Pepper Plant Diseases and Problems

Growing peppers is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Some years, harvests can be significantly reduced by unforeseen pepper plant diseases or problems.

Here, we will share some of the most common pepper plant problems, how to identify them, and how to prevent issues in the future. Some diseases are irreversible, other issues can be dealt with within a single growing season.

While this is not an exhaustive list of pepper plant diseases and problems, it covers the most common issues we are asked about by our fellow pepper growers.

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In This Article

Pepper Leaf Spot

Pepper leaf spot is a common bacterial plant infection seen all around the world. It is most common in rainy, humid and warm climates. These are the environmental conditions in which the bacteria can spread most easily.

Leaf spot is a bacteria, so it can be spread by touch, through seeds or via soil. Use cleanly soil and watering practices to avoid splashing the leaves with soil or cross contaminating.

Pepper Plant Leaf Spot
Bacterial leaf spot on pepper plant.


  • Yellow and green spots on leaves
  • Brown spots on leaves in later stages
  • Raised, corky spots on peppers
  • Leaf drop and decaying peppers


  • Remove infected areas. As with pepper plants infected with viruses, you should remove parts of the plant that show signs of leaf spot. The bacteria can spread easily, especially under damp and hot conditions. You don’t need to remove the entire plant unless it is totally covered.
  • Provide adequate fertilizer. With proper nutrition, pepper plants can actually fight off the bacteria. As with humans, the more healthy we are, the more able we are to fight off bacteria quickly. Feed any affected plants with a high quality fertilizer, consistently.
  • Spray with natural fungicide. Although leaf spot is bacterial, fungal treatments have been known to help. Use a copper based fungicide as a foliar spray in the early morning or late evening to help reduce the spread.
  • Avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Water is necessary for the spores to multiply and spread on your pepper plant’s leaves. Always water at the base of the plant to avoid splashing water on the leaves.
  • Practice cleanly gardening. As with all bacterial and viral pathogens, it is important to be cleanly while in the garden. If possible, use gloves when handling your plants. Avoid touching all of the plants one after the other to avoid spreading any bacteria.

Learn more about various pepper leaf spot problems here.

Mosaic Virus On Peppers

Another very common pepper plant issue is mosaic virus. There are many different types of mosaic virus, and once a plant is infected, it is irreversible. Some pepper varieties are resistant to tobacco mosaic virus, while none are resistant to cucumber mosaic virus.

Mosaic viruses can be seed borne or soil borne and are spread by sap sucking insects such as aphids. They can also be spread by contact of infected plants, and are most problematic in dry weather.

Pepper Plant Mosaic Virus


  • Green and yellow mottled leaves
  • Prickly or bumpy surface on fruits
  • Stunted growth
  • Low pepper production


Remove affected plants. There are no effective treatments for viruses. If you suspect mosaic virus, remove the pepper plants from the garden and burn them if possible. The fruits are still safe to eat, but the seeds can carry the virus, so do not save seeds from affected fruits.

Keep the pests at bay. Mosaic viruses are commonly spread by sap sucking insects such as aphids. Use a pure neem oil solution with castile soap and water and spray plants to deal with these pests.

Keep the weeds under control. Weeds can carry mosaic virus, and can also be a breeding ground for the insects that spread it. Use a ground cover, or at least keep the weeds at bay with a weeding hoe (these are great for saving your back).

Avoid touching plants. Always wash your hands before and after gardening. Your hands can be the vehicle to transfer viral pathogens from one plant to another. Also, avoid smoking in your garden, as this can introduce mosaic virus to the soil.

Plant resistant pepper varieties. Some varieties have been identified to be more resistant to tobacco mosaic virus, though none are resistant to cucumber mosaic and other viruses. Look for varieties that are labeled ‘TMV’ (tobacco mosaic virus resistant) at nurseries and garden centers. Some common types are jalapeno, sweet banana, super cayenne, and bell boy hybrid.

Blight On Peppers

Phytophthora blight is a pepper plant disease that is spread by a soil-borne pathogen. If your pepper plants have leaves low on the main stem, the rainfall can cause the soil to splash up on to the foliage, spreading the disease.

There are more than one type of blight, usually categorized into ‘early blight’ and ‘late blight.’ Symptoms are similar, but some are more common in different parts of the world at different times of the growing season.

