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overwintering peppers

16 years ago

hey again,

This is my second year of seriously growing peppers, and I have some really nice plants this year that I want to bring inside and try to winter over. They are in 15 to 20 gallons planters, and yes they will take up my whole office:) but I transplanted them last week after they outgrew their five gallon pots. They are putting out new leaves and doing well, is there any special fertalizers or treatment they may need over the winter, and do I have to harden them off all over in the spring? I am saving over, paprika leutschauer, Malagueta,tabasco, cherry, and chinese giant red bell. Is it worth all the trouble, or should I just replace with new plants in the spring? How long have you kept pepper plants alive?

Thanks Lisa

Comments (88)

  • 14 years ago

    it seams like if you cut them back that far it would be like starting over. How do they come back from that better than if you would just plant a seed. i thought overwintering meant to keep a big plant going through the winter not just a stem. i was planing on keeping a few peppers through the winter now i dont know if i want to keep the hole plant or cut it back in this way.

  • 14 years ago

    Here's my version of "over wintering". It's growin'

    This was early tis year Mar 19th. This plant was almost 2 ft.

  • 14 years ago

    A strong advantage to overwintering is that you are sure what the plant will produce next season.

    With seed, even commercial seed, one is never sure.

  • 14 years ago

    I did a quick search and didn't see any time frame to start overwintering. I guess if someone kept it pruned back to minimize the space it takes up, it could be kept for a long time? I have a habanero plant I would like to keep, but it's gettin eaten alive outside. The ones in containers are all doing well, but still have green fruit. I hope if I can keep it over winter it will allow more time to let the peppers ripen next year. So long story short. Is it too early to trim it back and keep it inside till next year?

  • 13 years ago

    Hi. I am new to this so I hope i'm doing it right.
    I live in Corfu Greece. I accidentally overwintered a Jalapino plant last year and was surprised to see it bear fruit this year. I got the seeds from Canada(from there originally) we do not have a variety of hot pepper seeds here. So i was pleased that I got a few more peppers for seeding. After reading this forum I am going to try overwintering my Habaneros as well. I just left it in the garden in its pot. We do not have harsh winters but we get a lot of rain. So do I need to repot before winter and do i cut them back now or in spring??? I could use any advice you can give me. thanks

  • 13 years ago

    Hello everyone, I am thinking about over-wintering my fish pepper. I had some questions:

    1) Should I leave the plant outside until there's almost a chance it could be killed by frost? Would it be better to take it inside earlier (first frost around here in mid Nov. and last frost is April 20)?

    2) It is in a pot with some fairly good potting soil right now. Should I just let it say there and keep it in the same pot for the year 2 growing season, or do I need to transfer it? Would it be better to transfer before I bring it inside, or before I set it outside next spring?

    3) Pruning: does anyone have any opinion on whether pruning down to a stump, or leaving branches is better? My plant is pretty healthy now, but I think it is kind of leggy- all the branches are tall and thin, and it only started setting fruit near the top of the plant. If I want it to have shorter bushier growth is trimming it down probably best?


  • 13 years ago


    1) Don't wait too long. It's better to bring the plant in healthy than having to nurse it back to health.

    2) Because I dig my peppers out of the ground, I must clean the roots and provide new soil. I would
    do so, regardless, to help avoid pests harbored in the soil and to ensure excellent drainage.

    3) Trim it down, yes! Not only will this create a stronger plant, capable of supporting more fruit
    in the future, but it is also more practical over the winter (when space is limited indoors). Peppers can
    be pruned dramatically - down to zero foliage - and they will back-bud prolifically.

    I prune and dig right around November. I might dig earlier this year to give the plants
    some time in their new containers with the last warmth of Autumn. I begin lightly fertilizing
    about two weeks after re-potting.


  • 13 years ago

    I was wondering if someone can explain how root pruning works? Do you just prune the fine root hairs so the plant doesn't become rootbound in the pot? Do you think it is necessary for a plant already in the pot?

    Thanks again!

  • 13 years ago

    Plantslayer, I have been wondering the same. Josh (Greenman) has given me tons of info on the matter but I'm still not sure about the roots. All I remember reading is prune the roots to fit the new, smaller container.
    Its funny, I find myself anxiously awaiting the cold of November. I'm actually more excited about bonsai chile plants than growing for fruit. I'm pretty sure that's your fault too Josh. Lol.
    Every hot pepper plant I have is capsicum annuum. I have read that they don't do well over winter. Is this true?

