What’s Causing Black or Brown Spots on My Bell Peppers?
Did you recently notice some brown or black spots on your bell peppers, but aren't sure what's causing it? There are actually a few reasons this might occur, so properly diagnosing the problem is imperative. In this article, we take a look at the most common reasons you may find spots on your bell peppers, and how to fix them when possible.
Bell peppers are a favorite plant for many gardeners and farmers. This popular garden vegetable deserves care that will ensure a bountiful harvest. Bell peppers are easy to grow and will be a suitable, rewarding crop for gardeners of all levels. This makes them a great choice for home gardens as well. Nothing is quite like growing your own food!
However, as with all gardening endeavors, it’s always possible for things to go wrong. One common problem is when your bell peppers develop black or brown spots– an indicator of a problem with the plant’s health. This can be irritating, and also a cause for alarm. You don’t want the fruit (and vegetables!) of your labor to go to waste, so it’s worth examining the plant to determine what the issue is.
Troubleshooting isn’t always an exact science. However, there’s usually only a few reasons you might see brown, or black spots on your pepper plants. Below you’ll learn the most common reasons why your bell peppers are developing spots. You’ll also learn how to fix these issues, when they are fixable. Let’s jump in and get to fixing your pepper plants!
Why Do Peppers Develop Brown or Black Spots?
There’s four different reasons your pepper plants may have black or brown spots. It’s typically the result of sunscald, blossom end rot, anthracnose, or bacterial leaf spot. Some of these issues are recoverable, and some of them are not. But usually, it’s one of these four reasons your plants may be experiencing black or brown spots in your garden.
Sunscald is the result of peppers getting too much sun exposure. You can see the scorched and burned parts especially on the developing parts of the plant, such as young leaves and new fruit (or vegetables in this case). When a pepper plant has sunscald, it can be difficult to contend with, since you need to give plants sunlight to grow.
You may think that you are giving your peppers just the right amount, but in most cases, the less-developed skin on young peppers cannot tolerate full sun. This ends up injuring your plant and limiting pepper production. It is also commonly seen when moving indoor plants outdoors.
While it is a common problem, you can still mistake sunscald on your peppers as something else. For this reason, it’s important to identify it properly. Sunscald will often manifest as white or black marks on the pepper’s skin. These spots will develop over time, growing as the sun continues to damage the fruit. These spots or streaks may eventually turn white.
You can most prominently see sunscald on pepper varieties with fruits that grow upward versus hanging down. Hanging fruit is protected by the shade of the leaves on the plant; upward growing varieties do not have the same luxury. As sunscald happens, the fruit weakens and becomes more susceptible to further damage, or even disease. Sunscald is important to treat because it can lead to mold or rotting later on.
Note that you can also identify sunscald by looking at the leaves on your plant. Your plant’s leaves may start to yellow, before turning brown, and eventually white. You will notice that the leaves have badly wilted. They will have a crispy texture and may crumble when handled. Regardless if it’s the fruits or leaves that have sunscald, the condition should be managed immediately to prevent further damage to the plant.
How To Fix It:
When it comes to fixing sunscald, there’s a few different strategies. Often, moving your plants to an area that gets less sunlight can make a world of difference. Remove the damaged parts of the plant and find a more suitable spot in your garden for your sunscalded pepper plants. You can also attempt to replant your peppers as well, giving them a fresh start with new soil.
If you decide to replant them, you ‘ll need to make sure the plant gets plenty of water. Pepper plants that have received too much sunlight will need a lot of water to get back in good health. Water the plant deeply and allow the soil to absorb the moisture. Do not to overwater your plant, as this can cause more problems, especially in its weakened state. You can also opt to protect them further with a shade cloth.
Employing protection will always be easier than trying to cure your plant. Plant your peppers in a place that is adequately protected from very harsh sunlight. While peppers will need lots of sun as they are growing, they will still need a lot of protection, especially early on in their lives. By making sure you prevent it from happening in the first place, you’ll be less likely to need to correct it later on.
Blossom End Rot
Blossom end rot is another cause of brown or black spots on your beloved bell peppers. While the name can be alarming, this issue is not really a rot in the traditional sense, but simply the result of poor growing conditions.
This disease is caused by a calcium deficiency during the fruiting period. When this happens, your peppers will be unable to produce renewed skin. This inability to access calcium can make the problem difficult to treat. However, the condition can be reversed with adequate care.
Bear in mind that blossom end rot can also be the result of improper watering, especially in the case of overwatering. Excess feedings with fertilizer can also cause the condition, so be sure to exercise temperance in the care of your bell pepper plant.
Identifying Blossom End Rot
The first step to treating blossom end rot is correctly identifying it. You will see it manifest as dark brown, gray, or black patches forming at the bottom of your peppers. This is where the new skin forms as your peppers grow. You may see the “rot” spreading to other parts of the peppers before gradually ruining the whole fruit.
It’s important to treat the plant quickly as you may notice worse things happening as a result of the weakened fruit. This disease makes your peppers susceptible to actual infection, be it bacterial, viral, or fungal.
How To Fix It:
The harsh truth is that there isn’t much you can do for peppers that have developed blossom end rot. Once the fruit is damaged, there’s no real saving it. Keep in mind that if you notice this disease in your bell peppers while it is still in early stages, you can still pick the fruit to eat, since it isn’t caused by a bacterial infection. Simply cut away the damaged parts and use as intended.
