Why do Your Pepper Plant Leaves Have Holes? (Solved!)


Gardening in your greenhouse or yard can bring you joyful moments, but it may also be frustrating when you find something wrong with your plants. While watering your pepper plants or harvesting them for cooking, you might notice holes in your plant’s leaves and may wonder what’s going. What could be causing these holes and are your peppers still safe to consume?

Your pepper plant leaves usually have holes due to pests. Holes might also appear if your plants are getting too little or too much water, nutrients, or light. Sudden changes in the plant’s conditions, such as changes in temperature, can also cause stress and holes in your plant’s leaves.

This article discusses the primary causes of holes appearing on pepper plant leaves and suggests some solutions. Let’s get into more details about these holes and learn how to prevent them.

Photo of a shiny teal beetle eating holes in a green plant leaf
Photo by Chidpan Lapsirisutthiboon

Why Does Your Pepper Plant Have Holes in Its Leaves?

Some factors like the environment, viruses, and pests can explain why holes appear on your pepper plant.

You Don’t Have an Ideal Environment

Pepper plants can be difficult to grow under less than ideal conditions. To make sure your plants can thrive, consider the following:

  • Pepper plants need a warm and sunny spot, where they get at least eight hours of sunlight every day.
  • Moist soil is essential for their growth, so give them water if you see the soil is dry.
  • You may want to grow pepper plants in containers so they are more protected and can be moved when the temperature gets too low or too high.
  • Adding some fertilizer during the growing season can boost your pepper plants’ vitality and increase their yield.

A sudden change in a pepper plant’s conditions can leave it vulnerable to pests that can chew holes into leaves. Make sure you provide adequate water, light, and keep it at the right temperature so that your plant doesn’t suffer undue stress. Pepper plants are temperature sensitive, and temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) can compromise their immune system.

Grow pepper plants in a sunny location and move your plants inside when the weather begins to turn. This will prevent unnecessary exposure to the elements and help them to stay healthy.

Your Pepper Plant Has a Viral Disease

Viral diseases are challenging to identify because different plants exhibit different symptoms. You may mistakenly think pests always cause holes, but mosaic viruses can also cause holes in pepper plant’s leaves as well as create yellowish spots.

If you think your plant has a disease, you need to throw it out or isolate it in quarantine to prevent your other plants from catching the disease. If they are planted in the ground, dig up the affected plants and dispose of the surrounding soil.

You Accidentally Introduced Pests

Pests are a primary cause of holes in your pepper plant’s leaves. They often appear when your plants are at their weakest and end up feeding on the leaves, hence the holes. They usually start from the bottom of the plant and often lay eggs in the soil.

Newly purchased plants or fresh produce may carry pests that end up infesting your pepper plants. To avoid this:

  • Make sure you separate new plants from the older ones.
  • Wash fruits right after bringing them home
  • Quarantine the new plants for about 40 days to make sure they don’t have unwanted guests.

Organic fertilizers and composts may also contain insect eggs that can grow and damage your peppers. That’s because some fertilizers have high nitrogen levels needed for the plant’s health, but that can also attract pests. Unfortunately, nitrogen-fertilized plants seem to be less resistant to pest attacks.

Do I Need To Throw Out My Pepper Plant if I Notice Holes in the Leaves?

If you notice holes in your pepper plant leaves, you shouldn’t throw out your plant too quickly. Although your plant looks sick and can’t produce healthy peppers, give it time to heal again. You can usually save it if you provide enough care.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

Isolate it from the other plants in your garden, remove infected areas and let it heal. If your pepper plant is diseased, depending on the type, it may not be worth saving. Pruning is also beneficial since it gives your plant a chance to sprout some fresh healthy new growth. You can prune the plant by cutting off damaged and rotten leaves.

Leaf miner damage on a green leaf on a white backdrop
Photo by Stephan Pietzko

Types of Pests That Put Holes in Pepper Plant Leaves

Identifying pests can help you take steps to eradicate them. Here are a few common pests that might attack your pepper plants:

Slugs and Snails

If you see slime trails and irregular-shaped holes in the leaves, the most likely pests are slugs and snails. They usually feed on the leaves along the edges, so identifying them is not that hard. However, smaller snails will eat from the middle, causing little holes with green edges. You may spot them on the soil or the pepper plant’s stem since they’re slower and more recognizable than other pests.

Cutworms

If your young pepper plant has holes in its leaves, the most likely culprits are cutworms. These worms attack young pepper plants and feed on their fresh leaves, and if you don’t identify them quickly, they can eat all your seedlings. These stout caterpillars are usually brown or grey and about one to two inches long. They hide in the soil during the daytime, so be on the lookout when it gets dark.

Aphids

Yellowish and deformed leaves with holes can be a sign of an aphids attack. These pests feed on the tip of the leaves and suck the sap and water out of them. They’re small, so the wind can drop them on your plants. They can also transfer bacteria to your pepper plant, which leads to mold growth that can lead to irreversible damage.

Flea Beetles

Small central holes on the leaves, especially between the veins, can signify a flea beetle’s attack. The same as cutworms, flea beetles feed on young pepper plants and can damage your plant quickly since they jump from one leaf to another. After the pepper plant leaf is fully attacked, it’ll have a lacy appearance.

How To Prevent Holes in Pepper Plants

Change the Plant’s Soil and Location

Keeping your pepper plant in one spot will leave it exposed to more than you think. When your plants look unhealthy, it can be a sign of unhealthy potting soil since the soil can be home to many pests. Remove the eggs and the hazard by replacing it with fresh soil at least once a year.

Moreover, you should make sure your pepper plants are far from other plants like onions and garlic that attract pests. Instead, place them near pest-repellent plants such as strong-scented plants like basil and rosemary that can drive away insects.

Apply Safe Pesticides

Using safe treatments can help to keep the beneficial insects while keeping pests away. Natural or organic pesticides are safe solution.

Some homemade pesticides include:

  • Use water or mix it with insecticidal soap to spray it on your pepper plant.
  • Beer can also be an effective remedy since it attracts and kills pests like snails.
  • Mix some other anti-pest ingredients like vinegar, lemon, soap, and salt with water and spray them on the leaves to kill and prevent pests.

Use Covers

When your plants are in the early stages of their growth, use row covers to protect the young seedlings. These plastic covers can be more effective if you cover all the spots and fully secure them with staples. Choose lightweight covers since heavy ones can damage your plants rather than protect them.  

Closing Thoughts

Holes on your pepper plant’s leaves may be the sign of a pest infestation from such creatures as snails or cutworms. Pests are more likely to infest your plants when they’re suffering from poor conditions like lack of light and below ideal temperatures.

Before giving up on your plant, try to isolate them and use pruning and pesticides to allow them to recover. Natural pesticides can be a good alternative to chemical ones since they’re harmless to humans. Some other preventions like using row covers or changing potting soil can also help fight pests.

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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