I like to grow pepper plants because we have a long growing season with warm weather. But if you don’t have this benefit, it’s important to know how much cold pepper plants can withstand.
Temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for pepper plants. Freezing temperature will kill pepper plant tissue. Temperature between 32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit is cold to prevent pepper plants from growing and they become dormant.
You need to be really careful that the pepper plants get the required temperature otherwise your effort will be in vain. I’ve written details below that will help ensure that you can grow and harvest peppers even if you have a short growing season.
What temperature will kill pepper plants?
A temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit will kill pepper plants. This temperature will cause frost that will freeze the plants.
The pepper plants will survive in temperature above this frost point but they will not grow well. If peppers are growing on the plant, they will freeze and fall off.
You can harvest the peppers before the frost and store them in a cool place where you can leave them to ripen and be ready for use.
The ideal temperature to germinate and grow pepper plants is between 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is below 70 degrees it will take a lot longer for the pepper plants to germinate.
Can a pepper plant recover from frost damage?
Pepper plants need warm weather to grow and a drop in temperature for a long time will kill the plant.
If the pepper plant suffers from frost damage for a few hours, it can survive and recover back to its healthy state. This also depends on whether the pepper plant is mature or still a seedling.
The recovery of the pepper plant depends on how low the temperature has dropped and how much is frost damage caused to the plant.
If the pepper plant has been affected by frost for a long time, the tissue will be frozen and get damaged as a result. You may be able to see this when the plant and peppers turn black and wilted. Or they may lose their shape as a result.
If the foliage of the pepper plant has all turned black, it will not be possible to recover from the frost damage. You need to dispose of the plant and start growing a new plant.
If just the edges of the leaves have turned black, you can prune them off and the plant will recover as the temperature improves. If some peppers have turned black, prune them off as well.
If the lower part of the plant stem has turned black, you will not be able to recover the plant. You need to dispose of it.
How to protect pepper plants from cold nights?
You’ll grow pepper plants in spring and summer when the weather has warmed up enough for the plants. But there can be some nights when the temperature dips below 50 degrees and you’ll need to protect the pepper plants.
1. Use a cover to protect the pepper plants
The easiest way to protect pepper plants from a cold night is to cover them up with a plastic bag. Make sure to use a stake so that the plastic does not touch the plant.
Some other choices you can use to cover the plant include a blanket, an old sheet, or a tarp. You could also use an old bucket to cover the plant if it’s large enough and does not have holes in it.
If you’re growing pepper seedlings outdoors, you can cover them up with a tray cover. Or you can bring them indoors.
You can provide some warmth to the plant if you place some LED lights or Christmas lights inside the row cover. Make sure they are not touching the plant or the plastic.
Such a row cover will help increase the temperature about 2-4 degrees than the outside temperature. Make sure to remove the row cover in the morning. This helps the plant get the required aeration and sunlight.
2. Move the pepper plant indoors
If you’re growing pepper plants in containers, you can move them indoors when the night temperature drops too much.
Make sure you don’t damage the foliage or roots of the plant as you are moving them indoors.
I would recommend growing pepper varieties that can grow in a 10 or 20-gallon container. This makes it easier to move them around when required.
If the container is very heavy you can damage your back trying to lift it. And if you’re growing peppers in a grow bag it may tear from the bottom as you try to lift it.
A better choice is to place the container or grow bag on a moving tray before growing pepper plants in it. It will be easy to use this moving tray and transport the pepper plant indoors.
Make sure the temperature in your basement or indoor area is higher than the outdoor temperature at night.
You can move the pepper plants back outdoors the next morning. This will help the plant get the required sunlight, aeration, and heat from the outdoor weather.
How to protect pepper plants from cold weather
Pepper plants need warm weather to grow well so there are steps you can take to ensure they get the required heat.
1. Start seeds indoors to get a jumpstart
The best way to protect pepper plants from cold weather is to grow them in a season that does not get cold weather. This means growing them in spring/summer after the last frost date has passed.
