How to overwinter your chilli plants

You’re growing chillies, and maybe even reaping the first harvests – but what now? Most people are unaware that chilli plants are actually perennials and will continue to yield fruit for many years if properly cared for. 

Over-wintering is the process of providing extra care and attention after your plants have produced fruit, and it can be very gratifying.

So, are chilli plants a staple in your garden? If so, you might be wondering how to overwinter them. Chilli plants are some of the most difficult things to overwinter because they need heat and water. 

Chilli plants are grown all over the UK, however, they struggle to grow in the winter if they are not cared for properly. If you want to continue growing chillies all year long, then overwintering is a must.

In this blog post, we show you how to  Overwinter Your Chilli Plants this winter:

overwintering pepper plants

Table of Contents

Why do you want to over-winter your chilli plants?

  • Your next crop will arrive considerably sooner.
  • Many more chillies will develop on your plants, and they’ll produce them for a longer period of time – more chillies to eat!
  • You’ll have a significant head start over planting seeds in the spring.

Following the growth season, when nighttime temperatures drop below 10 degrees C (in the UK, this is usually around the end of October), plants begin to shut down for the winter as their work in producing chilli seed pods comes to an end.

The plant will typically cease growing at this point and reduce its sunlight and water intake needs dramatically, as it prepares for the long winter months ahead.

overwintering pepper plants

Do you want to get a greater harvest from your chillies?

One method to increase the amount of your favourite chilli you harvest is to overwinter it – this means providing it with a secure environment over the winter so that it may start well ahead of Spring when the sunshine returns. Providing your chilli plants with the right environment is so important because chillies plants are perennials.

With the lack of light and the colder temperatures, chilli plants don’t develop much throughout the winter, but an overwintered plant can benefit from a head start when the sunshine returns in February or March.

This means chilli plants will continue to yield chilli fruit for many years if cared for properly, so the more you overwinter your chillies, the larger harvest of chilli peppers they can produce each year – up to four times as much.

healthiest chilli plants

Tips on how to overwinter chillies

If you have healthy, strong-looking chilli plants, you should definitely overwinter them. The survival rate of weaker plants is significantly lower. Select only the healthiest pest and disease-free plants.

Pick – Harvest all of the fruit from your plants, including the immature kinds. If you’re growing an unripe fruit on a plant, you can ripen it by putting it in a bag with a ripe banana.

Prune – When the leaves have dropped, prune your plants back to a few inches of the main stem.

Pot – Pot the chilli plants into a larger pot, and move them indoors to a sunny window. The pots should be slightly wider than the original planter or container that you used for your chillies throughout the summer months; this allows room for new root growth during overwintering. Fill with fresh soil before winter begins.

healthy plants

Overwintering Care

Watering – Water chillies throughout the winter only if they’re in a pot with drainage holes. Don’t overwater chillies, as this will cause them to rot. Place pots on saucers that are filled with pebbles or marbles – once water is drawn into soil through capillary action, it’ll be soaked up by chilli roots from the pebbles. Check chillies once a week – if you don’t see water in the saucer, it’s time to water again.

Feeding – Feed chilli plants with an all-purpose fertilizer that contains micronutrients and trace elements throughout the winter months only when they’re actively growing; this is usually around early-to-mid March.

Mulching – After chilli plants have flowered and set chilli fruit, add a layer of mulch to the soil surface around the chilli plant’s stems in order to help retain moisture during winter months when humidity is lower indoors. Straw or chopped leaves are an ideal choice for this job.

Warmth – Keep chilli plants around 60 F (15 C) during overwintering seasons.

Airflow – Ensure chilli plants receive lots of air circulation to prevent fungal diseases – moving chillies regularly and leaving doors open is a good idea during overwintering months.

Light – Keep chilli plants away from the cold draft by keeping them in an area that gets plenty of sunlight, but protects them from strong afternoon rays when they’re trying to acclimatize to chillier indoor conditions. You can leave your chilli plants by the draught but try not to leave them there for too long. 

Have a look at an article we wrote on 6 Reasons Why Your Chilli Plant Leaves Are Wilting And How To Identify Your Chilli Plant if you need some further help.


pepper plants


Can a chilli plant survive winter UK?

