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Pepper Plants Wilting – What It Means And How To Fix It

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Pepper plants are notorious for frequently wilting leaves. Why is my pepper plant drooping? Don’t fret! This is common and usually nothing to worry about. In this article, we’ll discuss the possible reasons for your pepper plants wilting, and how to fix it!

Wilting Leaves (Video):

Dried Out Soil (Time to Water!)

By far the most common reason for pepper plants wilting is a lack of water. When plants become dry, the first sign will often be drooping leaves. This is especially noticeable in pepper plants.

Pepper Plants Wilting

The reason leaves wilt when a plant is dry is simply a lack of available water within the plant. Through the process of transpiration, water is evaporated from the leaves of your pepper plants. If the plant is losing more water than it is taking in from the soil, the plant leaves will begin to droop. Environmental elements play a major role in how quickly a plant uses water.

While it isn’t ideal to allow your plants to wilt between watering, it is a clear sign that it is time to water. Give your peppers a good, deep watering, allowing any excess water to drain away.

If you want to keep better track of the soil’s moisture, try using a water meter like this one from Amazon. While not highly accurate, it can help you understand the moisture level deep below the surface of the soil.

Tip: Many growers intentionally water stress plants during fruit production to achieve higher levels of spice in peppers.

Learn more about watering pepper plants in our detailed article here.


High Temperatures (Heat Stress)

Low water is not the only potential cause of pepper plants wilting. Overly intense heat, or heat stress, can cause significant leaf wilting.

Wilting Pepper Plant Leaves

If the weather in your area is forecast to be over 90°F for a few days, expect to see some heat stress. Though peppers are known for thriving in warmer climates, they are still vulnerable to excess heat.

Here are a few tips to help peppers through a heat wave:

  • Water. Without enough water, the effects of heat stress will be amplified. In hot and/or dry weather, pepper plants will use significantly more water. Keep the soil moist!
  • Provide shade. The afternoon sunshine is the most intense, so if you can, provide some shade on extremely hot days. You can move potted plants to a shaded location, or provide some temporary shade with shade fabric for in-ground peppers.
  • Avoid pruning. When your pepper plants are dealing with high temperatures, the last thing they want is physical trauma. Avoid pruning at this time. The plant may have difficulty taking in nutrients during a heat wave, too, so cut back on fertilizing when it is hot.
  • Monitor temperature. Be prepared for a heat wave! Use a simple thermometer and keep it near your plants. We use a cheap clip-on thermometer for our plants. You can get a more attractive thermometer/hygrometer for outdoors.

Heat stress will cause wilting, but just know that your plants will rebound after the heat has subsided. Simply do your best to care for the plants while it is hot!


Transplant Shock

As peppers grow, they are typically transplanted into larger containers. When it is time for them to move from indoors to outdoors, they may experience some transplant shock.

If you have recently moved your pepper plants outdoors, it is possible that they are wilting due to the new conditions. Provide extra shade if necessary during the first couple of weeks after transplanting.

Be patient and allow the plants to adjust. Once the root system has acclimated, the plants should resume normal growth and stop drooping.

You may even see some some plants drop leaves if the transition outdoors is particularly drastic. Be sure to harden your peppers off properly by gradually introducing direct sunshine.

We have seen some of our pepper plants have a tough time coping with transplant shock, even with proper hardening off. The intensity of the sun is just that much more than any indoor grow lights. Be patient, and they will rebound!


Bacterial Wilt

If you are still having issues with your pepper plants wilting, it could possibly be due to bacterial wilt. While this condition isn’t all that common among home gardeners, it is possible.

Bacterial wilt is a soil-borne pathogen that can infect peppers and many other garden plants. It causes wilting and dying leaves, and is usually irreversible.

Take a look at some images of bacterial wilt here. This article also shows some ways to test for bacterial wilt.

Bacterial wilt also spreads from one plant to another. Remove suspected infected areas of the plant immediately and discard far from your garden, or burn them. If you are certain that your plants are infected, remove them from the garden entirely.

Prevention

The best way to prevent bacterial infections in peppers is to keep the leaves off of the soil. Remove any low leaves early on to keep the plant a few inches from the soil. Bottom pruning is easy and prevents any soil-borne diseased from entering through damaged leaves.

Joe's long cayenne pepper plant
Pepper plant with lower foliage removed.

Another option is to mulch around the base of the pepper plant. This helps by preventing rain water from splashing soil onto the plant’s leaves. As a bonus, it can also help with water retention and weeds. We have liked using straw, shredded leaves, or wood mulch.

