How to Overwinter Peppersby Nannette Richford
Many gardeners grow peppers (Capsicum spp.) as annual vegetables in their summer gardens and simply let them die off when cold weather strikes. The truth is many peppers are tender perennials that will live for years under the right growing conditions. Pepper plants prefer fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny location. While some varieties thrive all year in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 12, they cannot tolerate cold temperature and must be overwintered inside in other areas of the United States.
Items you will need
- 5-gallon bucket
- Potting media
- Pruning shears
- Water-soluble fertilizer, 24-8-16
Dig up your pepper plants in the fall several weeks before the first expected frost in the fall. Keep as much of the root ball intact as possible to reduce stress to the plant.
Fill a large container, such as a 5-gallon bucket with drainage, halfway with fresh potting media. Place the pepper plant into the container and fill in around the roots with fresh soil, positioning the plant to its original planting depth. Press down the soil with your hands to firmly secure the pepper plant.
Prune away 1/3 to 1/2 of the plant. Cutting the leaves back to a Y in the branch, leaving six to eight of these Y's produces the healthiest and fullest pepper plants, according to Pepper Joe's, a seed company specializing in peppers.
Place your pepper plants in an area that receives full sun. Although they may not produce peppers during the winter, the plants still need sunlight to grow.
Water the pepper plants once a week to moisten the soil, but do not allow them to set in soggy soil. Watering needs varies, depending on the conditions in your home and the soil. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch.
Fertilize your pepper plants with 1 to 2 cups of water-soluble fertilizer designed for vegetables, such as 24-8-16 mixed to a ratio of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water, and do so every 7 to 14 days, if you desire to keep the pepper plant as an attractive houseplant. If you simply want to overwinter the plant for replanting in your garden in the spring, fertilize once in midwinter says Pepper Joe's.
- Some varieties of peppers drop leaves and enter dormancy during the winter, but they still require enough water to keep them from drying up completely.
- Some varieties of peppers thrive inside the home and may even produce peppers all year.
- Replant the pepper plants in the garden in the spring when all danger of frost has passed. Pepper plants that have been overwintered inside typically produce more peppers than their first year's yield.
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