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Over Wintering Chillies – New Growth

Well for quite a while now my chilli plants that i am over wintering have been looking increasingly dead.After trimming them back in December,  the plants have been looking so dormant i thought they were dead. First of all the stems took on a hallow look then the stems themselves started to turn black in colour which is never a good sign.

Over Wintering Chilli Plants

Despite appearing dead I have kept the plants inside and tried to keep them on a sunny windowsill as much as possible. Something that I haven’t perhaps done enough is move them away from the windowsill when the night time temperatures have been really low. As a result the cold drafts and low temperatures may have taken their toll on some of the plants.

However, I’m pleased to report that at the weekend one of the plants (an orange habanero) started to show signs of life. A couple of fresh shoots of growth have popped out of the dead looking stem.It just goes to show that you need to be patient when over wintering as it had crossed my mind to throw the plants away a couple of weeks ago.

It must be said that this plant had the  least black looking stem of the plants so i suspect it may be the only plant to survive the winter. That said i’ve moved all of the plants to the sunniest window in the house and have even started to draw the curtains for them at night!

Time will tell if any other plants have made it through the winter. If not i’ll have at least one plant with a massive head start for the 2011 chilli growing season.

Have you over wintered any plants? We’d be interested to hear your success/failure stories. Just leave a comment below.

18 comments… add one
  • Sam L July 4, 2011, 4:55 pm

    Hi Chilli King,

    I’ve been overwintering chillies for about 4 years (and still have a couple of plants from the start).

    I’ve tried two techniques and wanted to share the results:

    The heavy pruning method – If you are going to do this, it is important to use pruning wax IMO. The stems will dry (and die) from the cut end and this will move down and potentially kill the whole plant. I saw this happening and used pruning wax to seal the cut and this worked ok and most survived. The only benefit of this method (again IMO) is that you need a lot less space to store them! Due to the shorter stem (and the sealed end) you get smaller branches grow outwards from the cut but you don’t get another main stem (at least I haven’t over the next 2/3 seasons). This limits the size of the plant significantly and while it looks quite cool, you’ll get less chillies.

    The do nothing method – Every year but one, I have done this. Nothing. They will drop most or all leaves and look fairly dead. There will be a few branch tips that will die back slightly. But when the spring arrives, you will start to see tiny leaves growing from all over the old branches, everywhere. Eventually you will have a much much bigger plant with loads of nodes where the flowers grow. I think you can increase the yield of the first year to about 10x.

    Both methods have been done while the plants have lived all year on a sunny window sill at indoor temperature.

    This year I have all of them in a greenhouse and have no room indoors. What do you think the overwintering chances are in an unheated greenhouse (in the UK). Do you think they will survive? I’m concerned.


    • The Chilli King July 4, 2011, 5:25 pm

      Sam L – Thanks for sharing your experiences. An unheated greenhouse in the UK is a bit risky in my opinion. If i were you i’d try and use a night heater if the temps look like they’ll drop low. Maybe insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap? Or keep the plants under a cloche or mini greenhouse, in the greenhouse to help keep them as warm as possible.

      • Sam L July 5, 2011, 9:01 am

        Thanks, I’ll see what I can do when the winter arrives. Don’t fancy running a heater all winter though! That must cost £££!

  • fairy April 4, 2011, 4:58 am

    Hi, i have a chilli plant that produced small red peppers last year, and now it looks dead and brittle. I can pull the whole plant out of the pot with the soil attached to it, since i left it in the garage. The soil is dry. I do not know if its dead or should i water it? Is there anything i can do to revive it or should i wait. But pls let me know if i should water. Pls email the reply. Thanks.
    PS -live on the N. East US

    • The Chilli King April 5, 2011, 2:07 pm

      fairy – it sounds like it may be dead. try watering it and putting it somewhere where it is warm and it gets lots of light. keep it moist and if nothing has happened in say 4 weeks it’s almost certainly past reviving i’m afraid.

  • Pyra Ohms March 27, 2011, 6:17 pm

    I have three plants which seems to survive winter. I live in Sweden so the plants have not had much light during winter. I have thought they were dead at several occations, but i stayed patient. Now the plants are shooting loads of new shoots and looking very good! I have used several trimming techniques, one is not touched at all (and that plant is looking the best, but thats mainly because that plant have had the best spot on in the window during winter), one plant is partially trimmed with only the really dead and dried out branches cut off, and the third plant is cut back like yours. That one is looking good as well though!

