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How to Winter Over Pepper Plants

sectioned yellow pepper and orange pepper image by Vjom from

In temperate zones where the winters drop below freezing, pepper plants are grown outdoors as annuals. But all pepper plants are perennials that can grow and produce for many years. To extend the life of your pepper plant, you must protect it from cold weather. For pepper plants this means evening temperatures that fall below 60 degrees F. In most climate zones, pepper plants will have to be brought indoors while evening temperatures are still in the 60s.

Bring the pepper plant indoors. If the plant is growing in the ground, dig it out of the ground in the evening with enough attached soil so that none of the roots are showing. Then pot it in an appropriately sized plastic pot with drainage holes. If the pot is too big, fill in the gaps with aged compost. Place the potted pepper plant near a sunny window.

Harvest the mature pods by snipping them off with a pair of bypass pruning shears. By continually harvesting pods, you can "trick" some pepper plants into producing pods all winter.

Prune back any dead or diseased plant parts to their point of origin. Some species of pepper plants, despite your best efforts, will go into a dormant stage during winter. Dormant pepper plants will begin to die back. If this happens, prune the pepper plant back to within an inch or two above the soil line.

Water actively growing pepper plants whenever the top third of the soil dries out. Water dormant, cut-back pepper plants only when the soil is almost completely dry, usually once every other week. Water potted plants until you see water dripping out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Check the soil's moisture level frequently by sticking your finger or a wooden dowel into the soil and water regularly.

Place your potted pepper plant near a window. This is enough light for dormant, cut-back pepper plants. Place actively growing pepper plants under a shop light, a fluorescent light fixture with two 4-foot-long 40 watt cool-white fluorescent bulbs. Keep the light fixture roughly 2 inches above the top of the pepper plants. Keep the lights on for 16 hours a day.

Bring your pepper plants back outside when temperatures are once again in the 60s in the evening.


Anecdotal evidence shows that annuum, Chinese, pubescens and frutescens pepper varieties survive the winter more successfully than other species. Yellowing and shedding leaves are a natural reaction to being moved to a new environment. The plant may bounce back once it adjusts to its new environment. If your pepper plant is hardy enough to continue to produce new peppers once moved indoors, maintain your regular fertilization schedule.

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