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Every autumn I have the same dilemma: should I overwinter my chilli plants or not? I probably shouldn’t bother, as they quite often die, but I always end up taking them indoors. It seems so wasteful throwing them in the compost bin.
Although they’re usually grown in the UK as annuals, chilli plants (native to South and Central America) are perennial, so overwintering them shouldn’t be a problem, if you live somewhere nice and hot. The theory is that if they survive winter, the plants flower and fruit far earlier than those sown in spring. Overwintering chillies can be a bit of a struggle in the UK though, unless you can offer them plenty of warmth and light (which I can’t).
Nevertheless, for the last three years I have overwintered chilli plants, albeit with varying degrees of success. The first year I brought two ‘Cayenne’ plants indoors in autumn. They lived on the sunny kitchen windowsill and (just about) survived winter. The following year they flowered and fruited before those I grew from seed, but they didn’t yield as good a crop as they had produced the year before, or as much as the younger plants.
The second winter they gave up the ghost, and died. Luckily, I also overwintered four ‘Cheyenne’ chilli plants I had raised from seed that year, but three of those died (I suspect vine weevil was involved), leaving the smallest, weakest one alive. It’s still alive now, but hasn’t so much as flowered this year. At what point should you give up on a plant? (I know, a year ago.)
Apparently, certain varieties are easier to overwinter than others. This year I grew a yellow variety called ‘Hot Stuff’, which is supposed to overwinter well. The plants are still in fruit (which are delicious) and look healthy. It would be a shame to let the frost get them. If I do bring them in I’ll repot them in fresh compost and keep them in the warmest, lightest part of the flat. Who knows, perhaps these will be the ones that survive winter and go on to flower and fruit their socks off next year. I like a challenge.
Have you successfully overwintered chillies?
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