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While it’s always exciting to see our pepper plants growing to be big, bush, and beautiful, sometimes they need a little help to support this growth and keep from falling over. This is where support methods come in.
The best way to support your pepper plants is by staking them, putting cages around them, or using twine to keep them upright.
I’ll be going over all of these support methods in detail and explain how you can set them up in your garden. I’ll also talk about how to prune your peppers to help take a bit of the heavy weight off of them.
Why do pepper plants fall over?
There are several different reasons why your pepper plants may be falling over including lack of water, disease, heavy foliage, and even strong winds or weather events.
If you live in a region where the weather is very hot and dry in the summer, then you need to take special care to ensure that your plants have adequate access to water. Checking the soil every day with your fingers is a good way to test water levels.
The soil should never get bone dry. If it does, then water your peppers immediately. Dehydrated plants will quickly die if not perked back up with a good watering.
Common pepper diseases like fusarium rot and root rot will also cause your plants to fall over as the disease spreads. Unfortunately, once a disease has hit your plants, there is not much you can do to save them other than try to keep the disease from spreading.
You can keep diseases from spreading quickly by always using clean garden tools and not letting too much water get on the foliage of your plants. Always water close to the roots.
Something else that can easily bring disease to your peppers is if the fruits are touching the ground. Adding support will help to keep heavy fruits off of the ground and greatly reduce the risk of disease and rot forming on your peppers.
Pruning pepper plants
If your pepper plants start to become heavy from foliage growth, then it’s best to prune them back a bit.
Pruning will help to take some of the weight off of your plants and keep them from leaning. Pruning will also help to promote fruit growth and make your peppers ripen faster.
As you prune, you’re allowing more sunlight to reach parts of the plant that were formally shaded out by bushy foliage. It’s also allowing the plant to put more of its energy towards growing fruit than growing leaves.
The best way to prune your pepper plants is to trim branches around the bottom of the plant. You can trim up to eight inches of foliage off the bottom of your plant if it’s large enough.
For younger, less mature plants, start by only trimming 3 or 4 inches off. If you cut back too much of the foliage when the plant is young, then you may accidentally stunt its growth if not kill it altogether.
The best tools for pruning pepper plants are pruners (hence the name) or even a good sharp pair of scissors.
Mature pepper plants can become woody and it can be difficult to cut through their stems if your tools are not sharp enough.
It’s also important that your tools are clean, as I mentioned earlier, to help prevent the spread of diseases.
How to support your pepper plants
For whatever reason your pepper plants may be falling over, giving them some extra support will help to give them their best shot at life.
The most common method for supporting pepper plants is to stake them. Staking gives your plants a good center of support and will help to hold them upright.
Even if your plants don’t look like they need any extra support right now, it can be better to stake them anyway just in case. Sometimes in gardening, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.
People have lots of different methods and materials that they like to use to stake their plants so you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.
Staking young pepper seedlings
Sometimes pepper seedlings can get a little leggy when they aren’t getting enough sunlight. When seedlings are leggy, their stems can get really tall really quickly but this also leads to them being skinny and weak.
To help support leggy pepper seedlings, you should first start by moving them into more sunlight. Then, you can work on adding some small stakes to them to help give them some extra support.
There are lots of things you can use to stake young seedlings. Cooking skewers, popsicle sticks, and even twigs from your yard.
Place your stake of choice into the soil next to each seedling. Be very careful when putting your stake into the soil as you don’t want to pierce any roots and damage the root system.
Attach the seedling to the stake with either a piece of twine or a velcro clip. Make sure that twine and velcro are not too tight around the plant. As the plant grows, it may start to suffocate from being restricted by tight twine.
Staking mature pepper plants
Staking mature pepper plants is similar to how you would stake young seedlings. Your stake is just going to be bigger.
Most garden stores have different stakes you can purchase. They can be wood, metal, or even bamboo.
You also have the option of making your stakes from stuff you have at home. I always have a large stack of t-posts laying around for various uses in my garden so I usually just use those as stakes for peppers if need be.
If you don’t want something quite that tall, then you can use any extra wood you may have on hand. Just make sure that the wood you’re using is not pressure treated.
Pressure-treated wood is treated with some pretty harsh chemicals that you certainly don’t want in your soil or anywhere near the food that you’re planning to consume.
With mature pepper plants, you also want to pay attention to which way the plant is leaning. If the plant is leaning to the left, you’ll want to put your stake to the right. If the plant is leaning to the right, you’ll want to put your stake to the left.
Once you’ve placed your stake, you can attach the plant to it with either twine or velcro as I mentioned earlier. Or, you can use strips of sheets or old t-shirts to tie it to the stake too.
One way that I’ve staked peppers is to put a stake on both sides of the plant and use strips of an old sheet to hold the plant in place between the two stakes.
It was sort of like a mini version of the Florida weave technique, which I’ll go into more detail about later on.
Remember that as your plants continue to grow and get taller, you will need to continue to add twine or velcro or whatever attachment item you’re using to attach the plant up the length of the stake.
