Persistent Problems with Peppers

albabyDecember 2, 2011

I'm still very much a rookie gardener, but I've been through a few growing seasons now, and I'm starting to get a sense of what works and what doesn't - and why. For example, I know what keeps killing my zukes and squashes (powderly mildew), and why my marigolds keep dying (my three-year old daughter keeps pulling them out).

But I can't figure out why my pepper plants keep failing.

Every season, I've planted a number of different types of peppers - different types of bells, jalapenos, cayenne, etc. For a week or two after transplanting, they seem to do fine - growth, healthy looking new leaves, the works. Then, invariably, they begin to fail. Growth gets stunted, the leaves begin to curl up - the plant just goes into almost a stasis. Any blooms will wither without setting, any stems will just blacken off at the ends. It's worse with the bells than the hotter peppers, but they all seem to have trouble.

I can't figure out what's happening. Lots of other plants are thriving in the same raised bed soil mix - eggplants, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, various lettuces and beans, herbs and marigolds (until my daughter gets 'em). Pine bark fines, sand, garden soil, and peat moss in a 5:2:2:2 ratio, with garden lime and a little Osmocote mixed in. Fertilize with FP weekly per directions. No visible pests, no blights or funguses or discoloration (though the leaves eventually get weathered after a few months).

I'm stumped. Peppers should do relatively well here in South Florida, but they're giving me the hardest time.

Alan

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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

It appears you have been trimming the dead stuff off the pepper plants? If you don't do the dead leaves stay on the plant? If so I would lean toward it being Verticillium dahliae as the culprit.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 11:36AM
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romy6(9)

Are they being overwatered? Peppers do not like to have wet roots. I have killed many a plants from overwatering.

Maybe get your soil checked as well. Also cut down on fertilizing. Once a week is too much IMO.

Jamie

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 2:18PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

As a rule I don't like to fertilize if plants are not growing well. As a general rule fertilizing unhappy plants just makes them more unhappy unless there is a clear cut identifiable deficiency.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 3:47PM
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saldut

I don't know if this is of any help, but all my peppers are in pots, also Tom grows his in pots... mine do OK and some are several years old, but they go in the shade in the summer and I feed them MG, aweak solution I keep in a milk-jug and go around to all the potted stuff weekly... also they get pretty dry between waterings... sally

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 4:10PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

Have you checked closely - w/ a magnifying lens, if possible? I'm guessing it's insects - perhaps chili thrips or mites. I have similar probs, & FWIW it seems a seasonal issue. I had better luck w/ Early winter/spring started peppers.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 8:56AM
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albaby

I appreciate all the ideas, guys!

I'll do some diagnostics on the failing plants. Some are so far gone that they'll have to come out, so slicing open the stems should be a quick check for verticillium. I'll also put the leaves under a glass and look for thrips (though a "white paper" test revealed nothing).

Meanwhile, I've got a few extra containers and plenty of Al's Mix, so I'll stop off at the local big box and pick up a few bell plants. If I throw a few in containers and a few back in the raised beds (unless the peppers show signs of verticillium, in which case I just have to keep them out of that soil), and mix up the water/fert, I can experiment and see which ones do better.

Alan

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 9:26AM
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sumala(9 fl)

My two cents. To me it looks like too much nitrogen. Peppers do not like a lot of nitrogen and mine absolutely hate foliar feeding.

Sounds like your soil is rich, your mulch is decaying (and releasing nitro) and you are giving them a nitrogen bath weekly. You are loving them to death.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 7:47PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

FWIW, sucking insects can transmit viruses, so it can be a 1,2 punch...

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 9:54AM
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albaby

Again, thanks for all the advice and suggestions.

I pulled one of the failing plants and sliced open the stem. There were no signs of verticillium - the stem was clear of blockage, and the roots didn't show any abnormalities. I looked at the leaves under a strong light with a magnifying glass, and no signs of mites.

I swung by the local big box and picked up a pair of green bells. One went into a container of Al's mix, the other went into the site of the former failed plant. I'll cut back on the fertilization and the watering of both, and see how they do over the next couple of weeks.

Alan

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:13AM
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