Why Are My Pepper Plants Turning Yellow?

Home gardeners have to deal with many issues from the time they sow their pepper seeds to the time they start harvesting peppers. It is usually hard work to grow and care for peppers until full maturity. However, the results are usually amazing because home gardening saves money and promotes healthy eating.

One of the many issues that home gardeners have to deal with is the yellowing of pepper plant leaves. The yellowing of pepper plant leaves can be caused by several things. It is usually a red flag and an indicator that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. The good news is that most of the things that cause the discoloration of leaves can be fixed. 

In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about the main causes of pepper plant discoloration and how to deal with them. 

Why Your Pepper Plants Are Turning Yellow

The answer to the question, “Why are my pepper plants turning yellow?” is usually either “Overwatering” or “Nitrogen deficiency.” In other words, what I am trying to say is that overwatering and nutrient deficiency are the two main causes of yellowing in pepper plants. 

Overwatering is not very beneficial to pepper plants. It causes the yellowing of leaves, it slows down growth, and it significantly lowers pepper production. So even if you are doing it with good intentions, it is actually harmful to your pepper plants. The lack of nitrogen, as well as other important nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium in pepper plants, also makes their leaves to turn yellow. 

So pepper plant leaves turning yellow is always not good news. Now let’s closely examine the two main causes and how to deal with them. 


The discoloration of pepper plant leaves is most commonly caused by overwatering. So if you have noticed that your peppers are turning yellow, you should know that you have most likely been overwatering them. 

Peppers do not like getting waterlogged; they hate having wet feet. Do not get me wrong; pepper plants do like water. However, they need just the right amount for success. If you water them too frequently, their roots will be soaked all the time and they will start to rot. This will make it difficult for the roots to absorb oxygen which is usually what leads to the yellowing of leaves as well as stunted growth and reduced productivity.

The right way to water your pepper plants is to give them just enough water to make the soil around their roots moist. Do not pour too much water to waterlog the soil or drown the roots. And before you add water them again, you should make sure the soil has dried out just a bit. Doing this will ensure your plants are not negatively affected by your waterings

The risk of overwatering is usually increased for home gardeners who are growing their peppers in planter pots without drainage. So if you are planting your peppers in planter pots, you should definitely ensure there is drainage. 

Underwatering can also cause the yellowing of pepper plant leaves. So while overwatering is a very big problem, you should not water your plants too inconsistently to the extent that they start wilting and drying out. 

How can you tell if the yellowing you are seeing on your plants is caused by overwatering or underwatering? Well, you can tell in two ways. First, if the leaves are yellowing, wilting, and drying, then the yellowing is most probably because of underwatering. If the leaves are yellowing but not wilting or drying, then the most likely culprit is overwatering. The second way you can tell if the yellowing you are seeing on your pepper plant leaves is caused by overwatering or underwatering is to check the soil around the roots of your plants. If the soil is soaked or very moist, then the yellowing is due to overwatering while if it is very dry then it is probably caused by underwatering.

The Solution to Overwatering 

If your leaves are turning yellow because of overwatering, you need to stop overwatering immediately to stop and reverse the yellowing. As mentioned, you also need to avoid underwatering them as underwatering also causes yellowing.

The best way to avoid overwatering your pepper plants is to always feel the soil before watering them again.  Pepper plants do not mind living in slightly dry soil. So you should only water your plants again if you feel and find out that the soil is dry and your plants look a bit dried out/ thirsty. 

If you do not want to assess how dry your soil is, you should get a cheap water meter from Amazon. The meter will tell you the exact amount of water in the soil so that you judge whether water is necessary. It is important to have a meter especially if you are growing multiple varieties of water that consume water differently or if you are growing your peppers in planter pots which usually retain a lot of water.

Nitrogen Deficiency

As mentioned above, nitrogen deficiency is also one of the main causes of pepper plant leaves turning yellow. Other nutrient deficiencies can also cause the yellowing of leaves. However, when you notice the yellowing of leaves and you are watering your plants right, then 90 percent of the time the cause will be nitrogen deficiency.

Nitrogen is a very important nutrient for plants. This is because many plants including peppers need it to thrive – grow big and strong. Without sufficient amounts of it pepper plants cannot grow super green and healthy leaves. The plants also suffer in other ways without nitrogen. The most common sign of pepper plant nitrogen deficiency is the discoloration of leaves. 

It is somewhat easy to know if a plant is not getting enough nitrogen. This is because nitrogen deficiency yellowing is very unique. It commences at the bottom and moves up slowly with time if the deficiency is not addressed. The reason why is that nitrogen can be shifted from one plant part to another. Therefore, if your pepper plants are yellowing because of nitrogen deficiency, the yellowing will start in their bottom older leaves, while their top leaves will remain green for a while because your plants will shift the little nitrogen in them upwards. 

If you do not address the yellowing of the bottom leaves of your pepper plants, they will continue yellowing to a point where they will cease to be functional and will start dying and falling off. The yellowing will then gradually spread upwards and sooner or later the other leaves of your plants will die and your plants will die with them.

In addition to upward yellowing, other signs of nitrogen deficiency include stunted growth, leaves falling off, and flowers fall off.

The Solution to Nitrogen Deficiency

While nitrogen deficiency is harmful to your plants, it is a problem that can be solved quickly by adding nitrogen to your plants. The best way to add nitrogen to your plants is to simply add fertilizer. Just using good soil for growing peppers is not enough, you need to fertilize the soil.

There are many fertilizers that you can buy from sellers on Amazon that have nitrogen and other nutrients in them. Fox Farm fertilizer is one of them. By buying it and adding it to the roots of your plants you will provide your plants with the nutrients they need to grow big and strong and to be very productive. You will also provide your plants with Phosphate and Potassium. 

Many fertilizers provide calcium and magnesium. Deficiencies in these two nutrients can also lead to the discoloration of pepper leaves. Therefore, make sure your pepper plants receive the recommend quantities of all major nutrients by fertilizing them weekly or bi-weekly to prevent them from turning yellow.

The Take-Home Message

When pepper plants turn yellow, 90% of the time the problem is either caused by overwatering or nitrogen deficiency. Luckily, both of these causes can be quickly solved to reverse the yellowing of pepper plant leaves and get pepper plants back on their way to full maturity. Overwatering can be solved by only watering when the soil is dry and nitrogen deficiency can be solved by fertilizing with any quality fertilizer containing nitrogen.

Tammy Slater

Tammy Slater is the founder of arew.org, a home and garden blog that provides inspiration and resources for homeowners and renters alike. A self-taught DIYer, Tammy loves nothing more than tackling a new project in her own home. When she's not blogging or spending time with her family, you can usually find her rooting around in the garden or at the hardware store.

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