So you have been taking care of your outdoor chilli plants in soil, but one day you find your plant leaves all shriveled up, drooping or wilted. The horror…your chilli heart sinks! But do not fear, if you take quick action and proper care it is possible that your plants may recover.
Firstly you need to identify the cause, so that you can take the correct course of action to deal with the problem. Remember that the most effective method will also depend on your chilli plant’s needs and the conditions of where it is planted – the location, the soil and the environment.
So what can cause chilli plant leaves to wilt?
Not enough water
Chilli plants droop or wilt when the soil is to too dry. Dry soil means that the chilli plants are loosing more water than what it has available to absorb – chilli plants circulate water from their roots through the plant and eventually out their leaves through transpiration.
Luckily for us, we can spot this water shortage very easily. You can insert your index finger into the soil, if it is dry it’s time to water. You want to water ideally in the morning or evening, to make sure your plants absorb as much water as possible. Use a watering can or a slow running hose at the base of the plant, to allow the water to penetrate to soil and reach the roots. Be sure to check on the plants regularly and adjust your watering as needed.
If the soil is overly wet and/or compact, it could be the cause of wilting due to poor drainage. Chilli plants prefer well-draining soil that is moist but not waterlogged.
You can improve your soil structure by mixing in organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure to the soil to improve its structure and increase its water-holding capacity. Another method is to add coarse materials such as gravel or course sand to improve drainage.
During certain extreme weather conditions like a heat wave or just very hot days, chilli plants will likely require more water than usual to stay hydrated. Leaves also droop down as a natural mechanism to protect itself by minimizing the leaf surface exposed to the sun.
If possible, use a shade cloth or some other form of shading to protect the plants from the direct sun. Placing a shade cloth or netting over the plants can help to reduce the amount of direct sun exposure and keep the plants cooler. This can be especially effective during extreme heat or in areas with high sun intensity.
Consider mulching the soil around the plant to help keep the roots cool. Even using rocks or pebbles can provide insulation around the root area, keeping the soil cooler.
Tip: Reduce the risk of leaf burn by watering plants when it is cooler in the day and not directly onto the leaves.
Disease or root issues
No one wants to deal with disease or root issues, but if you take daily care and ensure your chilli plants grow under the right conditions you would not have to. One way is to make sure your plants are not overcrowded and that air can circulate freely around it. This will help prevent the buildup of moisture and reduce the risk of fungal disease. Checking for signs of disease that cause wilting, especially fungal infections is important. If a plant is infected with fungal wilt, it is a death sentence – it should be removed from the garden immediately to prevent the spread of the fungus to other plants.
Tip: Be careful not to overwater your chilli plants, as too much water can lead to root rot.
Article written by Judy Smith