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Leaves Falling Off Pepper Plants: Causes and Fixes

How to Fix Leaves Falling Off Pepper Plant

We all know that leaves naturally fall off trees during the autumn season. But what if some or all of your pepper plants’ leaves drop alarmingly? 

Leaves fall off pepper plants because of overwatering, underwatering, or impurities. Leaves also drop when they experience temperature stress, plant diseases, nutrient deficiency or pest infestation. 

We’re here to walk you through all the possible causes of why leaves fall off pepper plants and how you can treat and prevent them from happening.

1. Overwatering

Image: Pepper Geek

How To Fix: Water the pepper plant in controlled quantities.

Pepper plants love moist soil, but like in love, too much is dangerous. When pepper plants take in too much water, they experience oxygen stress and are more prone to fungal attacks. 

When the roots are submerged in too much water, oxygen availability limits, leading to difficulty absorbing moisture and minerals from the soil. As a result, the pepper plant’s physiological functions will stop, and the leaves fall off. 

On the other hand, with too much water, the pepper plant becomes a wet environment which fungi love. When these fungi grow, they will attack the plant and cause diseases that make its leaves drop as one of the symptoms.

Solution: Water the pepper plant in controlled quantities.

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Pepper plants get thirsty quickly, so the soil should always be moist. To prevent overwatering, check first how much moisture is present in the ground by dipping your finger. 

If there’s still enough moisture, don’t add water. If the soil is dry to the touch, then add water to the pepper plant.

2. Underwatering

Image: Gardening Know How

How To Fix: Keep the soil moist and add organic material.

Since pepper plants love moist soil, it suffers from drought stress when you underwater them. As a result, the plant’s physiological functions stop.

When critical plant processes come to a halt, its effect is visible through its leaves which would curl up and develop wrinkled lines. The leaves will droop down and fall off from the pepper plant in no time.

Solution: Keep the soil moist and add organic material.

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Things You NeedWater

Always feel the first inch of the soil to check its moisture before watering. If it feels dry, water the pepper plant with an inch of water every week.

You can also add organic material like mulch after watering to help retain the consistent moisture levels in the soil. 

3. Water Impurity

Water Impurity
Image: Space Coast Daily

How To Fix: Expose the water to air before applying it to plants.

Pepper plants need no impurities or soft water to keep their leaves healthy. On the contrary, hard water contains high levels of salt, lime or other minerals and causes leaf drop and discoloration. 

When you add hard water to a pepper plant, the added minerals accumulate near the roots, making it difficult for them to absorb water and suffer from drought stress. 

As these roots absorb too much salt and minerals, they transport these elements to the leaves and disrupt the plant’s food-making process, called photosynthesis. This will lead to fragile leaves that will eventually fall off the ground.

Solution: Expose the water to air before applying it to plants.

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Generally, tap water has five mg/L of chlorine which is safe for plants. However, if it exceeds this number, it can cause leaves’ browning and deterioration. 

To remove chlorine in water, simply expose the water to air to evaporate its chlorine content. Since chlorine is highly volatile, it will evaporate fully within three to four days.

4. Temperature Stress

Temperature Stress
Image: The Prudent Garden

How To Fix: 
Option 1: Protect the pepper plant from the cold.
Option 2: Harden off pepper plants.

Pepper plants love warm climates, ideally between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, the pepper plant will suffer from temperature stress, and leaf drop will follow.

Should the temperature goes 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the pepper plant will evaporate its remaining water to cool down, which leads to its leaves curling down because of water shortage within the plant and eventually falling off the plant. 

When the temperature is too low, the plant’s physiological processes slow down, making them weak because of a lack of energy. As a result, the leaves will twist and drop to the ground.

Option 1: Protect the pepper plant from the cold.

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Things You NeedHeater
Grow light

Bring the pepper plant to your home if the temperature gets too cold. You can also add mulch to the soil or use heaters or grow lights to help increase your pepper plant’s temperature to optimal levels.

Option 2: Harden off pepper plants.

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Pepper plants, especially seedlings or those grown inside your home, can get shocked by direct sunlight. By hardening off, you will help the plant gradually adjust to increasing amounts of sunlight.

Here’s how you can harden off your pepper plant. 

How To Do
• Place your pepper plant in direct sunlight for two hours, then bring them back inside. 
• On the second day, place the outside for three hours of full sun. 
• Set them outside in full sun for four hours on the fourth day. 
• Finally, place your pepper plant under direct sunlight for 6 hours daily.

5. Plant Diseases

Plant Diseases
Image: Garden Eco

How To Fix: 
Option 1: Remove the infected plant. 
Option 2: Practice crop rotation.

Other culprits for leaf drop are plant diseases caused by bacterial, fungal or viral infections. 

