Looking for a jump start on next year’s harvest? Then knowing how to overwinter pepper plants is all-important.
Learning how to grow peppers and lovingly care for them during the winter months is really not that tricky and will reward you with strong, early growth and a healthy harvest. Often grown as annuals in temperate climes, these plants are perennials in their native Latin America and actually perform more successfully in their second year. Thanks to their well-established root system, they will happily send additional branches, more leaves, and larger fruit, so are well worth taking care of. Plus, these colorful vegetables will be a welcome addition to your winter garden ideas, so do think about the best pepper companion plants when planning a vegetable garden.
When thinking about the best winter plants for pots and borders, peppers might not be first on your list, but if do have these abundant plants in your garden, then learning how to overwinter them is certainly worth the effort and attention when planning a winter garden.
As tender exotics, chili and other bell peppers flourish outdoors when temperatures are consistently above 50℉ (10℃), but dip below that and they will begin to lose leaves and enter dormancy. If temperatures dive below 35℉ (1.6℃) the plants will die altogether, so take precautions and follow these expert tips to see these culinary favorites safely through to spring.
How to overwinter pepper plants
Whether you have just one cherished plant or a carefully curated collection of peppers, it is only worth overwintering the strongest and healthiest plants. Many plants towards the end of the growing season suffer from aphid attacks so check thoroughly before bringing them inside and spray with water and even an insecticidal soap to help keep them at bay.
Deciding on what action is needed, to see them through the colder months depends on your local climate and how you have been growing them.
How to overwinter potted pepper plants inside
‘For potted pepper plants, simply bringing them inside and placing them near an unobstructed south-facing window is all that needs to be done,’ says Bob Z author of the blog, Chile Peppers.com. ‘Keep them in a sunny window and allow the soil's top layer to dry out slightly between watering. Plant pots should have good drainage – drip trays/tubs are needed to catch water run-off. As mentioned, it's normal for overwintered pepper plants to drop a lot of leaves when first brought indoors.’
Once outside temperatures climb consistently above 55℉ (12.7℃) and there is no chance of frost, potted plants can be returned outside.
How to lift and overwinter pepper plants
Growing pepper and chili plants in a border will ensure they get all the moisture and nutrients they need and give roots a growth-boosting free run too, but when temperatures begin to dip and there’s the first whiff of frost you will need to protect them and bring them inside.
‘Pepper plants in the garden can be dug up and placed into an appropriate-sized pot,’ explains Bob. Remove as much of the existing soil as possible, check the roots for any pesky aphids and remove if found before repotting in fresh, free-draining compost.
Mark McMullan, author of Thechileman blog says, ‘Dormant plants should be cut right back leaving only a small stump just a few inches above the soil line. Leaving dying vegetation encourages pests like whiteflies and also disease. Even after the most severe pruning, dormant plants will sprout new vigorous growth when the warmer spring weather returns, assuming of course they have made it through the winter.’
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Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English
Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Gardeningetc.com. Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her
everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.
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