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issue Are these overwintered plants still viable?

Hi Folks,

I tried overwintering a few plants for the first time last year, but after being moved into a warmer room and exposed to more light, they still aren't showing any new growth after about 3 weeks or so. Being an absolute beginner, I have no idea how to tell just by looking at the plants whether they are still alive, so I decided to expose the roots and have a look, but I'm still none the wiser. Each pair of photos shows the plant first with the roots in the photo directly afterwards. I'd appreciate any advice you have, even if it's "chuck them and stop flogging a dead horse!" :deadhorse:.

Thanks,
Fin.

Oops. My photos have disappeared. I'll upload them again.
 

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Cutting back plants for overwintering does not imply cutting off all leaves. If there are no green leaves left then the plant has no opportunity to use nutrients or sunlight. The plant dies. These ones indeed look to me like they're history.
 
Cutting back plants for overwintering does not imply cutting off all leaves. If there are no green leaves left then the plant has no opportunity to use nutrients or sunlight. The plant dies. These ones indeed look to me like they're history.
Thanks for your reply. I must admit that surprises me, as I watched many videos before my attempt, most of which involved drastically pruning the plants before letting them "hibernate". As far as I am aware, they are not SUPPOSED to have any leaves at this point, precisely to prevent them from trying to grow. Be interesting to hear what the real experts have to say about this 🤔
 
I overwintered pepper plants this winter with no knowledge of what I was doing (nothing new there, come Spring thought they were deader than a dead thing, then I watched a vid on youtube about overwintering and how to tell if the roots were still viable - this guy said that if the roots are "springy" then they're good and he was right in my case. I trimmed the roots down and stuck the OWs in smaller pots and they're doing really well outside.

PS. I'm not a real expert :lol:
 
I overwintered pepper plants this winter with no knowledge of what I was doing (nothing new there, come Spring thought they were deader than a dead thing, then I watched a vid on youtube about overwintering and how to tell if the roots were still viable - this guy said that if the roots are "springy" then they're good and he was right in my case. I trimmed the roots down and stuck the OWs in smaller pots and they're doing really well outside.

PS. I'm not a real expert :lol:
Cool, I'm glad to hear that. Not sure if my roots are springy or not, as I repotted them after taking the photos. I just thought that some of the more experienced posters might have been able to tell by the colour or whatever, but it won't cost me too much time or effort to find out, and I still have enough space in the yard until my seedlings are ready to be hardened off 😁.
 
I think it's more likley than not they aren't going to recover, but I agree with @Tinkerbelle that there's a chance and no real downside to trying.

A key in overwintering is whether you plan to grow them or hibernate them. If you're going to grow them, they need adequate heat and light. If you're going to "hibernate" them, heat is your enemy as the plant will try to grow and use up the energy stored in it's roots. For hibernation, I aim for 8-12 Celsius and am less worried about temperatures being a little lower from time to time than I am about them staying much higher. When hibernating, the plant will have much better chances if it's reached a size that it has ample energy stored in its root system. I determine this by the diameter of the base of the stem. Yours are near or at the minimum size I would try to overwinter. They need very little light during hibernation and can go for periods with no light at all, though I'd aim for 3 to 5 hours of low light. The lights shouldn't warm the plants because that will make them more active and they'll waste their energy stores. They also need very little water because minimal transpiration will occur.

If you're not going to hibernate them, they need warmth and light. Light should be increased as warmth increases or the plants will stretch and be weak.

I've never had a problem with removing all the leaves, but I never just remove leaves, I prune back the plant. Pruning can be helpful during hibernation, as thin branches and leaves may die back during the winter and this can cause weakness, disease, etc. Pruning can also can help when spring arrives because the remaining energy in the roots will be focused over a small re-growth area. Pruning isn't necessary though. I've hibernated plants without modification at the end of a season without issues. However, if you keep them warmer (growing them indoors during winter) I would strongly recommend pruning them back fully and cleaning them up completely at the time you bring them inside so that the chance of pests, aphids in particular, is minimized. Pest eggs will hatch if they warm and it is a very bad situation to have pests on inside plants.

If you care to look, here's a recent post I made of some of my overwinters. You'll notice that they have big stem bases that are much more wood than stem, which helps them to have the energy to survive and re-emerge.

Good luck with your season!
 
I agree with the consensus here - likely they're finished but what does it hurt to continue to care for them and see if they spring back?

We had a lemon tree that we forgot to bring in for the winter until it froze hard. EVERYTHING looked dead but we took care of it anyway and it eventually came back. Life is tenacious so give it a chance!
 
I think it's more likley than not they aren't going to recover, but I agree with @Tinkerbelle that there's a chance and no real downside to trying.

