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Pepper Plant Leaves Falling Off – Causes and Prevention

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Why are your pepper plant leaves falling off? In this article, I’ll explain several possible causes for pepper leaves dropping.

From natural causes to environmental stress, there are many reasons plants will drop their leaves. Many of the causes are easy to fix, and In most cases your plants can make a full recovery.

It is natural to see a few leaves falling off your plants here and there, but this article should help you determine the root cause. If there are more serious issues, correcting your plant care may save your peppers in the long run.

Pepper leaves falling off plant in fall

Natural Leaf Death

I’ll start with the most likely (and least threatening) cause of pepper leaves falling off. As pepper plants age, some leaves will grow old and naturally die.

Symptoms:

  • Lower leaves dying at random
  • Yellowing color on just a few leaves

If the majority of your plant’s leaves appear healthy, natural leaf death is likely the cause. It is nothing to worry about! As long as the number of leaves dropping is relatively low, you shouldn’t worry.

This is especially common as pepper plants age. Newer leaves will take precedence over older leaves. It is also possible that a few leaves were damaged, leading to leaf death.


Nutrient Deficiency

The most common nutrient deficiency is nitrogen. If plants lack the necessary nitrogen, leaves will turn yellow and eventually fall off the plant.

Pepper plant leaf yellow
Nitrogen deficiency – yellow pepper leaf.

Nitrogen is a mobile nutrient, meaning that the plant can move it around to different parts of the plant that need it most. As a result, a nitrogen deficient pepper plant will have yellowing leaves at the base of the plant, moving up as time goes on.

Other possible deficiencies include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur. If you are growing in pots, these are more likely to occur.

Read our article on pepper plant leaves turning yellow here.


Pests

Some pepper pests will suck the sap out of the plant’s leaves. Others will simply chew holes into the leaves. Either way, pests can certainly cause leaves to fall off.

White Aphid On Pepper Plant
Aphid on pepper plant leaf.

Symptoms:

  • Curling leaves
  • Brown patches on leaves or stems
  • Visible pests (typically under leaves)

If you suspect pests, the first thing to do is locate and identify them. Check beneath leaves, especially on newer foliage. Some pests will also gather around newly forming flower buds.

Some pests are easier to deal with than others. Aphids can be sprayed off with a hose, while slugs and caterpillars must be picked off by hand. Prevention is key, so try planting some beneficial plants near your peppers to attract good insects.

Read more about dealing with pepper plant pests here.

Pepper leaves falling off can also be a natural response to environmental factors. This is because peppers are deciduous, similar to when trees drop their leaves in the fall.


Poor Watering Habits

Over-watering is our #1 “stop doing this now” no-no of growing peppers. Peppers require even watering, but too much can be catastrophic. Without proper drainage, the root system is essentially drowning.

Symptoms:

  • Curling leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Root rot

If you are planting in pots, ensure that there are holes in the bottoms of them for adequate runoff. In-ground plants should be planted on mounds to allow rain to flow away from the roots.

Under-watering is better tolerated by pepper plants, but should still be avoided if possible. In severe cases, it can cause pepper leaves to drop.

If it is going to be very hot, peppers will drink significantly more water, especially when mature in size. Feel the first inch of soil for moisture before watering.

In either case, add some sort of organic material to your soil at the beginning of the season each year.

Keeping soil happy with organic material will help keep moisture levels even and consistent.

Learn more about watering peppers in our article about it here.


Leaf Scorch (Sunburn)

When peppers are moved outside into direct sunlight, the require hardening off. This is the process of gradually adjusting the plants to increasing amounts of direct sun.

Sun scald on pepper leaves
Sun scald on pepper plant leaf.

Symptoms:

  • White or brown on leaves
  • Shriveled, dried out leaves (crispy texture)

No matter how powerful your grow lights are, the sun is brighter. Though peppers will grow best in full sun, young, tender plants should never be moved outdoors without a transition period.

To harden off your peppers, start with just 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight, and then move the plants into shade. After a few days, increase time in the sun to 30-45 minutes, and so on. After 3-4 weeks, your plants should be able to tolerate full sun, all day.


Cold Temperatures

In many climates, early autumn brings cool nighttime temperatures. Peppers are native to warm, almost tropical climates, which means cold weather is bad.

Pepper leaves dropping off plant
Leaves falling off potted pepper plant in autumn.

