Pruning for overwintering

sidhartha0209(KY_6a)October 17, 2012

I might have should posted this here on this forum, would appreciate any help/advice from anyone:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg1005353526625.html

"I have a large, magnificent Burpee Hot Lemon plant, loaded w/ delicious chiles, in a three gallon (should have been five, will be next year) pot that I'd love to overwinter in the house (in fact that's the sole reason I planted it in the container to begin with), but it's going to have to be what I'd call 'drastically pruned' back before I can find the space for it in the house. I've never pruned a chile plant and fear I would over prune and kill it. I'd appreciate any guidance/advice that anyone could provide."

Thanks,

Larry

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romy6(9)

You can prune it back quite a bit. Just leave some green stems beacause you will rarely get new growth out of any that have the bark on it. I do recomend that you remove it from the pot it is in. Clense the roots of all old soil then dip it in a bucket with a dish soap water solution for thirty seconds. Then repot in a new container.Spray down with an insectecide before bringing it in the house.

Jamie

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 10:48AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good advice, Jamie.

I also recommend that you prune the foliage a week or two before trimming the roots
and re-potting. Give the plant a chance to use that stored root-energy for new foliage
before you trim the roots to fit the new container.

Josh

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 10:58AM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

Excellent advice, thanks!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:04AM
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esox07

A little more specifically, prune it back to just above a node. Any wood past a node will die off and could cause problems. You will want to prune it fairly heavy and also clean off the roots and trim them back to the size of a softball or smaller. Then repot in about a 1 gallon or slightly smaller container with fresh soil.

Here is my Twilight pepper before pruning:

Here it is in same 7 gallon pot just after pruning:

Here it is after pulling it.

Here it is after pruning back the roots:

And here it is in it's winter home (plant on the right)

Here is a photo of my orange tree habanero after pruning which shows how it is pruned just above the nodes. As with this plant, it lost most of it's leaves after pruning but quickly is putting out more new shoots from the nodes.

Good luck and keep any eye open for pests such as Fungus Gnats, Aphids and it is really easy to overwater peppers, particularly when grown indoors. As Josh says, if you have good enough weather, it is wise to prune back a good week or two before you bring them in. And if you are concerned about pests, you may want to take Romy6's advice and spray them down before bringing them in.
Bruce

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 11:48AM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

Outstanding photo tutorial esox! Thanks so much. I know what I must do now, and as a result I'll probably save more than just one chile plant.

Larry.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 5:58AM
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esox07

Yes. Depending on the starting size of the plant, you can usually prune them back to quite small containers. 1 gallon nursery pots (really about 7/10ths of a gallon) are the biggest I would use. I potted a Twilight for my mother into a pot that was probably three cups in size.

Good luck and remember to not over water and also keep an eye open for pests. Aphids and fungus gnats are two of the most common. At least around here they are.
Bruce

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 11:23AM
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cheezdoodle12(6)

I had that same fear.. I just pruned back a cayenne and a jalapeno for the first time about a month ago, and apparently I did it right:) Last night I had to prune again because they both have grown back a lot of leaves AND even some tiny buds!! All the folks on this forum are really helpful with these things. I'm just going to try to keep a balance of leaves to the amount of root I think I have.. My containers are only 3 - 4 cups. Good luck with yours!!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 7:41PM
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esox07

cheezdoodle: Yep, many times the peppers will respond to those severe cutbacks with some vigorous growth right afterwards. My Hot hungarian Wax pictured above lost all of its larger leaves and immediately started sprouting tons of new leaves from the existing nodes. Today, I noticed a bunch of new buds already. That is only about 2.5 weeks ago that I pruned them. They performed very much the same last year too. Most of the buds will soon bloom and a few will even set fruit. I will eventually probably have to reprune as well. I am still waiting to see how my Twilight and Orange Tree Habanero react to the hard pruning although both have set a lot of new leaves, I haven't noticed any buds as yet. I don't know if they will require more pruning as the winter progresses or not.

