a fruiting pepper plant on a table indoors

Are pepper plants perennial? Overwintering your chilis

Pepper plants are fascinating plants that are known for their ability to produce a wide range of flavors and heat levels. Many gardeners are curious whether pepper plants are perennials or annuals.

Are pepper plants perennials or annuals?

Pepper plants are tender perennials; however, in areas where winter temperatures drop below freezing, pepper plants are typically grown as annuals. However, in warmer regions such as USDA hardiness Zone 9 and above, they may go dormant during the fall and come back to life in the spring. For those who live in colder climates, it is possible to overwinter pepper plants indoors. Overwintering is a great way to keep your plants alive year-round, especially if you live where temperatures are too cold to survive outside.

Overwintering pepper plants indoors can be challenging, but it is possible with the proper techniques. You will need to keep the plant in a cool (but not cold), well-lit area and ensure it receives enough water and nutrients. With proper care, pepper plants can survive for many years, even up to five or more in warm climates.

So, pepper plants grow back every year?

While they have the potential to grow back every year, they will not survive in most climates during the winter months, especially in places that experience frost.

Are pepper plants frost hardy?

Pepper plants are not able to tolerate frost and are not considered frost-hardy. The plant will deteriorate as the temperature drops below freezing and eventually die off. Even in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, peppers will typically not produce fruit or grow. Therefore, it is essential to take measures to protect the plants from cold weather, 

How many years can a pepper plant live?

If you live in a warm climate or know how to overwinter peppers properly, your pepper plant could live for five years or even longer. In fact, some people have reported that their pepper plants have lived for up to 8 or 10 years. However, it’s important to note that overwintering peppers can be difficult, especially in cooler climates, and success is not always guaranteed. So, while it’s possible to keep your pepper plant alive and thriving for multiple years, it’s important to have realistic expectations and take proper care of the plant to increase its chances of survival.

Can you grow peppers indoors?

Growing peppers indoors is possible, but it requires specific conditions to be successful. Growing peppers indoors requires plenty of grow lights and temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit all winter. Without sufficient light and heat, the plants are unlikely to produce fruit.

It’s important to note that bringing peppers indoors from outdoors and trying to continue growing them can cause issues with pests. Therefore, allowing the plant to go dormant in the winter and regrow in the spring is more common. This approach requires less effort and maintenance.

Reasons to overwinter your peppers

Overwintering your pepper plants has a lot of benefits that can make your gardening experience easier and more successful. Here are a few benefits of overwintering pepper plants:

  • You don’t need to start from seed every year. This saves time and effort in the long run and may save money on seeds, seed-starting soil, and heat mats. 
  • After the initial period of preparation, overwintering requires minimal effort. This means that you can spend more time on other aspects of gardening or other activities.
  • You can get an early start on the new season. Pepper plants that have been overwintered have an established root system, so they will produce new fruit more quickly than new seedlings. This can be especially important if you live in a shorter growing season area or want to maximize your pepper harvest.
  • Overwintering your pepper plants can help them become hardier in their more mature years. This can result in healthier plants with more abundant yields. 

Downsides to overwintering peppers:

Overwintering peppers can be a rewarding experience, but there are some downsides to consider before deciding to do it.

  • Dealing with pests such as fungus gnats and aphids is one of the most common problems with overwintering peppers. These pests can be challenging to control and may require regular attention. 
  • Overwintering plants take up space in your home or greenhouse, which can be challenging if you have limited space. 
  • Even with proper care, your pepper plants may still die, leaving you disappointed after all the effort you put into overwintering them.

It’s essential to weigh these potential downsides against the benefits and your circumstances.

When to start overwintering peppers

When it comes to overwintering peppers, timing is crucial. To ensure that the remaining fruit has enough time to finish maturing, it’s best to leave the plants as long as possible before starting the process. However, it’s time to start overwintering once temperatures begin dipping into the mid-40s at night. Waiting too long can cause damage or even kill the pepper plants. Keep in mind that the exact timing may vary depending on your specific climate and the hardiness of your pepper plants. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and start the overwintering process a little earlier rather than later. 

How to prepare your peppers to overwinter indoors

There are several steps you must complete to overwinter your peppers successfully. 

  • Prune back the pepper plants, removing all leaves, fruit, and branches down to the last few nodes or the Y.
  • Remove the plant from the soil and remove all of the soil from the roots by spraying them off with a hose.
  • Trim back the roots slightly if the roots are too wild. You don’t want them to tangle.
  • You may want to dunk the roots in diluted neem oil or an insecticidal sope solution to reduce the chance of bringing pests indoors.
  • Start with a clean container, about 1-2 gallons.
  • Use fresh potting soil. Reusing soil creates a high risk of pest contamination. Moisten the soil before repotting.
  • Repot your peppers and gently compress the soil.

Factors to consider when overwintering

You need to get the conditions just right to overwinter peppers successfully. Here are a few factors you should consider:

Do you need to water your dormant pepper plant?

