Over watering pepper plants

A pepper plant wilting from fusarium disease.

Q:

I started tomato and pepper plants from seed indoors and planted them outdoors right after Memorial Day. All of the plants did relatively well, and the tomato plants grew quite large. Then all of a sudden in July, the pepper plants withered and died. Then the tomato plants started dying one by one. The leaves all curled in on themselves but they stayed green, and when I pulled the plants out, the stems were brown. We used organic compost this year to make the soil richer, and we used Miracle Gro. We also took our grass clippings and put them around the plants to try to prevent weeds, just like last year. The wilting literally happened overnight. Did we do something wrong?

A: The first thing I’d wonder is if the wilting occurred right after you added the grass clippings. Weed-killers can kill vegetable plants when herbicide-treated clips are applied as mulch. Herbicide in the compost also is a possibility.

The second thing I’d check is whether there’s a walnut, hickory or butternut tree nearby. These species contain juglone, and tomatoes are especially sensitive to that plant chemical. Wilting can occur even as far as twice the canopy away (since juglone is in tree roots as well as leaves).
If neither of those checks out, it’s most likely one of several diseases that affect both tomatoes and peppers. Leaf roll and tobacco mosaic virus are two that cause curling of leaves, and verticillium, fusarium and bacterial wilts are three wilt-inducing diseases common to tomatoes and peppers.

One of the best ways to deal with any of these diseases is to choose varieties that are naturally resistant. That’s what those letters stand for next to variety listings in catalogs or on plant labels. “VFNT,” for example, tells you a tomato is resistant to both verticillium and fusarium wilts, nematodes and tobacco mosaic virus.

You might also try solarizing your garden soil. Now that your plants are yanked anyway, loosen the soil, water it, then stretch a sheet of thick, clear plastic over the whole area. Let the sun beat on the soil and super-bake it for 6 to 8 weeks. This kills many disease organisms. Work a little fresh compost into the soil afterward and plant a fall crop of radishes or lettuce, if you want. Then give disease-resistant tomatoes and peppers a new try next spring.

One other possibility… excess rain on poorly drained soil. We’ve had some downpours this summer. If your garden soil remains soggy for too long afterward, that can rot out the roots and cause the sudden shutdown you saw, too.

There are many reasons that plants can wilt. Heat (especially coupled with direct sunlight) is one. 99% of the time running for the watering can or hose is not the answer.

I know it’s always upsetting to see a plant wilt. I’ve seen it many times over 33 years and as much as I know “all will be well in the morning” — I still become concerned.

Plants That are Prone to Wilting in Heat

Certain plants are more prone to this than others. Hydrangeas are a perfect example. Their big leaves often wilt when the temperatures are extreme in the day, but recover to perfect condition during the night. (If it’s still wilted in the morning, you have another problem.)

A few days last week saw our wonderful cool spring temperatures soar to summer highs of almost 90. My large sedums (like sedum autumn joy, neon and matrona) showed signs immediately. So did the mums.

While other perennials around them were loving it, all the leaves of the sedums and mums that were in direct sunlight wilted. Although 90 degrees is not extreme heat by summer standards, these two plants had not had time to accustom themselves to this kind of heat so early in the spring.

Fine in the shade (foreground); willted in direct sun (background).

Closer view of wilted sedum.

Top leaves of this mum are starting to wilt from the heat.

When summer arrives and we go through this same thing — but with highs in the 90s — they’ll wilt again. But by morning they will look perfect.

The Cause

This wilting is caused by the plant giving off more water than it can take up. There is plenty of water in the soil right now, but the plant just can’t take it up fast enough.

It’s especially disconcerting to see vegetable plants do this. I’m always concerned I’ll loose the precious fruit they’re giving me.

I find cucumbers are very prone to this. In last summers severe heat, even though they recovered by the morning, I did loose a small percentage of their fruit. The vines just were not able to take up enough water to sustain the fruit. (In my heavily mulched garden, plants have soil water available to them longer than a conventional garden.)

Wilted leaves of cucumber plants.

Cucumbers recovered each morning.

Squash is prone as well. But I’m never 100% sure if its just the heat or the squash vine borer. Until of course, it either makes a full recover or dies and I find the borer grub in the stem.

What Not To Do

  • Don’t handle the plants while they’re wilted. You can easily damage them when they’re in this condition. It could hamper their ability to recover and make them more prone to insects and disease
  • Don’t water unless you’re positive that’s the problem. (For example – even through weeks of drought conditions there’s soil water available to plants in my heavily mulched garden.) If you have the ability to water — and you’re sure that’s the problem —- water at soil level and do so without touching the wilted leaves of the plant. And water either very late in the evening or very early in the morning.