For instance, bacterial leaf spot is a common pepper plant disease that causes water-soaked spots, browning, and then shedding of leaves. On the other hand, root rot is a fungal disease that causes leaves to turn yellow and fall off the ground.

Option 1: Remove the infected plant.

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Things You NeedPepper plant
Garden Spade
Plastic bag

When pepper plants get infected by bacterial, fungal and viral diseases, it’s usually too late, and there’s nothing left to do but to remove the plant and prevent its spread to your garden. Here’s how to safely remove an infected pepper plant. 

How To Do
Identify the infected pepper plant. 
Check the pepper plant with yellow, wilted leaves and black lesions on stems and fruits. 
Uproot the pepper plant from your garden.
Dispose of the pepper plant.
Put all the plant debris in a plastic bag and throw them in the garbage. Do not add them to compost so no pathogen returns to your garden soil.
Sanitize gardening tools. 
Always wipe your gardening tools with alcohol before and after use. This will prevent the transfer of pathogens to other plants in your garden.

Option 2: Practice crop rotation.

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As they say, prevention is better than cure. In gardening, crop rotation is one of the most effective ways to prevent bacterial, fungal and viral diseases from infecting pepper plants. 

Crop rotation means you should plant a different crop, even of the same family, in the same area for at least two years. This gardening practice will break the pathogen’s life cycle, leaving it with no host and die.

Since peppers and tomatoes come from the nightshade family, you should not plant them in the infected soil for at least two years. Instead, you can grow corn, cabbage or other crops there.

6. Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrient Deficiency
Image: EOS Data Analytics

How To Fix: Add nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil.

Lack of essential nutrients stunts pepper plants’ growth, and one of the most visible signs is leaf deterioration on the plant. 

When pepper plants do not get enough nutrients from the soil, especially nitrogen, they cannot conduct their food-making process called photosynthesis. The plant cannot sustain itself without food; the leaves will turn yellow and fall off.

Solution: Add nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil.

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Things You NeedNitrogen-rich fertilizer

Plants need nitrogen to keep their leaves, stems, and roots healthy. This essential nutrient is also an important element in forming chlorophyll for photosynthesis. 

So, adding nitrogen-rich fertilizers to the soil effectively combat stunted growth and leaf drop on pepper plants. After adding them, expect more and greener leaves on your pepper plant.

7. Pest Infestation

Pest Infestation
Image: Pepper Scale

How To Fix: 
Option 1: Apply neem oil on the pepper plant.
Option 2: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on pests.

Pests like aphids, thrips and spiders also cause leaf drop on pepper plants. They lurk on the underside of leaves, chew holes and drink all of their cell sap so the leaf becomes weak and falls off.

Option 1: Apply neem oil to the pepper plant.

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Things You Need1 cup of water
One tablespoon of neem oil
One tablespoon of mild soap
Spray bottle

Neem oil is a popular organic insecticide to get rid of pests like aphids from pepper plants. Mix neem oil with water and mild soap in a spray bottle, and spray the leaves of your pepper plants thoroughly.

Here are easy steps to make a neem oil insecticide at home.

How To Do
• Add 1 cup of water to the spray bottle.
• Add one tablespoon of neem oil and dish soap to the water.
• Shake the bottle until the ingredients are mixed.
• Spray the neem oil solution on your pepper plants.
• Repeat spraying of the solution every other day until the pests are gone.

Option 2: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on pests.

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Things You NeedGloves
Diatomaceous earth

To combat a pest infestation, sprinkle diatomaceous earth directly onto the aphid, spider mite, thrips or worms. You can also sprinkle this white powder on the leaves and stem of the pepper plant. 

Diatomaceous earth has sharp edges that cut and dehydrate pests to death. When applying this to your pepper plant, make sure to wear goggles and a mask to prevent irritation of your eyes and lungs.

FAQs on Leaves Falling Off Pepper Plants

Can pepper plants recover from leaf drops?

Pepper plants can recover from leaf drop caused by excessive or underwatering of the soil. Once regular and consistent watering is applied to the plant, its oxygen intake will be regulated, and it will recover from root rot or drought stress.

How often do you water pepper plants?

You should water your pepper plants once every two to three days. Always feel the top inch of the soil to see if it is dry or moist before watering the pepper plant.

Do pepper plants need direct sunlight?

Pepper plants need direct sunlight for at least six hours every day. They need full sun to grow large fruits and ripen them properly.

Can pepper plants get too much sun?

Pepper plants can get too much sun, especially when it has not been properly hardened off or adjusted well to direct sunlight. The hottest days of summer or afternoon sunshine, usually between 3 to 5 PM, also cause sun shock on pepper plants.

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