You do not need to water dormant pepper plants nearly as much as growing plants, but you will still need to water them about once every 2-3 weeks. It’s important to let the top of the soil dry out before watering again, so you can check whether it’s time to water by touching the soil to see if it feels dry. You can also gauge how much water is in the soil by picking it up and seeing how heavy it is. It will be significantly heavier when the soil is saturated.

Do dormant pepper plants need light?

During dormancy, pepper plants need significantly less light than in the growth phase. However, you should still give them some light to ensure their survival. One way to achieve this is by storing your pepper plants near a window where they can receive some natural light. Alternatively, you can use grow lights for a few hours daily to supplement the natural light or provide them with artificial light entirely. Generally, three to six hours of exposure to grow lights daily is enough.

Pest management

Pests can wreak havoc on your plants but don’t worry; there are ways to manage them effectively. One of the best strategies is to prevent infestations from occurring in the first place. This means ensuring that your soil is insect-free before potting your plants and treating them with insecticide as a preventative measure. It’s also important to check your plants for pests daily, especially if you notice any signs of infestation. If you find pests, isolate the affected plant immediately to prevent the infestation from spreading to other plants.

If you need to use a pest control method, neem oil is a great safe option for plants and humans. You can spray it on the plants to control pests or use sticky traps to kill gnats. Another effective method is to use a 5:1 dilution of water to peroxide and soak the soil. However, avoid spraying the peroxide directly on the leaves or stem, as it may cause damage. 


When overwintering your pepper plants, temperature is a crucial factor to consider. To ensure the survival and health of your pepper plants during the winter, you should aim to maintain temperatures in the range of 55-65°F.

A cool basement, garage, or mudroom are great options for overwintering your plants but finding a space with consistent or controllable temperatures is important. 

Keep a close eye on the temperature, as a drop below the ideal range can be fatal for your pepper plants, and temperatures too warm may kick your plants out of dormancy.


Overwintering pepper plants do not require fertilizer since they are not actively growing.

Instead, you can focus on providing your pepper plants with high-quality potting soil that contains sufficient nutrients. This soil will provide your plants with the necessary nutrients to survive the dormant period.

When selecting soil for your pepper plants, make sure to choose a high-quality product that’s designed for indoor use. This will ensure that your plants receive the right balance of nutrients to stay healthy and thrive during the winter months.

How to wake up dormant pepper plants 

When you’re ready to bring your dormant pepper plants back to life, there are a few steps you need to take to wake them up. First, you’ll want to move your plants to an area with temperatures around 70 degrees F. This will help to stimulate growth and bring your plants out of dormancy.

In addition to providing optimal temperature conditions, you should slightly increase watering frequency to help your plants recover from their dormant state. Be sure not to overwater, as this can cause root rot and damage your plants.

Lighting is also an essential factor in waking up dormant pepper plants. Increase lighting to at least 8 hours daily to encourage growth and development. You can accomplish this with grow lights or by placing your plants in a bright, sunny area.

Once your plants come out of dormancy and show new growth, you can go back to watering and fertilizing them regularly.

How to tell if your pepper plant is dormant or dead

It can be challenging to tell if your pepper plant is dormant or dead, as both may appear similar at first glance. However, you can do a few things to determine the state of your plant.

After you’ve increased the temperature and light, your plant can still take a few weeks to grow. During this time, check your plants for signs of new growth every few days. Dormant plants often show new growth within this time frame, while dead plants do not.

Another way to check the health of your plant is to scratch a portion of the bottom stem. If you see green tissue, then the plant is still alive and dormant. However, your plant is likely dead if the stem is black or brown.

Lastly, you can also check the roots of your pepper plant to determine its health. Healthy roots should be firm and white, while dead roots may be mushy, shriveled, or moldy.

Do you need to harden off overwintered peppers?

If you overwintered your pepper plants indoors and plan to move them back outside for the growing season, hardening them off properly is vital to ensure their survival. You’ve come too far to kill your plants now!

Wait until after the last chance of frost when temperatures are at least 50 degrees overnight before beginning the hardening-off process. Remember, temperatures below 50 degrees can damage your plants. 

Harden off your overwintered pepper plants over about a week, gradually exposing them to longer periods of sunlight and outdoor conditions each day. This will allow your plants to acclimate to their new environment and prevent any damage from sunburn or other stress factors.

After hardening off your pepper plants, repot them back into larger containers (5 gallons or larger) or plant them directly into the ground. This will give them plenty of space to grow and thrive throughout the growing season.

Overwintering pepper plants is a great way to ensure that you can enjoy fresh peppers year after year. Following the proper overwintering steps, including providing the right temperature, light, and moisture, you can successfully keep your plants healthy and dormant during the winter months. With proper care and attention, your overwintered pepper plants can come back to life in the spring, providing you with an even more bountiful harvest.

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