How to Overwinter Pepper Plants: 5 Tips For Success

How to Overwinter Pepper Plants

If there is a flavorful pepper plant in your garden and you want to keep on enjoying its produce, you should try overwintering it. This will ensure you do not wait for many weeks to enjoy its peppers once winter is over.

If you do not like seed starting pepper plants because it is such a hassle, you should also try overwintering your pepper plants. Doing so will enable you to sidestep the hassle. 

What Is Overwintering?

Overwintering is simply moving plants indoors to protect them from harsh wintry weather and replant them once winter is over. Many gardeners overwinter their vegetables to ensure they continue producing after winter. Those who do not overwinter, have to start afresh once winter is over and wait for weeks to start enjoying their own fresh produce again.

By taking good care of your pepper plants indoors, you will enable them to stay alive and resume life outdoors once the freezing temperatures go away. 

It is easier to overwinter pepper plants you grow in containers than pepper plants you grow in the ground. This is because you will need to dig up the plants you grow in the ground and put them in containers to take them indoors. Therefore, if you plan to regularly overwinter your pepper plants or any other vegetables in your garden, you should grow them in containers

It is not very difficult to overwinter pepper plants. With that said, there are several things you need to take into account to successfully do it. Below, I have explained the most important ones.

N/B: If you reside in a place with an area with a warm climate that does not have terrible winters e.g. Florida, Texas, Nevada, and Southern California, your pepper plants will be just fine outside during winter. It is unnecessary to bring them inside. If you are in an area that does encounter true winters, below is how you can overwinter your pepper plants.

How to Overwinter Your Pepper Plants – 5 Tips

1. Move Your Pepper Plants Indoors

This is probably the most important step. You cannot overwinter pepper plants outside. They will be affected by frost and they will die. So bring them inside before winter starts.

However, before you move your pepper plants inside, remove all the peppers on them including the immature ones. You want the plants to conserve their energy and focus on surviving, not on ripening their fruits.

You should also carefully spray down each of your pepper plants before you move them indoors. This will eliminate pests on them that may make their survival difficult. 

As mentioned in the section above, it is easier to overwinter potted or container-grown plants than garden plants. If your pepper plants are in pots, simply move them indoors. If they are in the garden soil, you have to dig them up carefully.

Make sure you dig them up in such a manner that they come out with most of their roots. If you do this, they will survive in the containers or pots you put them in and they will be able to absorb moisture and nutrients come spring when you replant them again. The roots will enable them to thrive again in the soil in the garden. 

When transplanting your peppers from garden soil into containers, make sure you utilize potting soil. You may think it is better to use garden soil but it is not. Garden soil has plenty of pests.

When you bring it inside, the warmth of your house will reawaken them and enable them to thrive. This is something you don’t want inside your home. So use fresh potting soil.

2. Choose the Right Location

When you move your pepper plants indoors, you should put them either in your basement area or next to a sunny window. The best place probably is in your basement. If your basement is like most basements then it does not receive a lot of light.

So it is cool and dark. If this is so, then the conditions will force your pepper plants to become dormant. As in, they will be alive but just that. They will not be growing or thriving and producing fruit. They will probably look dead but they will not be. If you put your pepper plants in your basement, you will simply need to give them a nice spritz of water every now and then to keep the soil moist. 

If you choose to put your pepper plants next to a sunny window, they will not enter dormancy. However, they will also not produce any peppers until the spring season because of the biting cold outside and the fact that the sun will not be making a regular appearance during the winter months. Since your plants will not be dormant, you will need to water them a bit more since they will be needing more water. 

3. Reduce Watering

If you are an avid gardener or farmer, then you probably enjoy watering your plants than doing anything else. Therefore, when you move your pepper plants inside, you may be tempted to water them frequently since they will be closer to you. However, you should not do it. You should instead cut back on the watering.

Cutting back on the watering will make your pepper plants switch into dormancy/ survival mode. Some of the leaves on them will die and they will look as if they are wilting. This is perfectly normal and it will allow the plants to survive.

However, while cutting back on watering is perfectly okay. It is not okay to reduce watering too much. You should at least water your pepper plants a bit every two to three weeks. Set a reminder so you do not forget to do it. 

4. Maintain Your Dormant or Semi-Dormant Pepper Plants

As mentioned above, when you cut back on the watering, some of the leaves on your pepper plants will die off. This is normal. When the leaves and branches die off, you should not just leave them on your plants. The right thing to do is to trim them.

Removing all dead or injured leaves and branches will reduce the susceptibility of your pepper plants to pests.  When spring comes and you take your plants outside, they will grow new leaves and new branches. And they will produce peppers just like before in double-quick time.

5. Resurrecting Dormant Peppers

About five weeks to spring/ the last frost date, you should start resurrecting your dormant pepper plants. This resurrection is much simpler than the other one you probably know about. You need to simply need to move your pepper plants from your cool and dark basement to a warmer and brighter location in your house.

If you do not want to move them, you can buy several grow lights and place them over your dormant plants. They will give your plants the light and warmth they need to regrow. Once your dormant plants are receiving light and warmth, you should start watering them more. And within a couple of days, you should notice some growth.

You can also resurrect your dormant peppers by re-potting them in a fresh pot with fresh soil and organic fertilizer and watering them a bit more. If you do so and expose them to a bit of life, they will come back to life. And when spring comes, you will simply need to take them outside and within weeks you will be eating or preparing food with fresh peppers from your garden again.

The Final Word

To be frank, you may follow the steps above and your peppers may still not make it. It is not easy to keep plants alive. However, if you do follow my five tips, the chances of your pepper plants dying are very minimal. Moreover, there is no harm in trying. Because as you can see in the post, overwintering plants do not require a lot of effort or energy and costs almost nothing.

So if you want all your flavorful pepper plants to survive winter and resume producing peppers just a few weeks into spring, follow the tips above to overwinter them.  You can also use the tips above to overwinter just about any vegetable you can grow in your garden. If you succeed in overwintering, you can resume enjoying your flavorful peppers much earlier after winter and without spending a lot of time in your garden.