Pepper plant leaves offer some of the first and clearest indications of a plant’s health. If you notice the leaves curling, this could be a symptom of several different problems. Diseases, infestation, and water stress all show themselves in the leaves first. Here are some of the things that might be happening if your pepper plant leaves start to curl up.
Table of Contents
- Too much sunlight
- A lack of nutrients
- Pest problems
- Root Rot
- Must-read related posts
Like any plant, pepper plants will die if they don’t get enough water. Before they die, you might see leaf curling as one of the signs of dehydration. Pepper plants have very specific watering needs, which means that you will need to give them the amount they need without going overboard. Keep in mind that it is possible to underwater pepper plants in the effort to not give them too much (because of initial overwatering), and you don’t want to do that either.
When dehydration is the cause of leaf curl, there are often a few signs that indicate this, such as the leaves curling downward. Another indication that your pepper plant leaves may be curling because of underwatering is that the leaves lowest on the plant tend to start curling first. Along with leaf curl, underwatering may cause leaves to turn yellow.
The solution for underwatered pepper plants is as simple as giving them the hydration they need. Affected plants will recover if the problem is caught early enough. Water the plants until the excess drips out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the container or — if the plant is in the ground — the soil is moist to at least two inches down.
Overly moist soil is one of the worst environments for growing peppers. Curled leaves are sometimes a symptom of excessive watering, which can be deadly for pepper plants. Some gardeners believe that a little too much water may actually be deadlier for the plant than slightly too little water. The problem is that gardeners sometimes accidentally overwater their peppers in the effort to avoid underwatering them and continue in the habit without recognizing that they are killing their plants.
The signs of overwatering may not be as immediately obvious as the signs of underwatering. The pepper plant leaves will curl because the plants’ roots are unable to take up sufficient nutrition and oxygen. In some plants that get too much water, the curled leaves may also turn yellow, but they will remain green in most cases. The pepper plants’ growth may also be stunted.
Overwatering can mean that you are giving the plant too much water, but not necessarily. The issue might be drainage. If your pepper plants are in containers, make sure that the holes in the bottom of the container are large enough for good drainage. You may want to consider repotting the plant and placing some gravel beneath the potting soil to allow even better drainage.
If you are giving the pepper plant too much water, you will want to change your watering schedule so that your plants only get water when the soil is truly dry. Check to see if the soil is dry to a depth of two inches before watering. Consider investing in a moisture meter for your garden. If your pepper plants are in the ground, consider moving them to a raised bed for better drainage. Overwatered plants will usually recover once you cut back on the water.
–>Learn More: Watering Pepper Plants – The Dos And Don’ts
Too much sunlight
Pepper plants love light and do best with up to eight hours a day of sun. More than eight hours can take you into leaf curling territory. It is unlikely that mature plants outside in the ground will ever get too much sunlight; however, it might occur for young plants that have not been hardened off correctly. Hardening off refers to gradually exposing seedlings started indoors to full sunlight outside; leaves may curl if they are given full sun before they are hardy enough to handle it.
Leaves curling because of too much light is far more likely for indoor pepper plants under grow lights. The problem is that the lights are too intense or too close to the leaves. If too much light is the issue, you may see the leaves curling upward. Other problems that can arise from excessive light and that may accompany curled leaves include browning, sunscald, and loss of leaves.
–> Learn More: Sunscald On Peppers – Signs And Prevention
If grow lights are causing your leaf curl problems, the plants will start growing normally again once you lessen the light’s intensity or move them further away from the plants. Consider connecting the lights to a timer to ensure that the plants get the right amount of sunlight. For outdoor pepper plants, offer them shade by planting them near taller plants or near a building so that they will be protected for part of the day.
A lack of nutrients
Leaf curling in pepper plants may also be caused by poor nutrition, especially a calcium deficiency. Pepper plants need calcium for strong cell walls. Too little calcium makes leaves develop poorly. Leaves that do not properly develop will show various symptoms, including curling.
Other indicators of poor nutrition include leaves that turn yellow or get brown spots. While it is relatively rare that garden soil will not have enough calcium, it does happen and some plants may have a condition that makes calcium uptake impossible.
You can return leaves to normal by adding calcium to the soil in the form of fertilizer or a spray. The curled leaves may not recover, but new leaves should grow normally. Note that not every all-purpose fertilizer or potting mix contains calcium, so look at what nutrients they provide before applying them. Other ways to give pepper plants calcium include bone meal and powdered eggshells.
Pests can cause various issues with your pepper plants that will result in leaf curling. With some insects, the curling may be caused by toxins in their saliva. Thrips cause leaves to curl upward, while a mite infestation produces downward curling leaves. In other cases, the leaf curling might be the result of viral diseases that the pests carry such as cucumovirus. If a pest infestation is causing your pepper plant leaves to curl, only some of the leaves may be affected. The leaves that are not currently infested may appear healthy.
One simple way to help plants recover is to remove the infested leaves and burn them. Check affected plants for any other insects and manually remove them. Virus-infected plants won’t return to good health and should be removed and destroyed.
It is a good idea to spray all your pepper plants with a safe, organic pesticide like neem oil. An insecticidal soap may be used as an alternative to the neem oil or combined with it. Apply preventive treatments weekly and treat thoroughly, coating both sides of the leaves and the stems.
Usually, root rot is the product of poor drainage or overwatering, but it can also be caused by the fungal disease known as phytophthora root rot, which can cause pepper plant leaves to curl.
If overwatering or poor drainage is the problem, correct it but note that root rot may be unfixable if it is too advanced.
Must-read related posts
- 12 Common Pepper Plant Diseases And Problems: We cover the most common issues you’ll see when growing your chilies, so you know what to look for.
- Pepper Plants Growing Slowly? Here May Be Why: If your chilies just aren’t growing the way you think they should, it could be one of many factors.
- Fertilizing Pepper Plants – The What, When, And How: Everything you need to know to keep those chilies as healthy as can be.