Be sure to try other solutions before giving up on your pepper plants. Wilting is usually caused by high temperatures and lack of water, so don’t jump straight to bacterial wilt!


Insects

Some insects can cause distorted or wilted-looking leaves in pepper plants. These include (but are not limited to) aphids, thrips, whiteflies, spider mites, and slugs.

Aphids on peppers

There will usually be noticeable damage to the leaves in addition to wilting or distortion. Look for any brown spots or holes in the leaves. If you suspect pest damage, check underneath leaves and on new leafy growth to spot them.

Solution

Planting alyssum has been a game changer in our garden, attracting a diversity of beneficial insects to eat the pests. Aphids can be particularly active in early spring, but it is usually best to wait for nature to take care of the problem for you.

If your pest problem is indoors, use a solution of neem oil, water and a mild soap in a spray bottle. During the evening, spray the leaves thoroughly, top and bottom. This can also be used as a preventative measure against soft-bodied pests.

You can also consider purchasing live beneficial insects, like green lacewings, into your garden. These can be expensive to source, but may be worth it depending on your situation.

Learn more about dealing with aphids on pepper plants here.


I hope this article helps you figure out why your peppers plants are wilting. The problem is usually an easy fix: Water thoroughly! If the problem persists, I hope you find the cause and still get a great harvest!

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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63 Comments

  1. I’m in upstate New York. I started some hot carribean peppers indoors on a heating mat in June. I purchased the fox farm trio you recommend. Then I put them under a grow light until they were big enough to transplant into 3 gallon pots. They were staring to flower just before I brought two plants in the house, while battling white flies and aphids with neem oil with limited results. The flowers wilted and fell off. No signs of fruit. Is there something I can do to make them flower again or do I just start again indoors in a couple of months?I appreciate your help.
    Thanks,
    George

  2. I have a Carolina reaper that was fine until I picked the first pepper. Now the leaves are drooping. I have watered the plant but the leaves are still droopy. Is there something I can do?

  3. I have 18 mature Bell Pepper plants in 5 gallon buckets, I grew from seeds, they began fruiting about a month ago. A few weeks ago I moved them indoors under grow lights. This Past week I notice many of the peppers have lost their sheen. About 1/2 of them are dull, some are still shiny and healthy looking. I am working on the height adjustment of the lights. Was wondering if you have any suggestions for dull, not shiny bell peppers. Thanks for what you do.

  4. I found my pepper plants wilting, curling, with brown dried leaves. Most all the leaves on my shishito peppers are dying. Serrano leaves are starting to yellow out. I had applied a copper fungicide to all my plants including tomatoes, it was light on the peppers. Any suggestions?

  5. My pepper plants are breaking my heart , my pepper beds are just separated by a thin layer of net , one side is doing perfectly fine and the other side is wilting so bad , the leaves are getting yellowish , getting curly , and dropping all it flowers , though we are having high rainfall right now , what should I do please reply fast 😪😪

  6. I have a jalapeño pepper plant growing in a large clay pot on my patio. It is in direct sunlight most of the day. I water in the morning until water starts draining out of the bottom. It is 98 degrees here this afternoon and all the leaves are wilting. Should I try to give it more water right now or wait and see if they survive and water again in the morning. They are producing just fine and this isn’t the first hot day of the season. My tomato plant is right next to it and it’s also wilting.

  7. I’m curious how Connecticut’s climate is this year. It’s been under half normal rainfall this spring in Northern Virginia and a full-on drought in much of the Midwest. I barely need to water most years so I’m not used to having to do so much of it

    Different pepper species react differently to the dryness. Capsicum Annuum peppers seem the most affected. I’ve always noticed Cayenne and their relatives are the first to droop their leaves, but respond well once they get water. Of course larger more established plants can survive a lot longer without watering, and in-ground peppers fare better than those in containers, especially small ones. My original garden is at the south side of the house in part shade, and even in these dry conditions still needs a lot less watering than my “new garden” which is more exposed.

  8. I have a couple of pepper plants that the leaves have turned black. What causes this to happen?

    1. If they are dark foliage varieties, it is normal. If they are not meant to have dark foliage or fruits, then you may have disease. Definitely check the variety and whether or not dark leaves is normal before taking action!

  9. Hi, I have issue for the first time on my chilli plants in a container. The Bell Peppers and the Capsium White Chillis have a curly leaf and brown new leaf. While the Purple and the Thai Chillis are all fine and fruiting. I have the same Potting mix, the same watering method and the same place. Right now I separated the sick plants from the fine ones. the purple chilli and the thai chilli have lots of fruits while the other don’t even grow good leaves. I don’t understand the problem. as its been 3 years since they were all planted.

