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

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 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.

Wilting Pepper Plant Leaves

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.


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.

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!


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.

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

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!

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.

Anthony K

Monday 27th of June 2022

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

peppergeek

Monday 27th of June 2022

Definitely, it is probably going to be necessary for potted plants during the hot summer months.

Michael

Sunday 26th of June 2022

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.

peppergeek

Monday 27th of June 2022

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

Tracy Atkinson

Saturday 25th of June 2022

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.

peppergeek

Sunday 26th of June 2022

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.

Theresa

Saturday 18th of June 2022

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

Leo

Friday 17th of June 2022

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

Matt

Monday 27th of June 2022

@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.