why chili plants drop leaves

5 Reasons Why Chili Plants Drop Leaves (And Some Easy Fixes)

Last Updated on July 13, 2021

Wondering why chili plants drop leaves? You’ve come to the right place. When growing chili plants, it can be shocking when they suddenly start dropping their leaves. Chili plants are not deciduous plants; they can’t shed their leaves unless there’s a reason. This article will help you narrow down why your chili plants are dropping their leaves. 

Your chili plant may be dropping its leaves for the following reasons. Be sure to note down which of these reasons correlate to the symptoms your chili plant is showcasing. 

  1. Water deficiency 
  2. Inefficient transplanting 
  3. Pests and diseases
  4. Stress
  5. Maturity Stage

This article will provide in-depth explanations on why chili plants drop leaves and solutions to help combat them. If you’re interested in how you can save your chili plants from leaf dropping, then keep reading. 

Why Chili Plants Drop Leaves

Abscission is a controlled process, primarily seen in plants. It is whereby plant parts or organs such as fruits, pods, or leaves are shed. It is because the plant considers them unwanted. [1]

Abscission is what typically happens to the leaves of your chili plants when they cannot or unable to serve their purpose for the well-being of the chili plant. They can be caused by outliers (external interference) or as a result of the plant itself. 

Water Deficiency 

It is the most likely problem when it comes to why chili plants drop leaves. Your chili plants are not getting enough water and are thus drying out. So, for the plant to save itself, it chooses to drop its leaves. 

You should carefully research the watering or irrigation method you choose to provide water to your chili plant. Sometimes, it may not be that you aren’t giving your chili plants enough water. But instead, it may be that you’re giving them too much water. 

The first assumption when you see your first leaf drop is that your plants are incredibly thirsty. But overwatering your chili plants may be the worst solution to your problem. If you decide to turn to this solution, more leaves may continue to drop. 

The best solution in this situation would be to give your plants a break. Believe it or not, but plants do get tired. You can do this by completely restricting water from your plants. 

This way, your plants can enter a semi-dormant period. Then when the plant seems as though it is about to wilt once more, you water them a little bit. This way, they can start perking up. 

Typically the cause of leaf drop is mainly attributed to poor conditions. Try to improve your watering methods, the soil your chili plants are growing in, and any other resources you provide the plants. 

Chili plants are notorious for being fragile. Nevertheless, the fruits will be worth the effort. It just needs a little more patience and a lot more practice. 

why chili plants drop leaves
A Chili Plant growing in Farmer Jer’s organic screen house in 2021.

Poor Transplanting

Transplanting is when gardeners move chili plant seedlings from a seedling bed to an environment where they can flourish and mature. One of the drawbacks of transplanting is that it can be why chili plants drop leaves, and the seedling may die. 

Because chili plants are fragile, the seedlings may not enjoy starting in typical garden soil. That is why transplanting may be necessary. It is best to toughen up the seeds before they go into the garden soil environment. 

If you transplant incorrectly, the seedlings may go into shock. At this point, the leaves will likely start to drop off. 

The best solution to help mitigate the shock of the transplanting process is a process known as hardening off. Hardening off, as the name implies, is essentially giving your seedlings tough love. 

Hardening off is essentially a psychological process. Not to the gardener but the plant. It forces your plants to increase their carbohydrate reserves. It will, in turn, force the plant to increase leaf cuticles. 

The result of this is so that your chili plants reduce their rate of transpiration. Transpiration is the rate at which plants release water into the air. 

From a scientific perspective, the hardening off reduces your chili plant’s growing process. It gives them more time to get familiar with the new and possibly harsher conditions. 

The best way to do this is by reducing temperatures. It uses a colder environment to ease the plants through a shock phase. Many recommend doing this for the hardening process. A cold frame with the heating cables turned off, and the top left open is ideal for the hardening-off process. It may help you stop why chili plants drop leaves.

Temperature reduction should remove the plant shock problem and make transplanting as smooth as butter. 

Pests and Diseases 

Pests and disease are inevitable factors. It is one of the most common reasons for leaf drop. However, not all pests and diseases are the cause of leaf drops. You usually see discoloration in your plants, the fruit, or most commonly, leaf dropping. 

