Peppers are very useful to grow in home gardens because they are available in many varieties including hot and sweet types and they can be used to make many different types of salads, creams, and dishes. This is the reason why many people grow them in their gardens.
Peppers can easily be grown in places with average growing seasons so long as nighttime temperatures don’t regularly go below 60 degrees F and daytime temperatures do not go below 90 degrees F. Most pepper varieties mature between 100 and 120 days.
In this article, I will answer the question “What temperature is too cold for pepper plants?” Then I will share with you tips on how to protect your pepper plants from cold weather and frost.
So What Temperature Is To Cold For Pepper Plants?
According to horticultural experts, the lowest soil temperature most pepper plant varieties can tolerate is 32 degrees F. In other words, if the temperature of the soil where you’ve grown your pepper plants goes below 32 degrees F, your plants will die; you will not harvest anything. So the answer to the question, “What temperature is too cold for pepper plants?” is 32 degrees F.
While 32 degrees F is the lowest soil temperature most pepper plant species can tolerate, the best temperature for growing pepper plants is between 60 and 90 degrees F. This is because it is within this temperature range that most pepper plant varieties thrive. Temperatures below 60 degrees F slow down growth.
Now that you know what temperature is too cold for your pepper plants, it is time to know how to protect them from cold weather and frost.
How to Protect Pepper Plants From Cold Weather and Frost
It is a fact that pepper plants cannot tolerate extremely cold weather. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect them from cold temperatures and from freezing to death. Below are my favorite ones:
Overwintering is a popular strategy used to protect pepper plants from cold weather and frost. By definition, overwintering is simply the protection of plants from frost by bringing them indoors. It is usually done about two weeks before the first frost.
To overwinter your pepper plants, you should prune them extensively (remove all pods and leave only a few leaves), dig them up carefully (avoid damaging the roots), plant them in pots with sterile soil and organic fertilizer, and then transfer them indoors.
Once the pots are indoors, you should transfer them to your basement and water them minimally. If you do this, the plants will become dormant. They will not grow anymore. And when it winter is nearly over, you can resurrect them by bringing them out of your basement to an area in your house with more light and resuming watering them like before. Within a few days, they will come back to life and you can take them back outside to continue growing a week or two into spring.
Starting Seeds Indoors
Starting seeds indoors is a great way to protect pepper plants from cold temperatures and from freezing to death in winter. This is because starting seeds indoors protects germinating pepper plants from the cold temperatures of early spring. It also gives them a good head-start and allows them to mature and produce peppers way before winter.
The best time to start pepper plant seeds indoors is about seven weeks to the last frost date. If you do this and then transplant your young pepper plants outdoors about three weeks from the last chance of frost, your pepper plants will have experienced ten good weeks of growth before hitting the ground. And they will only need two or three months more to mature and start producing peppers in plenty. In other words, they will start giving you peppers way before winter and will be near the end of their lifetime by the time it is winter again.
Applying Cold Treatment
Giving your pepper plants the cold treatment is also a good way to protect them from cold temperatures. The idea behind applying the cold treatment to pepper plants is to make them tolerant to cooler temperatures when they are still young and growing.
To apply the cold treatment to your plants, transfer your plants (in pots) to a location with good light but temperature between 50 and 55 degrees F for about a month. This will force them to develop stronger branches, stems, and roots for surviving such weather. While applying the cold treatment will pause/ slow the growth of your pepper plants, it will encourage your plants to tolerate cooler temperatures and to produce more flowers and more peppers.
Please note that this method is only appropriate for those in areas with long growing seasons.
Pinching Off Early Flowers
This is one of the best ways to protect peppers from cold weather. Because in addition to protecting pepper plants from cold weather, it makes them more productive.
When you pinch off early flowers, you encourage your pepper plants to put their energy in strengthening their branches, stems, and roots instead of developing fruits. This makes them stronger and more tolerant to cooler temperatures.
In the long run it also increases their productivity since it makes pepper plants stronger and healthier. However, like the method above, it does not protect pepper plants against freezing temperatures.
Using a Greenhouse
You can protect your pepper plants from cold weather throughout their lifespan by growing them in a greenhouse. You can build a greenhouse yourself, hire a professional to do it for you, or by a pre-made one. There are many different types available for different land sizes. So do not worry if your garden is small.
Greenhouses can help to keep temperatures high during the day and prevent temperatures from getting too low in the night. So they are perfect for protecting pepper plants from cold weather and weather fluctuations during the growing season.
However, you should always remember to close your greenhouse door to trap heat inside. Otherwise, your plants can freeze if it gets too cold at night.
There are some greenhouses you can use to protect plants even during winter.
You can use cloches to protect your plants from cold weather. Cloches are glass or plastic covers that are designed to protect different types of plants from getting too cold. They are the most appropriate low-cost alternative to greenhouses.
Plastic cloches are great because they trap heat and ensure that even when it gets cold at night, the plants that you have covered won’t get too cold. All cloches are designed with small holes for plants to breathe.
Apart from protecting plants from getting too cold, cloches also have the additional benefit of preventing pests from reaching and attacking plants.
And what is even better is that you can make cloches yourself. Check out any of the many tutorials on YouTube for step-by-step instructions.
Using Row Covers
As it gets colder and colder towards the end of the growing season, you can use row covers to cover your big and tall pepper plants to protect them from the cold. Row covers are to tall pepper plants what cloches are to small or young pepper plants.
Row covers can be bought online. Alternatively, you can construct cages around your plants to protect them from cold weather.
Growing Cold-tolerant Pepper Plant Varieties
Different pepper varieties thrive in different growing conditions. If you live in a generally cold area, you should find and grow cold-tolerant pepper varieties such as the Bulgarian Carrot pepper and the Manzano pepper. These peppers tolerate and thrive in cooler temperatures better than most varieties. However, they do not tolerate frost. So when winter comes you will have to protect them in some way.
Growing Fast-Maturing Pepper Plant Varieties
By growing fast-maturing pepper varieties, you will be able to harvest peppers many times before winter arrives.
By now you know most pepper varieties do not tolerate very low temperatures. However, you now also know what to do to protect your peppers from cold weather.
I hope the information I have shared with you has made you more confident about growing peppers or has made you confident about saving your peppers from cold temperatures.