Pepper Plants Not Growing? Use These Tips To Fix It | Pepper Geek (2022)

Are your pepper plants not growing as expected? Slow or stunted growth happens to peppers sometimes, but there are methods to fix it. We have put together our top tips for when your pepper plants are not growing.

The first few tips in this article will pertain to younger plants, while the later tips will apply to more mature pepper plants. However, we recommend reading all of these causes to ensure that you take preventative measures next season!

All of these methods are part of basic pepper plant care. Your routine may simply need one adjustment to get your pepper plants to start growing normally again. For each possible cause, we’ll cover some other symptoms you will likely see in addition to slowed or stopped plant growth.

Pepper Plants Not Growing? Use These Tips To Fix It | Pepper Geek (1)

1. Give Young Peppers Plenty Of Light

Peppers come from a warm climate with lots of sunshine. Young plants are the most susceptible to poor growth if given too little light.

No, a sunny window is not ideal for young pepper plants. For best results and the fastest growth, use a grow light on seedlings indoors. We recommend to provide young pepper plants with 14-16 hours of light per day.

Symptoms of poor lighting:

  • Leggy plants (tall and lanky)
  • Thin stems
  • Slowed growth rate

If you already use a grow light, make sure it is strong enough for your peppers. Light is the energy source for your plants, and this energy is used to form new leaves and branches. Without adequate energy, your pepper plants will grow more slowly.

For a quick recommendation, try this budget grow light on Amazon.

2. Fertilize Regularly, But Not Too Much

Once pepper seeds sprout, they will start to use nutrients. They don’t need much at first, but as they grow larger, they will use more and more.

Depending on the stage of growth, the type and quantity of fertilizer you use will vary. For young plants 4 weeks or younger, we recommend 1/2 strength nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Alternatively, you could use a nutrient-rich potting soil without fertilizing at all.

See all our recommended soils and fertilizers here.

(Video) Why Are My Plants Not Growing? Stunted Pepper Plants - Pepper Geek

For plants that are beginning to produce flowers and fruits, we recommend switching to a phosphorus-rich fertilizer and reducing nitrogen. This encourages the plant to stop growing new leaves and focus on producing peppers.

Other symptoms of nutrient issues:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaves wilting or falling off
  • Flowers dropping

Note: If you use a nutrient-rich soil, then fertilizer is likely unnecessary for the first 2-3 months of growth.

If your pepper plants are not growing, consider your fertilizer regimen and adjust if necessary. If you are fertilizing consistently or have healthy soil, look to other possible causes.

3. Don’t Over-Water

We will chant this mantra time and time again to new pepper growers. Peppers always prefer even-watering, and never too much! This is the most unforgivable form of over-loving your pepper plants.

Too much water can cause a plethora of issues, one of which is stunted pepper plant growth. While under-watering isn’t great either, over-watering just might be the death of your plants.

Other signs of over-watering:

  • Curling leaves
  • Leaf drop
  • Flowers falling off
  • Root rot
  • Poor fruit development

As you can see, over-watering is not good for peppers. Get it under control and learn how to know for certain when your pepper plants are thirsty.

Read more about watering pepper plants here.

4. Transplant Shock

Transplanting is a necessary step in growing peppers from seed. Shortly after transplanting seedlings into larger pots, the plants may grow more slowly for a few days.

This is normal. When peppers move to a larger pot, the root systems need some time to adjust to new surroundings. Be patient and allow the plant to recover without too much disturbance. We also recommend avoiding fertilizing for the week or so after transplanting.

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Sun shock is a related issue that can occur when transplanting peppers to the outdoors for the first time. Direct sunlight is much more intense than grow lights, and pepper plants must be hardened off gradually to avoid damage.

Other signs of transplant shock:

  • Leaf drop
  • Curling or abnormal leaves forming
  • Sun scald (if moving to the outdoors)

Most important is to be patient after transplanting while the plant recovers. More often than not, the plants integrate within a week or so, and then take off in growth!

Note: If your plants have been outdoors for several weeks and are still not growing, your soil may be compacted. Avoid walking on garden soil, especially when it is wet!

5. Don’t Compress Soil Too Much

The roots of your pepper plants like a well-aerated, porous medium to grow through. If you pack your potting mix too tightly, the roots may struggle to expand and absorb water efficiently. The water will also have difficulty draining properly from the soil.