  • 13 years ago

    Wonderful to hear!

    I prune roots for three main reasons:
    1) To revitalize the roots - new roots are healthier/more efficient.
    2) To remove any damaged, woody, or congested roots that might harbor pests/pathogens.
    3) To fit neatly into a smaller container.

    Even after root-work, the roots will occupy a greater volume of the mix in the smaller container.
    Watering and fertilizing will deliver nutrients directly to the root-zone, rather than sitting in an
    excessive amount of potting soil. This means that oxygen will return to the soil sooner, and it reduces
    the issues associated with over-watering. Lastly, the smaller container is easier to keep warm,
    which is conducive to root-growth and upper plant functions.

    I've overwintered my Hungarian pepper twice, and it is a Capsicum annuum.
    I think you'll have good luck.


  • 13 years ago

    Do you have any good resources on how to do the root pruning and re-planting? do you have to be sure to get the dirt/potting medium mixed in well with the roots?

  • 13 years ago

    Those I did awhile back

  • 13 years ago

    There you go.
    John provides a perfect example of bare-rooting, trimming, and rinsing.
    Yes, work the new mix into the roots completely, so that there are no air pockets.

    Here's a before and after from a Thai chile last year:


  • 13 years ago

    Well, here goes!
    I remember reading somewhere (probably this thread) to take them in while they are healthy. The temps have dropped below 45 over the past few nights so I've decided to start with the hot cherry plants. There are 3 of them. I completely pruned one of them down to an 8" stump and transfered it into a 3Q pot. I used orchid bark, plenty of perlite, a small amount of potting soil & pearl stone.
    The other two have the same soil mixture but I have left a small amount
    of foliage. My question is , should I prune the other two plants down to the stump or will they be ok with minimal foliage? I plan on leaving them outside for another two weeks or so. The temps reach almost 80 during
    the day. Next weekend I'll be getting the Hungarians ready. I'm basically experimenting with the cherries. I know thy less foliage is best for energy conservation. They just look nicer with a little foliage. Any thoughts?

    these plants by far were the biggest in my garden. It's funny to see them shrunken down to a quarter their original size

  • 13 years ago

    these are from the final harvest. I had issues with undersized fruit all summer but this last month produced some perfect hot cherries!

  • 13 years ago

    now that you've re-potted, you'll want to give your plants a few days recuperation in a protected location.
    Basically, keep them out of full sun until their roots are back "online." When you see new leaflets forming,
    move the plants back into the sun.

    Great looking trunk on the completely defoliated plant!


  • 13 years ago

    Thank you Josh!
    So should they all be pruned in a similar fashion? My wife insisted that I leave a little foliage on the other two plants. She doesn't understand why I'm keeping "sticks" (her words) in the house, lol. I will finish pruning the other plants today and keep them protected indoors as you said Josh. How about watering? I know that once they are permanently indoors, watering is cut back immensely, but what about the next few days or so? Thanx for all the help! Great thread!

  • 13 years ago

    Just wait until these "sticks" are covered in Aphids...
    Then your wife *really* won't understand why you're keeping them in the house! ;)

    I'd keep them outdoors, under a table or near an object that will cast shade.
    Feel free to leave some of the foliage on those plants. By the end of the winter,
    you'll have pruned and re-grown so many branches and leaves that it won't matter.

    If the temperatures are over 80°F, water every other day - if under, every 2 - 3 days.
    The best method is to lift the container, and water if it is feeling light.

    In a week and a half, give your plants a half-strength dose of fertilizer.


  • 13 years ago

    Lol, wait a minute! Why will I get aphids? I pruned and hosed off the plants. I see no signs of insects now. How would I get them if the plants remain indoors from here on out? Especially considering the fact that they (plants) were born in containers, on a roof, in the concrete jungle of south Philly! Lol, I hope I don't get aphids. I don't want to have to spray my plants down with white oil.

