The Perennial Pepper
Many people have asked me if it is possible to keep pepper plants through the winter and replant them next season. Pepper plants, both sweet and hot are perennials which means they live for more than 2 years. Your pepper plant can produce for many, many years with a little forethought. You can also keep your pepper plants producing fruit well into the winter months by transplanting them into black plastic nursery containers and bathing them in artificial light when the daytime temperatures do not reach 75 degrees and nighttime temperatures
remain above freezing. So, the answer is yes. Pepper plants will certainly last for many seasons as long as you do not allow them to freeze during the winter months. The best thing to do is to prune them slightly in late Fall when the temperature is well above freezing and when they still have fruit on them. This will also encourage the plant to accelerate the ripening of that fruit.
Transplant From the Garden Into Plastic Containers
Choose a black plastic nursery container that is considerably larger than the root system of your plant. Fill this container with a nice loamy organic soil to about 1/3 full. Next use a sharp shovel and dig around your plant making sure that you do not remove, or disturb any soil around the roots. Carefully insert your plant into the container. Fill in around the sides with a well rotted compost and soil mixture. Water thoroughly. Do this at the end of the day out of the sun!
To Keep Your Pepper Producing
Move your newly transplanted peppers into the new growing area. Say some nice, encouraging words and keep your fingers crossed. The growing area should have at least four 4′ florescent bulbs directly over the plants. Since these lights are not “hot”, they can almost be touching the plants. Use 40W Cool White bulbs. You will need temperature of 65-75 degrees to keep your peppers setting fruit. You will need to feed and water them just as if they were outside and keep the lights on 24/7 in most cases. If you must turn off the lights, do so only for a few hours a day and remember to not let the temperature drop below 55 degrees.
To Keep Your Pepper Plants Through the Winter
Move your newly transplanted peppers into the new growing area. A minimum of two 4′ 40 watt Cool White florescent bulbs will be needed. This should be sufficient for at least 2 plants depending on their size. Once again keep the lights close to the top of the pepper plants. Do not fertilize the plants and water only when necessary. Do not over water as this could harm the plants. This is their dormant season, do not encourage them to grow.
Caution-Inspect Pepper Plants Before Bringing Them Inside
Before you transplant your pepper plants, make sure that they are healthy. Inspect for any diseased leaves, and cut them off if necessary. Wash the plants a week before you transplant them to rid them of any pests. Spray an organic mixture of crushed peppers, neem oil and a few drops of soap (I use Dr. Bronners) on the plants. This will rid the plants of any remaining pests and discourage any new ones from hanging around.
When you prune your pepper plants, do not get too aggressive. Just thin any unhealthy areas and leave the rest alone. Cutting back peppers too far can damage the plants and in some cases kill them.
After all danger of frosts have passed, put your big, beautiful pepper plants back into the garden. Your plants will start to set fruit before you know it!
QUESTIONS??? Please email me.