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Preparing To Over Winter Chillies

Now that it looks like winter is fast approaching, i thought it was about time i started preparing some of my plants for the winter. As mentioned in our over wintering chillies article most chillies are not annuals as most people think. By taking your chilli plants you can get a massive head start on next season meaning you get many more ripe chillies, much earlier in the season.

I selected nine of my strongest, healthiest looking chilli plants; 3 Chocolate Habanero, 2 Orange Habanero, 1 birds eye, 1 Apache, 1 Bulgarian Carrot and 1 Super Chilli F1. I expect the most benefit to come from the habanero plants as they have taken so long to produce ripe fruit this year.  By having established plants in early spring next year I should hopefully get many more fruit from these slower growing varieties.

The first job was to remove all of the remaining fruit from the plants. Due to the cold weather the plants were barely ripening any more fruit so those harvested that are unripe will have to now ripen off the plant. The ripe chillies will either be eaten in the next couple of weeks or frozen for use throughout the winter.

As you can see from the picture below many of the habaneros (even some of the ripe ones) are still very small. Actually these small habs are a great size to throw in to a dish without making it too hot. In fact because i was late planting my chilli seeds this year these were the first pods I have taken off some of my plants!

Late Season Harvest

In order to get the chilli plants to survive the winter i cut them back severly so that the plants won’t waste any energy in the winter trying to keep their foliage or ripen their fruit.

Trimmed The Roots

As you can see in the above photo I cut the stem back so that only about 10-15cm remained above the root ball.  This seems incredibly harsh but is necessary to increase your chances of getting the plants through the winter.

In addition to trimming back the stem I also gently knock some of the old compost out of the root ball and in some cases trim back the root ball slightly. Next i simply put the plant back into the pot with some fresh compost (this will help the plants early season growth next spring).

Ready For Winter

I’ll now move the plants indoors and place them near a south facing windowsill to maximise the amount of light they get and ensure they receive a nice constant warm temperature throughout the winter.

The plants wont need a huge amount of water over the winter so i’ll just make sure they don’t dry out, watering maybe just once a week.

Remember to keep the labels with your plants so come next spring when the plants burst back into life you know which are which. I’ll post back with an update later in the winter!

15 comments… add one
  • Dave October 22, 2011, 9:51 pm

    Hi – I brought one of my plants inside about 3 weeks ago as it had started to flower again with the unusual warm weather, it has some fresh (but small) chilli growing. It is on a sunny windowsill, should I leave it or prune it back for winter?
    Great article, going to sort out my other 3 plants in the garden for overwintering tomorrow.

    • The Chilli King October 27, 2011, 10:46 am

      Dave – Depends what variety they are but getting chillies to ripen now the weather has cooled in October will be tricky. I’d leave them there for a bit longer just in case until you’re ready to over winter….

  • Mick November 25, 2010, 10:48 am

    This has been my first year at growing chillies and i would like a head start for next year so about 6 weeks ago i prepared my plants for over wintering,perhaps i have been a bit severe with the cutting back and trimming of the root ball as there is no signs of life whatsoever in the plants, they have been in the sunniest window for the last month and watered once a week. Does anybody out there know if this is normal behaviour for a over wintered plant.

    • The Chilli King November 26, 2010, 1:52 pm

      Mick – Be patient. The plants can look dead for some time then burst back into life. Over wintering can be a fickle process so stick them the plants and keep your fingers crossed! Good luck!

  • Jimmy November 12, 2010, 4:55 am

    Thank you for this post! I’ve put so much effort into my chilli plants this year so it’ll be great to keep them alive ready for spring next year!

  • &E December 13, 2009, 3:33 pm

    Hi there. It’s way into December and I’ve got some plants that are still bushy and looking good. I’ve just taken off the fruit in preparation for cutting them back, but they look so healthy that I’m wondering if I need to hack them back at all, or do they need a period of dormancy to be fruitful next season.

    • the king December 17, 2009, 12:53 pm

      funnily enough i am experiencing the same thing.

      rather than overwintering my plants in a darkish greenhouse my plants this year are on a sunny warm windowsill in the house. I trimmed them back severely a couple of months ago but they are flowering again! I intend to leave them to their own devices rather than cutting them back again.

      i’ll throw up another post in the next day or two with my progress and thoughts….

  • &E December 11, 2009, 2:22 am

    hi there – I’ve got an orange habanero on the kitchen windowsill. It’s got loads of tiny fruit and some flowers. It’s about as cold and light free as it’s going to get, but it’s not looking like it’s dying back at all. Is it possible that it will just carry on like that until spring, and then start growing without a dormant period, or does it have to have a period of rest? If so, should I cut it back even if it looks healthy?

  • Brian November 8, 2009, 3:28 pm

    I’ve started growing Chillies in earnest this year and have succeeded in getting about 5 different varities to really healthy bushes.

    I want to overwinter them and have a heated greenhouse designed to keep things at about +5 degrees. Will this be OK for my babies?

    • the king November 9, 2009, 5:03 pm

      that should do the trick. the key is to keep them safe from the frost which at +5 degrees you should.

      my plants are inside and have already burst back into life despite a major cut back. the main reason is i believe is because they are usually about 18 degrees constant temp and on a sunny window sill!

  • the king October 18, 2009, 10:03 pm

    good luck! be sure to let us know how you get on!

  • mark October 18, 2009, 5:46 pm

    this will be my first year to keep them, just hope they make it over winter. the leafs are starting to go brown, we get some very cold winters in england, my lemon trees always die

  • Jennie October 12, 2009, 2:10 am

    I shall be doing this tomorrow. My habs have all been tiny too, but so tasty 😀

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