Best Anti-Heat Maneuvers

Your best anti-heat maneuvers are good basic gardening practices. These simple but important practices allow plants to better deal with any stress, including heat and drought.

  • When preparing your garden bed, loosen the soil deeply so roots can penetrate and seek what they need including cooler temperatures.
  • Make sure your soil is always rich in organic matter to supply nutrients your plants need as well as helping your soil be able to retain moisture.
  • Mulching helps keep moisture in the soil. It keeps soil temperatures cooler and thus, prevents the sun from baking the plant roots. (When roots become too hot their activity slows and a stunted plant can result.)

An Additional Strategy

Some plants just take the heat better than others. If you’ve gardened any length of time, you’ve found this out through experience.

As you continue to improve and design your yard and gardens, make sure you create spots that offer you and at least some of your plants relief from the baking sun. Even some vegetable plants appreciate a little dappled shade in late afternoon.

Ending Thought

Good gardening practices and thoughtful design using trees, bushes and/or vine covered arbors can make a difference in how the the heat effects your plants.

All content including pictures is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com. All rights are reserved.

Wilting

Wilting Can Be Caused by Drought or Waterlogged Soil

Plants wilt when roots are unable to supply sufficient moisture to the stems and leaves. Wilting for short periods of time does not harm plants. Sometimes a plant wilts on a hot day because moisture is evaporating from the leaves faster than the roots can take it up. If there is ample soil moisture, the plant will absorb water in the evening to restore turgor to the stems and leaves. Over a prolonged period, however, drought will cause serious damage, such as yellowing, leaf scorch, browning, leaf drop or stunted growth. Extended periods of drought also inhibit flower and fruit formation. Severe heat and water stress when a plant is in bloom may cause scorching or browning of flower buds and blossoms. Plants vary in their ability to tolerate drought and some may die suddenly after extended periods of drought. Locate garden close to a water source. Be prepared to water all vegetable plants deeply at least once each week during hot, dry weather. ( split radish from drought)

Conversely, vegetable plant roots growing in poorly drained soils can quickly become deprived of needed oxygen leading to wilting and yellowing and browning of leaves and stems. This will be most noticeable on tight, clayey soils during prolonged rainy periods and can lead to severe disease problems. Avoid poorly drained soils. Plant on raised beds if necessary. (radial cracks in tomato fruit, uneven ripening from excess water and shade)

Hot, drying winds can also cause temporary wilting even when soil moisture is adequate.


Drought stressed pepper

Pepper Wilt On Plants – What Causes Wilting Peppers

There are times when nothing seems to go right in the garden, no matter how hard you work. Your tomatoes are covered in hornworms, the strawberries are coated with powdery mildew and for some unexplained reason, your peppers have decided to wilt spontaneously. Some years, you just have to chalk it up to bad luck and start anew the next season, but when pepper plants wilt, you should pay attention — it’s very likely fusarium or verticillium wilt. This article will explain more about these tough-to-eradicate diseases.

Why are My Pepper Plants Wilting?

Sometimes, peppers wilt because they’re baking in the hot, hot sun, but if you’re watering your plants adequately or even amply, the cause is likely fungal wilt. Pepper wilt on plants is caused by either fusarium or verticillium wilt, but the two cause such similar symptoms that distinguishing between them often requires a laboratory evaluation.

While you’re wondering what causes wilting peppers, take a careful look at the environment. Are your peppers getting enough water? Have there been many hot, dry winds lately? You may simply need to increase watering.

If your peppers are wilting suddenly, developing large yellow areas and drooping (especially if this starts on the bottom leaves and moves upward) despite adequate watering, fungal wilt is probably to blame. Spotted wilt virus is a less common cause of wilted pepper plants, but if your plant’s leaves are dotted with brown or black spots or unusual yellow lines or circles and the symptoms move through the plant from the top down, it is very likely the cause.

Occasionally, bacterial pepper wilt may affect your plants. Pepper plants will wilt and die quickly and upon inspection, the inner stems may be dark, watery and hollow.

Curing Pepper Wilt on Plants

Sadly, both fungal wilts and plant viruses are incurable, but the methods of prevention are very different, making proper identification vital. Once you’ve removed the plant and destroyed it, you’ll need to take some precautions to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread or reappear next season.