For potted plants, we recommend packing soil down, but never too tightly. When filling new pots with soil, stop compressing when you start to some feel resistance. This is especially important if you are using a coir-based product.

Compress too little, and the soil will collapse when you water for the first time. Compress too hard and the roots will not have access to enough oxygen.

Other signs of compacted soil:

  • Root rot
  • Leaves dying
  • Oversaturated soil
  • Poor drainage

If your ground soil is compacted, use a garden fork to gently loosen the soil up. For raised beds or garden plots, we recommend gently loosening (not tilling) the soil each year a few weeks before planting.

Also, add compost and other organic material to ground soil to encourage good bacteria! Compost also helps with drainage and soil structure over the long term.

6. Transplant To A Larger Pot

One of the most obvious causes for pepper plants not growing is an under-sized container. Many pepper varieties can grow to be very large, over 6 feet in height. However, this is only possible with enough soil space.

(Video) Pepper Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? Common Causes & Solutions - Pepper Geek

We generally recommend that peppers are grown in a minimum of 3 gallons of soil. Ideally, your final pot size should be 5 gallons or larger for maximum yields.

Pepper Plants Not Growing? Use These Tips To Fix It | Pepper Geek (2)

Other signs of under-sized containers:

  • Plants begin flowering early
  • Root bound plants

When transplanting pepper plants, the timing is most important. Seedlings in small seed cell trays should usually be upsized to 3-4″ pots about 2-3 weeks after sprouting. After another 4-6 weeks, they will be ready to move outdoors to full-sized containers or into the ground.

7. Pull Weeds Regularly

This may seem obvious, but weeds can inhibit your pepper plant’s ability to grow. While weeding is a chore, it is important to avoid your peppers from competing with unwanted plants. Weeds can also be a breeding ground for unwanted pests.

Pull weeds when they are small to prevent large, nutrient-stealing root systems. Alternatively, lay down a mulch cover around the base of your peppers, such as chopped straw or a black tarp. This will prevent weeds from growing in the first place.

Pepper Plants Not Growing? Use These Tips To Fix It | Pepper Geek (3)

Learn more about keeping weeds out of the garden here.

Other signs of excessive weeds:

  • Well, when the weeds are taller than your pepper plants, you have a problem!

For larger garden plots, we highly recommend using a weeding hoe.

8. Check For Pests

Pests can be a nightmare for any type of garden plant. Peppers are vulnerable to aphids, spider mites, thrips, grasshoppers, slugs, caterpillars, and many others.

When pepper plants are under attack, they can often slow or stop growing. However, there are some tell-tale signs of insect damage.

Other signs of pest damage:

(Video) Pepper Seedling Care Tips - Keep Young Pepper Plants Happy - Pepper Geek

  • Curled leaves
  • Holes in leaves or peppers
  • Random brown spotting on leaves
  • Bite marks in leaves (usually caterpillars or slugs)
  • Live pests (look closely and under leaves)
Pepper Plants Not Growing? Use These Tips To Fix It | Pepper Geek (4)

Aphids are known to feed on young foliage. If you have aphids, your plants may be trying to grow, but can’t because the new leaves are being destroyed.

Learn more about treating pests on pepper plants in our article here.

9. Disease

Unfortunately, pepper plants are susceptible to a variety of diseases as well as pests. Most will cause visible signs of infection and distress.

Diseases can often mean that your pepper plant must be discarded. Most can spread easily from one plant to another, and many can lay dormant in soil or seeds, infecting future crops.

To avoid disease, always be sanitary while in the garden. We also recommend bottom pruning pepper branches to keep leaves up and away from the soil. Never water over the top of your plants, always just at the base of the main stem.

Many diseases are spread via pests as well, so be sure to control your pests in addition to bottom pruning and mulching. Read our article on pepper plant diseases and problems here.

10. Plants Have Reached Mature Size

The last possibility is that your pepper plants have simply reached their mature size! Some pepper varieties won’t grow above 1′ tall, regardless of container size. Others can grow to be truly massive and produce thousands of pods.

Be sure to set your plant size expectations realistically at the beginning of the grow season. In our experience, C. chinense and C. baccatum pepper species tend to grow quite large, while C. annuum are small to medium-sized.

