When do I let peppers...pepper?
July 9, 2024 8:14 PM   Subscribe

A lot of people advise taking blossoms off young pepper plants to increase their yeild later. So when do I let my pepper plants grow peppers?

The information I have read says not to let pepper plants produce peppers until the plants are "fully grown" so they can focus energy on growing strong enough to produce more peppers. But how do I know when they are fully grown? Is there a certain height they should be, or a certain number of leaves they should have? Or is this all BS and should I just trust them to know what to do?
I have 4 different kinds of potted pepper plants that I bought at a nursery about a month and half ago. They are not seedlings, but also not very big yet (all are under a foot tall). They've been outdoors and in big pots for the past month. They seem to be doing well. The varieties are:
Bell pepper
Fresno chili
Thai chili
Padron pepper
posted by firemonkey to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
None of these recommendations ever seem to take into account the length of your growing season (or in your case, the amount of growing season that’s left). Here in Denver where we average ~155 frost free days but with semi regular May cold snaps and hail storms, I don’t generally feel like I have the luxury of postponing tomato or pepper fruiting for a few extra weeks. With a little research you can probably look at how many days you have left in the growing season for your own location, and compare that to the days it takes each of your pepper types to go from fruit set to full maturity. (Keep in mind those days will be estimates, and probably based on 8+ hours of direct sun.) If that timeframe puts you reasonably close to your area’s first frost, I would not pinch off any blooms.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:04 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: That's a good point about the growing season. I'm in zone 10a, so we have a lot longer growing season.
posted by firemonkey at 10:05 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

If I buy a seedling that already has a flower or two, I will usually remove that when I plant it. Otherwise, I let the plants do their thing.

My growing season is technically long, but with a hot, dry summer. Tomatoes and peppers stop setting new fruit, and some of the plants die. So I want those early peppers.
posted by mersen at 3:34 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]

Just like mersen, I don't do that. I don't do it with fruit trees either. Correction: I have done it in the past; it does seem like there is a minor increase in fruit. But IMO it's more applicable to professional growers than it is to home gardeners, where growing season and individual conditions are stronger drivers of plant fruiting and overall production than professionals with dozens/hundreds/thousands of plants.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:52 AM on July 10

Best answer: Plants flower when they have the energy and resources to flower, and when environmental factors send them signals telling them that it's the correct time for that phase of their development. If you bought chiles with blossoms from the nursery and conditions weren't right once you plant them in your yard, the blossoms would just drop off or not produce, and that's okay.

Here's what happened in a study with indeterminate tomato plants:

The root, vegetative shoot and fruit growth of November and January sown glasshouse tomato plants grown in flowing water culture was followed over 6–7 months. The relationship between vegetative and reproductive growth was examined after two-thirds of the flowers were removed from half the experimental plants. This resulted in larger plants which had fewer, larger fruits and eventually a fruit yield almost as large as the controls.

So, chiles aren't tomatoes, though they're closely related and have very similar cultural requirements. Removing blossoms in that study resulted in lower yields. If you have a short growing season you also run the risk of plants flowering too late to set a good crop of fruit.

As a horticulturalist, I can tell you that there are a *lot* of gardening myths that circulate regularly online. Double checking information by looking at .edu sites is always helpful: university agriculture departments are often geared toward agricultural production, but you can be certain that the information has been carefully researched. For chiles you can't go wrong with information from the University of New Mexico.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:00 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]

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