    1. @ShardBytes, A lot of mysteries here, some you could clear up. 1) are you growing indoors or in a warm climate? 2) do you know what species the non-Bell peppers are? 3) what sort of direction of leaf curl and what pattern of leaf browning are you seeing?

      While peppers are perennials in environments without frost, they are not usually long-lived and I’ve heard 3 years is a common lifetime for at least some species.

  10. I ordered seedlings online and had them delivered 3 days ago. I put them in 6in pots but used a soil called Glee All Purpose Potting Mix. We watered on day 1 and they’re still drooping, but have maintained a decent amount of moisture around the plan itself. Could it be the soil is too dense/not draining well enough? Thanks!

  11. Aji charapita, 3 week old seedlings, 5 or so minutes exposure to cooler massachusetts temperature today . Leaves seem to be effected , slight wilting . Do you think they will survive. I know I’m going to find out . Thanks. Paul

  12. Hey Peppergeek. I’m stumped and could use some advice. Several of my seedlings / young peppers have lowered their leaves and arch inward (different varieties). They’re not dried out or wilting per se, but they have plant by plant the leaves began to curl downward. This is getting worse. This is my 4th growing season and I’ve never experienced this. I’m careful with watering, temps ~70F and use a care dose of fox farms fertilizer.

    Here are some pictures: https://imgur.com/a/wawOw5s

    Any advice you have would be really appreciated.

    1. This happens naturally when plants go to “sleep” at night. It could also be due to over-fertilizing. However, to me, these plants look A-okay, especially for being indoors. Maybe cut back on fertilizer until they have grown to size, a single dose of fox farm is usually enough to get the plants to transplanting size.

  13. I have peppers in containers. The leaves are wilting and drying from the tip of the leaf and back towards the stem. They were hardened off properly and have been in the permanent containers for a week before this began. Any suggestions as to what may be happening?

    1. Over/under watering would be a first guess. If they don’t need water, make sure the pots are draining properly. Otherwise, it could be a disease, temperature (above 100°F or below 55°F), or just temporary sun stress (if you notice the leaves recovering at night).

  14. I grew some pepper plants last season in pots. They stayed outside all summer and fall. They did nicely. So I brought them inside for the winter and they start drooping in a day or so. I water them but doesn’t help. I put them back outside and they perk up looking fine. Now its too cold so I brought them in again and theyre dropping and losing leaves again. Is this normal? I grew them in pots intentionally.

  15. My peppers are really wilting in this 95 plus heat of NC. Is it ok to water everyday?

  16. I have some pepper plants planted in soil and some planted in containers. They are in the same raises bed area but the container plants are a deeper green color. Why could this be so? Both types have blooms.

    1. It likely has to do with the nutrients in the soil, and the soil’s composition. Better nutrient content will usually lead to deeper folaige

  17. Hi, Thanks so much for your advice it is really helpful. I’m in Ontario Canada and we have definitely been having a lot of extremely high temperature. I’m really a newby at gardening but just love it so much. Is there an ideal time to water my garden, they are planted so I don’t have the option to move them. Is it possible to over water my peppers? Last year my peppers did great so I don’t know why I’m struggling so much this year.

    1. We usually water early in the morning before the hottest parts of the day. For in-ground plants, you can overwater, but really only if the soil doesn’t drain well. If you have heavy clay soil, it is possible that it is happening. I would do a simple test to see what % of the soil is clay, sand, and silt.

  18. I have 36 big bertha bell pepper plants been doing great in raised beds -about 2 mo old – picked first peppers and then lower leaves started falling off multiple plants – then 1 plant wilted / died within 1 day with brown spot at lower junction of stalk – then another by it and have now lost several in 4 different beds / all same symptoms – loaded with blooms, very dark green and appear very healthy / next day will wilt and then be gone by 2nd day / increasing daily – been fertilizing 1 x week with miracle grow liquid and water deeply every other day – raised bed has 1 ft newspaper bottom and 5 bags garden soil / potting soil on top for 12 inch of soil – have 36 tomato plants n adjoining beds made same way — please advise – found white little dots on tomatos 4 days ago and sprayed all with liquid sevin dust including peppers , even though no spots on peppers – few peppers have leaves with hole , no sign of insects – EVERY one that dies has a brown spot just above ground on stalk and then dies and breaks off where the brown spot is

  19. Hello Calvin,

    Looking for some help here. My jalaany has done really well for months. All of the sudden the leaves started turning browns me dry looking. The soil is moist and I so fertilized with organic pepper plant food every few weeks along with some miracle grow powder. I checked the soil today and it was slightly moist so I watered again. Not sure if that was wise. I looked to see if the leaves perked you after but they did not. Temps here in Southern California have not been too hot. Mid 70’s and maybe an 80 degree temp here and there. The plant gets full sunlight too. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I can send a pic if needed.