    Good luck!

  • Jon February 22, 2011, 11:37 am

    Followed your earlier overwintering article with mixed success – Jalapeno and Cheyenne plants (2 of each) have pretty much died a death, I have 1 jalapeno in a similar state to those on this page which i’m persevering with but not holding out much hope.
    On the plus side, I have 3 orange habeneros which look really healthy so i’m hoping for a good crop from those, most surprising though is a 4th habenero plant which is on a south facing windowsill, its only maybe a foot tall but I havent had to cut it back as its been flowering throughout the winter and has just produced a couple more ripened chillis this week, thats my little star, I reckon its that hard it may be bullying the other plants for being so soft and dying!

    • The Chilli King February 22, 2011, 11:44 am

      Jon – Glad you’ve had some success. Over wintering is a tricky business but don’t give up hope! I still only hae the one plant showing signs of life…

      • Jon July 25, 2011, 9:11 am

        An update on the above, now down to 3 habanero plants but the over-wintering of these has been a massive success. I had to re-pot them all from last years pots to bigger ones and they are now looking extremely healthy and producing plenty of chillis, I think we counted about 30+ on the one that we just left over winter – most surprising though is the size of the chillis. Most are about 3 or 4 times the size of what we had last year and we have a couple that are about the size of a golf ball – cant wait for them to ripen!

  • Jungli February 18, 2011, 8:27 pm

    Hi. last year was the 1st time I had grown chilies (Cayenne hot) with great success. I cut them back to a single stem and brought them indoors at the end of october. 3 have lots of new growth, one has had several flowers but only 1 chillie so far. 2 have lots of flower buds unopened so far. The 4th showed a few new shoots but died back, i think i’ve lost this one but haven’t given up hope.

  • Anders February 17, 2011, 11:37 am

    Hi James,
    I’m overwintering 3 chili plants. One is looking quite dead so I have cut that back quite a lot though not really optimistic about that one. The 2nd looks like it’s dying though haven’t cut that back yet but probably should. The third is really thriving and looking healthy still with most of it leaves. This is obviously the one I’m most optimistic about. I addition to that I also germinated some new seedlings late autumn where I have 3 that have germinated succesfully and a re starting to develop into plants. Do you know when it would be safe to put the plants outside? I’m based in London.

    • The Chilli King February 17, 2011, 11:52 am

      Anders – If i were you i’d cut back the 2nd one. THe idea behind cutting them back is to divert all of the plants energy to new growth rather than maintaining the old foliage. Regarding your 3 seedlings i’d say it’s too early to put them outside as nighttime temperatures (and some day temps!) are too low. Try to keep the plants on the sunniest windowsill you have and move them away from the sill at night to avoid cold drafts. You need to get as much light to the seedlings as possible at this time of the year in order to maintain their growth. Good luck!

  • The Chilli King February 17, 2011, 9:35 am

    Joseph – To try and solve the white fly issue you could try growing some chrysanthemums near your chillies. They contain chemicals that the white fly hate. If you want to go down the insecticide route choose something that contains Pyrethrum.

  • Joseph Archibald February 15, 2011, 9:20 am

    Hi James, I never did get around to over-wintering my chilli plants while living in the UK. And there is no need to “over-winter” here in Malaysia.

    What I have found though that with my chilli padi plants that I’ve had here in Malaysia – they get inundated with white fly and thus become fairly unproductive there-after.

    Damn nuisance really – they start of being incredibly productive – the more you pick from the plants, the more the plants reward you with further production. I tried the old soap and water trick to get rid of these nuisance white fly but to no avail.

    Mind you, buying the little really hot chillies here in Malaysia – well, they are dirt cheap in comparison to UK prices. But its still real nice to grow your own.

    Have a great time in Sabah!


    • Dave April 24, 2011, 5:14 pm

      Try Planting marigolds around your chilli plants or even pot them so not to take nutrients away from your chilli’s the same thing as chrysanthenums. white fly hate them. it works on my tomatoes. little tip from my grandfather!

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