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I haven't found anything stating that the plant dies off after producing fruit and it is my understanding that if I keep the environmental conditions correct, continue manual pollination, and add fertilizer to the soil every few weeks/month that the pepper plant should continue to produce fruit on an ongoing basis.

Has anyone done this in practice? If it is possible, is it in fact good/okay? It most likely isn't a natural phenomenon but I wouldn't expect degradation of the fruit provided the plant still had good soil health.

Would it die off if I stopped pollinating it?

Is there a difference in this regard across the various types of pepper plants?

Edit: I may not have made this clear enough but the pepper plant I'm growing is indoors 24/7/365 in a regulated environment. ie overwintering doesn't apply at least in my situation.

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    I am not certain about bell peppers, but I have grown habaneros and rocotos over several years - my oldest plant was 5 years before I had to leave it during a move. In both of these cases, 2nd and 3rd seasons are far more productive than the first. In gardens in South America, the rocoto is grown almost like a bush. I have seen them 8 feet tall and almost as many wide, with trunks more than an inch in diameter. There is nothing "unnatural" about it. There are steps you should take before bringing plants inside to avoid aphid or other pest problems. – That Idiot Oct 2 '14 at 18:06
  • That's great and yeah I would expect a developed plant to be able to produce more as well. 'Indefinitely' may have been stretching it but this is more or less one of the answers I was looking for. In my case, the pepper plant is going to be exclusively indoors. – Enigma Oct 2 '14 at 18:14
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    The locals said the planta would live 10 - 15 years. I cut mm ine back in the fall and let them go semi dormant, bit i bet they'd do better if you could keep them growing all winter. – That Idiot Oct 2 '14 at 18:16
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I'm revising my answer again, but this time with an opinion based on my observations of peppers (not bell types specifically):

My opinion is that they'll continue to live as long as they're healthy and pruned. If they're in a small container and not pruned, they might die after they produce ripe fruit the first or second time, but if you prune them afterward and keep them healthy, you should be able to get the plant to live for a very long time, even in a small container.

A general rule I go by is that if the leaves are starting to fall off, or if the plant isn't growing anymore, then prune it. (Provided it's otherwise healthy.) It should grow new leaves/branches, and flowers, too.

Picking the fruit when they're still green may encourage more fruit to develop in the long run. The plants may be more prone to dying directly after the fruit is all ripe than beforehand. Interrupting this process seems to be healthy for the plant (although if you're taking good care of the plant, this may not be much of a concern).

Peppers use nutrients fast, though, and they have a lot of pests. So, keeping them healthy can be a challenge, since they require regular maintenance. Knowing what nutrients to give them can also be a challenge. I've personally found that indoor peppers seem to improve with the addition of a little wood ash and other stuff.

Bell types will need larger containers, maybe more light, and probably different care, but I imagine the principles are similar.


(Old answer)

I'm revising my answer significantly (my old answer is at the bottom, after the divide).

I believe you're looking for bell peppers that 'overwinter' well (probably more than once). Overwintering is usually when you pot your pepper and take it inside for the winter (or just keep it in a pot it's already in for the winter).

Originally, I thought that indeterminate peppers were peppers that would continue to grow and produce fruit indefinitely, and that any indeterminate sweet pepper would suffice in answering your question. However, some people have different definitions of what indeterminate means, apparently. Some say it just means that the plants produce flowers all throughout a single season, and then die like other annuals regardless of the climate (this largely comes from my contacting a Canadian website that spoke of greenhouse and field peppers, and their response to me, as well as Seed Savers Exchange—those who responded may not have had a great knowledge on the topic of the article, though, but seemed to have some good general knowledge about plants—but it's also a general observation that not everyone thinks it has anything to do with longevity or size, but rather bloom frequency only).

Some people say that all sweet peppers are indeterminate. Some say field peppers are determinate.

Some say all peppers are perennials, provided the climate is right. Some say all peppers are annuals (of course, they're wrong, but they might be right in that some peppers are annuals).