Your containers being only 3-4 cups seems small but it depends on the variety of pepper. I pruned an overwinter Twilight for my mother and it is in 3-4 cup pot like yours. I don't think that would be good for my HHW and Orange Tree Hab however. Can you post some photos?
Bruce

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 8:55PM
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kuvaszlvr

quick question, how much should I prune my peppers that will spend most of the winter in a greenhouse (unless the temps dip too cold, then they will come into the sunroom). I wouldn't mind letting them stay the size they are, but I'd prefer them to take a bit less space.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 11:07AM
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tsheets(5)

Kuvaszlvr - Prune as much or as little as you want based on the space you have.

I prune about as much as Bruce's example, but, I want them small and just to stay alive over the Winter.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:40PM
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kuvaszlvr

Thanks tsheets. One concern, if I only prune them to about 1/2 their current size, do you think I really need to prune the roots too, or put them in a smaller pot?
Pam

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 2:18PM
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tsheets(5)

Not really. The biggest risks are overwatering and bringing bugs in. Even in a greenhouse during the winter you won't have the natural predators like you do outside. As long as you keep an eye on things and are prepared to treat for pests, you should be ok.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 3:09PM
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kuvaszlvr

Yep, the aphids are killing me this year, greenhouse (late winter to early spring) and sunroom (summer - when I brought plants in when the temps were 110+ for so long). I even tried buying lady bugs to put on the plants in the sunroom, but they all died in transit. So far the greenhouse seems clean, Haha, brought in one tomato hornworm but I found him pretty early.
Pam

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 4:09PM
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cheezdoodle12(6)

Here's a photo of the cayenne up close:

This photo is the cayenne on the left and jalapeno on the right:

On both of them, I had to prune them back yesterday because the branches and leaves were really taking off.. they have been indoors like this now probably about a month.

Laura

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 6:54PM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

"Good luck and remember to not over water and also keep an eye open for pests. Aphids and fungus gnats are two of the most common. At least around here they are.
Bruce"

Is there a 'trick' to NOT 'overwatering'? Or, when do you decide to water and how much do you give them?

Wow, lots of good info on this thread, thanks to everyone.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:39AM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

romy6: "Clense the roots of all old soil then dip it in a bucket with a dish soap water solution for thirty seconds.."

Just any old dish liquid? Or is there a preference? (again, afraid I'll kill my chile plant, yet I want to do this right)

Is this step mainly for aphids?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:58AM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

"...they have been indoors like this now probably about a month.

Laura"

Wow, I see you're in zone 6 also (like me), I haven't even pruned my tops yet, but more & more peppers keep ripening, in fact plants are still blooming. I've been doing the ten day forecast thing and it looks like I'll have to cover them Sun & Mon nights but then it's going to warm back up. I'm not going to wait much longer though.

Do you think you may have 'jumped the gun' and brought them in too soon? Just curious.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 1:37PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Is there a 'trick' to NOT 'overwatering'? Or, when do you decide to water and how much do you give them?

Use the dowel method. Hit your local hardware store and buy some wooden dowels. Cut them to be, oh, about a foot long each, and stick them down into your pots with your peppers.

When deciding if you should water, pull the dowel out and look at it. If its dark and moist, you don't need to water. If its light colored and dry, then you can water.

When they're outside, I recommend the droop method (just don't water until you see the leaves drooping from lack of it), but when they're inside that little bit of extra stress can help open the door to pests, so dowel method all the way for indoors.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 4:59PM
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esox07

Edymnion is right on with the dowel method. I use bamboo skewers. you can buy them in Walmart for a buck or two for a few dozen. They come pointed and about a foot or so long. I saw them in the kitchen section today on the end of a row. If you buy dowels, just make sure they are fairly skinny. You don't want to have to shove a 1/4" dowel down into a small pot and disrupt the roots. (a dowel about the diameter of a wire coat hanger or a little bigger works well). After a few months of using the dowel method, you will start to be able to tell by feeling the weight of the pot and have a good idea if it is time to water. Just use this rule, if you are unsure if you should water, then you probably should not. You can also purchase an inexpensive (Bruce

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:12PM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

Wow, I've learned so much here, thanks to all of you again.