  • 13 years ago

    Great thread, I too am going to dig up and pot many thriving (shishito) pepper plants for overwintering, I invested in a 600w HPS lamp and digital ballast for a swanky closet setup with lensed hood, pandafilm reflector on closet walls, and exhaust fan into duct to cool the lamp, my question is: if no sign of aphids now why would I bare-root otherwise stable root systems when potting? Isn't less disturbance to the root system better than bare rooting? Of course if I am wrong and aphids spring up once inside due to lack of spiders and other aphid predators, I will banish the pepper pots to the garage with 2,000 lady bugs for a week before bringing them in the house :)

  • 13 years ago

    Hey, Robert, your set-up sounds good.
    The main reason that I replace the soil is to improve drainage during the winter months.
    Garden soil is fine in the garden, but it is much too fine and water-retentive for indoor containers.
    Even a well-made container soil will have begun to degrade by the end of the growing season.

    When you prune old roots, they are replaced by new juvenile roots. These roots are more
    efficient at water and nutrient delivery, which really helps to keep your plant vital. By
    pruning the roots and the foliage, you can keep the majority of your plants' tissues
    in an active, youthful state.


  • 13 years ago

    Josh thanks for the quick and helpful reply, makes sense. With respect to indoor pepper container mix that is not too fine or too water retentive, I will use ProMix HP left over from my tomato containers which is sphagnum peat moss and perlite based, is that ok? And water just enough. btw the 600w HPS lamp and digital ballast set-up I recommend if one has the budget and the desire for a winter crop, the trickiest part is the reflector exhaust duct connected to a 170 cfm fan to keep the lamp cool and the peppers at 75-80 degrees.... helps to warm my house come winter :)

  • 13 years ago

    I'd prefer an even faster draining mix, but I've been insulted by growers at this Forum
    for being too critical of peat moss mixes. So, to avoid being insulted again, I'll say that
    there are some who are successful with that mix, and I wish you much luck.

    I cannot in good conscience recommend it, however.


  • 13 years ago

    Here is a pic of a Serrano, Carribean Red and Hot Cherry Pepper from left to right.


    I pruned these way down and then dug em out of the ground and trimmed up the roots a little. I used a mixture of some potting soils and pine mulch for the soil. I did this about two weeks ago and as you can see all the plants are showing new growth. I plan on prepping 4 more plants of other pepper varieties very soon. Ill have all of these plants in southwestern facing windows in my apt. as these windows get the best sunlight.

  • 13 years ago

    Peat moss sucks, it really, really sucks!

  • 13 years ago

    I got my pepper plants trimmed up and inside, in small pots, for the winter. I was wondering about 2 things...

    1) They are in a window, but it does not get a lot of direct sunlight. Does it need a lot of sunlight right now, or will it be alright, assuming I just want it to stay alive for the winter months?

    2) It is in a rather small pot right now; if I leave it here and transplant it out later on, will it be OK? Can it get rootbound or something and be permanently stunted?

  • 13 years ago

    1. I'm sure it will be fine. You will probably have to harden it off a little in the Spring, but, nothing to worry about.

    2. I use the pots that are roughly 1 gallon. I didn't notice any negative side affects. I guess it depends on how small 'rather small' is.

  • 13 years ago

    Tsheets covered it.
    1. A window is sufficient to keep a pepper plant alive through the winter.

    2. I also use pots that are approximately 1 gallon. They're labeled .7 gallons.

    Smaller containers are easier to move, easier to keep warm, and easier to water (and drain).


  • 13 years ago

    Trimming roots is about moving them to smaller containers for easier storage inside. There is absolutely nothing about trimming roots that *helps* to overwinter a pepper plant, unless of course you have an infestation of bugs that eat roots and trimming and rinsing gets rid of them.

    On the contrary, the developed root system is what makes them bounce back so well in the spring. Cutting back the roots just forces them to expend more energy regrowing roots.
    To the person who was thinking it somehow overcomes plants being root bound that is backwards thinking, root bound means the plant is trying to create more roots for better water and mineral absorption but can't because of pot size limitations. Trimming back the roots makes that issue worse for the plant, not better. More roots are always better unless there is disease or pests in them.

  • 13 years ago

    Trimming older, lignified roots actually causes the roots to branch and produce juvenile root-hairs,
    which are far more efficient at uptaking nutrients and moisture. There is absolutely nothing
    "backward" about this practice - quite the contrary.


