It’s a common misconception that Jalapeno plants and other peppers are annual, which means they only grow for one year. The fact is that chili plants can survive for five, ten or even fifteen years, provided you take care of them when winter approaches. This means you don’t have to throw away your old plants and start new pepper seeds each year. When you perform certain precautions and understand how to support your chillies as they go into hibernation, you successfully “winterize”, or “overwinter”, pepper plants to make sure they keep producing lots of chillies during the next growing season.
When to Overwinter Peppers
Peppers do not have a tolerance for frost, and they can suffer when they are regularly exposed to temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The first thing you should do is figure out when the cold weather is coming to your area. Check weather reports to find out when temperatures are going to dip below 50 degrees for more than a few days, or buy a farmer’s almanac to get historical weather information for your location.
Perform the Winterizing Process
Ideally, you want to move your chili plants indoors during the colder months. This protects peppers from frost and keeps them safe from outdoor elements, such as rain and snow, that can kill the plant. Before you bring the chillies inside, you want to make sure you don’t take in any bugs as well.
First, use a pair of clean shears to cut off all of the leaves and any immature peppers until bare. This allows your chile plants to save their precious energy for next spring. If pepper buds form during the winter months, pinch them off.
Next, change out the soil in your pepper pots to replenish the mix and get rid of any insects in the soil. If your Jalapenos are in the ground, carefully dig them up and plant them in large 5-gallon pots. Water each pot well.
Continue to debug each plant before you place them indoors. Spray an insecticidal soap over all parts of each plant, including the top of the soil, until each part is drenched. After five minutes, spray your chile plants with water to wash them off. Move your pots to an isolated area, such as a patio, and check on your plants the next day to make sure you don’t see any bugs. If you do see them, repeat the insecticidal soap process. After a couple of days of no bug activity, you can bring your plants indoors.
Where to Keep Your Indoor Peppers
Winterized chile plants like a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and they require a light source to survive during the winter. Garages, basements and spare rooms are an ideal location for your plants. Keep in mind that bugs can still appear, so put your chillies in a spot that is the least intrusive to your home. If the room does not have a bright window, you can position grow lights or fluorescent bulbs above the plants.
Watering and Fertilizing Your Winterized Chillies
Your hibernating pepper plants don’t need as much water as when they are actively growing in the outdoors. You can hydrate your plants once a month or when the soil mix dries out. Fertilizer is not necessary during this time, but if you choose to feed your plants, use 1/2 the dose you normally use when your plants are outside.
Dealing with Insects on Indoor Plants
Bugs, such as aphids, can sometimes show up on your indoor chillies, despite all of the precautions you’ve taken. If they make an appearance, place your pepper pots in a shower and let the water run over them for a few minutes. This should dislodge them and wash them away. If the insects keep appearing, release ladybugs on your plants.
Placing Pepper Plants Back Outside
When temperatures consistently go back up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you can move them outside again. This is generally during the months of March or April, but check the weather reports for your area to be sure.
Once your chili plants are outdoors again, they will grow back their leaves and develop new flowers.