    Leo

    1. @Leo, overwatering shows the same symptoms as underwatering does. if the soil feels moist and the pot is heavy (which would indicate a high water content in it) then hold off on the water. i killed a couple plants this year by overwatering.

  20. Hi! I have some shishito peppers, and they are still small enough not to need replanting. I’ve even started to get peppers growing. We have recently undergone a massive heat wave here in Texas that is actually worse than it has been the last couple of years. They get afternoon shade. Other than pouring on the water, should I bring them inside during the worst hours?

  21. Hi,

    I’ve been growing a bell pepper plant for sometime now, and even though it hasnt produced any fruit as yet I’m still delightful to see it growing. Recently it started dropping leaves that looked healthy. Now, new leaves are wilting and dropping off and it seemed to slow down very much on growing new leaves. This morning I’ve discovered that 2 matured leaves have started turning brown on the edges. It had a slight mealy bug problem but I nipped that in the butt as soon as it started, but now I’m confused. I water it every 3-4 days, trying not to overwater, and it is still growing indoors in a very sunlit room with good air circulation. I live in the tropics and I’ve discovered that our sun is too much for it to handle…. What is happening to my baby?? I’m wondering if it’s just time to transplant in a bigger pot and that could be the problem…. Can you shed some light??

  22. Hi I have planted two sweet pepper plants back in February they have grown well,nice healthy plants .But no flowers or fruit? I was wondering this has happened?

  23. I have a jalepeno and two bell pepper plants. It’s Arizona summer but they have been doing fine growing. The two bells haven’t started any peppers but the jalepeno has.

    The jalepeno has been thriving and growing every day. I noticed it will wilt slightly if water gets low but today I noticed significant wilting and even color change to leaves (dark brown) not all leaves are effected, maybe 20%. Any ideas? It’s not dry. But it is hot. Bells are fine.

  24. I am using “Grow Box” so the roots of my plants are constantly in the water.
    2 pepper plants, one tomato in box

    They were looking and growing well
    Now one pepper plant is drooping and losing leaves and crop

    Only thing I’ve done different is now and then water from top even though I have plenty of water in bottom part of box

    Could I have overwatered

  25. I have 3 habaneros, a bird’s eye, and a ghost pepper plant all in their own pots outside. When the sun gets to them, the ghost pepper plant starts wilting pretty badly but the other 4 plants are fine. Is there a reason only the ghost pepper wilts in the sun? They are all watered the same and have similarly drained pots and soil.

    1. same happens to my ghost pepper while the other regular chilli plants are fine, I am so worried for my ghost pepper plant as its full with chillies…

  26. Hi Calvin,
    I received a chili plant from a friend the other day and I noticed that the older leaves were wilted and some of the leaves, both old and new, were starting to curl and one leaf had brown crunchy tips. It hasn’t been very sunny here lately, when there is sun I put them outside for a bit. It hasn’t been very hot here recently and I started to let the soil dry dry out first before I’d water it again, I assumed maybe overwatering could have been the issue, I also trimmed the older leaves off. Is there anything else I could possibly do to make this poor plant healthier? Or if there’s anything you could think of that could be the issue, I really don’t want it to die.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Chanel – It could be too much fertilizer (nutrient burn). Or, when the plant is in the sun, it could be burning the leaves, but this sounds less likely. It could also be stuffy conditions – indoor growing brings many concerns that you won’t have outside, so try to keep fresh air flowing wherever they are planted.

  27. Calvin,
    I went on vacation and the weather was very hot. My watering plan didn’t work out. As a result I of my bell pepper plants has shed all but 5 leaves. This plant has 5 peppers growing on it. Should I take off some of the peppers? What do you recommend? Thank you.

    1. Aw man, sorry to hear. I think I would take off the peppers, but it is pretty late in the season to try to regrow all the foliage and then new bell peppers. The other option would be to just wait it out and see if the plant can form new leaves with the peppers intact.

      1. I’ve just let it be. The leaves and peppers are still growing…What should I do if more flowers bud? Thanks for your advice!

  28. How long does it take for a pepper to mature enough to pick? My plants finally sprouted 2 peppers and they seem to have stopped growing. There’s been very little change in their size in two weeks – they’re just barely over 1″ long. I thought they’d be bigger after two weeks.