  • 13 years ago

    I overwintered a batch of potted peppers this year without special preparation. They were in a lattice shed covered with 6 mil translucent plastic sheet that sometimes got down to 40. They were against a south-facing window that let a little direct sunlight through. I did NOT trim them back.

    Confession: I didn't always keep them watered. (In the shed, that is; they were pampered in the yard.)

    Two Thai pepper (the ones with small, erect fruit) shrubs initially put out their best fruit of the year, then about the time of their first drought shriveled up and died. No great loss - they were largely ornamental.

    A cowhorn planted with chives in a hanging sphagnum pot died, undoubtedly due to lack of water since that pot can dry out almost overnight. (The chives were dormant and are okay).

    Two more cowhorns were in the ground and got dug up. They died. To be fair the plants were not doing well anyway - at autopsy they had few roots beyond the original 3" pot. I guess they really didn't like the soil mix (about half native Georgia whatever it is here, and half commercial garden soil).

    Of four cowhorns crowded into one pot, one died; the others are doing well. (Again, this isn't a great loss: I got far more cowhorns than I could use.)

    A yellow bell pepper died rather quickly. It had set only two peppers all year that grew no bigger than 1 1/2". It was in commercial potting soil but did not seem happy when it went into the shed and did not have as many roots as I would have expected. Hard to say what stressed / killed it. Could be a curse - no one in my family has ever had much luck with bell peppers.

    Two Mammoth Jalapenos dropped some leaves (probably watering, lack of) but are doing fine this year.

    A cayenne really liked what I was doing to it - it sent out a flush of leaves and set fruit. This is a plant that lost all its leaves to a pest last year and still supported fruit. Cayennes are tough!

    Lesson: Overwintering peppers isn't hard, even if you're lazy. But you do have to keep up with the watering.

    (I also overwintered a bunch of herbs along with the peppers, but that's another story.]

  • 12 years ago

    Still have a ways to go in the season here in California, but starting to make some plans to overwinter some hot peppers and found this great thread.

    Since this is my first attempt I figured I'd post up my plans to see if there is anything I should do differently. Currently have 4 hot peppers I am going to attempt to overwinter.

    Plans are:
    1) To dig them up whenever things get too wet or temps drop into the 40s overnight.
    2) Trim roots and wash them (I assume this just means blast of all dirt with a hose)
    3) Repot in 1 gallon pots with fresh potting soil (any soild better than others?)
    4) Leave them outside in the shade for a few days then move back in sun
    5) bring them inside to a windowsill when it gets to cold/wet outside
    6) harden them off in the early spring
    7) replant them in the ground for pepper season 2012

  • 12 years ago

    You have the gist of it...just use a well draining mix such as bonsai soil or moisture control...I wouldn't recommend regular potting soil.

  • 12 years ago

    I think you've got it, but, just for clarity and anyone else who finds this somewhere down the line, you'll also trim the top of the plant, not just the roots (I know...stating the obvious).

    Potting *mix*, possibly with some perlite mixed in (you want quick draining). If the mix is mostly peat (like miracle grow), you'll want to lighten it up or it will have a tendency to be waterlogged at the bottom.

  • 12 years ago

    Speaking of bonsai soil, I'm totally planning on overwintering a couple of my bhuts as bonsai.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Pepper Bonsai

  • 12 years ago

    I'm getting ready to pull my single tabasco plant indoors tonight, though I'd like to put it back outside during the day, at least for awhile. This thread has been a big help in giving me an idea of what to do and what to expect. I don't have a lot of monetary resources to put towards the effort, but there's probably still a chance the little pepper could make it. I won't be able to run any HID lamps and that sort of thing, but I have some cool white fluorescents and an east-facing window.

    Here's a pic of what it looks like today. As of this writing, it's on its second fruiting cycle and has 105 pods in varied stages of development. I thought about picking all the full-size pods off, even though they're green, and use them to make some hot sauce. I figure that will put less strain on the rest of the plant and help it survive the big shift indoors. What do you think?


  • 12 years ago

    Yes, definitely pick all the fruit before bringing winterizing your plant. The plant will need it's energy for the stressful move inside and long winter with less than optimum growing conditions.

