How long do chilli pepper plants live?
Here are the five major varieties of peppers and their typical lifespans if grown in tropical or indoor conditions year-round:
C. Annum species are typically the shortest lived of peppers, and are best grown as annuals each year. Although "annum" is Latin for "annual," these can still be perennial plants if grown in tropical climates. These include Bell Peppers, sweet/Italian Peppers, Serrano, Cayenne, Paprika, Hatch Chile Peppers, ornamental peppers like the gorgeous NuMex Twilight pepper, and all of the fast growing Jalapeños. These pepper plants can live between 1.5-3 years. We find that the annum New Mexican Chile varieties really produce the best in their first year, they don't produce much if grown longer than that, so planting fresh plants each season is best for the biggest harvests. On the other hand, some C. annuum species can live much longer, such as Chiltepin peppers, also known as Tepin peppers which can live indefinitely (20+ years) if not exposed to frost. Tepins are native to North American and grow wild in Texas, Arizona and Mexico.
Capsicum baccatum: 4-6 years
South American varieties including Ají Amarillo, Ají Limón. These peppers can live between 4-6 years. These can become impressive bushes and can produce all year long in the right environment.
Capsicum chinense: 3-5 years
Includes the hottest peppers in the world, Habaneros, Scotch Bonnets, Trinidad Scorpions, the Bhut Jolokia Ghost Peppers, Carolina Reaper and the new Dragon's Breath Pepper. These peppers can live between 3-5 years. Some pepper growers growing in regions with cold winter weather bring their super hot pepper plants indoors to overwinter them to have a huge head start on the next season.
Capsicum frutescens: 3-8 years
Tabasco Peppers, Malaguetas, Thai Hot and many of the peppers grown in India. These peppers can live between 3-8 years. These plants typically produce the most peppers in their first year.
Capsicum pubescens: 5-10 years
Rocoto and Manzano peppers are the longest lived chile pepper plants. They have distinctive multi-stemmed woody vining plants, with purple flowers, black seeds, fuzzy darker green leaves. These are the longest lived peppers, and can live between 5-10 years in the right conditions, some reports have mentioned Rocoto pepper plants that were 15 years old. Rocotos grow in the Andes and like high day/night temperature fluctuations. They can also tolerate mild frost.
That said, many people report peppers growing much longer than the above average lifespans. Here are what some other chilli plant growers had to say:
- They say that Chiltepins can live 35-50 years if not exposed to a hard frost.
- I’ve seen 10 year old chili pepper plants protected from frost.
- I've seen bird pepper "trees" on some Pacific islands that were 10-15 cm diameter in there woody trunks.
- Production usually drops off after 5 or 6 years or so, but they can live a couple decades and beyond.
- Plenty of people have mentioned over a decade, but one article i read said that 20-25 years wasn't out of the realm of possibility
- I had a Trinidad Scorpion in the ground for 3 years in Arizona until a hard frost did it in one winter.
- I think it varies by variety but I know someone who kept a hot pepper alive for 7 years. It was huge!
We'd love to hear about your pepper plants, how long have you kept a pepper plant growing?