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Top Problems Growing Pepper Plants and How to Fix Them

Peppers are some of the world’s most popular vegetables. Varieties such as sweet bell peppers (also known as capsicum) are beloved by hobby gardeners worldwide, and spicier varieties such as jalapeno and habanero are grown by more adventurous folks. However, there are a few issues that can arise when growing your own peppers.

Top problems when growing pepper plants are drooping plants, leaf drop, plant death, fruitless plants, curling or discolored leaves, stunted growth, and frost. These issues are all easily solved with fresh soil, better watering techniques, fungicides or pesticides, and insulation.

By educating yourself on new techniques to keep your plants healthy, you will be able to produce a bountiful harvest with more peppers than you could imagine. Read on for some inspiration and tips on how to save your pepper plants.

Your Pepper Plants Are Drooping/Falling Over

When we plant seeds or seedlings in our garden or as a crop, our hope is that, come harvest time, we will be able to reap a bountiful harvest with healthy, brightly colored fruits and vegetables. However, this can’t happen if your plants start to weaken or droop. If left drooping, plants can even fall over entirely.

It is important to pay attention to the qualities of your pepper plants. Since there are many varieties of peppers, you should familiarize yourself with the ones in your garden. Being a mindful grower will help you better tend to the needs of your plants.

When your pepper plants start to droop, it is a sign of issues that need to be resolved. In this context, “drooping” refers to the weakening of the pepper plant’s leaves, stem, and any peppers on it. The plants may look wrinkly, dehydrated, or even tired. Without assistance, drooping plants will likely wither up and die.

Drooping is normally caused by one of two issues. The first of these two potential issues is excess heat. When pepper plants are exposed to high heat and aren’t given the right amount of shade and watering, then they are susceptible to withering and dehydration.

When dealing with droopy plants that are overheating, you have a couple of options. The first option is for those gardeners who are using moveable pots for their plants, or who are using a movable garden bed (like this Emsco Raised Bed Grow Box). If you are able to move your plants to a different part of your home or properly, bring them into a shadier area and make sure to water them more completely.

If you are working with immovable garden beds or large crops, what you can do to prevent further drooping is to modify your watering schedule. To accommodate the needs of drooping plants, you will have to increase the number of times you water your plants. Instead of simply adding more water to the plants, you should also increase the intervals at which you water them.

Your Pepper Plant Is Dropping Leaves/Dying

One of the main characteristics of a healthy vegetable plant is its ample, bright green leaves. These leaves should be hearty and should be able to withstand normal fluctuations in the water, i.e., wind, rain, a slight chill. Healthy plants should also have leaves that are firmly attached to the stalk or stem.

When leaves start falling off vegetable plants, you should be concerned. This means that there is some sort of underlying issue that perhaps cannot be seen on the surface of the plant. If you notice that your pepper plants are dropping leaves, make sure to observe the characteristics of the leaves like texture and dryness, because this may help you solve the underlying issue. If not taken care of, a plant that’s dropping leaves can quickly turn into a dying plant.

One of the reasons your pepper plants could be dropping leaves is because it hasn’t been watered well enough. When plants don’t receive enough water, they begin to dry up and become dehydrated, much like people do when they don’t drink enough water. The leaves are the first parts of the plant to die because they are at the furthest edges.

To restore dehydrated plants that have been underwatered, you will need to reconsider your watering schedule. The National Gardening Association (NGA) suggests deep watering every few days instead of watering a small amount daily. This means that you should intensely water your plant down at the roots a few times a week instead of simply misting or drizzling your plant with water on a daily basis.

Another reason that your plants are dropping leaves may be that they are overheated. Much like the fact that plants can become droopy when they are overexposed to heat, plants also drop off leaves when they get too hot. They can also become quite “leggy,” meaning they have long stems and sparsely-placed leaves.

For this issue, the NGA suggests mulching around your plants to cool them off, along with the intense watering regimen mentioned above. Check out FibreDust CoCo Mulch for use in your garden.  

