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What Those Holes in Your Pepper Plant Leaves Really Mean

What Those Holes in Your Pepper Plant Leaves Really Mean

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Are you seeing holes in your pepper plants leaves? Don’t let it go any further without investigating the cause and finding the right fix.

There are only two scenarios that result in holes in pepper plant leaves. But there are more contributing factors that cause them.

Let’s explore this in more detail.

The 2 Causes of Holes in the Leaves of Pepper Plants

1 – Pests Eating Your Pepper Plants

This is the most obvious conclusion that most gardeners (of all experience levels) come to when they see holes in the leaves of any of their plants. What’s eating my pepper plants?

There’s thousands of insects, but there’s only a handful that are particularly keen on eating the leaves of pepper plants. Slugs, snails, earwigs, beetles like the Japanese beetle, and the smaller flea beetle.

There’s also the invasive stink bug that’ll eat a power out of the leaves, and if the peppers are starting to come to fruition, they’ll eat chunks out of those too.

Each bug has unique characteristics, but they require a fix that’s right for the problem.

As an example, beer traps or using diatomaceous earth can be beneficial at stopping slugs and snails in their tracks, whereas organic pesticides would be better suited to smaller critters like flea beetles.

The larger insects like the Japanese beetle, or stink bug can be knocked off the plant, or picked off if you aren’t squeamish. Most can be eradicated with a good covering of neem oil over the leaves.

Failing that, use an organic pesticide, but only when you’re sure it is an insect problem.

Where to check is the underside of leaves, particularly, nearer the bottom.

Bugs are particularly prone to attacking pepper plants in late spring, early summer, so at the start of the gardening season, it’s a good idea to cover your peppers with an insect netting.

Keep in mind though, it’s not going to stop any larvae in the soil from feeding on stems and leaves. Insect eggs can overwinter in the soil so even if you do use insect netting, continue to keep a close eye for any signs of damage.

Bacterial and Fungal Diseases

Leaf spot is a common disease that affects several plants. What’s not so common knowledge is that the spots on the leaves can eventually die off. When they do, the dark center of the spot dries up to the point that it hardens and falls off leaving behind a hole where the dead spot dropped from the plant.

Left to spread, these seemingly innocuous problems can get so severe they can kill a pepper plant. That’s because the more leaf damage happens, the less photosynthesis can happen. If that can’t happen, you’ll have the problem of pepper plants not flowering.

Any little black dots on your plants can spell disaster!

Particularly with pepper plants because they need the leaves for flowering and fruiting. If a disease has spread to the point the plant’s on its way out, there are ways to save a dying plant for these diseases.

The one to be on the lookout for is shot-hole disease, and it’s prevalent in the spring and summer months because that’s when the air is warmer and humidity higher.

It’s not just bacterial leaf spot that can cause holes in leaves. So too can powdery mildew, and fusarium wilt. Inspect your plant regularly and rule out possible causes before deciding on a solution because you can’t treat the problem without knowing the cause.

Fungus infections like anthracnose can be treated with a fungicide. Bacterial infections can be treated with a copper-based spray.

Those don’t eradicate the problem though.

To do that, you need to address the cause. That’s a lack of air circulation, and overly wet leaves.

Stop top watering your plants and water the soil to keep the foliage dry, and make sure plants aren’t crowded. There must be space between leaves to allow for good air flow. Otherwise, it’s easier for spores to settle, multiply, and spread.

The 3 Contributing Factors that Lead to Holes in Pepper Plant Leaves

1 – Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies leave plants in a weakened state making them susceptible to pests and diseases. While it’s possible, it’s not always doom and gloom. A simple top up of potassium in the soil could be all that’s needed.

To use an example of the Chilli pepper plant having holes in the leaves, when potassium is needed, the leaves turn yellow first.

If the issue isn’t addressed, those yellow leaves will develop dead spots and those can later become holes in the leaves, much like what happens on diseased plants when the spots turn to cankers, then drop from the center of the spot, leaving the shot-hole appearance.

If you’re puzzled as to why you’re seeing holes emerge on the foliage when there’s no evidence of pests or diseases, test the soil for a nutrient deficiency. Specifically, calcium, because without a sufficient concentration of that in the soil, plants are more susceptible to disease and pest invasions.

Related post: How to add calcium to soil

Physical Damage

Holes on leaves don’t always mean it’s been eating them, or some sort of living bacteria is destroying your peppers. It could be wildlife that’s getting into your yard and eating bits of your pepper plant.

Rabbits are deer are fond of nibbling away on pepper plants so if you have those nearby, you’ll need to put something in place to protect your plants.

If you have rabbits in your area, consider methods to keep rabbits from eating your plants.

If deer are roaming nearby, use these tips to stop deer eating your plants.

Mechanical Damage from Environmental Stress

The weather can do a significant amount of damage to the brittle foliage on pepper plants. If you’ve had a recent storm, or there’s loose debris around the yard, don’t dismiss the possibility that something as simple as the wind got up and blew a thorny twig from a nearby shrub across and it’s ripped a hole in a few leaves.

Heavy rainfall can also be a culprit as overly wet leaves that stay wet for a while can lay the foundations for fungi and bacteria spores to latch on.

The fix to prevent environmental stress damaging any part of the plant is nurturing its growing climate. When temperatures are expected to soar, give it shade with a cloth or drape.

When a cold snap’s due, use frost protection blankets, and for heavy rainfall, mulch around the base to prevent nutrients being washed out of the soil before the plant can use it.

On the topic of mulch, you can have a double win because there are some mulches that repel bugs.

Seeing Holes in Peppers and not the Leaves is Something Else Entirely

If the holes are appearing on your peppers, that’s not insects. It may be wildlife, but a contributing factor is pre-existing damage from sun scald that causes mold or fungi to form. Alternaria fruit rot is a disease that appears on already damaged parts of the pepper.

The damage could be wildlife that’s punctured it, but it can also be sunscald, exposure to chilly winds, a calcium deficiency, or pest damage that’s left the pepper open for infection to start.

The spores of this settle on peppers that are already damaged, and that can be from when they were very young. The pathogen is airborne. The slightest hole can be insertion point.

Once it’s there, it can start rotting the pepper from the inside out. By the time you catch it, there large sunken holes on the pepper with a black mold covering it. There’s no fixing that.

It’s for that reason that if you see any holes on pepper plant leaves, you should investigate it, because if pests or diseases puncture holes in the pepper, your harvest can be ruined.

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