There are many other plant varieties that are susceptible to blight, including tomatoes, eggplant, beans and all types of squash.


  • Large, brown leaf spots and wilting
  • Brown or black stems at base of plant
  • Root rot (leading to plant death)
  • Fruit rot (when in contact with infected soil)


Plant your peppers in a raised bed or in pots to improve drainage. Blight is most commonly found in in-ground gardens or fields. Rainfall will have less time to sit on the surface of the soil and spread the pathogen in a raised bed or a potted plant.

If you can’t use a raised bed or pot, always mound up the soil around each plant to avoid standing water at the base of the plants.

Another step to take is to use a ground cover, such as a black tarp, straw or mulch. Ground cover helps prevent splashing from the soil onto your pepper plant’s leaves when it rains. It also has other benefits like improved water retention and subduing weeds.

If it is dry, do not over-water your garden. Standing water is the only way that blight mold spores can multiply and spread. Wherever the infected water flows, the spores will follow.

Always acquire your soil and/or compost from trustworthy sources. Bringing infected soil into the garden is the easiest way to end up with this pepper plant problem.

Verticillium Wilt On Peppers

Bacterial wilt is an issue that can effect pepper plants along with many other vegetables. It is commonly found in former tobacco fields, and can wreak havoc on entire crops if not caught early. It is most common in the southeast US.

The bacteria plugs up the vascular tissue of the plant, making it impossible for water to be transferred throughout the plant. Typically, pepper plants infected with verticillium wilt will begin to wilt on one side of the plant first.

As the bacteria grows, the plant will eventually collapse and die. If it is discovered, this pepper plant problem should be dealt with immediately.


  • Yellowing and wilting leaves, sometimes starting on one side of the plant
  • Vascular discoloration (inner tissues of the stems turning brown)
  • Fully collapsed plants (death)


Water your plants. The most common reason for pepper plants wilting is simply a need for water. Don’t over-react to wilting, assume it is bacterial wilt, and rip up your plants! Try some water first, and if that doesn’t solve the issue in an hour or so, investigate further.

Remove affected plants. As with most diseased plants, the first step is to remove and destroy affected plants.

Control pests. Cucumber beetles and other insects can spread bacteria from one plant to another. Learn how to identify and control these pests and others to keep bacterial wilt from spreading and persisting in your pepper garden.

Add beneficial bacteria in soil. Using beneficial bacteria has been shown to be effective at treating bacterial wilt. This method may be better suited for professional farmers who grow peppers and other veggies.

Pests On Pepper Plants

Pests can cause significant damage to pepper plants on their own. From aphids to spider mites to thrips, the list of pepper plant pests is long. Thankfully, there are preventative measures you can take against most of them.

White Aphid On Pepper Plant
Aphid on pepper plant.


  • Visible pests (check under leaves, on stems, etc.)
  • Leaf damage
  • Dark spots on leaves


The type of pest will often determine the best solution. Sometimes, you can simply remove the pests, as with tomato hornworm and other caterpillars. However, others are small and come in large numbers to feast on your pepper plants.

Spray with a hose. Aphids and other small sap sucking insects don’t have a tight grip on your plant. By spraying the leaves directly with water, you can knock a majority of the pests off of the plant. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it can slow them down.

Spray with neem oil. Spray your pepper plants using a solution of 1 tbsp pure neem oil, 1 tbsp castile soap, and 6 cups of water. The neem oil is all natural and will kill active pests and deter new ones from joining the party.

Introduce beneficial insects. Lady bugs are some of the most common beneficial garden bugs. Introduce the live ladybugs to your pepper garden in the evening when the sun is going down to avoid them flying away. The ladybugs will stay and feast on aphids and other sap suckers.

The list of pepper plant pests is lengthy, and this is in no way a complete guide to controlling them.

For more info on dealing with aphids, read here.

Blossom End Rot On Peppers

Blossom end rot is most common on tomatoes and large sweet pepper varieties. It is primarily caused by a lack of calcium within the plant which leads to an inability to form the fruit’s skin. It is not actual rot, but just an underdeveloped fruit.

The pepper skin will develop dark, soft spots, usually on the bottom of the fruits. This vulnerable skin invites mold to grow, making the affected part of the fruit inedible.

Blossom End Rot Pepper Pod
Blossom end rot on sweet pepper.


