Chilli plants by nature aren't geared up for hiberation, but that's not to say they can't. Surely if a living, breathing creature the size of a bear can sleep in a hole for 6 months and come out the other side alive, so can a plant.
Although technically classified an annual, in more temperature climates you can cut a chilli plant back to a bare skeleton, leaving it dormant for the cooler months. Doing this puts the plant in a shut-down mode, which is how it remains until the first warm rays of spring sunshine hit its frame. At that point, with the warmth back running through the soil, the 'bloodflow' of the plant returns, and regeneration is imminent.
When you have identified a great performing chilli worth keeping, pruning it will help you develop the plant so that it improves through the seasons. If you happen to be living in a cold climate, with severe frosts through winter, consider growing your chilli plants in pots so that once pruned they can be stored in a warm spot.
Here's how to prune your plants;
1. As autumn intensifies, the cooling weather changes the temperature of the soil, and warm blooded creatures like chillies begin to lose their vibrancy and turn colour. At this point, take the last remaining harvest (perhaps make some chilli oil), and begin to prune.
2. Much like when pruning a fruit tree, you want to cut back fairly hard and decisively, leaving a few main branches and good structure/airflow.
3. Depending on the size of the plant, and how often you have cut back already, leave approximately 3-4 main branches, and remove all foliage.
4. If grown in a pot, move it to a warmer space for the winter. It doesn't need to hog sunlight where you'll grow your cool season crops, just somewhere protected from frost (such as up against a wall).
5. As spring settles in again, the plant should begin to show signs of life with new shoots. Remember that chillies are late spring plants, so be patient as it could take a while to reshoot.
6. Not all cutbacks are successful, and some may sadly not take. Those that do however can be cutback in the same fashion each year and will develop into stronger, more productive plants.
Watch video on pruning a chilli plant