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.


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

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:

Indoor Gardening Contest 2015

Participated in the
Indoor Gardening Contest 2015