  • Soft spots on bottom of pepper pods
    • Shriveled and dead skin
  • Mold inside of peppers


Provide calcium. Without adequate calcium, pepper pods will not be able to produce skin properly. This causes blossom end rot, but it can be resolved by adding calcium.

Use a cal-mag foliar spray, bone meal while preparing soil, or fertilize regularly with a solution containing calcium.

Learn more about blossom end rot on peppers here.

Yellowing Leaves

One of the most common issues pepper growers face is the dreaded yellowing leaves. While it is usually not a big deal, there are measures you need to take to correct this pepper plant problem.

Yellow Pepper Plant Leaves


  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaf veins turning yellow
  • Leaves falling off


While the solutions to yellowing leaves will vary depending on the cause, here are a few potential fixes.

Provide nitrogen. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for healthy plant development. It helps pepper plants grow lots of big, strong green leaves. Make sure you are fertilizing regularly and that your fertilizer contains enough nitrogen.

Tip: If the problem is nitrogen, the yellowing leaves will begin at the bottom of the plant, moving upwards over time.

Provide magnesium & calcium. A magnesium deficiency will cause chlorosis when severe, meaning the veins of leaves will remain green while the rest turns yellow. Use a cal-mag spray or use soil amendments like bone meal and blood meal when planting peppers. Many fertilizers also contain these secondary nutrients.

Don’t over-water. Over-watering is another possible reason for pepper plants turning yellow. Be sure to only provide water when necessary. Peppers prefer to be on the dry side, so use a moisture meter or allow the first inch of soil to dry between waterings.

Learn more about pepper plants turning yellow here.

Curling Leaves

Here is a problem faced by first-time and veteran pepper growers alike. With so many possible causes, treating curled pepper leaves can be tricky.

Most of the time, curling pepper leaves is a sign of either a calcium deficiency, too much light, too much water, or plant edema. There are diseases that can cause curled leaves, but if the plant appears otherwise healthy, it is most likely one of these causes.

Pepper Plant Overwatering or Calcium Deficiency


  • Curling leaves
  • Distorted leaves
  • Stunted growth


Provide calcium. Pepper plants require calcium in order to properly form strong cell walls. This is what gives the leaves and pepper pods their symmetrical, uniform shape. When calcium is deficient or missing, the leaves and fruits may distort.

Provide calcium via bone meal during potting or a foliar cal-mag spray. Many fertilizers also contain calcium.

Move grow lights up. If you are growing peppers from seed indoors, your grow light may be too close to your plants. If you are using an LED light, it should probably be at least 12-15 inches from the plant leaves. Read up on your specific light unit and be sure that your plants have enough space.

Increase airflow. Plant edema is caused by environmental conditions, especially poor air circulation. If your plants appear to have white crystallized bumps along the underside of leaves, they may have edema. Increase airflow with a fan if indoors, or by spacing peppers farther apart outdoors.

Learn more about plant edema here.

Don’t over-water. We’ll say it again, over-watering is bad! Don’t provide too much water for your pepper plants. It can cause curling leaves, too.

I hope this article helped you diagnose your pepper plant problems. While these are by no means the only issues you may have with your pepper plants, it is definitely the most common problems we have seen.

Keep a close eye on your plants, look out for any changes, and most importantly, keep them healthy and happy with enough nutrients, water and sunlight! Happy pepper gardening.

Calvin Thumbnail


One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

25 thoughts on “Pepper Plant Diseases and Problems”

  1. My Sandia Chili peppers have brown, wrinkled skin from mid-fruit to tip.
    I am new to this game and am trying to find my way. The plants themselves look healthy, nice leaves, etc. but pods are growing slowly and now the brown dry issues. i have applied master blend with extra calcium nitrate and magnesium sulfate in regular recommend strengths? I use drip irrigation and have watering schedules set for three times daily for a total watering time of 45 minutes. I live in Phoenix and temps are now consistently over 100 degrees. Help !!

  2. Some of my ghost pepper plants have small white spots on the top canoopy leaves near the stem, I am concerned as to what it may be, and have yet to find anything on it online (closest thing I could find would be spider mites but unsure atm) would enjoy to see what your input on my said situation may be, the plants are growing and I have applied some neem oil just in case, what do you think the situation is? If you would like pictures or more information please email me.