A key in overwintering is whether you plan to grow them or hibernate them. If you're going to grow them, they need adequate heat and light. If you're going to "hibernate" them, heat is your enemy as the plant will try to grow and use up the energy stored in it's roots. For hibernation, I aim for 8-12 Celsius and am less worried about temperatures being a little lower from time to time than I am about them staying much higher. When hibernating, the plant will have much better chances if it's reached a size that it has ample energy stored in its root system. I determine this by the diameter of the base of the stem. Yours are near or at the minimum size I would try to overwinter. They need very little light during hibernation and can go for periods with no light at all, though I'd aim for 3 to 5 hours of low light. The lights shouldn't warm the plants because that will make them more active and they'll waste their energy stores. They also need very little water because minimal transpiration will occur.

If you're not going to hibernate them, they need warmth and light. Light should be increased as warmth increases or the plants will stretch and be weak.

I've never had a problem with removing all the leaves, but I never just remove leaves, I prune back the plant. Pruning can be helpful during hibernation, as thin branches and leaves may die back during the winter and this can cause weakness, disease, etc. Pruning can also can help when spring arrives because the remaining energy in the roots will be focused over a small re-growth area. Pruning isn't necessary though. I've hibernated plants without modification at the end of a season without issues. However, if you keep them warmer (growing them indoors during winter) I would strongly recommend pruning them back fully and cleaning them up completely at the time you bring them inside so that the chance of pests, aphids in particular, is minimized. Pest eggs will hatch if they warm and it is a very bad situation to have pests on inside plants.

If you care to look, here's a recent post I made of some of my overwinters. You'll notice that they have big stem bases that are much more wood than stem, which helps them to have the energy to survive and re-emerge.

Good luck with your season!
Thanks a million for your reply, CD, and for your very concise explanation of the science behind overwintering :thumbsup:. In addition to the 3 plants shown I hibernated another 7, all in my unheated loft at a temperature of roughly 10°C and quite severely pruned. Apart from the roots looking a bit suspect, my main reason for doubting their viability was the fact that the stems are all looking wooden, but checking out your OWs has cured me of that notion. Below, I have attached photos of a couple of the others, which shows that they have "hollowed out" at some of the pruning points. Any idea what could cause that, and whether that would affect their chances of survival? 🤔
 

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Thanks a million for your reply, CD, and for your very concise explanation of the science behind overwintering :thumbsup:. In addition to the 3 plants shown I hibernated another 7, all in my unheated loft at a temperature of roughly 10°C and quite severely pruned. Apart from the roots looking a bit suspect, my main reason for doubting their viability was the fact that the stems are all looking wooden, but checking out your OWs has cured me of that notion. Below, I have attached photos of a couple of the others, which shows that they have "hollowed out" at some of the pruning points. Any idea what could cause that, and whether that would affect their chances of survival? 🤔
Hey Fin. Glad if it helped. I expect hollowing out to mean death of at least the part of that branch nearest the hollowed-out end. How far down the branch death continues is the question.

What I will do is look at the branch and see if there's a visible transition from what I think is dead to what I think might be healthy branch, lower. Then I prune the branch back toward that point and examine the inside tissue. If the branch is green and/or white on the inside and with enough moisture content that it would bend before breaking, that's great. If its brown and dead-looking, lacks moisture, isn't dense, and looks like it might snap without bending, then I expect it isn't living/healthy. You will also feel a difference when pruning healthy versus dead tissue - much like chopping new (wet) compared to old (dry) firewood with an axe. When I first take the plants outside in spring, I'll often prune them back like this until I reach the healthy tissue. Even on just one branch or a main stem I might take several cuts, each progressively lower, until I've removed the unhealthy tissue and reached the healthy tissue. I do this instead of inspecting the roots because I think disrupting the roots weakens the plant at a time when I want all its remaining energy dedicated to foliage growth. As you evaluate more OW peppers, you'll develop experience in looking at the outside of the plant/branch/stem and understanding what the inside will look like.

As I progress toward the healthy tissue, I consider the growth nodes - usually a bump on the branch - but if they aren't visible I'll use my best judgment and try not to take away too much. I usually cut back to where there are enough - but not too many - growth nodes as the fewer the nodes (as a general rule, but not in all cases) the faster and more successful the plant will be at re-growth.

To me, the pepper in the picture above looks dead at the top, but the junction a few inches below doesn't look so bad (hard to tell because the focus is on the hollow part, above). I would prune the dead part back to equal with the other pruned branch just above the second junction down and "feel" the resistance as you cut and then look at the inner branch to see if you think the plant is healthy at that point. You could even cut again the lowest node, but I probably wouldn't. It's more difficult to evaluate from pictures, but I think the second node is far enough and likely the right spot.
 
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Hey Fin. Glad if it helped. I expect hollowing out to mean death of at least the part of that branch nearest the hollowed-out end. How far down the branch death continues is the question.