As we’ve covered, there are many possible causes for pepper plants not growing or growing slowly. With the right nudge, I hope your plants will be back on track and growing healthy again soon.

Pepper Plants Not Growing? Use These Tips To Fix It | Pepper Geek (5)

(Video) How To Fertilize Peppers (Complete Guide) - Pepper Geek


One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.


What helps pepper plants grow? ›

Pepper plants need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Mix compost or other organic matter into the soil when planting. Water immediately after planting, then regularly throughout the season. Aim for a total of 1-2 inches per week (more when it's hotter).

Why are pepper plants not growing? ›

They could be stunted by cool weather, especially cool nights. Keep peppers warm and wait to plant outside until the weather has warmed up to 60-70˚ F at night consistently. You'll find once the hot weather arrives and the soil warms up, the peppers should start taking off.

What nutrient helps peppers grow? ›

The three key nutrients you need for your pepper plants are nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. Nitrogen is the most important element as it supports the regulation of photosynthesis, which then encourages foliage production and leafy growth.

What is the best fertilizer for my pepper plants? ›

While the best pepper plant fertilizer depends on soil condition and the gardener's preference, the top performer is Pepper & Herb Fertilizer 11-11-40 Plus Micro Nutrients. This fertilizer is formulated to provide a balanced ratio of nutrients essential for pepper plants.

Why do plants not grow? ›

It's getting insufficient nutrients

One of the most common reasons why houseplants stop growing is simply a lack of nutrients. It may seem obvious, but one of the most common reasons why your plant might have stopped growing is because it's not getting enough of what it needs to thrive.

Why are my pepper seeds not growing? ›

We find that the number one reason that pepper seeds don't germinate is if they are kept below 80˚ F when germinating. Pepper seeds, especially hot pepper seeds, germinate much more successfully when kept consistently moist at 85˚-90˚ F during the germination process.

How long does pepper take to grow? ›

Peppers have a long growing season (60 to 90 days), so most home gardeners buy starter pepper plants at the garden nursery rather than grow them from seed. However, you can start pepper seeds indoors if you want to grow your own.

How often should I water pepper plants? ›

We recommend watering after the soil has dried somewhat. During the longest hottest days of summer, that may be every day. During cooler weather and during spring and fall you may only need to water them every 2-3 days. The best bet is to feel the top layer of soil to see if it's moist, if it is, wait before watering.

Why are my plants growing slow? ›

A lack of nutrients can cause a plant to grow slowly. This is because the plant cannot produce the energy it needs to grow. Essential nutrients are important for all plants, but they are especially important for young plants that are growing new leaves or flowers.

Is Epsom salt good for pepper plants? ›

Like tomatoes, peppers are prone to magnesium deficiency. Epsom salt can be used just as efficiently with pepper plants as with tomato plants.

Can stunted peppers recover? ›

Will Stunted Pepper Plants Recover? The good news is yes, they definitely can!

How do you fix stunted growth in vegetable plants? ›

Vegetable plants: small and stunted growth

Plant in well-drained soil high in organic matter. Use high-quality seed and transplants. Check transplants prior to purchase. Avoid plants with roots that are brown and growing around the bottom of the container.

How do you add calcium to a pepper plant? ›

If the soil in your garden lacks the calcium your pepper plants need, you may be able to add it in the form of fertilizer. One way to do this is with calcium nitrate, which is water-soluble. Calcium nitrate, like Southern Ag's product here, is an excellent way to add calcium directly to your soil.

What make peppers grow bigger? ›

Peppers are a tropical plant, and so without heat or sunlight they will grow slowly. Temperatures in the mid 20s and at least 8 hours of direct sun are necessary for good growth. Improper watering is also a common cause of slow growing peppers, and either too much or too little water can stunt their growth.

What does Epsom salt do for plants? ›

Epsom salt – actually magnesium sulfate – helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bushier, produces more flowers, increases chlorophyll production and deters pests, such as slugs and voles. It also provides vital nutrients to supplement your regular fertilizer.

Are eggshells good for pepper plants? ›

Plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in particular will benefit from shell fertilizer, Savio said. The extra calcium will help prevent blossom-end rot. Broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, spinach and amaranth are also calcium-packed and could use extra from eggshells.

What is the most important factor for plant growth? ›

Water is essential for life, it is one of the most important requirements for plant growth. Water is the main component in plants cells, it keeps the plant turgid (stiff), it is used in photosynthesis, and transports nutrients throughout the plant.

