Whether you’re growing your pepper plant in a plant pot or in the ground, peppers can be finicky about growing conditions and sensitive to pest damage.
However, if you’re new to growing peppers you might be wondering: why are my pepper plant leaves curling?
In this article, I cover some key information about pepper plants, from why their leaves curl to how to treat them.
Keep reading to learn more about pepper plant leaves curling.
What causes the leaves to curl on pepper plants?
If your pepper plant’s leaves are curling, this could be the result of a variety of reasons. The term ‘leaf curl’ is often used by gardeners and farmers to describe a common symptom in plants. Aside from pepper plants, tomato plants are also renowned for exhibiting leaf curl when there is an issue.
From overwatering, to pests, below are a few potential reasons that your plant doesn’t look the healthiest and the different ways in which you can try to treat them.
Each cause manifests slightly differently in your pepper plant. Bearing this in mind, you will need to diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly to ensure the survival of your pepper plant.
It is also important that you make sure you are watering your plants on the same schedule and that you make a note of when you last watered them. As pepper plants are incredibly sensitive, this is fundamental to their survival and ensuring that they thrive under your care.
Potential causes for your pepper plant leaves curling:
One of the most common causes that pepper plant’s leaves curl is due to overwatering.
When the roots have been overwatered, they can’t supply water to the upper parts of the plant and they can’t get enough nutrients from the soil. As a result, overwatering your pepper plant can cause a plethora of problems, including stunted plant growth and yellowing leaves.
How to treat:
You should stick to a watering schedule and make a careful note of when you water your pepper plant. Take a finger and place it into the soil at a point somewhere near the plant’s base. If the soil feels sodden, you’ve overwatered it. The soil should feel moist but the water shouldn’t pool in the soil. If you leave the pepper plant to dry for too long, the leaves will begin to wilt but will rebound after being watered.
Too much light
Your pepper plant needs sufficient light to grow. Peppers tend to thrive in locations that receive direct sunlight for around 6 to 12 hours a day. That being said, if you have planted your pepper plant outside, then it is unlikely that lighting is the issue.
A more common issue is caused by using indoor grow lights incorrectly. Grow lights tend to vary hugely in brightness and intensity.
While they are fundamental if you begin to grow your own pepper seeds indoors, you will need to be mindful and follow the specific light instructions for how close the lights should be to your plants.
If you have placed the grow lights too closely to your pepper plant, you will be able to tell when their leaves begin curling up in response. This problem can eventually cause pepper leaves to dry up, turn brown, and eventually fall off if you’re not careful.
That being said, this issue usually affects young, tender plants more than mature peppers due to the fact that seedlings are much more delicate in comparison to fully-formed plants.
How to treat:
If you believe that your grow lights could be causing the issue, then you’ll need to adjust them accordingly by moving them a few inches higher. You should also be mindful to have the grow lights set on a timer (for 12 to 16 hours).
If you’re growing your pepper plants outdoors in your backyard, try to water at dawn or dusk to make sure that you avoid leaf burn. Leaf burn occurs when you water your plants in direct sunlight. The beads of water can refract the sunlight and cause burn spots on the leaves. However, these burn spots can be easily distinguished from curling.
It is also important to mention that you may also see some leaf curling when you first transition your plants outdoors. If your pepper plant experiences drastic changes, it’s normal for its leaves to curl and for its growth to slow down significantly. Always make sure that plants are well acclimated before transplanting.
How to treat:
Acclimating seedlings is the process of introducing them to direct light, temperature changes, and wind. These are elements that they’re not used to if sprouted indoors or in a greenhouse. That being said, you will need to ensure that you are hardening off your peppers properly to gradually acclimatize them to direct sunlight.
Pests can cause significant damage to your pepper plants. You will need to inspect your pepper plant for pests, checking the undersides of the leaves as this is where pests tend to cluster. Pests such as aphids, mites, whiteflies, and thrips can cause your pepper plant’s leaves to curl and eventually wilt. The affected leaves may develop spotted or stippled areas, dry out, or fall off, and if a leaf was fed on as it grew it will develop a twisted and curled appearance.
Many of these pests produce a sticky substance known as honeydew as a result of their sap-feeding. If you suspect that your pepper plant is being affected by pests, you’ll be able to determine the answer if you notice a shiny clear coating near the feeding sites on your plant’s leaves.
Unfortunately, pest removal is more difficult to achieve than preventative care is to manage. However, you can take some steps to try to alleviate the issue.
How to treat:
You will need to handpick the affected leaves and discard them away from your pepper plant, as pests spread from plant to plant easily. In the event of excess pest damage, you should consider purchasing colonies of predatory insects like ladybugs or other helpful insects that feed on the pests as opposed to your pepper leaves.
A preventative measure to take is to apply neem oil to your pepper plant. You will need to treat your peppers on a weekly basis when temperatures are below 80 degrees F. When you spray your pepper plant, make sure that you are covering it top to bottom and that all of the leaves are coated thoroughly. You will need to continue the treatment regularly until you can no longer see evidence of the pests.
After treatment for curled pepper leaves, do not expect the leaves to flatten out and look perfectly healthy. Just because the plant doesn’t go back to how it used to look doesn’t mean the issue hasn’t been resolved.
A disease problem is one of the most challenging to diagnose and treat. An important reason to keep pest populations down is their ability to spread disease.
Mosaic viruses can be identified by a mosaic-style pattern on the foliage. Different strains affect the plants in various ways. The curly top disease affects the tops of plants causing leaf curl and yellowing.
How to treat:
Unlike a few fungal diseases that can be remedied, viruses are incurable. You will need to make sure that you rule out all other causes of leaf curl before resorting to pulling your plants. If you do have a viral disease, pull the affected plants and sanitize all your garden tools to avoid spreading it.
A calcium deficiency could be the reason that your pepper plant’s leaves are beginning to curl. Calcium is one of the 16 essential plant nutrients that your plants need to remain healthy. The primary function of calcium in plant growth is to provide structural support to cell walls.
A calcium deficiency can lead to symptoms such as stunted plant growth and curling of the leaves. This is sometimes accompanied by brown spots on the leaves, also.
How to treat:
To treat a calcium deficiency, you will need to provide your plant’s soil with calcium. You can do this by adding bone meal to boost this critical nutrient and to promote plant health.
Alternatively, you can use another method to supplement your soil with calcium. Calcium is sometimes, but not always included in all-purpose fertilizers, so it is important to check the ingredients! Additionally, many potting mixes will also include calcium, but this isn’t always the case.
There are many reasons why your pepper plant’s leaves might be curling. It is your responsibility to diagnose and treat the affected plants.
While having pepper plants can be incredibly rewarding, they are notoriously sensitive and can be a challenge to grow.
To keep your plant as healthy as possible, make sure that you incorporate a watering schedule into your routine and make a careful note of when you water the pepper plants.