Your Pepper Plants Aren’t Producing Fruit

Let’s be honest – few people plant pepper plants just because they look pretty. Without their fruits, they are a rather ordinary-looking plant with little vibrance other than their naturally occurring green color.

Most of us plant peppers because we want to reap the delicious sweet or spicy fruits of the plant. Peppers come in all varieties, from sweet and juicy bell peppers (also known as capsicum) to fiery, smoky habanero peppers.

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No matter what variety we plant, we all want something on our plate come harvest time. It can be very frustrating when our plants don’t produce the amount of produce we had once hoped. That’s why it is important to keep an eye on your growing pepper plants and observe the rate at which your peppers emerge.

If you are dealing with pepper plants that just don’t want to produce fruit, you will likely have to supplement the plant. Supplementing your plants can be as easy as sprinkling a powder, spraying a liquid, or even just adding a new variety of soil to your plant’s space.

One of the most common causes of non fruiting plants that growers discover is that their soil is not properly fertilized. It’s suggested that you can get your soil tested to determine how much fertilizer and what variety of fertilizer you should get to help supplement your poor pepper plants. Old Farmer’s Almanac Organic Tomato & Vegetable Plant Food is a helpful, highly-reviewed all-purpose fertilizer to use in your garden.

The Leaves on Your Pepper Plants Are Curling

As a rule, pepper plants should have broad, pointed, bright green leaves. This is one of the distinct characteristics of pepper plants that set them apart from other species in your garden. These leaves should have a somewhat smooth texture and look healthy. Sometimes, however, you will encounter leaves on your pepper plants that look curled or wrinkled.

If you find that the leaves on your pepper plants are curling, you are likely dealing with a pest infestation. According to the experts at Gardening Know How, the curling of pepper leaves can be caused by the way that pests feed on the leaves.

Gardening Know How considers aphids and mites to be some of the biggest risks to your pepper plants – the ones that eat the plant the most. While there are some pesticides and insecticides on the market that specifically target these species, a general all-purpose vegetable-safe pesticide is fine for this job.

To get rid of insects on your pepper plants and to avoid further leaf curl in the future, you will have to use some sort of insecticide. When it comes to choosing an insecticide, you have a variety of options.

If you are looking for an affordable conventional insecticide, you can use something like Ortho Insect Mite & Disease 3-in-1; this insecticide is premixed and comes with its own sprayer. If you are more inclined to use a natural and organic product, Natria Insecticidal Soap may be the right option for you. 

Your Pepper Plants Are Turning Different Colors (Black, Yellow, Brown, or White)

As mentioned previously, the bright green colors of pepper plants are one of the biggest indicators of the general health of the plant. If this color changes to something that is not brown, or if it starts to develop spots, then you have reason to be concerned for the health of your plant.

If the leaves on your pepper plant are turning black or yellow, then you are likely dealing with a case of what is called “early blight.” Early blight is a form of fungus that is easily spread through watering and generally wet conditions. Because of this, it’s important that you water mindfully and segregate any plants that show signs of the blight.

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To get rid of early blight, you will have to use a fungicide on your plants. Much like the pesticides mentioned, you have multiple options for how to get rid of fungus on your plants. You can go a more conventional route and use a fungicide such as the Natria product, or you can also go for a product like Plantonix Neem Bliss Oil, which is a natural alternative to a chemical fungicide.

If the leaves on your pepper plant are turning brown, then they most likely have a case of bacterial leaf spot. This is caused by a bacterial infection entering the leaves of the plants. Bacterial leaf spot is symptomized by leaves that look like they are soggy and almost rotting off the plant.

Bacterial leaf spot, unfortunately, cannot be reversed – it can only be prevented. If your pepper plants are turning brown because of leaf spots, you will have to get rid of the offending leaves or even the entire plant and water more mindfully.

