Introduction: Pruning and Protecting 'Super Hot' Chilli Pepper Plants for Winter

Super hot chilli plants such as the 'Carolina Reaper' and 'Bhut Jolokia' need to be pruned every now and again and more specifically, pruned for surviving the Winter in temperate climates such as in the UK.

My plants were sown from seed at the beginning of April this year in a propagation box and potted on into the glasshouse where they thrived and even produced a few fruit, which is very good going in the first year. The 'Super Hots' are generally perennials, which means that they will keep growing and producing fruit for a number of years.

All hot chilli peppers originally came from the deepest darkest depths of the Amazon from where they spread and expanded in diversity through central America, the Caribbean and on to India.The species that I grow are essentially 'Capsicum chinense' but the true lineage is slightly more complicated than this. For example, the Bhut Jolokia ভোট-জলকীয়া), is an interspecies hybrid of C. chinense and C. frutescens genes. The Carolina Reaper was then created by crossing this plant with the Red Habanero.

Annuals

C.annum var. annum

Aleppo · Banana pepper · Bell pepper · Bird's eye · Cascabel · Cayenne · Chilaca · Chungyang red pepper · Cubanelle · De árbol · Dundicut · Espelette · Facing heaven · Fresno · Friggitello · Guajillo · Hungarian wax · Jalapeño · Medusa · Mulato · New Mexico (Anaheim) · Padrón · Pasilla · Peter · Pimiento · Poblano · Santa Fe Grande · Serrano · Shishito

C. annuum var. glabriusculum

Piquín · Wild chiltepin
Perennials

C. chinense

Adjuma · Ají dulce · Bhut jolokia · 'Carolina Reaper' · Datil · Fatalii · Habanero · Hainan yellow lantern · 'Madame Jeanette' · 'Naga Morich' · 'Red Savina' habanero · Scotch bonnet · Trinidad moruga scorpion · Trinidad scorpion 'Butch T'

C. frutescens

African bird's eye · Kambuzi · Malagueta · Siling labuyo · Tabasco

C. baccatum

Ají · Bishop's crown · Lemon drop · Peppadew

C. pubescens

Rocoto pepper

Now that I know what the origins of my plants are and how to prune them, they do need to be kept somewhere free of frost, such as a glasshouse or conservatory. Frost is normally associated with the dual action of cold and high humidity resulting in the formation of ice crystals on the surface of plants which then damages them. If the humidity is very low, the plant can actually sustain much lower temperatures as the internal contents of a plant cell will not freeze so easily. Hopefully my plants will survive in my glasshouse, especially if I use a shroud during the coldest parts of Winter.

Step 1: Pruning

It's good to be pretty radical when pruning rather than fuss about with trying to make the plant look pretty. The video in the next step will explain exactly how it's done but basically it's about identifying the lowest bunch of small shoots, or nodes from which new growth will form, and cutting the stems about 2" above them to allow for die back. In this way about 90% of the plant is removed, leaving a large root ball in the soil to give a massive boost to growth in the Spring of the following year.

Don't forget to wear gloves when handling super hot chillies. A common mistake is to touch a hot chilli, wash your hands and then touch your eye. OUCH! Washing hands does not remove all the capsicum.

Tools required: felco 2 pruner

Step 2: Video

Step 3: Additional Emergency Protection With a Polythene Shroud

If the weather gets really cold, a polythene shroud can be made with little more than some heavy weight clear polythene sheet, a pair of scissors and a 4" office stapler (Instructable on it's way). Some of my friends use large empty upturned fizzy drinks bottles, but I don't drink that stuff! Shrouds should be removed when the weather warms up again as the high local humidity may cause the plant to go mouldy, particularly if it has recently been watered.

Step 4: Further Work

As the plants become older, they may become infested with aphids and black fly etc. During the pruning session, the plant can be removed from it's pot and have it's roots washed clean of insect eggs and larvae. Potting up with fresh compost will ensure that it is free of insects during the forthcoming Spring and Summer.

Please visit these Instructables for more tips on growing/preserving hot chillies:

Comments

author
email.alessiaborri made it!(author)2017-02-02

Hi

I have a scotch bonnet plant in a pot which I keep in my non heated small conservatory, it gets lots of light and sun. I didn't know I was supposed to prune it so drastically so now it's fully grown (about 45 cm tall or just below) and leaves are all falling. The plant is 3 years old, it produced lots of chillies in the first year but nothing in the second. Should I prune it now (February) even though there are three small chillies growing?

Many Thanks!

author
Tecwyn+Twmffat made it!(author)2017-02-02

Yes, pruning would be very wise and February is the perfect time in northern hemisphere . Don't worry about the three chillies growing - be radical !

author
email.alessiaborri made it!(author)2017-02-06

Many thanks for your reply!
Have done, fingers crossed I haven't gone over the top!

author
diy_bloke made it!(author)2016-06-11

learned someting new. never knew they were perennials

author
Tecwyn+Twmffat made it!(author)2016-07-02

Even some thought to be annuals, like the cayenne, will actually grow back a second year. I know this as I have 2 of them like this in my glasshouse.

author
diy_bloke made it!(author)2016-07-02

i remember one time i discovered two forgotten chili plants in my garden coz the red pods were contrasting against th snow. They did well

author
KenC82 made it!(author)2016-07-02

Do you keep watering it through the winter?

author
Tecwyn+Twmffat made it!(author)2016-07-02

Yes, but just a very small amount compared to the summer.

author
txadams made it!(author)2015-12-13

Thank you! I didn't know Reapers were perennial. I was keeping them in a
2-gallon pot expecting them to die this winter. Think again! They are
definitely showing signs of nutrient deficiency but keep on producing and it's
December. Now they will be transplanted to larger pots with nutritious
composted soil.

Out of 20 I've selected for 2 plants which have adapted to the Texas coast.
The peppers are indeed the hottest/potent mothers I've ever cooked with! I'm
glad I came across your instructable because I am now prepping them for a long,
fruitful life.

author
Tecwyn+Twmffat made it!(author)2015-12-13

Thanks Tx. Your plants should indeed last for a fair few years, just watch out for aphids etc.

author
Topher7404 made it!(author)2016-05-17

I have a reaper plant that was in my basent all winter. Produced fruit till about january. All the leaves are gone i was wo.dering if i put this back outside will it produce fruit again

author
Topher7404 made it!(author)2016-05-17

Basement

author
DIY+Hacks+and+How+Tos made it!(author)2015-12-08

Home grown peppers really are the best.

author
Tecwyn+Twmffat made it!(author)2015-12-08

Yes, they're fairly easy to grow, good fun and taste great.

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