The Q&A Archives: Wilted Splotched Peppers

Question: Yesterday my pepper plants were fine. Today I went there and discovered many leaves lying on the ground. At first I thought it had been attacked by an animal. But upon closer inspection the plants looked very sick. The leaves that were still on the stems were wilted, and when touched they would fall off. Some of the leaves had white splotches on them. One of the plants had a yucky, brown, rotten look on the stem. How would you identify this problem, and what can I do to prevent it from happening to my other pepper plants?

Answer: Sorry for the delay with my answer to your distressing pepper problem! I hope your remaining plants haven't met the same fate. Due to the sudden nature of the disease, I wonder if something has disturbed the roots. Burrowing animals or may have damaged the roots, preventing moisture uptake by the plant. This could result in sunscald (white spots on leaves). However, the rotting stem may be a sign of anthracnose, a fungal disease that can also strike quickly in the right conditions. The fungus needs warm (70-80F), damp conditions. If you've had sudden heavy rain or have been using overhead watering, this could provide the necessary moisture. To be absolutely sure of the cause, you'll need to have the affected plant studied. Contact your agricultural extension service (ph# 319-971-0079 ) and ask them where you can send a specimen for diagnosis. In the meantime, water your pepper plants at the base, mulch them with clean straw or hay, feed them moderately, and hope for the best. There are some fungicides available that can keep the disease from spreading -- call Gardens Alive at 812/537-8650 or Gardener's Supply Co. (; 800/863-1700) for information on these products. Best of luck!

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