Overwintering Peppers: Extending Your Plant’s Life

Ed Wike
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What Temperature Is Too Cold For Pepper Plants?

There are many varieties of pepper plants that can survive and do well in colder climates. However, you may live in an area where the temperature dips below freezing during the winter season and you need to protect your plants from the cold weather. If this is the case, it’s important to know how low the temperature can drop before you lose your pepper plants.

With that said, there are a couple of things that you can do to prevent losing your pepper plants during the winter season … and they begin with protecting your growing area from cold air infiltration. A lot of homes are built with basements or crawl spaces that are located below the ground level, and these areas are prime spots to find frost during the winter season. By opening up any vents or louvers that you may have, you will allow the cold outside air to flow from the vents and into the crawl space or basement. Once the cold air is mixed with the warm air inside your home, the temperature will drop and eventually start to freeze. The plants will be the first thing to be affected and, since peppers are a tropical fruit, they will react adversely to cold temperatures.

Overwintering Pepper Plants Indoors

Once your pepper plants have ripened their fruit, it’s a good idea to bring them inside before the first freeze. Here are a few reasons why.

Bringing your peppers indoors for the winter enables you to continue to harvest peppers off the plant. Did you know that you can harvest peppers up until the first frost?! They will be less flavorful, of course, but they will be much cheaper in the store. By bringing your peppers inside, you can continue eating fresh, homegrown peppers long after the season ends.

You can also freeze peppers for later use. This is a great way to preserve the flavor of your peppers. If you have a bounty of peppers and don’t want to store them for the winter, then consider canning them.

If you are one of the lucky few with a greenhouse or other space that can allow a pepper plant to be outside over the winter, then by all means, continue to do so. However, if you live in a cooler climate, and you are looking for ways to extend your growing season, bringing your pepper plants indoors can help you prolong your growing season and keep harvesting those peppers.

Overwintering Pepper Plants Outdoors

One of the easiest ways to overwinter peppers is to use large containers. For best results, grow them in containers that are at least 2 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide. You will have more success if you plant chili pepper seeds in these large pots because taller plants are more likely to beat the cold weather.

You can also plant chili pepper plants to grow vertically. Although you can train peppers to grow into a bush, pruning the plants regularly can help them develop a straight, tall growth pattern. Plant the seedling in the center of the pot with its stem positioned just above the dirt surface. Prune out some lower leaves. Make a space to allow air flow just below the seedling so that mold and mildew won’t have a chance to grow.

If you prefer to plant directly into the soil, keep the soil moist. However, avoid watering the foliage when the temperatures get below 50 F.

As the temperature dips, protect these plants from the cold air with a frost blanket or light straw. Move the pot indoors if the weather gets really frigid. A cellar room with temperature between 40-50F is ideal for keeping your plants alive.

When the temperatures improve after winter, continue to keep Chili pepper plants indoors instead of reintroducing them to your garden, until you are pretty sure that the soil has warmed up enough. Generally, this is not less than two weeks before the last frost date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many gardeners are facing the cold months thinking how to preserve their prized plants. Main questions are “What is the most effective way to do it?” or “How long it can be done successfully?”. In those cases many amateurs have no idea where to start and how to do it, so we’ve decided to try and help with some tips and tactics for overwintering peppers!

There is a big myth concerning overwintering plants, that there is a way to keep them alive through the winter. The fact is that no matter how well you maintain them, they won’t make it to the next year. But there is a common misunderstanding. Many people think that if you simply keep plants inside and protect them from the cold harsh winter, they will make it through.