PostHeaderIcon How Long Do Pepper Plants Live?

How long do pepper plants live, anyway?  Are they annuals, perennials or somewhere in between?  Can you grow them indoors in the winter?  Let's take a look at the life of a pepper plant.

Pepper Types (Species)

There are five main species of peppers:

  • Capsicum annuum:  Includes bell, sweet and many standard chile peppers like ancho, jalapeno, cayenne and more.
  • Capsicum chinense:  Includes datil, habanero and scotch bonnet peppers.
  • Capsicum frutescens:  Includes tabasco and thai peppers.
  • Capsicum pubescens:  Includes the South American rocoto peppers.
  • Capsicum baccatum:  Includes the aji peppers.

It's important to know the species, as some are longer-lived than others.  All pepper plants can be grown as annuals, but a few species can be perennial, provided they are in very warm, tropical climates.

There's one pepper that seems to be cross-species, and that is the naga / bhut jolokia pepper.  Originally called Capsicum frutescens, DNA testing has found some Capsicum chinense genes as well. 

Capsicum Chinense as a Perennial

The Capsicum chinense peppers can live several years, providing they are in a warm climate.  In theory, this means you can grow this species in a warm greenhouse as a perennial.

I've grown habaneros almost perennially here in South Florida, but I'm afraid that some of our cold snaps have done them in.  This year I am trying habaneros and datils in containers, so that I can move them into the house (well, garage at any rate) when the temperatures fall below 45 degrees.

Capsicum Annuum

Your average pepper plant belonging to the species Capsicum annuum is generally grown as an annual.  Although I have had some pretty long-lived jalapenos, they eventually get woody and die off.

I've never tried pruning a jalapeno, though, to see if I can revitalize it -- that's something I'll have to try this year.

Although you really can't grow them as a perennial, Capsicum annuum can have an extended season.  If you're growing your pepper(s) in a container, you can try moving them indoors when the weather cools down.  Just keep in mind that your pepper still needs plenty of sunlight; without sunlight, all the warmth in the world won't extend your pepper's life.  That may mean a combination of south-facing window along with some supplemental light (grow lights).

Other Pepper Species

The same general rules apply to the other species; they need warmth and plenty of sunlight in order to keep growing.  In their native tropical environments, the plants can live multiple years.  But even in South Florida, they won't necessarily live all year around -- we do get chilly weather, and even as I write this, I'm expecting freezing termperatures tomorrow night.

So how long do pepper plants live?  While they may not be perennial in the sense of living years on end, there are varieties that can grow several years -- if you have the right climate.

Additional Reading

You might enjoy these related posts on peppers:

Pepper Questions

Germinating Pepper Seeds

Growing Peppers in Containers

18 Responses to “How Long Do Pepper Plants Live?”

  • dIANNE says:

    Hi Gail!

    I find your site interesting. Scotch Bonnet peppers are what I like very much because it has a really great flavor and especially the purple/black one and the long ones. I would like to purchase some plants, could you tell me where I could get scotch bonnet plants to buy?
    It is very interesting to learn all these names and to see that scotch bonnet has another name besides Habernero. I am really impressed.
    Continue the good work Gail!

    Dianne.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Dianne,

    Thanks for your question. At this time of year, I don’t know that you’d find anywhere to buy the scotch bonnet plants, as it’s too chilly for them (unless you have a greenhouse). I know that starting late January/early February you’ll find opportunities to buy the plants, though (I’ve seen them several places online in the past).

    I’ll have to start posting links come that time, so people know where to go and get the plants, if they can’t find them locally.

    Gail

  • Bob says:

    I’m growing a Chili Pepper from summer and its still fruiting indoors of course I have t5 lights on them for about 5 hours a day, they show no sign of aging but they are getting woody like a small orange tree

  • larry says:

    I have a bell pepper plant about 2 years old, you can call it a bush. It is in the ground. it’s about 5″ tall and it is just full of peppers this year. they are not as large as the year before. But they are sweet. I use them mostly for cooking. The base or trunk is about an 1 1/2″ in diameter. I am in SE FL. It does not produce in the summer, but it goes crazy in the fall and spring. I can send pics if you like.

