaves and branch formed at almost every node.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Aji Rico Chili plant topping

Topping Chocolate Scotch Bonnet (C. Chinense)

 Chocolate Scotch Bonnet chili plant topping

Chocolate Scotch Bonnet, same as other chinenses, responded well again. It took a while, but the plants is branching out nicely.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Chocolate Scotch Bonnet Chili plant topping

Topping Fatalii (C. Chinense)

Fatalii chili plant topping Fatalii chili plant topping

There is plenty of small leaves forming all over the stem.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Topping Fatalii Chili plant

Topping Super Chili (C. Annuum)

Super Chili plant topping Super Chili plant topping

This is a plant that I'm not sure about the results. Annuum plants branch out heavily on their own, and I've also made a mistake of cutting 2 smaller branches above the Y, but below their first node. The plant is nice and bushy, but compare it to the one on the left and draw your own conclusions.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Super Chili plant topping

Topping Aji Habanero (C. Baccatum)

Aji Habanero chili plant topping

Aji Habanero is the spindliest of the spindly. It took it the longest to form new leaves after topping and you can see how big the other plant got meanwhile.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Aji Habanero Chili plant topping

Black Scorpion Tongue (C. Baccatum)

Black Scorpion Tongue Chili plant

I grew this plant the last year and really liked the flavor, but I knew this wasn't a balcony plant (it got 2,5 meter high in the hydroponics). That's why I kept only one plant that's gonna end up in a greenhouse, so I haven't topped it.

Topping Pimenta de Neyde (C. Chinense)

Pimenta de Neyde Chili plant topping

Hard to compare these 2 plants again, as the smaller one had less light on the windowsil and it showed. Nevertheless, it branches out nicely. I clipped the top of it's bigger brother too, as it was already really high and not forming the Y. I also wanted to see the difference between topping half of the plants vs. removing the tip only. You can see the small leaves forming along the stem already.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Pimenta de Neyde Chili plant topping

Topping Bolivian Rainbow (C. Annuum)

Topping Bolivian Rainbow Chili plant Topping Bolivian Rainbow Chili plant stem detail

Another annuum that branches out beautifuly. Unfortunately, only one seed sprouted so no comparison here. Cutting the main stem helped a lot and so far, this is the nicest looking plant.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Topping Bolivian Rainbow Chili plant

Topping Fire Flame (C. Annuum)

Topping Fire Flame Chili plant topping Topping Fire Flame Chili plant topping stem detail

Very nice results here too. Fire Flame is quite prone to nutes overdosing (you can see the leaves curling downwards), that might have affected the growth speed.

Fire Flame Chili plant topping

Topping Fatalii Gourmet Aji Fantasy (C. Baccatum)

Topping Fatalii Gourmet Aji Fantasy Chili plant Topping Fatalii Gourmet Aji Fantasy Chili plant topping stem detail

Another Baccatom that likes to go high, but branches really nicely after topping.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Topping Fatalii Gourmet Aji Fantasy Chili plant Chili plant

Topping Quintisho (C. Baccatum)

Topping Fatalii Gourmet Aji Fantasy Chili plant topping

Another Baccatum that likes to go high, but branches really nicely after topping.

Topped plant, 2 weeks later (April 18th 2015):

Topping Quintisho Chili plant

I'll be updating my progress in the Chili growing post.

Published 03.04.2015 by Peter Pech

  1. Thanks for the pics and progress reports on this technique. Really love the comparisons, too, between different varieties. We have about a month to go before Farmer’s Market and have some plants that are getting too spindly, but I’m new to topping and nervous to try it. Looks like they’ll cover in sufficient time for sale. I’m much more confident about using this to strengthen the stragglers–thanks!

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