Here's what I've concluded (which may or may not be entirely accurate):

Most peppers are capable of surviving longer than one season (at least up until December), whether or not they do very well afterward. Some of them will survive up to 5+ years. One of the comments to your question, and another source (15 years of fruit; 10+ feet tall), speak of 10–15 year old peppers, but I haven’t specifically heard of anyone growing one in-doors for that long, yet (although I personally believe it can happen). Some varieties of peppers are easier to grow for longer periods than others. Some peppers lose their leaves in the winter, and some don't (although how you treat them may or may not influence whether they lose their leaves). They say at least some habaneros don't lose their leaves in winter.

It seems to me that peppers that live longer probably produce better on the second and third years (but thereafter, I'm not so sure). I've heard this from two or three locations, but I don't have the sources, currently (I found them via web searches, probably in forums). However, I'm not referring to every pepper that can overwinter at least once as 'peppers that live longer'. Not all peppers that overwinter will thrive in this fashion, I hear.

Some people think most sweet peppers don't live that long, especially the hybrids, although if you take proper care of them, they might last somewhat longer and do better. However, I've read that at least big Bertha peppers, which are sweet, will do well on at least one subsequent year (in at least one person's experience).

I could be wrong, but it really seems like the peppers that overwinter indoors the best are those that tolerate cold the best. Even houses can get pretty cold for some peppers. So, that's good to take into consideration.

Peppers are notorious for dying when it gets cold. Most people think all peppers die at the slightest freeze. However, I have heard an account of someone in Beijing, China who had some wild peppers outside that survived snow.

Some of the more cold-tolerant peppers (and though they are all hot varieties, they just might survive mildly freezing temperatures) include these (although even the hardiest of these, with the possible exception of capsicum flexuosum, would probably die at 30 to 23°F (-1 to -5°C) and colder:

Of the cold-hardy hot peppers listed above, goats weed is the most closely related to sweet peppers. So, it might be possible to get a hybrid going there, with a certain amount of cold tolerance.

[Edit: Having grown red Peruvian Rocoto pepper plants, Black Cobra, and Chocolate Habanero, and observing them in a frost down at at least 28° F. I should note that each variety suffered from the frost. Some random plants didn't suffer much, though, but I'm not convinced it was due to cold-tolerance, since the same was true for other kinds of plants. In short, I'm not convinced they're any more cold-tolerant than other peppers. However, they do seem somewhat more cold-tolerant than my tomatoes, which suffered much more. Black Cobra is similar to Goat's Weed; so, that's why I mentioned it. I'm trying to start true Goat's Weed, now, though. So, maybe I'll see about it next year.]

I'm not sure how cold-hardy it is, but this very hot pepper also can be overwintered:

I'm guessing peppers that people call determinate may also be perennials, at least some of the time, and that they probably just have greater intervals without flowers (or else are better at flowering at other seasons than those people are normally used to). This is, however, just a guess. They could really die at the end of the season regardless of frost or care.

There do seem to be very few peppers that people say are determinate, with the exception of commercial field peppers (whatever varieties those are), but if you grow the seeds from a store pepper, the seedlings will probably resemble one of the parents of the hybrid instead of the hybrid itself.

Really, the only varieties of sweet pepper that I’ve specifically heard can overwinter indoors well (at least once) are big Bertha and potentially pepper 'Carmen' F1 (overwintered at least once). I've also heard of some orange bell peppers that overwinter well, but I don't know what varieties they are. More than one person has mentioned orange bell peppers in this regard.

Some people say pruning peppers is good (and some think it may be necessary to keep them alive), while others think this should not be done.

I've heard of a fertilizer (bloom builder plant food) that is supposed to help at least cayenne peppers to fruit well even in the middle of winter. That might work for sweet peppers, too.

I don't remember where I read it, but I hear nitrogen will help pepper plants to get big, while phosphorus will help them to develop fruit. Too much nitrogen may result in a huge plant without much fruit. However, if you're overwintering, that may be exactly what you want (a plant focusing on growing larger may thrive better than a plant focusing on growing fruit), for I hear you can switch the fertilizer later on to get more fruit after the plant has already gotten large. I think I read that you want equal parts nitrogen and phosphorus (or a little bit less phosphorus) if you want fruit, and less phosphorus (though I'm unsure how much less) if you want growth.

