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How to Prevent Stunted Pepper Plants (And What Causes It)

How to Prevent Stunted Pepper Plants (And What Causes It)
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Peppers are a great addition to just about any meal. People who use them enough may find that planting their own peppers is a great endeavor. What better than to be able to walk out into the backyard and pick some fresh peppers?

It isn’t all sunshine and roses (or peppers, as it were), though. There is a common issue with pepper plants and that is that they won’t grow or are stunted.

This can be quite a common issue with pepper seedlings, particularly after they germinate. You may also notice that there is no growth whatsoever after you have planted them.

So, the question becomes “what can I do to prevent my pepper plants from becoming stunted?”

Preventing Stunted Pepper Plants

How you plant and care for your peppers is essential, particularly during the early stages of development. How you care for them can influence their later vigor and growth or result in the aforementioned stunted plants.

You can plant pepper seeds directly into your soil up to two weeks before the final frost. Just keep in mind that these plants will mature four weeks later than any transplants you may have.

Should you go with a transplant pepper plant, you’ll want to start them inside about 8 or 10 weeks before the last frost of the year. Otherwise, you will need to pick nursery plants.

When you are choosing your pepper plants, make sure to choose stocky, small plants. These pepper plants will have leaves that are dark green in color. You want to avoid pepper plants that are spindly and tall or ones that already have fruit to them.

The reason to avoid them is that they are slower to establish their roots and will generally grow at a slower pace than the smaller ones would.

Ideal Temperature

Like just about any other plant out there, pepper plants need ideal conditions to properly grow. Pepper plants in particular are subtropical plants. This means that they tend to do best in moist, warm environments.

If your seedlings aren’t growing the way that you’d hoped for, it could be that you planted them a bit too early and their development and growth has been stalled by colder temperatures.

For this reason, it is ideal that you plant your pepper plants outdoors only after the last expected frost has taken place.

If you planted your pepper plants before the last frost, you’ll want to place cloches or floating row covers over the young pepper plants whenever there is a threat of cold temperature.

Don’t leave them on permanently, though. Remove those devices whenever the temperature gets to be above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Straw, untreated grass clippings, or black plastic can be a great way to regulate moisture and warm up the soil so that your peppers grow a bit faster. You can even install black plastic mulch in the spring before you ever plant your peppers.

It is important that you do not apply organic mulches until after the soil temperature has warmed up to at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent any stunting as well.

Optimal Conditions

There is a chance that your peppers are not receiving the proper care that they need to promote the vigorous growth that you are looking to achieve. It could be as simple as adjusting your growing conditions to improve the overall performance of the pepper plants.

Make sure that when you do plant your peppers, you do so into well-drained soil that gets a lot of full sun. Make sure that you amend the soil with two cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer and an inch of compost for every 100 square feet of garden soil before you plant.

Watering your peppers frequently is important. Do it often enough so that the soil stays moist at least an inch below the surface of the soil. Diligent watering should work fine but it can also be helpful to have a drip irrigation system in place for just this experience.

Whenever peppers experience periods of drought followed by heavy watering or stress from drought, it can lead to lesser yields, rot of the blossom end, or the aforementioned stunted growth.

Consistent watering is the best thing for your peppers until they bloom.

Pepper Plant Disease

Keep in mind that if you notice stunted pepper plants or slow growth and that is the only thing that you notice, you’re not likely dealing with pepper plant disease.

When pepper plant disease is involved, there are usually other symptoms. These can include wilting or dropping leaves, yellowing, and rotting or black roots.

Should you notice any of the aforementioned systems developing, you will need to remove those plants that have been impacted so as to prevent the spread of disease any further.

It’s a good idea to rotate your pepper plants so that they don’t grow in the exact same spot each year.

As for watering, it’s also a good idea to use soaker hoses instead of traditional overhead sprinklers. This is because wet leaves on your pepper plant can spread diseases. Some of the viruses for plants, such as a mosaic virus, spread through insects such as aphids.

When you experience a pest problem, it can be difficult to control them. You’ll need to spray your pepper plants using a steady stream of water to properly rid yourself of the aforementioned aphids.

Each pest can have a specific course of action to it. By having diverse living soil, it will equip your pepper plants with the tools necessary to guard against pest infestation and damage, deficiency, and disease that can stunt or kill the plant.

Overview

So, if you notice that your pepper plant is starting to look a bit stunted, hope is not lost. Start by checking the light source.

If there is too much shading in the area, look for ways to improve the overall sun exposure. You may have to replant your pepper plant to give it the proper light exposure that it needs.

Watering is another major culprit. Some pepper plant owners will infrequently water their pepper plant, leading to drought and the stresses that can come from times of drought.

Before you purchase your seeds and start planting, ensure that you have a proper watering schedule set up or invest in a drip irrigation system to ensure that they have the proper amount of water going forward.

If you feel confident that lighting and water are not the problem, it could be that you’ve planted too close to the last frost of the year.

Pepper plants do not do well with colder soil. When they have to live in less than temperate soil, it could stunt them until the weather and soil begin to warm up.

Finally, you could be dealing with a pest problem or disease. Take a close look at your pepper plants to determine if there are any signs of infestation or illness.

The signs will be quite apparent, but thankfully there are measures that can be taken to reverse the damage and save the pepper plant in the long-term.

There is also a chance that the plant could be too far gone; you will need to start anew in a different spot and watch out for the signs.

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Bruce

Friday 11th of June 2021

Do not plant till Memorial Day, make sure the soil is loose, don't go crazy with the nitrogen and keep the soil slightly moist, not soggy. I got impatient this year and planted way too early and now the plants seem to be in a holding pattern. They're green and alive, just not going vertical. I'll throw the kitchen sink at them and see if they snap out of it.