Symptoms:

  • Random leaves dropping all around the plant
  • A general ‘thinning-out’ of the plant

As a response to cooler temperatures, pepper plants may drop some leaves to reduce exposure and transpiration. This can help them survive a cold night. However, at temperatures below freezing, most pepper varieties will simply die.

When expecting a cold night (below 50°F) , use garden cloth or a sheet to protect your pepper plants from the cold.


Disease

The final possible cause of pepper plant leaves falling off is disease. There are a number of diseases that can infect your pepper plants and cause leaf drop.

Bacterial leaf spot on peppers.

Symptoms:

  • Circular spots on leaves
  • Fuzzy mold on leaves

If the leaves have spots that seem to be repetitive or have a pattern, your plant may be diseased. The best way to prevent many diseases is to keep lower leaves out of the soil.

Another method of prevention is keeping the plants as healthy as possible. Just like humans, a healthier organism will be better suited to fight off disease and viruses. Keep that soil healthy!

See more examples of pepper plant diseases here.


Read Next:

I hope this article helped you figure out why your pepper plant leaves are falling off. Let me know in the comments how you dealt with the issue and if you have any suggestions!

Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

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.

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15 Comments

  1. After 2 days of solid S. Florida rain (10+ inches) my habaneros are dropping leaves like crazy. Will not watering for a few days and lots of sunshine make them they bounce back? Would all that rain have washed out nutrients? Plants have fruit on them, some are ripening, Plants are in 5 gallon buckets and bottom feeding containers which I emptied every 2 hours during heavy rains. I applied a 2-3-8 fertilizer into the soil but did not water. Drainage is excellent.

    1. As long as you scratched the fertilizer into the soil surface it should start to break down. You could also give a light watering to get it into the soil below. Otherwise, I’d wait and let the plants bounce back

  2. I live in Mallorca. My plants are now finishing. What shall I do for the winter? Will they grow back next year?

    1. If you do not expect any frost conditions, you can overwinter your peppers outdoors. Just trim them back and allow the foliage to naturally die back. I would also recommend mulching if you haven’t already just to provide some insulation from cool overnights. If you do expect frost, cover the plants with row cover, plastic or any other insulating material until it warms back up.

  3. I have planted my peppers plants in garden tower with lights
    leaves were falling off. The leaves are very healthy and there
    are buds and flowers on the plant. It looks like where the leaves dropped offf
    there is some growth in the same area. planning just for close watch to see
    if it will correct itself. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciataed.
    thanks

  4. I need help
    I planted Cubanelle peppers I accidentally over fed my plants using spike method
    And every single leaf’s has fallen off
    Will they come back?

  5. I brought a carolina reaper pseedling with me from Florida to Iraq. I woke up the second day here and almost all the leaves have fallen off. I am pretty sure it is from temperature shock. It was a blamy 80-90s in Florida to 110 with low humidity in Baghdad. Will this kill the seedling, or will it be able to recover???

  6. I grow my peppers in pots on my balcony in the capital of Nigeria (equatorial) where I live it gets relatively hot so I water regularly although recently we’ve had a lot of rain so I’ve reduced the amount of water I give them my younger plant Camilla is about 10 weeks and her bottom leaves have started to lighten and three fell off,

  7. The leaves on my Apache and Cayenneta chili plants have rapidly in the last 2 days turned yellow/become droopy/started to fall off. I have them growing in pots on my flats windowsill (I don’t have a garden sadly!).

    I live in London, UK, and we had extreme heat here recently (up to 100F+) which seemed to make the chillis very happy. But now we have dropped more to 60-70F, with overcast.

    I’ve been watering them, I don’t see any bugs, I don’t see any infections… The cayentta had 3 proper chillis I managed to grow (one I picked off as it was super red!) and the apache has an abundance of little green/red chillis (I bought her 2 weeks ago like this).

    They are in 20cm pots atm, and have grown/survived well in these conditions.

    So any ideas for the yellowing? I’ve given them miracle grow once every 2 weeks, and I even tried adding matchstick heads into the pots (to add phosphorous).

    Any help would be appreciated!

  8. How long before my cayenne peppers turn red? The plant is loaded with beautiful long green peppers

  9. I had my pepper plants in a west facing window and they were producing peppers. Then I got hit with aphids and they really put a huge stress on my plants. I then sprayed with soap and water to kill them. Next I put them in the garden and now they are going through major stress. I don’t know if they will survive.

    1. @STEPHEN FRENCH,

      Try spraying the soil with neem oil. It is an organic and natural substance and your plant will absorb it so that when the aphids try to feed on it they will die.

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