I've never heard of bell peppers (or any plants) dying if they don't get pollinated. The flowers may not turn into fruit, but that should be it. If you're worried about it, you can always remove the flowers. Some plants that are annuals, such as amaranth, will die after they flower and seed (and pruning off the flowers may extend the life of the plant somewhat, although it may not be aesthetically appealing). I don't believe this applies to peppers, but if there are determinate annual peppers, it just might be possible.

If I were experimenting with new peppers to see if they could live a long time and produce well, I would personally want to try peppers with one or more of these qualities first:

  • Above average cold tolerance
  • Takes a long time before it produces its initial batch of fruit
  • Known to grow to be about 5' tall or more
  • Orange color
  • Hierloom or wild varieties
  • Originate from South America or somewhere else warm.

I would also be more concerned with leaves than fruit until the plant got big. I would also want to keep the soil and air warm (they say if it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your peppers), and give it a nice grow light, such as this one (I haven't personally tried it, but I like the reviews).

If you happen to get a large and old pepper plant and are worried that it might die some day, I have some advice for you. Take cuttings and when they have roots, pot them. If you prune your pepper, you might as well try it with the clippings. Yes, you can take cuttings of peppers and root them (although they say it's somewhat more difficult than with tomatoes). Here's one way to do it (this way is said to work for many fruit trees and roses, too, although for roses I've also seen a recommendation to rip some of the skin off near the bottom, which might also work for other plants), and here's another, although if you have clippings to spare, I'd say test it with the plain water method too, just to see if it works (so you can save on hormone rooting powder). When you take cuttings, even if you have a hybrid pepper that doesn't produce seeds, you can still get more plants that produce exactly the same kind of pepper. People often recommend only taking small cuttings (for just about any kind of plant), but I would recommend experimenting beyond that advice if you have lots of clippings to try. When I did large cuttings with tomatoes, it worked well. Having roots that will be buried deep in the soil seems to be an advantage that makes it so you have to water less.

As the link above mentions, taking cuttings to grow and overwinter can sometimes be a better way to overwinter a pepper than digging it up.


(Older answer):

Some of bell peppers would suit your purpose (greenhouse production of bell peppers uses indeterminate cultivars, but field pepper cultivars are determinate), according to this website and this one. If you stop pollinating, the plant will stop producing fruit, but it won't stop the vegetative growth. Indoors it is good to do this on an occasional regular basis, to give the plant a break period.

Indeterminate is what you want. Most people probably don't think of peppers as determinate and indeterminate (it's probably a tomato-thing to most people). Here's a forum post with people discussing it. Peppers and tomatoes are in the same family. At least some indeterminate peppers are supposed to be good for hydroponic gardening.

Indeterminate plants grow and produce fruit indefinitely, I hear. Determinate plants do for a season.

Here are some examples of indeterminate sweet peppers:

Growing your peppers indoors, I would recommend a grow light, if you want your peppers to flourish. I'm not really sure how well they do without them, but I'm about to find out, as I just planted some less than a week ago. Also, make sure they're not in a cold room. They are said to like warm soil. I notice my seed roots grow faster when the room is warm.

I've seen it written that you want at least five gallons of dirt, but that's more than square foot gardening would require (although some things, such as watermelon, prefer deep soil). If you have room and light (as well as pots), I'd use a bigger pot for bigger and stronger plants.

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    I know they're hot rather than sweet but I successfully overwintered 4/4 small potted apache plants in an unheated conservatory (southern UK so it probably didn't go much below freezing in there). I only kept 2 of them for reasons of space but the were quite prolific this year with a long season. I cut them back quite hard and didn't give them more than a few drops of water - overwintering chillies is quite common and there's plenty of advice - I suggest following it and seeing what happens, especially as the most important advice is that it won't always work. – Chris H Oct 8 '14 at 14:49
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For what it's worth we have a local greenhouse that grows bell peppers and tomatoes year round. They use plants for 2 years. I think they trash them after that because the amount of woody stems starts to get out of hand. Since an individual grower isn't as concerned about production per square foot, you can probably extend this by at least another year.

If you find a variety you like, you can take a cutting and root it fairly easily. This is best done at a time when the parent plant is growing well.

