You're here because you've noticed drastic leaf curl on pepper plants that you've worked so hard to grow. It's not a good feeling.
Even worse, you're not sure what you did or didn't do to trigger the sudden state of your plants. I've been in that same situation and can say with confidence that there's something cathartic in commiserating in awful shared experiences. But more so if one has a solution after all - which I do.
However, first things first:
What are leaf curls anyway? Leaf curl is a condition where the leaves of the plant start to twist, curl inwards, or outwards making them look disfigured and unhealthy.
The plant will often appear droopy which can happen at any stage of your pepper plant's life cycle. If you don't take the necessary action you may just as well bid farewell to your plant.
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to fix this issue. In this article, we’ll discuss common causes and some tips for fixing leaf curls on your pepper plants.
Common Causes of Leaf Curl on Pepper Plants
Leaf curls can be caused by a number of different factors, including environmental conditions and pest infestations. Understanding your previous actions before the curls can be helpful in pinpointing the exact root cause.
Let's take a look at the most common causes:
Inefficient watering practices
The biggest culprit when it comes to plants drooping and curling their leaves is poor watering habits.
On one hand, you may be watering way too much than the plant can absorb or you're practically starving your plants to death. In both cases, the plant will exhibit similar symptoms since the roots are affected either way.
Overwatering will cause the roots to be exposed to stagnant water for too long hence triggering root rot which will in turn reflect on the leaves.
Underwatering on the other hand will cause the roots to dry out hence causing the leaves to curl and wilt. Of the two evils, overwatering can have a devastating effect on your plants. Luckily, it doesn't happen overnight.
Poor soil drainage
The type of soil you choose to use is just as important as the amount of water you give your pepper plants.
If your soil isn't draining quickly enough, it will retain too much moisture for too long and this can lead to root rot which then causes the leaves to curl.
The issue with soil drainage is that, even if you're watering as per recommendations, waterlogging will still occur due to poor drainage.
Exposure to herbicides
Herbicides can be extremely damaging to your pepper plants. When you use them on the wrong plants, it will most likely kill them or cause severe damage like leaf curling.
The herbicide residues could linger in the soil and affect other plants that are planted afterward in the same area. If you suspect any herbicide contact with your plants, it's best to move them to a new area or pot and discard the contaminated soil.
Pesticides or foliar feed scorching
When you spray foliar feeds or use any pesticides on your pepper plants, be sure to follow the instructions written on their packaging.
Applying higher than the recommended rates of these treatments can cause leaf curl as it can burn the leaves. This usually happens when pesticides or foliar feed are applied during hot and sunny days.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for pepper plants and a deficiency can cause yellowing, curling leaves, or twisted shoots.
If your plant has been exhibiting symptoms of calcium deficiency, it's a good idea to supplement the soil with calcium (as per instructions). It’s also important to note that overwatering can wash away some of the calcium in the soil, so make sure you’re not watering too much.
There are several insect pests that cause leaves to curl when they suck plant juices of new or young leaves that are still growing. These include aphids, thrips, and whiteflies.
How To Fix Leaf Curl on Pepper Plants
Now that you know what could possibly be causing leaf curl in your pepper plants, let's get into how to fix it:
1. Adjust your watering schedule
The first step is to modify your watering habits.
If you notice that the leaves are curling excessively and suddenly, chances are you might be overwatering them. Try cutting back on the amount of water and monitoring the situation for a few days.
If on the other hand, the soil feels dry an inch deep on the surface, it may be time to give your plants a thorough drink.
Here's how to water potted plants the right way.
2. Improve soil drainage
Poor soil drainage is one of the most common causes of leaf curl in pepper plants.
It's advisable that you test your soil drainage by watering an area and seeing if the water is still present after a few hours.
If this is the case, you might want to consider aerating your soil or adding some organic material like sand or mulch to increase drainage.
If you want to learn more strategies on how to improve drainage, especially in potted plants, here's a detailed guide.
3. Control pests infestation
Sap-sucking insects can easily become a menace if they're not controlled. Therefore, it's important to monitor your crop regularly for any signs of aphids, thrips, and whiteflies.
If you suspect any pest infestations on your pepper plants, you can spray them with neem oil which is an effective organic solution for insect control.
Besides, the oil is derived from neem seeds and works as a natural insect repellent.
4. Prune the affected leaves
If you've noticed that only some of the leaves are curling, pruning them off is a great way to get rid of the issue.
This will also help to improve air circulation and prevent further damage.
5. Apply Calcium-based fertilizer
While mild leaf curl on pepper plants could mean a deficiency in calcium, the worst may yet to happen. Prolonged calcium deficiency will cause blossom end rot once the fruits begin to develop.
Therefore, it's important to fix the calcium shortage as soon as possible.
You can use a calcium-based fertilizer and follow the instructions on its packaging for proper application.
6. Move your plants & observe the safe use of chemicals
To avoid continued accidental exposure to herbicides, consider moving your plants to a new location away from any contact with herbicides or pesticides.
Besides, always ensure to spray herbicides on a non-windy day to avoid exposure to non-intended crops.
7. Check the root system
Lastly, make sure to check your plant's root system for any problems like root rot or pests. If you find something wrong with the roots, try repotting your pepper plants into fresh soil and see if that helps to fix the issue.
But remember, to cut off any rotten or discolored roots before repotting or replanting in fresh soil.
Leaf curl can be an alarming sight for any gardener, but it's not something that can't be fixed.
By understanding the underlying cause and taking the necessary steps to remedy the problem your pepper plants should return to their healthy state soon enough.
Remember to always check your soil's drainage before planting any pepper plants and adjust your watering schedule if you spot any signs of leaf curl.
Also, be sure to use neem oil regularly to keep pests away from your garden. With a little bit of patience, you will have lush and healthy pepper plants in no time once again!