You will still want to treat afflicted plants as soon as possible, to prevent problems with any peppers grown in the future. Taking too long to solve the issue will result in a smaller yield with fewer healthy peppers to enjoy. While this condition is caused by a calcium deficiency, this doesn’t always mean that there isn’t enough calcium in the soil, but that the plant cannot absorb the calcium effectively.
You can also help your plant recover from blossom end rot by providing even soil moisture. Allowing plants to dry out too much between waterings can cause them a lot of stress and will thus render them unable to intake nutrients effectively.
You can keep soil moisture more consistent by adding organic matter, such as compost, to foster the growth of good bacteria. Mulching the soil can also allow it to retain moisture much better. Bear in mind that you must not overwater your plant, especially with these systems in place, as this can lead to further damage to your bell peppers.
Anthracnose is another problem that may affect your bell pepper plants, causing them to grow fruit that has black or brown spots. This problem is caused by fungi from the genus Colletotrichum, usually C. gloeosporioides or C. capsici. These fungi can affect your plant through any stage of its life, and will damage more than just your yield.
This condition can ruin the health of your plant and all the pepper plants surrounding it, so it’s important to get the condition under control as soon as possible. The disease will usually begin in a “hot spot” in the middle of your field, and then infect more plants with the direction of the wind and rain.
The disease usually spreads when the pathogen overwinters. This is usually from infected fruit left on the plant or the ground. Anthracnose can also survive on seeds, debris, or other infected plant matter. As such, proper disposal of known infected matter is of utmost importance.
As with all other problems afflicting bell pepper plants, knowing your enemy is the first step to conquering it. Anthracnose manifests as water-soaked lesions on your bell pepper fruits, but may appear on other parts of the plant as well. You will notice that the center of the spots will be either orange or brown, while the outer ring is a lighter color.
This will eventually develop into black spots that will overtake the whole fruit. This causes them to rot before falling off the plant. Anthracnose is particularly hard to spot in green fruit, as the symptoms don’t really manifest until the fruit has matured.
When the foliage of your bell pepper plant is infected with anthracnose, you can expect to see small, gray-brown spots appearing all over the leaves, usually having dark brown edges. These spots are irregular in shape versus the more concentric form of the lesions found on the fruit.
How To Fix It:
Being a fungal infection, anthracnose can be a difficult problem to treat in bell pepper plants, given its high transmissibility. There are several different ways to go about solving the issue, but you will need to act quickly to save your plants and their yields. Being careful about treatment will prevent further spread of the fungus onto healthy plants.
Treatment should begin with the removal of visibly infected matter from all plants. If you suspect the leaves and fruits of your bell pepper plants to be infected with anthracnose, use sharp gardening shears to remove the diseased parts. You’ll want to treat the plant with an fungicide as well.
Clear as much as you can to ensure that the parts left behind are as healthy as can be. When handling debris, be extra careful to dispose of it properly, as any residual matter can be cause for a new infection. Burn the infected matter as soon as possible. After using your tools on infected plants, take care to clean them thoroughly before using them on your healthy plants again.
If the infection persists, it’s time to remove the plant entirely, and wait until the following growing season. Removing the plant entirely allows you to salvage the soil. The fungus can survive in the soil for many years after an infected plant has been there, so rotating your plants away from known hot spots will ensure better protection in the future.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
The final reason your peppers may be developing black or brown spots is bacterial leaf spot. This disease is a severe cause for alarm, as it can disfigure your plants to the point of uselessness; a plant infected with this disease needs to be discarded, as it is beyond saving.
Bacterial leaf spot is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. Vesicatoria. The bacterium thrives in hot and humid conditions, such as very hot summers followed by long periods of rain. The disease spreads through infected plant debris, seeds, as well as splashing from overhead watering.
Identifying Bacterial Leaf Spot
You can identify bacterial leaf spot by looking for water-soaked lesions, usually first found on the lower leaves of the plant. The disease creates purple-brown spots with light brown centers. You may notice further spotting on the fruit, as well as cracking.
Cracks are especially dangerous as they leave openings for further disease to infect the plant. While it’s common to see problems on the fruit, you can expect it to affect the leaves and stems as well. These manifest as brown lesions with a yellow outer ring. You will also notice your plant’s leaves yellowing before dropping off the plant.
How To Fix It:
As we have previously mentioned, a plant infected by bacterial leaf spot has no means of being saved. All plants with even suspected infection should be disposed of immediately. Ensure that the plant matter is fully burned upon disposal. Also take care to disinfect all your tools before going back to working on healthy plants. Defeating bacterial leaf spot means protecting your plants before the disease has a chance to spread, so this is best done with vigilance and diligence.
To prevent it from happening again, create an environment that will make it difficult for the bacterium to thrive, and thus spread and infect your plants. This is best done with a thorough management approach that handles both prevention as well as cultural controls.
This assures healthy plants and a subsequently healthy yield. The best tool you have in this case is a bell pepper variety that is resistant to bacterial leaf spot. Bear in mind that no specialty peppers are resistant to the disease as of the time of writing. If the seeds and transplants you use are certifiably disease-free, you are already off to a great start.
We hope that this article has given you the answers you need to get your bell pepper plant back into good health. Spots on your vegetable crops can be frustrating, but employing the right techniques in care can really make all the difference. You’ll soon see your plant back to producing the great vegetables you expect, and can resume using them how you see fit.
Whether you’re selling them or using them in amazing dishes to prepare for yourself and loved ones, you can expect a great yield as long as you keep on top of your plant’s care. If you have any tips we’ve missed, or have any other questions about spots on your bell peppers, feel free to drop us a line in the comments!