What I will do is look at the branch and see if there's a visible transition from what I think is dead to what I think might be healthy branch, lower. Then I prune the branch back toward that point and examine the inside tissue. If the branch is green and/or white on the inside and with enough moisture content that it would bend before breaking, that's great. If its brown and dead-looking, lacks moisture, isn't dense, and looks like it might snap without bending, then I expect it isn't living/healthy. You will also feel a difference when pruning healthy versus dead tissue - much like chopping new (wet) compared to old (dry) firewood with an axe. When I first take the plants outside in spring, I'll often prune them back like this until I reach the healthy tissue. Even on just one branch or a main stem I might take several cuts, each progressively lower, until I've removed the unhealthy tissue and reached the healthy tissue. I do this instead of inspecting the roots because I think disrupting the roots weakens the plant at a time when I want all its remaining energy dedicated to foliage growth. As you evaluate more OW peppers, you'll develop experience in looking at the outside of the plant/branch/stem and understanding what the inside will look like.

As I progress toward the healthy tissue, I consider the growth nodes - usually a bump on the branch - but if they aren't visible I'll use my best judgment and try not to take away too much. I usually cut back to where there are enough - but not too many - growth nodes as the fewer the nodes (as a general rule, but not in all cases) the faster and more successful the plant will be at re-growth.

To me, the pepper in the picture above looks dead at the top, but the junction a few inches below doesn't look so bad (hard to tell because the focus is on the hollow part, above). I would prune the dead part back to equal with the other pruned branch just above the second junction down and "feel" the resistance as you cut and then look at the inner branch to see if you think the plant is healthy at that point. You could even cut again the lowest node, but I probably wouldn't. It's more difficult to evaluate from pictures, but I think the second node is far enough and likely the right spot.
Thanks again, CD. I worked my way gradually down to about 2 inches above soil level and everything was totally dessicated, so these two plants are now headed for composting. Still have half a dozen OWs which may or may not come, but I think I may even have managed to "underwater" hibernating plants by the looks of things :oops:. All part of the learning process, and I still have about 30 seedlings which will hopefully bear fruit this year, although most of them are a bit stunted since it's my first year growing from seed and they have become victims of my beginner's errors. Think I'll get myself down to the garden centre and buy a couple of mature plants, just to make sure I don't completely run out of chillies once the ones in the freezer have been used up 😱.
 
I must be lucky.
My plants have been growing all summer & going in to fall when I cut them back to forked branches.
Water them well & put them into a basement with dirt floor with temps in the 50s.

When March comes along, the days are getting warmer, I put them out in the day & put them back at night.
The stems still have green & soon the leaf buds swell & burst. Soon they all have leaves & are growing again.

I have overwintered other plants with good success. This year we brought 2 Dwarf Tamarillos though so we may get some fruit from them.
The trick is to put them to sleep for awhile & bring them back without too much stress.

I never repot or mess with the roots before they are growing again. Repot them into a bigger container before growing them out for the new season. I have used the cool damp basement for the last 36 years for my peppers & other curiosity's over the cold winters past.



Good luck with your peppers.
 
I must be lucky.
My plants have been growing all summer & going in to fall when I cut them back to forked branches.
Water them well & put them into a basement with dirt floor with temps in the 50s.

When March comes along, the days are getting warmer, I put them out in the day & put them back at night.
The stems still have green & soon the leaf buds swell & burst. Soon they all have leaves & are growing again.

I have overwintered other plants with good success. This year we brought 2 Dwarf Tamarillos though so we may get some fruit from them.
The trick is to put them to sleep for awhile & bring them back without too much stress.

I never repot or mess with the roots before they are growing again. Repot them into a bigger container before growing them out for the new season. I have used the cool damp basement for the last 36 years for my peppers & other curiosity's over the cold winters past.



Good luck with your peppers
Thanks, Marturo. When you say you water them well, do you mean you soak them and then don't give them any more water over the winter? Not having a basement I have to put mine up in the attic, so I can't keep them in darkness as there are windows up there.

Meantime, I did a little shopping to replace some of my dead OWs. I'm particularly curious about the Scorpions. I reckon I'll firstly be trying a very small piece of the flesh without any seeds or placenta :flamethrower:. The hottest chillies I've eaten so far are Scotch Bonnets, so we'll see...
 

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When you say you water them well, do you mean you soak them and then don't give them any more water over the winter?
You know how the soil pulls away on the edges where pot meets dirt.
Pack soil tight along the edges & water from the bottom.
I bottom soak them & never water again until they show signs of bud swell in early spring.
When they start leafing out it's full steam ahead with Fish & seaweed liquid fertilizer.


I'm particularly curious about the Scorpions.
Scotch Bonnets, Aji Charapita, Chiltepin, Habaneros all as high as I fly.
One whole Carolina Reaper & I was convinced I did not belong there. :mouthonfire:
 
Thanks for your advice, Marturo :thumbsup:.

A Whole Carolina Reaper? Well you're a braver man than I 😮. After I try some of the flesh to see what they taste like, the rest of the Scorpions will probably get turned into jams and sauces, with a few put aside for practical jokes on friends who reckon they like it hot 😈. Slicing a Bonnet onto my pizza is about as far as I have felt the need to go. Although it has been said you should never say never 😅.
 
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