Over Wintering Pepper Plants
Saving Pepper Plants Through Winter Dormancy
Most gardeners think of peppers as annuals that are good for one season only. That is not true, they are actually perennials that can keep producing for multiple seasons under the proper conditions. Overwintering them till next year is not all that difficult either.
Over wintered pepper plants give you a head start on the new season and hastens the harvest. You can be picking peppers while new plants are just budding. They will not produce peppers over the winter while dormant. In order for peppers to grow, adequately warm temperatures and light are needed. Over wintering in this case simply means keeping the plants alive in order to produce again next season.
You'll need to select your healthiest plants, and provide them a frost free location. If you live in a warm climate, well goody goody for you. If not, chances are you may want to move them indoors. If you have a greenhouse that's awesome, but unfortunately not everyone is that lucky. A sunny windowsill will have to do in most cases. If you live in one of those in-between places, where winters are not all that harsh, but you still get a dose of light snow and frost you Might want to consider a Cold Frame.
If you have peppers growing in pots it will make it that much easier to transport them to a warm location with minimal risk, primarily root damage. If your like me however, most of your pepper plants are in the ground. Removing them from the ground and potting them, or placing them in a cold frame is a risky but necessary chore.
Needless to say, you should be exercising caution to cause the least amount of damage as possible to the rootball. Once you've successfully and delicately removed the plants from the ground you'll want to re pot them in suitable containers, unless you opt for the cold frame in which case they will be going back into ground. Fresh potting mix should be gently fed in around the rootballs.
Trim the plants back a tad, remove excessive top growth, just don't go crazy, no more than half of top growth should be removed, if the plant grew excessively large after a good season of growth you could conceivably go to 3/4, trim back to where the stems are green. Top growth should not be considered too much of the central woody stem of the plant.
Each cut should be just above a bud and use a sharp implement to avoid unnecessary damage. Also use a clean implement to avoid disease and bacterial transmission. Anticipate the plant to die back a little after you trim it, also anticipate that if you are doing a lot of plants [ a lot being a relative term :>] that some will fail, you just want to minimize losses. Some varieties over-winter better than others. But pepper plants successfully over - winter, you will be assured a bumper crop the following season.
As the plants die back you can prune out dead material to where the stems are still green, once again don't get carried away. As the season progresses leaves will yellow and drop off too, which is, perfectly normal. Otherwise healthy plants, like leaves in the forest should 'spring' into growth once spring arrives.
As the pepper plants enter their dormancy watering should be cut back to a minimum. Just keep the soil mildly moist, never saturated. In the spring you'll want to move the plants outdoors to reacclimate them to the outdoor environment, the same process as hardening off seedlings.