Chili plants may need support in some cases. Usually, chili pepper plants are robust, but there are situations where using stakes or cages can be necessary.
Using support is a must when the hot peppers produce heavy fruits, are top-heavy, or have bad airflow between the branches. Also, when the plants are in an outdoor environment where adverse weather can occur, it may be recommended to support the branches, so they do not get damaged.
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I have been growing different types of chilies for many years. My writings serve as my notes while I'm researching chili growing.
Below, I will answer more in-depth why your chilies may need support and what kinds of support can be used.
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Why support your chili pepper plants?
Chili pepper plants are usually vigorous plants, and many will not need any support. For example, small bushy varieties like many Capsicum Annuum varieties do not need staking as their stems can provide enough support.
However, there are several cases where the plants are not strong enough and where the weather can damage the plants. In these cases, some support is needed to help the chili plants.
Large heavy fruit
Some varieties produce large chili fruit that will likely weigh down the branches. These branches may break off or touch the ground. For example, in the case of the bell pepper variety, the fruits are relatively large and heavy and will likely weigh down the branches.
It is recommended that you prevent branches and fruit from reaching the ground as many pathogens in the soil can infect the plant. Therefore, it is essential to produce support to keep the plant upright and ensure that the branches and fruit do not touch the ground.
Thus, it is vital to support all pepper plants that bear heavy fruit.
Furthermore, some chili plants may need help to keep them upright when they become top-heavy. The latter will happen especially as most fruits, new branches, and leaves form primarily at the top of the chili plant. By supporting the plants, you can therefore prevent them from falling over.
Your chilies will also grow top-heavy if they grow taller than usual. When they grow taller than expected, they will have greater fruit production. The more fruits there are, the more the branches will weigh down.
This can happen to the well-known ghost and habanero pepper plants. These hot pepper plants grow pretty tall and wide and may need staking to prevent them from becoming top-heavy and falling over.
When your chili plants grow outdoors, the weather can also negatively influence their well-being. Branches can break due to thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, and strong winds. Adverse weather can thus also have a destructive impact on an unsupported plant.
They will become more resilient against winds and heavy rainfall by supporting the outdoors plants with stakes or cages. This is especially important outdoors as it is usually impossible to move your plants to a sheltered spot. Of course, if you have plants in pots, you could temporarily move them to a shelter.
Bad airflow between branches
As there is increased growth of leaves on the stem of the chilies and when the branches weigh down, the airflow between the stem and the branches will be reduced. So, by keeping the plant upright and supporting the branches, there will be a better airflow between the branches and leaves.
What to use for supporting your chilies?
There are many possible ways of supporting chili peppers. Here I will present some of the most common ones. No one method of support can be singled out as being the best. It depends on the situation and your personal preferences.
Skewers are excellent to use for supporting your hot peppers while they are still small and growing in a small pot.
The good thing is that skewers do not damage the roots of your chilies when you press them down into the soil. The skewers do not disturb the roots because they are very thin and have pointed ends, and therefore are easy to slide into the ground.
Once the chili plant has reached a certain height, these skewers will no longer be of use. The skewers can only support small plants. For larger plants, you will need stakes or other structures that can deal with the size of the plant.
Sturdy garden stake
To support a larger chili plant, you can use one or more garden stakes of wood, bamboo, metal, or any other sturdy material.
You can find purpose-built stakes at a garden center, but you can also use any piece of material that serves the same function.
For example, if you have large stems from a bamboo plant or some really straight branches, these can also be used as a sturdy stake. Just make sure that these stakes have the strength to support your chili plants. When using improvised stakes like wooden stakes, you can try to sharpen the ends such that you can slide them into the soil without much resistance.
Try to look for stakes roughly 60cm - 90cm in length and not too thick. Thick stakes may damage the roots of your plant when pressing them down into the soil. Put the stake at least 15 cm down into the soil at 5cm - 7.5cm from the base of your plant.
The stems of your chili plants can be tied to the stakes using velcro, zip ties, or a soft rope. Make sure that the string is loose enough such that it does not cut into the stem or branches. If the rope is too tight, scarring may occur, and the plant can become infected.
In addition, if the tethering is too tight, this may hinder the growth of the stem or branches. Always leave some room to allow the plant to grow.
If your pepper plant is leaning to the left or right, it is recommended to place the stake on the opposite side. The idea is to use the stake to pull the stem in the opposite direction. Stakes are more suited for pulling the plant than pushing it.
It is recommended to put the stake(s) in the soil as early as possible, for example, when starting the plant, such that you won't damage the roots. If you add the stakes, later on, the roots may be disturbed, which can influence the plant's health.
You can place a tomato or similar vegetable cage around your peppers. These circular structures are ideal for supporting hanging branches and large pepper pods. Although designed for tomato plants, tomato cages are thus very useful for supporting pepper varieties that carry heavy fruits or branch out a lot.
A wire tomato cage is reusable and has a good height for supporting pepper plants. They will be particularly helpful in supporting the plant during heavy wind and rain.
When you are using a cage, there is no need to tether the stem or branches. This can save you a lot of time.
It is possible to buy tomato or vegetable cages in a garden center, but you can also construct your own. The easiest way to build a cage is to use chicken wire.
Using cages for your chilies may come with some disadvantages. It may be more challenging to water your plants, fertilize them and harvest the chili fruits. The reason for these disadvantages is that the cages can limit access to some parts of the plants.