How do you keep your plants healthy? ›

Tips for Healthy Houseplants
  1. Match plants with light conditions. Houseplants vary in their light requirements. ...
  2. Choose the right container. ...
  3. Use good-quality potting soil. ...
  4. Water properly. ...
  5. Fertilize and control pests. ...
  6. Increase humidity and prevent drafts. ...
  7. Keep foliage clean.

Why is my pepper growing so slow? ›

Peppers grow slowly in cool temperatures – they are a tropical plant, and grow best at daytime temperatures of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 29 degrees Celsius). Peppers will also grow slowly due to improper watering, soil problems, or transplant shock.

How do you make pepper seeds sprout faster? ›

Remember, to germinate pepper seeds quickly, keep them warm!

The secret to germinating pepper seeds quickly is to keep them warm and moist. We like to use a seedling heat mat to keep them around 80-90˚ F for the fastest germination.

How do you take care of a pepper plant? ›

General Pepper Care Tips
  1. Avoid over-watering. Water is essential to all plant life. ...
  2. Avoid over-fertilizing. Fertilizing peppers helps achieve large plants and big harvests. ...
  3. Use quality soil. If you intend to use bagged potting mix, be sure to choose a high-quality product. ...
  4. Change environments gradually.
7 Sept 2021

How do I get my pepper plant to produce more fruit? ›

While in starter cups, and soon after transplanting, gently pinch off flower buds to help the plant generate more growth before flowering. Pick peppers soon after they ripen. Regularly harvesting the plant's peppers encourages it to produce more. If fertilizing, reduce nitrogen level once plant begins to flower.

What type of soil do peppers like? ›

The soil should be deep, rich, and loamy. If yours isn't, amend it with about 1 inch of compost. Avoid adding too much nitrogen to the soil, however. Excessive nitrogen can cause the pepper plants to grow too fast, making them more susceptible to disease and less productive.

Is it better to water pepper plants in the morning or evening? ›

The key is to make sure you water at the right time. This needs to be either in the evening when the sun goes down or in the early morning. If you water during the day, your pepper plants can't absorb the moisture as well because the water evaporates faster in the heat.

Why are my pepper plants wilting and dying? ›

By far the most common reason for pepper plants wilting is a lack of water. When plants become dry, the first sign will often be drooping leaves. This is especially noticeable in pepper plants. The reason leaves wilt when a plant is dry is simply a lack of available water within the plant.

Can you force plants to grow faster? ›

Temperature. The most effective way growers can accelerate plant development is to increase the greenhouse air temperature. The average temperature, not just the day or night temperature, is what controls crop timing.

What to do if plants are not growing? ›

Oftentimes it's a simple fix such as moving your planter, adding fertilizer, watering less, or even just using the correct equipment. Its just like farmers with their crops – they won't grow properly or be ready for harvesting if they're not carrying out the necessary measures to keep them healthy.

What can you add to water to help plants grow? ›

Homemade Plant Food Recipe
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • 1 tablespoon epsom salts.
  • ½ teaspoon of ammonia.
  • 1 gallon of water.
15 Jun 2018

Can you put baking soda in plant soil? ›

Sprinkle full-strength baking soda on garden soil in paths and around plants where insects are an issue. The best way to apply the dust evenly and without over-application is by using a flour sifter. As a soil dust and repellant, baking soda is effective against ants, roaches, silverfish, slugs, and snails.

How often should you spray pepper plants with Epsom salt? ›

Sprinkle one tablespoon of Epsom salt per one foot of plant height around the base of the plant every 4-5 weeks. Begin side-dressing the plants with Epsom salt once the leaves start to appear.

What is the best fertilizer for tomatoes and peppers? ›

An ideal fertilizer ratio for fruiting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants is 5-10-10 with trace amounts of magnesium and calcium added. What is this? Liquid organic fertilizers can be watered-in around the base of plants or applied directly to crop leaves as foliar feeds.

Will coffee grounds help pepper plants? ›

The answer is yes! Although pepper plants are typically easy to grow, adding coffee grounds to your compost or pepper plant's soil mixture can optimize your plants' growth potential. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and can revitalize and rejuvenate your plant if used sparingly.