Other methods of pepper support
If you’re not a fan of the staking method for whatever reason, there are plenty of other options that you can try to support your peppers instead.
There’s no one right way to care for peppers so it may be best to try a couple of different methods to see which one you like the best for your garden.
The Florida-weave is a method of twining that has become popular in recent years thanks to its simplicity and easy clean-up.
The Florida-weave is a method in which your plants are supported by twine on both sides. This twine is tied to stakes or t-posts at either end of the row and pulled taut to support the weight of growing plants.
This method is most common with tomato plants but can be done on peppers as well. It’s important to note that this method will only work for rows of pepper plants. It will not work for individual peppers grown in containers.
To install a Florida-weave system in your garden, start by putting t-posts or stakes at each end of each row. If you have a lot of plants, then also place extra t-posts in the ground between every 3 plants.
Once you’ve pounded in your t-posts, you want to add your twine. Start at one end of the row and tie the twine to the bottom of the t-post.
Then, lead the twine down one side of all of your plants. As you come to the next t-post, wrap the twine around it twice before continuing down the row.
When you reach the end of the row, wrap the twine around the t-post twice, as you’ve been doing. Then, guide the twine back down the other side of the row.
Once you’ve gotten back to where you started. Cut the twine and tie it off. And there you have your Florida-weave!
Make sure you’re keeping good tension in your twine. If the twine is too loose, it won’t be able to support the weight of the peppers as they grow.
You’ll want to get this system set up while your plants are still young. As the plants grow taller, you will need to keep adding twine up the t-post to support the growing peppers.
Using cages is one of the easiest ways to support your pepper plants. It’s as simple as putting the cage around the plant and never thinking about it again. Well, maybe not that simple, but you get the idea here.
Similar to the stakes, you want to make sure that when you put the cage in the ground, you’re careful not to damage the root system.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How do you know if you’re damaging the root system if you can’t even see them?
Well, pepper roots don’t spread out too far so as long as you do a good job centering the cage around the plant, then you should be good.
It might also be to your benefit to place the cage in the ground before you plant the peppers. That way, you know for sure that you’re not damaging any roots.
Pretty much any garden or hardware store will sell cages. You can choose between round and square cages and either will work fine.
My preference is the square cages that can fold flat because they make for much easier storage than the bulky round ones.
Another support method that you might opt for is the overhead trellising method. This method is great for indoor growing if you have a greenhouse, but it can also be done outside.
Similar to the florida-weave method, you need pepper plants that are growing in a row for this to work.
Start by placing a t-post at either end of your row(s). As with the florida-weave, place an extra t-post every couple of plants if you have an extra long row of peppers.
Once you have your t-posts in the ground, you will need some sturdy wiring to string from the top of your t-posts. 12 or 14-gauge wire is the best for this system.
To attach the wire to the top of your t-posts, you will need some t-post insulators that clip to the top of each post. These insulators give you something to attach the wire to.
Make sure the wire is nice and taut when you string it so that it can support the weight of your peppers.
If you’re doing this in an indoor space, the wire is not necessary as the twine can be tied directly to the above parts of the greenhouse.
Tie a piece of twine to the wire above every single plant. Then, attach this twine to the pepper plants using clips or by simply tying the twine to the plant.
Make sure to attach the twine to the part of the plant that you want to lift off the ground such as heavy branches with fruit.
As I mentioned earlier, make sure the clips or twine are not too tight so you don’t suffocate the plant as it grows.
Do hot peppers need support too?
Hot pepper plants come in lots of different sizes. Support needs will depend on what hot pepper you’re growing.
Smaller pepper varieties like chilis or shishitos can usually hold their own and don’t get large enough to need that much support.
Other hot peppers like jalapenos, habaneros, and poblanos can get quite heavy and may need one of the above-mentioned support systems.
Of course, with any pepper plant, if it looks like it’s struggling to stay upright, then go ahead and stake it. Better to be safe than sorry later on.
By now, you should be ready to set up your support system for your peppers. To recap, here are the methods that we covered:
- Staking- The most common form of support for pepper plants. Plants are attached to a piece of wood with either twine, clips, or old pieces of cloth. Staking makes for easy setup and breakdown.
- Florida-weave- Pepper plants in rows are supported between taut pieces of twine that are attached to t-posts at either end. This is a great method for gardeners growing lots of pepper plants.
- Cages- One of the easiest support systems to set up. It’s as simple as putting a cage around your plants. Take care not to disturb the roots when putting cages in the ground. You can also save your cages to use again in the next season.
- Overhead trellising- A bit more labor intensive to set up but creates a great support system for peppers grown in long rows or for peppers being ground in indoor systems. Overhead trellising consists of plants that are being held up by a piece of twine tied to them from above.
Feel free to get creative with your staking supplies. There are a lot of things you probably have laying around your home that would be great for staking peppers. Give a couple of these methods a try and see which one works the best in your garden.