Slow growth is a common but fixable problem with pepper plants. If you are concerned because your peppers have remained at the same height since you planted them weeks ago, note that you are not the first gardener with this problem. The most general explanation for this issue is that your pepper plants’ environment is not ideal for fast growth. Of course, many factors can make the environment less than ideal. Many of the common issues that cause slow or stunted growth in pepper plants have simple solutions. Here is a look at some of the factors that cause pepper plants to grow slowly and what you can do about them.
Table of Contents
- Improper soil pH Balance/Lack of nutrients
- Low temperatures/Planting too early
- Lack of lighting
- Planting problems
- Pests and diseases
Improper soil pH Balance/Lack of nutrients
If your soil can’t meet your pepper plants’ nutritional needs, this will affect how quickly they grow. The first aspect of the soil’s nutritional composition to consider is the soil’s pH, which is how acidic it is. If soil is too acidic or not acidic enough, this can make nutrients unavailable to your pepper plants. For example, soil that is too acidic — it has a low pH — will make phosphorus unavailable.
Pepper plants need phosphorus to store energy. If the soil is too acidic, you can raise the pH by amending it with calcium carbonate. If the pH is too high — making the soil basic — you can lower it by adding sulfur. The ideal soil pH range for pepper plants lies between 6.5 and 6.8.
–> Learn More: What Is The Best Soil pH for Peppers?
An inadequate supply of nutrients can also hinder your pepper plants’ growth. Peppers need to be fed a lot of nutrients to grow quickly. Nitrogen is especially important for growth. If your pepper plants aren’t getting enough nitrogen, they may flower early and fruit rather than grow bigger.
To speed up growth, you have to give the plant enough nitrogen before it sets fruit. The best way to ensure that your plant gets enough nitrogen early is to add it to the soil before transplanting the seedlings. On the flip side, you don’t want to add too much nitrogen since this can burn your plants. When plants start to flower and fruit, you can cut back on the nitrogen and increase the phosphorus.
Low temperatures/Planting too early
Pepper plants originated in hot equatorial climates and need warm weather to grow quickly. If the temperatures in your location are too low, your pepper plants will grow slowly. Pepper plants do best in the range between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and no lower than 60 at night.
Temperature can be a big problem when transplanting pepper seedlings in early spring. Transplant too early and the cool weather in spring will stunt their growth; do it too late and the cool weather in fall will have the same effect.
Too little water can lead to your pepper plants’ growth being stunted. Aside from their need for water, not getting enough water also means that your pepper plants won’t get certain nutrients. Too little water can lead to nutritional issues, like calcium deficiency.
–> Learn More: Watering Pepper Plants – The Dos and Don’ts
Too much water causes a different set of problems, like a weak root system. Pepper plants that get too much water don’t grow their roots out seeking it, so their root systems are usually not very strong. In addition, too much water in the soil prevents air from getting to the roots and results in root rot. Prevent underwatering and overwatering by checking below the soil surface with your fingers. Poke a few inches down to check for moisture before you decide to water.
Lack of lighting
Pepper plants need a lot of sunlight, or they will grow slowly. They need to get full sunlight for at least eight hours a day. If pepper plants aren’t given enough sunlight, they won’t be able to produce energy for growing. Pepper plants may struggle to get enough light if you plant them in a spot where they are shaded or if you are growing them indoors. It’s a good idea to invest in some grow lights if you are growing peppers indoors.
Common planting problems include root damage. If you damage the plant’s roots while transplanting it outdoors, you might notice that it grows slowly or not at all. A plant with damaged roots may eventually recover if it has at least half of its roots remaining, but the time taken to recover means that the harvest will be delayed.
The term transplant shock refers to a negative reaction of your pepper plants to being transplanted outdoors; in other words, it is a sign of stress. Transplant shock can result from failing to harden off your seedlings. Hardening off is the process you use to get indoor seeds ready for a permanent move outdoors. You take the seedlings outside for a few hours each day and bring them back indoors. Gradually lengthen the time they spend outdoors until they can thrive in the new environment.
Remember that it is possible to go too far when hardening off young pepper plants, since too much exposure to cold air can stunt their growth.
Soil too compressed
Pepper plants won’t grow quickly in compacted soil, they like soil that is porous and aerated. When soil is tight, roots cannot expand, so plants have limited access to water and nutrients. Remedy compacted soil by loosening it with a garden fork. If you are transplanting to a container, pat the soil down but not too firmly.
Container too small
If a pepper plant’s container is too small, it can become root bound and will stop growing. Peppers will only be able to achieve their maximum height in the right-sized containers. A pepper plant container should hold no less than three gallons of soil; ideally, the container should be able to hold five gallons. If your pepper plant has stopped growing in its current container, moving it to a larger container might help.
Too many weeds
Pepper plants might grow slowly if there are lots of weeds around them. Not only can weeds compete for nutrients and sunlight, but they also restrict airflow, and restricted airflow encourages disease. Weeds can also give pests a good breeding environment.
Pests and diseases
Various pests and diseases can make pepper plants grow more slowly. The common pests include aphids, which will suck the moisture from your pepper plants along with essential nutrients. By taking the nutrients a plant needs to grow, aphids stunt its growth.
Keep in mind that if pests and diseases are the cause of your pepper plants’ slow growth, there will be other signs of insect damage or other symptoms of disease. Look for indicators like leaf spots or holes and living pests on the undersides of leaves. Use an organic pesticide to eliminate insect pests. If the cause of slow growth is a disease — regardless of which disease — you will have to remove and discard the affected plants.