How often should you fertilize pepper plants? ›

Most fertilizers are administered weekly or bi-weekly. Do not over-fertilize and expect good things to happen – pepper plants require a steady intake of nutrients, not an abundance of nutrients all at one time. Some fertilizers are meant to be worked into the soil before transplanting.

Can peppers get too much sun? ›

Fruits can also become burned when they are exposed to prolonged direct sunlight. The leaves of your pepper plants should provide shade to the hanging fruits, but if they become exposed, they may develop soft spots. Sun exposure damage to peppers. This can cause fruits to become unusable, at least partially.

Can plant recover stunted growth? ›

A stunt caused by an infection is often too far advanced to remedy when it is discovered; an abiotic stunt, however, can usually be remedied.

How can I add calcium to my plants fast? ›

Foliar Spray

Commercial foliar calcium sprays are the quickest remedy for acute calcium deficiency, as plants absorb nutrients more efficiently through leaves than through roots. It is often used as a remedy for container plant issues especially for seedlings and transplants.

Which fertilizer is rich in calcium? ›

B Fertilizers

The most important sources of fertilizer Ca are (1) calcium carbonate (CaCO3) marketed as chalk, ground chalk, screened chalk, or ground limestone, (2) calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) sold as hydrated lime or slaked lime, and (3) calcium oxide (CaO) marketed as burnt or quick lime (Cooke, 1972).

Does Epsom salt have calcium? ›

It's time to debunk that myth. Epsom salt doesn't stop blossom end rot—it leads to more of it. Blossom end rot is caused by a deficiency of calcium. Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate—no calcium at all.

Does Epsom salt help pepper plants? ›

Like tomatoes, peppers are prone to magnesium deficiency. Epsom salt can be used just as efficiently with pepper plants as with tomato plants.

Do pepper plants like fertilizer? ›

To put it simply, pepper plants require lots of nitrogen during early growth to produce healthy leaves. During the fruiting stage, plants need less nitrogen but plenty of phosphorus and potassium for the best yields.

Are coffee grounds good for pepper plants? ›

The answer is yes! Although pepper plants are typically easy to grow, adding coffee grounds to your compost or pepper plant's soil mixture can optimize your plants' growth potential. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and can revitalize and rejuvenate your plant if used sparingly.

Is baking soda good for pepper plants? ›

Baking soda on plants causes no apparent harm and may help prevent the bloom of fungal spores in some cases. It is most effective on fruits and vegetables off the vine or stem, but regular applications during the spring can minimize diseases such as powdery mildew and other foliar diseases.

How do you revive pepper plants? ›

Resurrecting Overwintered Peppers

Scrape away about 3-5cm (1-2in) of the old growing medium from right around the rootball then re-pot into the same container, or a slightly bigger one, with the fresh compost. Once you notice the first signs of regrowth begin watering more often.

Is Miracle Gro good for pepper plants? ›

Miracle-Gro® Performance Organic® Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules will feed your pepper plants for up to 6 weeks, providing loads of extra nutrients to the beneficial microbes in the soil as well as to the plants. A month after planting, mix this into the soil around your pepper plants, following label directions.

Does milk help pepper plants? ›

The same properties that make milk good for a human, such as the calcium and B vitamins, are what benefits plants. The calcium helps the plants grow, as well as prevent blossom end rot, which can be caused by a calcium deficiency. This condition is common in tomato, peppers, and squash plants.

What is the best organic fertilizer for peppers? ›

Manure is a favorite with many gardeners, because it boosts plant growth and improves both drainage and aeration. Spreading manure around the base of pepper plants, or adding it to the planting hole before planting, provides your peppers with rich nutrients.


1. How to Fix Pepper Plants that are Weak, Yellow, Struggling: Water Soluble Nitrogen Works Every Time!
(Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden))
2. Fertilizing Peppers - All About Plant Nutrients - Pepper Geek
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3. This Pepper Fertilizing Technique Will DOUBLE Your Pepper Harvest!
(The Millennial Gardener)
4. Why are my Pepper Plant Leaves Curling? How to Stop Leaf Roll - Pepper Geek
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5. Peppers 🫑 & Tomatoes 🍅 NOT PRODUCING??? Here’s Why & How to FIX IT!
(From Seed to Spoon)
6. 9 Pepper Growing Mistakes to Avoid This Season - How to grow peppers - Pepper Geek
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