Overwintering pepper plants can be a little tricky, but if you own a specialty pepper plant, especially chili peppers, keeping the plants over the winter is a great way to get a jump start on the next growing season and increase the length of your pepper plant's production period. Keep reading to learn how to winter peppers indoors.
As a side note, if you plan on overwintering pepper plants, realize that doing this will keep the plant alive, but they will not produce fruit.
To produce fruit, peppers need higher temperatures and amounts of light than the average house in the United States can provide in the winter. If you want to grow peppers for fruit in the winter, you will need to do so in a greenhouse with supplemental light.
Bring Peppers Inside
The first step to overwinter your pepper plants is to bring them indoors. When you do so, thoroughly spray the plant down. This will help knock off any pests that may be hiding on the leaves. Remove all pepper fruit, mature or immature, from the plant.
The next step is to find a cool, dry location to store the plant. For this step, you need a place that stays around 55°F. An attached garage or a basement is ideal. For pepper winter care, the pepper plant will not need much light, so placing it near a window or a lamp with a fluorescent bulb will be sufficient in these locations.
Cut Back on Watering
Once you have placed the pepper plant in this location, cut back the watering. When you are keeping peppers over the winter, you will find that they need far less water than in the summer–you will only need to water the plant once every three to four weeks. Do not let the soil stay soaked, but also do not let it dry out completely.
Shortly after you place the pepper in a cool location and cut back watering, you will notice the leaves starting to die back. Don't panic, this is normal. The pepper plant is entering dormancy, similar to what happens to trees outdoors.
Once the leaves start to die, you can prune back the pepper plant. Prune the branches of the plant to a few main Y's on the plant, leaving about 1 to 2 in. for the upper part of the Y. This step will remove the dying leaves and make the plant less susceptible to pests. The pepper plant will grow new branches in the spring.
Prepare for Warmer Weather
To finish your pepper winter care, about a month before your last frost date, bring your pepper plant out of the cool location and move it to a brighter, warmer location. You may even want to use a heating pad under the pot to add additional heat. Resume watering, but make sure not to over water the pepper plant. In a week or so, you should see some new growth appear.
That being said, even if you correctly follow all of the steps for how to keep peppers over winter, you may find that your pepper plant does not survive.
When overwintering pepper plants, some varieties will perform better than others. But when this process works, you will be guaranteed a bumper crop of your favorite peppers.