Pruning hot pepper plants helps to ensure a bountiful harvest. When you remove excess leaves or dying appendages, you give the remaining peppers a better chance of thriving because the roots can now give its nutrients and energy to the stronger areas on the vine. By learning how to nurture and care for your plants, you will find that this helps make your chilies larger and your plant healthier.
Prune your hot peppers at the beginning of the season (middle of summer) after the plant is a foot tall and beginning to produce fruit. Do this by gently holding the branch and clipping it off with garden shears. The goal is to follow a zigzag pattern up the main stem and cut every smaller, third branch out so that you can remove one-third of the side shoots. This enables the main branch to get stronger and provides more nutrients to the larger side branches so that they produce larger peppers.
Cut any shoots that look out of place. Pepper stems typically form a "Y" shape and sometimes produce little branches (suckers) between this "Y" that steal some of the vital nutrients away.
Put on gloves and gently cut the ripe peppers off of the plant to ensure that more grow in its place. Ripe peppers are the color that they are supposed to be, according to their species, and you can also refer to the seed packets "days to maturity" as a guide for when to pick. Additionally, hot peppers, such as jalapenos and habaneros, develop stress stripes on their bodies known as "corking", which is an excellent sign that the fruit is ready to pick.
Prune late in the season (before the first frost) and remove any smaller peppers and branches. This allows the remaining energy in the plant to feed any larger peppers so that they can develop to maturity.