Pruning Tomato and Pepper Plants

This may sound like a strange concept if you’ve never done it, but pruning tomato and pepper plants in the next few weeks as they grow lots of new foliage will help prevent problems later in the season.

Let in More Light

One reason to prune is to let more light reach the inner branches of the plants where the tomatoes and peppers are developing. Those large branches that don’t have any blossoms on them are just taking up nutrients that could be used for developing blossoms and fruit. It the plants get too overgrown, the ripening fruit doesn’t get enough light.

Air Circulation

With too many leaves and non-blossoming branches, the air cannot move freely through the plant. Good air flow helps prevent mold and disease from getting a hold on your plants. You also want the developing fruit to be exposed to sun, and they can’t get enough if they are hiding behind lots of green leaves.


Rainwater can’t penetrate through dense leaves and just runs off without getting down to the roots.  With pruning, rainwater and water from the hose gets to the base of the plants. If you are watering with a hose, the best way is to place the nozzle below the leaves and only water the ground around the stem. Splashing water and dirt onto the leaves is inviting disease to visit your plants. Likewise, watering the leaves from the top is not the best way to keep your plants healthy.

What to Prune

So, what to prune.  Start pruning from the bottom up and remove all branches and leaves for about 6 inches up the stem for smaller pepper plants and about 10-12 inches for large heirloom and indeterminate (they never stop growing) tomatoes and larger peppers. In the middle and top sections, cut away any wild branches that cross over others or that grow too far away from the plant. Select branches that don’t have blossoms on them. If your plants outgrow the supports and you don’t want them flopping over the cages, you can cut them back. The plant will then start developing more blossoms lower on the plant.

Hope your harvest is very plentiful!