Red, green and yellow bell peppers.
image by KT Ng/sxc.hu
Pruning bell peppers is a gardening technique that few home gardeners utilize. There are two schools of thought of pepper pruning. The first is early season pruning, which is rarely recommended for home gardeners. This produces fewer peppers but the ones the plant does produce are often of higher quality. Late season pruning makes more sense in the home garden, especially in areas with a short growing season. This speeds up the ripening process as the plant concentrates its energies on the peppers still on the plant instead of on stems that are no longer producing.
Wait until the plant is 1 foot tall before pruning. Prune the plant during this stage of growth up until the first fruit sets.
Cut off the smallest branches on the plant where they emerge from the central or main stems.
Trim of the suckers. These grow from where two branches meet in a Y shape and are generally weaker and less able to set fruit compared to the main stems.
Late Season Pruning
Harvest all the ripe fruit three weeks before the first frost. Leave fruit on the plant that is not yet fully ripe, even if it is close.
Trim off all the bare stems from the pepper plant where they emerge from the central stem. Use sharp pruning shears when trimming.
Cut off all the flower buds from the pepper plant. These won't have a chance to set fruit and ripen before frost sets in.
Remove all the small fruits that have just set but won't ripen before frost if there are a lot of near-ripe fruit already on the plant. Otherwise, leave these in place in case frost is delayed this year for the chance of more peppers.