Tomatoes at least come in determinate and indeterminate varieties. The former grow until they reach a certain height, or daylength, then pour all their energy into fruit. The latter keep growing and producing fruit at a longer rate. Determinate plants I think are good or only one season

  • You can take cuttings to prolong its life even further, I would think. – Shule Feb 11 '15 at 6:50
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Mine has produced for 2 years and I'm questioning if it's going to make it for 3, carrying it through the winter in a homemade growth chamber where it loses most of its leaves. The 2nd year was more productive than the first, and now the lower portion of the stalk looks more like a tree with arthritis than a pepper.

  • I don't think there is anything inherently bad about the stem begging to bark (I'm sure there's a proper term for it). If anything it helps by making the plant more resilient to environmental conditions. – Enigma Feb 12 '15 at 17:34
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Bell peppers in my funky hoop house greenhouse (dangit, I don't remember the names of the peppers - but some common things (one green, one purple, one yellow) that were available at a nursery in coastal northern California) produced wonderfully their second summer. During the intervening winter they made lots of seedless flat small peppers. This is their second winter - they're glad it's the solstice - and I'll try to remember to start hand-pollinating them to see if the winter product will be bigger. Last winter I didn't heat the greenhouse at all. This winter I'm trying to heat it (radiant heater like people use in garages) whenever the night is going to be below 50. It's on a SW-facing hillside, so I put the heater at the bottom corner of the gh and point it toward the middle. Cherry tomatoes are still producing too - 6-8 tomatoes a day from 8-10 plants! But I'm a one-person family, so that's fine!

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I am entering my 6th winter with my habanero plant. I set it out on my deck from end of April until first frost. I haven't had any luck with bell or pablanos. I live in Indiana

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My sweet red bell pepper plant is almost through its second summer. It's in a pot, so I brought it in last year and stuck it in a window and watered it daily all winter. It stopped producing around November and suffered a serious aphid and spider mite infestation all winter because I didn't clean it before bringing it in. In February, the height of our winter last year, it perked up enough to start blooming and producing peppers even when it was pressing against icy cold glass. By the time it was warm enough to take it outside most of the leaves had fallen off and the infestation had nearly killed it (I had given up on home-made remedies and tried an aphid&mite spray that damaged the leaves of this plant badly and still didn't kill the bugs), so I wasn't expecting it to recover. But it did after just a few weeks outside where predatory insects could get to it. It's now a tree, not too pretty looking but with a thick sturdy base and limbs that can support the bundles of peppers it's growing. It's definitely outproducing the new red bell pepper plant I got this year. I look forward to finding out how it handles its second winter inside.

I should note that I'm not a gardener and have no green thumb. I didn't prune it or let it go dormant and didn't cut back much on the watering. I did use liquid fertilizer for a few months, but then I started to suspect the nitrogen content was making the infestations worse so I cut back on that. The window it was in only gets direct sunlight for a few hours each morning and I had no grow lights to help it out. I also didn't change the soil when I took it back out for the summer. I literally just brought it in last fall and put it back out this spring. Either I got insanely lucky or sweet bell peppers are pretty stubborn plants.

I also overwintered a red chili plant in the same window that produced all winter and is extremely productive this summer. That plant suffered the same infestation and dropped a lot of leaves when I used the insecticide, but it kept right on producing and recovered fast. Comparing the two, the hot pepper is definitely hardier, but the bell pepper is holding its own. I'd recommend anyone who likes peppers and has a free window to give it a try. If nothing else, it will survive a few months longer than it would have if left out when the frost hits.

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My ghost pepper plant has lived for quite some time kept outside in sunny florida, I get a production que of around 2000 peppers per year from just my one plant.

Bell peppers can be kept for a second year under the correct climate, but usually they do die off. They arent the strongest plant in the world, stem durability is far different than a hotter variety which form barky after a while, the sugar content also out weighs the capsaicin which makes the plant and the pepper rot away and deteriorate.

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I have a couple of Jalapeno plants that didnt produce much last year.. This year though relatively small still have produced.. They made it through the winter and are looking great. I have an irrigation canal about 25 feet down slope that runs 24/7. The waterway is 18 inches deep by 10 feet wide.. Water moves at about 4 miles per hour. I think it creates a micro climate that helps .. Have had tomatoes 2 ywars old too.. I live in Northern California @ 675 feet elevation in the Sierra Foolthills..

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