  • 12 years ago


  • 12 years ago

    Nicely done!
    If you've never eaten a fresh ripe Tabasco, you should try!
    They're somethin' else ;-)


  • 12 years ago

    Did it again this winter, knowing more and being less lazy about watering. I re-potted none and trimmed only one (see below).

    The two mammoth jalapenos did pretty well.

    The cowhorns are down to one in the pot, as it should have been in the first place, and came back like gangbusters.

    The cayenne was again almost cleaned off by huge caterpillars before the winter, but did well.

    The new cubanelle did okay and is much more productive this year. I can't believe that the small cubanelle puts out such massive peppers!

    My new friend the habanero (love these little jewels!) was also hit by the caterpillars (not so bad). Since a lot of the leaves were already gone I cut it back above the first growing node, about 8" above the soil line. It promptly died.

    Nobody looked great coming out of the shed, but I was generous with the fertilizer this spring and now everybody is happy and fruitful (one of the jalapenos not so much, but I think it will be okay).

    I have added a replacement habanero and a serrano. We'll see how they do. The hab looks like it's on steroids but hasn't bloomed yet.

    Now all I need is more sun!

  • 9 years ago

    I have a 7 yr old jalapeno plant live near denver colo, poor baby looks pretty sad by spring but wy worth it . Had 15 buds on the 7 yr old and 20 on the 2 yr old plants. Light minthly fertilizer good light and keep em above 40. Yeah bugs r a prob but spray soapy wAter pay attention u r good to fo

  • 9 years ago

    How do folks decide when to put them back outside? I am N Cal, sort of central valley. It will be high sixties to seventy during the day, mid forties to fifty at night for the next 10 days, but it is likely to get into the thirties for a few night time hours at some point in Feb.

    This post was edited by nanelle on Sat, Jan 31, 15 at 14:52

  • 9 years ago

    Ease them back outside. Somewhat have to harden them like seedlings. Try to expose outside little at a time then add time. Like an hour first day, see how it does, then 2-3 the next day.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I'm resurrecting this overwintering thread because it seems to have survived the longest.

    Here are two very different scotch bonnets, a Grenada Seasoning, a serrano and an Aji Dulce. They were amazing this year, even after they almost died with a irrigation failure while I was away.

    Here they are with their new haircuts;

    This is a Piquillo than came back from a discarded stump. It was just the right kind of spicy and I LOVED it! I will also save seed.

    Here they are in their interim abodes. I will move them to a garage near a window, and I also have grow lights set up there.

    Six of seven survived last year; two accidently! I am emboldened and going for another year.

    My question is this; some say keep some leaves, some say don't. I wonder if this has anything to do with climate. Mine is hot and dry, and for the first time this year I had so excited fungus problems. I wonder if the overwintered got it started, esecialay the serrano, which remained outside, unprotected, and with leaves and fruit the whole winter.

    I have read a bunch online, and watched some videos, but I had to act, as it will go down to 30 tonight, whjch is VERY unusual around here, especially in November.

    So it might be a bit too late to ask, but any thoughts on the pros and cons of keeping some leaves?

  • PRO
    8 years ago

    I just picked these today off of one habanero plant. This is why I overwinter them.

  • 8 years ago

    Mine (don't boot me out, they are Haba-nadas, heatless habaneros) were ruthlessly pruned by a heavy hail storm, and then moved into gallon pots.

    So far, on a south-facing sun porch that drops into the low 50s at night, they are sprouting a ton of fresh leaves and appear to be thriving.

    And Bitter Apple spray is fending off the cats. They tasted a few leaves and decided they weren't edible enough.

  • 8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Another resurrection! Three of my plants made it through a second winter (as have seedlings from their seeds!), and I'm wondering if I should re-pot or "freshen" the soil.

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago


    1.I would use at max 2 maybe 3 gallon if the plant is under 3 foot tall and wide.coco coir is good for this as it stays moist and allows air in.

    2.The plant will slow down and remain dormant from October into start of january.water so the roots stays moist but not wet the roots still need acess to air co2 and 02.The plant will still need sunlight but only a third as much as in the summer.

    ....For overwintering....

    .Be easy on the roots don't take too much off just the thin ones

    .Clip any thin looking branches, and leave the thickest ones and don't cut them in half or you might lose them

    Keep a few shoots.They will give you a healthy rapid start to next years crop.

    Good luck