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!
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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.
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 wait for your plants to wilt between watering, it is a clear sign that it is time to water. Give your peppers a good, heavy watering, allowing any excess water to drain (if in pots).
If you want to keep better track of the soil’s moisture, try using a water meter like this one from Amazon. It can read the moisture below the surface of the soil.
Tip: Many growers intentionally water stress plants during pod 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.
If the weather in your area is forecast to be over 85°F for a few days, be prepared to prevent heat stress. Though peppers are known for thriving in warmer climates, they are still susceptible 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 them 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 cheesecloth 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, and fertilizing as well. The plant may have difficulty taking in nutrients during a heat wave.
- Monitor Temperature. Be prepared for a heat wave! Get 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 your outdoors (try Home Depot here).
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 Sun 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 while the transition takes place. 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 outside 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.
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.
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.
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. Use straw, wood mulch or a thick black tarp.
Be sure to try other solutions before giving up on your pepper plants. Wilting is usually caused by high temperatures and loss of water, so don’t jump straight to bacterial wilt!
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.
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.
To deal with insects, use a solution of neem oil, water and a mild soap in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves thoroughly, top and bottom, during a shady part of the day. This can also be used as a preventative measure against pests.
You can also consider introducing live beneficial insects, like ladybugs, into your garden. These can be difficult to source, but can usually be found online.
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!