    1. From reaching a mature size to ripening (changing color) usually takes 2-4 weeks, but can be longer for some types. The size of the peppers can also change based on the nutrients in the soil and the weather conditions..

  29. I’m a first time grower and i thought I would grow hot peppers this year. I am growing an unknown variety and some habaneros. I have them both on a north facing windowsill but I also have a small grow light. The habaneros are doing good, although they aren’t huge they are producing flowers. However my unknowns appear to be wilting with the leaves curling, getting softer and drooping. I tried giving them a bit more water and that seemed to work for a few days and then I have them more and now I know that there is plenty of water but they are still wilting. I’m wondering if I need to reduce the temperature as it is quite hot in my room or perhaps get a bigger grow light, or maybe just water them differently, any help would be greatly appreciated thanks.

  30. I have a Fatallii that was growing in a Kratky pot and it’s got root rot. Not sure if that is similar or the same as Bacterial wilt, but its leaves are also wilting.

    I removed some of the rotten roots, put the root ball into a 0.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide for 10 mins to try to disinfect it and then planted it in soil. It’s not showing much sign of progress a week later, but I will have to wait longer and hope for the best.

    Much hope of saving it or should I remove it to avoid contaminating my other plants?

    1. Hm, can’t say I’m familiar with this exact process. We did get what appeared to be root rot on our DWC plant, but I just got rid of it at the end of the winter. Sounds like a decent plan though, so I’d wait it out and see if the plant recovers.

  31. We are experiencing problems with our pepper plants. Most of our jalapeno and banana pepper plants have leaves that are turning black at the ends and edges with brown spots on the leaves. If we don’t prune them off, they fall off in a few days. I took some pictures but I don’t think I can post them here. Please help! Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

    1. Hm, are the plants over-watered? This sounds like a result of too much moisture/humidity. If it is raining a lot, maybe keep the plants under cover until more dry weather is expected (We have too much rain right now).

      It could be disease/fungal. I would spread the plants apart from any that are unaffected and perhaps consider a natural fungicide to try to reduce the effect.

  32. Hi,

    I am trying to grow 2 mad hatter pepper plants right now and at the start I had them in a big pot together but then the past 2 days I noticed they were both showing wilting leaves and a couple of the leaves had browning tips or edges. I read up on what to do and it all came down to I was overwatering them. The soil was way to wet so today I decided to separate the 2 into their own pots and put dry soil in. It’s been a few hours now and the one is doing fine but the other is already looking like its dying. Both are indoor. Please help because I’d really like to keep these alive.

    1. Well overwatering is usually a result of poor drainage. Keep these things in mind – peppers use more water when it is hot, and they like an even amount of water (not too much, not too little). If the plants are getting lots of sun, they should use up the available water in the soil in a reasonable time. Going forward, I would just make sure the pots you have them in can drain excess water. Repotting into dry soil just means you’ll have to water again!

    2. Only water when the pot feels light and the leaves start hanging/drooping. Always water thouroughly or not at all, meaning, water with 10-30% the volume of the pot and pour out any runoff in saucer after 10 mins. Always add a Cal-Mag supplement unless you have well water or know that your water is high in these minerals.

  33. Hello,

    I am new to gardening, and have a variety of different pepper plants that around 4-6 inches tall. Over the last 2-3 days I have had several plants start to die at the base of the stem where it meets the soil. Any idea’s what could be causing this, and if they are able to be saved?

    Thanks

    1. Oh no! This sounds like it could be damping off, caused by overly saturated soil. Try to let the plants dry out more between watering or help with drainage around in ground plants.

  34. Hi so I recently transplanted my peppers from pots to soil, they were already outside so the weather they’ve been in had been consistent and when it doesn’t rain I water them in the evening but today their leaves were droopy and wilted am I doing something wrong?

    1. Hmm..daily watering could be overkill (unless it is very hot and the plants are huge). If they are in pots, make sure the drainage holes can release excess water. If they are in-ground, check the soil for water. Over-watering can cause drooping, too. But it could just be the temperature (high heat will cause wilting). If the plants are perking back up at nighttime, then it is probably just the temperature.

  35. Hey Calvin, hope all is well. I just made the big move from inside to outside, and naturally my peppers are looking less than thrilled to be there. How long typically does the “shock” last? Does it vary with different types of peppers? When should I start being concerned? Any advice on watering frequency at this stage? Thanks so much!

  36. Calvin,
    I am new to gardening and I appreciate you?
    Thank you so much for taking the time to place the information out there.

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