How to Over Winter Your Chilli Plants

Overwintering your Chillies

For bigger harvests of your favourite chilli you could overwinter your plant. Overwintering is the practice of providing a protective environment for a plant throughout the winter. The lack of light and the colder temperatures mean that plants don’t grow much at all between October and January, but an overwintered plant can get off to a head start when the light returns in February or March. Watch our video and learn to overwinter your chillies from our planters.

Overwintered plants will usually produce a better crop in their second year as the plants can get started more quickly in the spring and enjoy a longer growing season.

Capsicum pubescens (such as our Rocoto Red chilli) tend to overwinter better than Capsicum annuum (such as Joe’s Long or Portugal). For bigger, earlier harvests follow our Gardening Angel tips of how to overwinter your chillies;

Preparation

  • Only attempt to overwinter your strongest looking plants as weaker plants will have a much lower survival rate. Choose only the healthiest pest and disease free plants.
  • Pick - Harvest all the fruit from your plants, including the immature ones. If the plant has unripe fruit then you can ripen them off the plant. Try placing them in a bag with a ripe banana as the ethylene given off the ripe fruit will encourage ripening.
  • Prune - Once the leaves begin to drop, prune your plants leaving about 10-15cm of the main stem.
  • Pot - If your chilli has been grown in the ground you can carefully dig it up and plant into a pot. Any loose old compost can be gently removed, pot up in fresh multipurpose compost. You can also trim back the roots slightly and pot into a smaller pot to help concentrate the energy.

Overwintering Care

  • Watering - The temperatures are lower so the plants will use far less water. Water less frequently to avoid damp conditions and deter mould build up. Check them once a week and water only when the compost is getting dry, this could be as little as every 2 - 3 weeks.
  • Warmth - Keep your plants frost free, aim for between 5C – 12C. A heated propagator such as our award winning Vitopod will provide a consistent environment suited to the plants you are over wintering. Anything over 12C will encourage your plants to grow and you don’t want this to happen until spring. We put our Trinidad Scorpion in a Vitopod heated propagator and set the thermostat to 10C. You can add extra layers depending on the height of your plant.
  • Allow plenty of airflow around your plants to avoid bacterial and viral disease build up. With the Vitopod we recommend opening the vents fully.

New season

  • In late February/early March, when the days start to get longer and the weather warms up your plants will start to grow. This is when you can turn the temperature up in your Vitopod heated electric propagator to about 22C.
  • Re-plant - By mid to late May your plants won’t need any further protection.
  • For professional results view our multi award winning Vitopod Propagator and mini greenhouse.

Learn more about how to grow your own chillies from seed with our chilli growing guide.