    LC

  • VV says:

    Hello,
    I found your website useful. I live in central Pennsylvania. I bought a green bell pepper plant in June and it grew in pot and produced 5-6 small green-red bell peppers till now and have couple of them growing on the plant. As fall is here, I wonder if the plant will survive if I bring it indoor. And if it survives, will it produce peppers again? Will I be waiting till next summer to see new leaves and fruits? I would like to know how it works. Thanking in advance,
    VV

  • Gail says:

    It’s a hard one to predict. Bell pepper plants usually are true annuals, and tend to not live past one season. However, I have heard tell of a few here and there that have survived a winter inside, and then to went on to produce more peppers the following year. I don’t know if any that continued to produce peppers during the indoor season, though.

    You can certainly try it and see what happens. Just remember that you will need to give it lots of supplemental light and keep it warm (where it stays at least in the mid 70′s during the day). Don’t overwater or fertilize it more than lightly during the winter.

    Good luck and best wishes! :)

  • Jim says:

    I have had bell pepper plants live for 3 years here in S.E. Texas. I’ve been trying to duplicate that feat for years. Since I got much better production from the plants in years two and three. Much better. So yeah every now and then it happens if the winter(s) is a mild one.

  • Larry Mudd says:

    Last year I build pvc green houses for my peppers. I was able to save about 2/3 of the plants that I had when it turn cold here in North Fla. This year I will have over 6 houses to build. My wife and I are growing plant to sell and making salsa out of the peppers. Your site has giving some real good info. Thank You. If any one is looking for seeds just drop me an e-mail for price and seeds we have. We have Bhut Jolokia ( Ghost pepper), Datil from Keystone Hieghts FL, and Pretty Puple Peppers. As of today we have around 200+ plants making peppers. Again Thank You for the real good info.

  • Mike from UK says:

    I grew a bell peper plant from seed in april and have since brought it inside and is continuing the provide 2 peppers per plant. I have it inside on my windowsill. Next summer I plan to put it outside in the ground. I live near london in UK and you know what our winters are like.

  • Chris says:

    Hi

    Just wanted to add, I have a jalapeno plant that I started from seed in spring 2008…I live in East Tenn and we certainly get winter here. I had success in transplanting the bush indoors through the winters. MANY hundred peppers have been harvested from this plant. Each year it drops nearly all the leaves and regenerates. Unfortunately I do not think it will survive this year as the new leaves are dying for some reason, perhaps I should have pruned it more. At any rate, 3 full years of growth ain’t bad I guess. It got fairly large, the main stem is about 1″ thick at the base. I also have a Bute Jolokia that looks healthy and an orange sweet pepper that may or may not survive winter. It looks healthy now, curious if it will survive till next year. I just keep them in a window that faces south by southwest.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Chris,

    Congratulations! It’s nice to hear when a plant has a nice long (and productive) life. May there be many, many more jalepenos for you. :)

    Gail

  • Don azul says:

    Interesting. I have a jalapeño that is going into it’s third year. I have gotten more then a couple hundred in it’s life. I wouldn’t recommend pruning. We are in SW Florida.

  • Gail says:

    I’m happy to hear that others are getting more than one season out of their plants! It’s not the norm, but it’s really nice when you get one that does last. :)

  • Eric elliott says:

    Many years ago, I was told of a tomato tree in Cuba, near the US base. The Cuban lady said she pruned the plant when it did not produce enough fruit, then it would grow new branches producing more fruit. Bob said it had a trunk inches thick with bark like a conifer.
    All that makes me wish to know how peppers live in HI islands. Any one there in HI with peppers several years old? Maybe more productive to plant new twice a year?

  • charles says:

    Dear Pepper lovers
    I live in Beijing China. There are some wild peppers growing outside my apt. They have been there for at least 3 years. They look like common green cayenne peppers. The leaves fall off during winter and they get covered in snow. In the spring they grow like crazy. I have seen purple peppers outside a guard shack that have been there for years but recent construction destroyed them.

  • Gail says:

    Thanks, Charles! It’s highly unusual that a pepper plant can withstand snow, but it looks like you have a variety that can handle it. :)

  • jln says:

    i was asking the same question, when i came across this site. i have had some orange habaneros since 2011, in phoenix arizona, i have to protect them from the sun during the crazy summer months, and the few weeks of cold during winter. they produce really well when the temperature is within flowering range. i was not sure if to pull them out and plant some new ones, or just leave them and see how long the last.
    i prune them during the unproductive periods, and the always come back stronger and bigger, my last harvest was full of HUGE berries, i never knew they could grow so large. i do not want to pull them out.

  • Gail says:

    Don’t pull them out, since you are very obviously doing something right! :) I know lots of us would like to be in your shoes. ;) Best wishes for more great harvests!

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