Pepper plants can take a while to grow where some varieties require 100 to 120 days before they can develop peppers. And it may be that you don’t have a long growing season in your region.
The best thing to do is to start seeds indoors so that you get a head start on the growing season. You can start seeds 4 weeks before the last frost date. And then move the pepper plants outdoors 2-4 weeks after the last frost date has passed.
This way your peppers will be ready for harvest in ideal conditions of summer well before the weather begins to cool down in fall and the beginning of winter.
2. Figure out the right planting schedule
If you have a long growing season you can plant the pepper seeds or seedlings outdoors two weeks after the last frost date has passed.
You can check the seed packet or seedling tags to understand how long before the pepper plants will mature and produce peppers.
You need to schedule the planting so that the maturity of the pepper plants will happen when the temperature is suitable between 70 to 85 degrees.
This means you need to get at least 100 to 120 days in the growing season where the pepper plants can get this range of temperature.
3. Apply cold treatment to the seedlings
Pepper plants won’t grow well when the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But we can use this to our advantage to make them more cold-tolerant. This is known as cold treatment.
This method is beneficial if you have a short growing season but still want to grow pepper plants outdoors even when fall weather hits your garden.
You need to grow the pepper seedlings indoors or outdoors in a location that has temperatures between 50 to 55 degrees. You need to do this for one month so the plant will develop foliage that is cold-tolerant.
The growth of the plant will be stunted for one month but you can move it outdoors to the suitable temperature of 70 to 85 degrees.
The benefit of applying such cold treatment to the seedlings is you can continue growing the pepper plant even when the weather becomes a bit cooler in the fall. The plant becomes cold-tolerant and won’t suffer from stunted growth once it has matured.
4. Overwinter the pepper plants
We grow pepper plants as an annual that will develop during the spring/summer season and die once the cold weather of fall/winter arrives.
But if you want you can treat a pepper plant as a perennial to continue growing the next year. This way you’ll get a jumpstart as the mature plant will regrow faster.
To do this, you’ll need to take the plant out of the ground and move it to a container once fall/winter arrives. Make sure to prune the branches of the plant so only a few necessary ones remain.
You’ll need to move the container indoors to a location that will have a consistent temperature between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure that the plant stops its growth and becomes dormant.
You do need to provide a decent amount of sunlight to the plant either by keeping it near a windowsill or using grow lights.
A couple of weeks after the last frost date has passed, you can move the plant back to the outdoor garden. Water the plant well and also provide it with the required fertilizer and compost.
The pepper plant will start growing foliage back and soon you will also have peppers for harvest.
You won’t always be successful overwintering pepper plants and some of them will not make it. You just need to do this for several plants so at least some of them will survive and grow back the next season.
5. Grow cold-tolerant varieties of pepper
Certain pepper varieties are much more tolerant of the cold. So you can grow them even if you have a short growing season. They will grow even in the fall when the temperature drops.
It’s important to know that even these cold-tolerant varieties cannot survive a temperature drop below 32 degrees that will cause them to freeze.
Here is a list of some such cold-tolerant varieties.
- Ace Pepper
- Bulgarian Carrot pepper
- Manzano pepper
- Yankee bell pepper
- Intruder Pepper
6. Grow fast-maturing varieties of pepper
The regular varieties of pepper plants will take about 100 to 120 days before they mature and the peppers can be harvested.
If you have a short growing season, you can consider growing fast-maturing varieties of pepper. These will mature and be ready with peppers before you enter the cold season of fall and winter.
Here are some such varieties and the time it takes to be ready for harvest.
|Variety||Ready from seed to harvest|
|Early Jalapeno Pepper||65 days|
|Bell Sweet Chocolate Pepper||57 days|
|Fushimi Sweet Pepper||80 days|
|Sweet Banana Pepper||75 days|
|Yellow Jalapeno Pepper||65 days|
|Shishito Japanese Sweet Pepper||60 days|