Here are some pests and diseases most commonly associated with leaf dropping as its main symptoms. 

  • Cercospora Leaf Spot 

Circular brown spots on the leaves characterize it. These spots also tend to have a light grey or dark brown coloration at their center. Another standard indicator of this is leaf dropping in the infected leaves. 

You can control this disease using clean seeds as the foundation of your chili plants or crop rotation. Not only that, but this fungal disease does not do well in humid conditions. 

If push comes to shove and the natural or otherwise organic methods are not yielding anything, you can turn to fungicides to save your chili plants. 

It is another fungal infection characterized by pale green or whitish leaves. This discoloration is also known as being chlorotic. With time, the affected plant tissue becomes necrotic. 

It means that the plant tissues die out. It is characterized by a white or gray powder-type growth on the leaves’ surface’s underside. 

The last and most common characteristic of this fungal disease is leaf drop. 

Organic methods cannot control powdery mildew. If you notice these symptoms on your chili plants, the best solution is to use fungicides. 

If you notice other plants in your plant community show signs, quickly remove them from your garden. It is so that your garden doesn’t become an entire fungal infestation. 

  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus

Tobacco mosaic virus appears by not only leaf drop but also mosaic patterning and system chlorosis. If you remember a bit of information from your biology class, you will know that chlorophyll is present in leaves. This disease can be why chili plants drop leaves.

Plants use chlorophyll to manufacture food. Chlorosis affects the green plant tissue in leaves and causes a decrease in chlorophyll in plants. 

This decrease will make the plants consider the leaves useless, and eventually, the plant will drop the leaves. 

When the mosaic disease and chlorosis come together, you will note that it destroys chloroplast production in the leaves. It is another reason why your chili plant will drop its leaves. 

You can control this virus by using clean plant seed, crop rotation, and otherwise cleanliness from the gardener. TMV is highly contagious in plants. It can spread through the gardener when they touch one plant to another. 

The gardener must maintain cleanliness by washing their hands after touching or inspecting an infected plant. 

Stress 

When your chili plants are stressed, they will shed their leaves. Stress is caused by overwatering, underwatering, poor conditions, transplanting, inefficient grafting, pungency, pests, diseases, etc. 

If you don’t meet your chili plants’ needs, they will go into stress. It will then be why chili plants drop leaves. As shared earlier, chili plants are known to be fragile. 

Because of the plant’s fragility, they require adequate care to ensure needs are fulfilled before harvesting the fruits without fear of shocking the plant. 

Maturity Stage 

It is one of the typical reasons for leaf dropping. Plants go through stages of growth. Once a plant reaches maturity, they are considered old. At this stage, it is common for them to drop up to two leaves. Some may think this is why chili plants drop leaves. However, the plant won’t drop many in this stage, so if leaf drop is abundant, it’s likely caused by more than old age.

The only solution to this is to get a new one or live with the truth that your plant has crow feet. 

Chili Plant FAQs

Sources of why chili plants drop leaves

  1. Dave Dewitt, Paul Bosland, The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener’s Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking (London: TimberPress,2009)
  2. Ruiz-Lau, N., Medina-Lara, F., Minero-García, Y., Zamudio-Moreno, E., Guzmán-Antonio, A., Echevarría-Machado, I., & Martínez-Estévez, M. (2011). Water Deficit Affects the Accumulation of Capsaicinoids in Fruits of Capsicum chinense Jacq., HortScience horts, 46(3), 487-492. Retrieved May 08, 2021, from https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/46/3/article-p487.xml
  3. Encyclopedia of Cell Biology, Abscission, ScienceDirect https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/abscission  Accessed  May 08, 2021. 
  4. Encyclopedia of Cell Biology, Chlorosis, ScienceDirect Accessed https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chlorosis  May 08, 2021. 
  5. Barchenger, D. W., Coon, D. L., & Bosland, P. W. (2016). Efficient Breeder Seed Production Utilizing Ethephon to Promote Floral and Fruit Abscission in Ornamental Chile Peppers, HortTechnology hortte, 26(1), 30-35. Retrieved May 08, 2021, from https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/26/1/article-p30.xml

Join Farmer Jer on his Gardening Adventure

Subscribe to the Farmer Jer newsletter.

Scroll to Top