I sorta 'hurredly' pruned my potted plant right before dark yesterday and this is what I ended up with (disregard the nosey shepherd). I was afraid to take it down any further; what do you all think? Do I need to prune some more?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 8:57AM
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ngrrsn(7)

ARGGGG! I wish I would have seen all this BEFORE I dug up my peppers. My peppers are two feet and three feet tall. I very carefully dug them up (roots were very deep & I dug quite a hole!) and transplanted them to 2.5 (3) gal containers and brought them into my garage under florescent lights. I used another post recipe for potting material and removed the vast majority of the garden soil as I transplanted them into the new medium (mostly fine bark) that is aged and partially composted. The peppers look awful! The leaves are all curling up. Here are my questions;

1. There were mentions of "wood" and "nodes" and trimming to green. But the pics I see have trimmed very low on the main trunk/stem. As long as I have some green leaves below where I cut, will I be o.k. to prune this severely this late?

2. I would love to prune this severely, but am afraid of pruning to kill, not overwinter. Can you clarify how I know exactly where to prune?

What an awesome forum!!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 2:17PM
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esox07

ngrrsn: You could actually prune your pepper within an inch of the soil and it would most likely survive and even thrive. I gave my mother a Twilight this spring. A week after she planted it in the ground, a dog or some other animal came and ate it down to the soil line. There was just some shredded pulp at the base of the plant. It came back full force and wound up as big as any other Twilight. However, it was set back a couple months in that case and had only a few ripe peppers by the end of our summer up here.

But for normal pruning for overwintering, simply prune back to above the third or fourth node from the bottom all the way around.

The photo below pretty well shows what I mean. Notice the first shot is the plant just after pruning on Oct 4th. Five days later on Oct 9th, it had lost every one of its original leaves. Now today, you can clearly see all the new growth from the nodes. I circled the nodes in yellow and notice on this plant, I pruned up 5 nodes. Normally, 4 is max but this plant is an Orange Tree Habanero and grows very tall and skinny by nature.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 5:23PM
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cheezdoodle12(6)

sidhartha0209: I didn't think they would have enough time to produce and ripen any more peppers when I pruned and re-potted them a month ago.. so that's why I brought them inside. I also wanted to re-use the large planters to try growing spinach & radishes (not doing too great with that though..). I figured I have nothing to lose since it's a learning experience either way.. this is my first year with hot peppers. They seem to be doing ok so far. Next Spring seems so far away though :(

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 6:12PM
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ngrrsn(7)

I want to thank everyone for all their input and especially esox07 for the pictorial lessons (I am very much a visual learner). This forum is awesome!

so much to learn, so little time!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 11:20AM
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sidhartha0209(KY_6a)

"Is there a 'trick' to NOT 'overwatering'? Or, when do you decide to water and how much do you give them?"

"Use the dowel method. Hit your local hardware store and buy some wooden dowels. Cut them to be, oh, about a foot long each, and stick them down into your pots with your peppers.

When deciding if you should water, pull the dowel out and look at it. If its dark and moist, you don't need to water. If its light colored and dry, then you can water."

"Edymnion is right on with the dowel method. I use bamboo skewers. you can buy them in Walmart for a buck or two for a few dozen. They come pointed and about a foot or so long. I saw them in the kitchen section today on the end of a row. If you buy dowels, just make sure they are fairly skinny. You don't want to have to shove a 1/4" dowel down into a small pot and disrupt the roots. (a dowel about the diameter of a wire coat hanger or a little bigger works well)...."

And the winner is....

...wooden chop sticks!!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:44PM
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ngrrsn(7)

I hope you can help. My peppers seem to be dying. After potting them, I pruned them as instructed above. Some of the plants started putting out new growth almost immediately. The plants are under bright florescent bulbs in a heated attached garage (65 degrees) for about 12 hours. I monitor water/moisture with a meter, letting them get mostly dry before watering again. The soil drains fast so I don't have standing water; the bark/soil mixture stays moist but not wet about 2 weeks. I use a light fertilizer for indoor plants so I won't overstimulate or burn them. I had some soil gnat issues --- annoying but nurseryman said they wouldn't kill plants. I treated with Spinosad, anyway. The peppers leaves start to yellow, curl, and brown. The stems may turn a light yellowish-green color and then turn brown (dead). Some plants have green above and below a brown area of the stem. It seems to die from the top down, not the bottom up. Many of my peppers have died. Can someone tell me what is happening before I lose them all? All the mini-bells are dead, most of the cayenne are dead, the early jalapenos are dead.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:47PM
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