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Your Guide To Overwintering Peppers [6 Simple Steps]

Your Guide To Overwintering Peppers [6 Simple Steps]

Peppers are widely enjoyed as a popular vegetable around the globe.

Some folks even grow them all year in climates that allow for it. Others take their plants inside to wait out the winter and get a jump on the next growing season. 

Below, we’ll take you through the entire process for overwintering peppers.

With just six simple steps, you can keep your favorite varieties around for another year and be harvesting delicious peppers much earlier than your neighbors next season. Let’s get started.

1. Inspect Pepper Plant for Pests & Treat Accordingly

Before you even think about moving your pepper plants into the house for the winter, the very first step is to look them over carefully.

You want to check not only on the general health of the plant but more specifically for signs of pests.

One of the easiest ways to make sure that there are no pests on your pepper plant before you bring it inside is simply to spray it down with water (including the roots).

Typically, the water pressure is enough to remove pests.

That said, any particular pests you find on your plants must be treated accordingly. A plant-friendly pesticide may be in order. Of course, organic options are always best, especially with food crops.

Neem oil (find it here) is often all that’s needed to treat mild pest infestations, but you could also try products containing spinosad, like this one, for more severe problems.

2. Remove Any Remaining Fruit From Plant

The next easy step is to remove the remaining peppers from the plants before you bring them inside. 

This action has a dual purpose: one, it keeps pests from hitching a ride into your home (hidden in/on the fruit), and two, it prevents the fruit from attracting pests into the home once the plant is inside.

Also, if it is cold enough that you are bringing the plants inside, it is safe to say the fruit should have already been picked anyhow.

If nothing else, removing what is left may give you something to dry for seeds (or add to the compost pile).

3. Bring Indoors & Repot If Necessary

Once you’ve removed the remaining fruit, checked for pests, and washed your plant, it’s time to bring it inside. When you have it inside, give it another thorough inspection. 

Has it been in the same pot for a while? Could it be reaching a state of becoming rootbound? Might the soil life be worn down and in need of fertilizer? 

These are the questions to ask yourself as you look over the pepper plants.

If needed, repot the plant in a clean container (one size larger) with fresh potting soil, preferably one with added compost, like this amended, natural blend.

Once your pepper is ready to settle into its new home for the winter, place it in a cool, dry location near a bright window or under fluorescent lighting.

4. Reduce Watering

Inside, over the winter, your pepper plant will be in a dormant-type growth mode. It won’t be flowering, and it won’t be producing peppers. It will simply be staying alive.

So don’t worry if it doesn’t look like it’s growing because technically it isn’t.

That said, once your plant is inside for the winter, you may start reducing the amount of water you provide it. On average, pepper plants need watering just once every 20 to 30 days during the winter.

During the wintertime, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly as it does outside during warmer months.

The plant also needs less water over the winter because it isn’t in a vegetative or productive growth cycle (which requires more water and nutrients).

5. Prune When Leaves and/or Stems Start To Die

It’s perfectly normal that over the winter some stems and leaves will die on your pepper plant. So don’t be alarmed. Rather, have a pair of hand pruners, snippers, or scissors at the ready.

Snip off any dry, brown, and obviously dead parts of the plant as you notice them over the winter. Don’t worry about the loss of plant matter, it will grow back twice as thick the following spring.

6. Prepare Pepper Plants To Go Back Outside in Early Spring

When the tail end of winter is upon you, you may start to prepare your pepper plant(s) for going back outside.

This includes exposing them to larger amounts of direct light and ramping up the amount of water they are receiving.

You may wish to set them in window sills or even take them outside for an hour or two on warmer days for them to receive as much sun as possible.

The more sun they get before moving outside for the year, the less shock they will go through once you place outside for the season.

A well-prepared overwintered pepper plant is a pepper plant that is practically guaranteed to survive and once again become a thriving pepper producer.

Bothered by the fact that your peppers aren’t in peak shape? Don’t feel bad – pepper plant problems are quite common. Discover the top 26 pepper issues (and how to fix them) here.

Common Questions About Overwintering Peppers

Close look at the leaves of several pepper plants being grown indoors.

Will Pepper Plants Come Back After Winter?

Peppers can and do grow back and produce after winter, but only if they are properly cared for. Most of the time, pepper plants aren’t a plant that gardeners consider or treat as a perennial. 

However, when they do and proper actions are taken to protect the plants from the elements, gardeners have great success with getting multiple years worth of production out of pepper plants.

Can I Overwinter Peppers Outside?

It is more than possible to overwinter pepper plants outdoors but only if you live in climate zones 9 or 10. The best course of action is to protect them with a greenhouse or some sort of plastic.

Covering the plants with thick plastic sheets and surrounding them with bales of hay is one successful method.

How Long Can a Pepper Plant Live?

Depending on how you care for your pepper plants, they can live for several more years than you’d imagine.

On average, the plants live just one or two years, but with special care and proper overwintering technique a pepper plant may easily live more than 10 or 15 years.

Can All Types of Peppers Be Overwintered?

Believe it or not, every type of pepper plant can indeed be overwintered.

That said, most gardeners seem to be unaware of this fact, or simply may find it easier to start plants from scratch than to care for them over the winter. 

At any rate, once you realize they can live as long as the family pet, it seems a waste to simply feed them into the compost heap at the end of the year.

Do Pepper Plants Keep Producing in Winter?

Most pepper plants do not keep producing during the winter, but with indoor growing operations and controlled environments, including light cycles, pepper plants can indeed keep producing through the winter.

How Much Cold Can Pepper Plants Tolerate?

Each species of pepper plant has its own preferred temperatures, but most of them can only handle temperatures of approximately 32°F in terms of the cold.

However, once the temperature plunges lower than 55°F their growth begins to slow up and eventually stops altogether. That means you need to keep your peppers as warm as possible.

Advantages of Overwintering Peppers

There are numerous advantages of overwintering peppers.

The first and most obvious is that you will have full-size pepper plants ready to go in the spring, helping you produce more peppers and have a larger harvest. 

Overwintering your pepper plants also saves you time in the spring from fooling around with prepping the earth and waiting for seeds to sprout.

Did you know?… Peppers are extremely easy to grow using hydroponic methods, and the process is not nearly as complex as you might think. Learn the basics here.

A Final Word About Overwintering Peppers

Overwintering peppers isn’t exactly common, but it isn’t all that uncommon these days either.

Whether you have a warm enough greenhouse or you plan to take them inside your home, overwintering takes very little time and effort and in turn saves you additional time and effort in the spring when it’s time to get your pepper crop underway.