If the leaves on your pepper plant are turning white, then this means that they are infected with powdery mildew. Powdery mildew looks like a layer of white powder and usually presents itself on the leaves and stems of plants. Just like when dealing with early blight, you will have to use a fungicide to get rid of it entirely. 

The Growth of Your Pepper Plants Is Stunted

If you find yourself with pepper plants that just won’t budge, take a good hard look at the growing conditions you’ve given them. What sort of pots or raised beds have they been planted in? Do they have enough room to grow, or are they cramped? How much sun do they have?

If you’re growing your pepper plants in pots that you got them in as seedlings, you don’t see much growth after a period of time because the roots are likely bound up inside the pot, and the plant has likely sapped the soil of all nutrients.

To fix this issue, you will need to repot your peppers. 

To do so, you’ll have to take the plant out of the pot and gently loosen up the root structure, getting rid of some of the excess old soil. Then place the plant in a pot that is filled halfway with new soil or compost. Fill the spaces around the plant in with more soil or compost and give it a good watering. This will surely help your plant grow better because you are giving the roots more room to breathe as well as giving the plant more nutrients to absorb.

If your pepper plants were planted in a bed or field with old soil, they likely wouldn’t grow because the soil needs to be replenished. Especially if you planted peppers before in those areas, the soil would be depleted of nutrients, and the new crop of peppers won’t grow.

To fix this issue, instead of moving or replanting your peppers, you should gently mix up the soil surrounding the peppers. Then you should add a small layer of compost or fertilizer around the plants. Afterward, water the plants, making sure not to soak the soil too much. Overwatering can also be an issue because too much water will stagnate in the ground, allowing bacteria and fungus to collect and grow. 

Your Pepper Plant Was Exposed to Frost

Peppers are generally hardy plants and can bear immense amounts of fruit if given the right circumstances. As mentioned before, pepper plants need adequate amounts of water, nutritious soil, and sunlight to be able to flourish. They need to be watered amply to grow without wilting, and the soil they’re grown in needs to be full of vitamins and minerals.

Because of their slow growth, the Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests starting your bell pepper seeds 8-10 weeks before the last frost of spring. Starting your plants indoors prevents them from having to endure cold temperatures outside while they are still trying to grow and establish themselves.

Once you have started your peppers as seedlings indoors and they are a few inches tall and have strong roots, and once the last frost of spring has passed, you can move these plants into your outdoor pots, garden bed, or field. As long as they are watered frequently enough, pepper plants do well under summer conditions.

Even though they are a summer plant, however, peppers can be exposed to harsh conditions such as frost and freeze. When pepper plants are exposed to freezing conditions, there is a chance that they might survive, but it drastically decreases the potential for harvest come fall.

To prevent damage from frost and freeze, you will have to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts in your region and keep an eye out for cold temperatures at night. If you anticipate a frost or freeze, you should cover your pepper plants with a light blanket or plastic tarp to keep in some of the ground’s warmth that has been collected throughout the day.

Another way to prevent freezing temperatures from ruining your plants is to propagate them in a greenhouse or hoop house. Though most people visualize greenhouses as vast and expensive structures on commercial farms, they are actually quite easy to establish on your own property. Check out this DIY video on how to build your own at-home greenhouse for cheap.

Final Thoughts

Growing your own pepper plants can be an educational and rewarding experience, especially if you’re a new home gardener. Peppers are one of the most widely enjoyed nutritious vegetables in the world and can be a delicious addition to salads, roasts, and curries. However, gardeners who plant peppers may face some tricky issues with their gardens.

Pepper plants can easily become infected with bacteria, fungus, and insects, and need to be watered carefully to avoid becoming dehydrated or overhydrated. All you’ll need is some fresh soil, perhaps a fungicide or pesticide, and some insulation tools. With the right resources, these issues can be easy to solve. Follow these tips, and you’ll be enjoying a bountiful harvest soon enough.

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