All chili plants are perennials. Yet, some chili species can live longer than others. This also depends on the conditions of the environment in which they live. To help your chilies live through temporary unsuited conditions like a cold winter, you can take your plants inside to 'overwinter.'
Chili pepper plants are perennials.
The name of the chili species Capsicum Annuum would suggest that this species is an annual plant. For the record, 'Annuum' is Latin for annual. Yet, it is not entirely the case that these chilies are annuals. Plants from this species can live 1,5 to 3 years. This is possible in tropical climates or when grown indoors. In both cases, the chili peppers will have the right conditions to thrive.
For example, Aji Limon can live at least 4-6 years when grown in the right conditions.
The chili species Capsicum Annuum is the species that has the shortest expected life per plant. All other chili plant species can live for many more years than this. The conclusion is thus that all chili pepper plants are essentially perennial growers. Given the right environment, that is.
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This environment includes temperatures above 10°C and preferably between 20°C and 27°C with lots of (sun) light. When these conditions are present, the chilies can continue to flower and produce fruits for many years.
If the right conditions are not always present, you can try to create conditions that allow your plants to survive through the wrong conditions. One such strategy is overwintering.
Overwintering your chili plants
When growing chili plants outdoors, especially in temperate climates like you can find in Europe, overwintering becomes a must for the plants to live multiple years.
Overwintering involves moving the chili peppers indoors or in a greenhouse and possibly also pruning them. Overwintering must commence when the outdoor temperatures start to fall below 10°C.
As mentioned, some suggest that when overwintering your chilies, you should also prune them quite extensively. Pruning can be done straight after harvest. First, make sure that you harvest all the fruits present on your hot pepper. Then, use pruning shears to cut the plants down such that a 1/3 piece of the stem, plus some leaves, are left.
The logic behind this is that, in this manner, the plant puts its energy into surviving. By saving its energy, the plant will thus increase the chances of this succeeding.
In a temperate climate, if the chili plants are not moved inside or in a warm greenhouse, then they will simply die off due to the cold.
It becomes a question of what makes the most economic sense; overwinter the plants or start new plants in spring. Especially, plant nurseries will have to consider whether or not to overwinter their plants.
For fast-growing chili varieties or chili varieties that have strong growth, the effort of overwintering the plants may not be worth it. Starting new plants in spring may easier and more efficient.
In other cases, it may be more efficient to try to keep the plants for 2-3 years before starting new ones. Some chili growers have even observed that their older plants produce a lot more fruit than younger plants.