  3. Any thoughts on why a raised bed garden with hot peppers on each end and middle peppers are a variety of sweet, purple, yellow, red, green bell peppers. All of the sweet peppers got a disease. I wish I could show you a pic. The leaves curled, and looked as if they had blight. I had no blight on anything last year. The leaves would fall off terribly. The fruits were small and very few. I’m a seasoned gardener and never had this happen. What would effect sweet peppers but not hot peppers.

  4. Advice needed,
    I have an older pepper plant that’s dropping it’s new leaves and flower buds like like flies. The older more established leaves are yellowing but maintaining dark leaves, and yes it already has fruit on it.
    I’m afraid I’m gonna lose my plant. Any advice on what could be wrong?

  5. Dear pepper geek, I’m very new to pepper growing- this is my second season. I have started the hardening of my plants for their move outside and I have encountered a problem I havent had before. Some of my plant after beeing exposed to the outside have some of their leaves loose all shine ..they turn mat green before turning white and falling off. Any idea what might be the cause? Thanks so much for all your content. It got me into peppers and I enjoy it so much. Best regards

  6. Hello, several of my plants are exhibiting these irregular brown markings. It does not look like blight or bacterial leaf spot. My guess is that it is sunscalding, but it doesn’t quite match up with scalded leaves I’ve seen in the past. Do you have any idea what it could be based on the photo?

    • I’ve seen sun scalded leaves turn white, brown and even close to black. If the leaves are turning crispy/crunchy, then it is most likely the culprit.

  7. the new growth on a couple of my plants is curling and growing at a very slow rate and then dying off. any idea what could be the cause of this? plants look healthy otherwise.

  8. Hello. The green leaves on my sweet pepper appear white and dry at the end. My pepper is at it we early stage. What can I do?

  9. The leaves on my peppers are darkened like rust and the ends where there were buds are now nubs . It seems like some kind of fungus or bacteria. Any ideas? I have treated with neem, soap, and baking soda solution but I still see the problem lingering.

  10. Hi my problem is that my Hot Peppers begin to grow fruit, then a Black spot develops on the fruit near the stem which causes the fruit to fall off of the tree before it matures properly. Can you help?

    • Hm, strange. We haven’t seen this personally, but you could be dealing with pests. Certain parts of the world have pepper weevils which bore into the fruits to lay eggs. It shouldn’t make the fruit drop, however, and they don’t typically go after hot peppers. I would take a close look for any small insects.

  11. The Marconi Rosso red pepper seeds has produced decent plants but the leaves have white bumps. Started several in February and noticed this. Destroyed the plants and grew more along with the calwonder green peppers. The green are beautiful. The re seeded Marconi Rosso plants have the same white bumps on the leaves. I am familiar with white flies, gnats and spider mites and it is not these, as the green peppers are perfect and are growing side by side the red.
    I would appreciate your feedback!

  12. Any idea about the little white bumps on the stem, near ground level, of some of my 7 week old plants. They almost look like roots want to grow out of them. Do I simply cover them with soil, and call it good? They are in 3 1/2 inch pots now and won’t go into their final grow bags for three more weeks.

  13. I have a variety I grow from seed (similar to habanada) which has a strange growth pattern when young — it grows a lot of leaves with less than an inch of height. The leaves also curl up at the edges (possibly because this variety is much more sensitive to sun than any other variety I’ve seen). Any ideas for what would cause such a low growth habit or what to do about it? My recollection is that they do eventually grow out of it and form a proper bush.

    • Not really, different varieties just grow differently. Many baccatums have longer internode length, while some chinense species have that tight, squat shape you’re describing. Just let it do its thing!

      • This is almost certainly at least 50% chinense, so that makes a lot of sense, though this is even more low and wide than a young habanero. This one was supposed to be a ghost pepper, but has no heat at all, just the other elements of taste and smell when you bite into it that make you think “oh, this one is going to be hot”, and then it isn’t. Could well have been a habanada or aji dulce seed mixed in by mistake, or just a mutation.

  14. I’m experiencing curly leaves in little pepper garden.i use drip irrigation. the garden has tomatoes alongside too so I water them jointly.i inte d reducing water supply and introduce ground egg shells at base of pepper plants.
    Pls advice me.
    Thank you

    • If it is overwatering, you could try to adjust the location of your drip irrigation system and hand water the peppers. I would also check for any pests that might be causing the curling. However, sounds like you are right about the watering – tomatoes are thirstier plants than peppers


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