Fungal wilts are soil-borne and can live in the soil for many years. Long crop rotations may be able to kill the fusarium and verticillium pathogens, but it will take time before planting in the old location is safe again. Choose a new garden location and keep it free of fungus by increasing drainage and only watering when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch.

Spotted wilt virus is spread by thrips, tiny insects that may set up shop in the weeds around your plants. Keep weeds trimmed and use reflective mulch whenever possible. For a smaller garden, planting spotted wilt virus-resistant varieties of bell peppers like Heritage, Patriot, Excursion II and Plato; or the banana pepper Boris may be the simplest solution.

Wilting Chillies

Concerned about wilting chillies? Are you giving your chillies enough water? How often should you water your chillies? What causes chili plants to suddenly wilt? These are some of the questions I’ll attempt to answer in this post.

Occasionally, chillies wilt because they’re baking in the hot sun. If you’re watering your plants sufficiently, the cause is likely fungal wilt. Wilting Chillies can be caused by either fusarium or verticillium wilt, but the two cause such similar symptoms that distinguishing between them often requires a laboratory evaluation.

While you’re questioning what causes wilting chillies, take a careful look at the environment. Are your chillies getting enough water? Have there been many hot, dry winds lately? You may simply need to increase watering.

A chilli plant that is wilting from lack of water will recover quickly. I recommend mixing up some good liquid fertiliser and giving your wilting chilli plants a good drink. They should bounce back to life within a few hours.

If your chillies are wilting suddenly, developing large yellow areas and drooping (particularly if this starts on the bottom leaves and moves upward) despite sufficient watering, fungal wilt is probably to blame. Spotted wilt virus is a less common cause of wilted pepper plants, but if your plant’s leaves are dotted with brown or black spots or unusual yellow lines or circles and the symptoms move through the plant from the top down, it is very likely the cause.

Occasionally, bacterial pepper wilt may affect your plants. Pepper plants will wilt and die quickly and upon inspection, the inner stems may be dark, watery and hollow.

Sadly, both fungal wilts and plant viruses are incurable, but the methods of prevention are very different, making proper identification vital. Once you’ve removed the plant and destroyed it, you’ll need to take some precautions to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread or reappear next season.

Fungal wilts are soil-borne and can live in the soil for many years. Long crop rotations may be able to kill the fusarium and verticillium pathogens, but it will take time before planting in the old location is safe again. Choose a new garden location and keep it free of fungus by increasing drainage and only watering when the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch.

Spotted wilt virus is spread by thrips, tiny insects that may set up shop in the weeds around your plants. Keep weeds trimmed and use reflective mulch whenever possible.

Pepper Plants Wilting

Watering Issues

Peppers can be highly sensitive to getting too dry. If you can stick your finger into the soil and it feels dry, then your pepper plant is thirsty. Peppers should receive 1-2 inches of water per week, adjusted for precipitation. This should be spread out over the week, not given all at once and then neglected for a week.

On the other end, soggy soil can also cause pepper plants to wilt. Look for signs of water sitting on the surface or dig out around the roots of your plant to ensure there is no standing water. If you do find areas where water pools, cultivate that soil and amend it with sand, coconut husk, or aged wood chips.

Climate

Peppers are a warm weather species and they like the heat, but temperatures soaring up past 90°F(32°C) can fatigue them and cause wilt. Harsh direct sunlight will cause this same scenario. Protect pepper plants from harsh midday sun with shade cloth, or by planting them under a taller companion plant that will provide dappled light. The overall health of peppers plants is improved by:

  • Accurate Watering
  • Aerobic Compost
  • Mulch Around Plant Bases
  • Temperature and Sunlight Control

Pests and Disease

Inspect your plant for visual signs of insect infestation. Some beetles and aphids will cause symptoms similar to wilting. Most pest-related issues associated with wilting plants, however, are caused by root eating nematodes. These will require a lab test to identify, and this problem is remedied through soil amendment and aerobic compost application.

There are two diseases that can affect peppers and cause wilting. Fungal wilt is more common of the two and starts with the bottom leaves moving upward. Bacterial wilt is less common but can affect peppers. This disease is characterized by wilting plants and blackened rotting stems.

Unfortunately, these diseases are incurable and plants affected should be removed. To ensure the disease doesn’t spread or remain in the soil, the best course of action is to send soil samples to a lab that can give you specific amendment instructions.

Applications of aerobic living compost and compost tea will combat any pathogen present in the soil. Crop rotation is another tool to use, farm experts claim that it can take up to 3 years to eliminate fungal wilt with crop rotation. A combination of strategies is the best course to take.

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