The plants that require a lot of heat do not enjoy British winters and must be taken care of in order to survive them. The first step is for the plants to be kept in a frost-free location. This implies they cannot remain in an unheated greenhouse or polytunnel. Simply one chilly night might kill the plants.

Do chilli plants keep growing?

What most people aren’t aware of is that chilli plants are actually perennials and will continue to produce fruit for many years if given the appropriate care and attention. Over-wintering, which entails giving your plants special care and attention after they’ve produced fruit, can be very gratifying.

chilli plant growth

Can chilli plants go in water?

Chillies can be placed directly into the soil and don’t necessarily need to be potted before overwintering, but some people like the security of having their chillies contained just in case something goes awry with their chilli plant’s winter care plan.

If you’re going to pot chillies up prior to overwintering them, use fresh compost that is rinsed thoroughly so it does not contain any salts or fertilizers which might burn chilli roots if left there over the winter months. Before re-potting your chillies, soak them overnight in tepid water.

How many years do chilli plants last?

If chilli plants are taken care of properly, they can last for many years. The key is overwintering chillies in a frost-free environment and ensuring the right temperature. If this is done correctly, the chilli plants can last 1.5 to 15 years.

Do chilli plants need full sun?

Chillies can grow in full sun, partial shade or dappled sunlight. If chilli plants are grown outside during the summer months they must be sheltered from strong afternoon rays by some kind of shelter like a wall or fence which stops chillies from getting scorched and burned when temperatures rise rapidly at the end of each day.

full sun in garden

Can chilli plants get too much water?

It is important to ensure that chillis do not sit in water as it may cause root rot diseases. Make sure that chillis receive enough air circulation but also sufficient moisture. You should avoid overwatering chillies – giving them just enough so their roots remain moist will help prevent problems with fungus although if you notice any black spots on your leaves, this might indicate chilli leaves are getting too much water and it could be the cause of your chillies’ problems.

Should I prune my chilli plant?

When chilli plants grow, they produce new flowers in the axils between their branches and main stems. These are called ‘axillary buds’ or sometimes ‘lateral shoots’. You can remove these if you want to but it’s not necessary as chillies will produce all of the fruit that they need on existing growth.

How tall do chilli plants grow?

Chilli plants can grow between 30cm and 150 cm tall.

axillary buds on chilli

How long do chilli plant leaves stay green?

Leaves will change colour depending on the age of chillies, their species or cultivar (which is a cultivated variety) and how much light they receive. If you have chillies that are producing red fruit then this means they are receiving enough light. If chilli plants aren’t getting enough light, their leaves will grow darker green to help them absorb more of the sun’s rays in order to produce good healthy fruit.

How fast do chilli plants grow?

Chilli plant growth is really dependent upon what cultivar you have and how much care it receives. In general, chillies will grow between 30cm and 150 cm per year.

What do chilli plants look like?

The most common chilli plant is the ‘habanero chilli’ which typically has green foliage, but as it matures it changes to a very dark green on top of a light grey-green underbelly. chillies are typically bush-like plants with small spiky leaves.

habanero chilli

How many chilli plants do I need?

The answer to this depends on how much chilli you want and how long your growing season is. If you’re looking at overwintering chillies, it’s best to have around 20 chilli plants for a family of four.

Do chilli flowers turn into chillies?

A chilli pepper will not grow if a flower is not pollinated. If flowers appear on your chilli plants in the garden at a windless moment and bees do not visit, you can help them develop by yourself.

Why is my chilli plant not producing chillies?

Usually, chilli plants stop producing chillies if they’re not getting enough light or nutrients, but sometimes chilli plants also give a reduced yield in the last few weeks of their fruiting season.

dead chilli plant

How long does it take for chillies to ripen?

Ripening time depends on the type and colour of your chillis – chillies can take between 30 days and several months to fully ripen depending on chilli type.

How do I harvest chillis?

Chillis are best harvested once they’re full-sized but before the first frost has touched them. The chilli should be firm with a deep, glossy sheen which means it is still growing.

Share your love
Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

I hope you enjoy reading some of the content and ideas from this site, I tend to share articles and product reviews on a daily basis, so be rest assured… you won’t run out of things to read!

Articles: 344