Why Are There Holes On The Leaves Of My Pepper Plant?

Ever walked out to your garden, all excited to check on your pepper plants, only to find holes in the leaves?

Yeah, it’s a total bummer.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Holes in pepper plant leaves can be caused by a bunch of different things, and the good news is, there’s usually an easy way to fix it.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into why this happens and how you can tackle it.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and fix the hole of the issue.

The Main Reason Why Your Pepper Plants Leaves Have Holes

The main reasons as to why your pepper plant leaves have holes is typically due to bugs and insects.

While I’ll write a little about disease at the end, this article is going to mainly focus on the bugs, since 9 times out of 10, it’s usually a pest that is causing your leaves to have holes.

Do You Actually Need To Do Anything About The Holes In Your Pepper Plants?

Sometimes, if you plants have a few minor holes, but overall, most of your leaves look fine, and the actual pepper plant is healthy, then you may not need to do anything.

The reason is because sometimes, some of those good bugs (yeah, there are good bugs), those that eat the bad bugs, will take a few nibbles of your leaves.

As you going through, just make sure that its actual bad pests that are destroying your pepper plants, and not something that is helpful.

Pests And Bugs Are The Usual Culprits For Your Holes!

When it comes to holes in your pepper plants, pests are usually the first thing that comes to mind.

And for a good reason!

From slugs that slide in under the cover of darkness to beetles that jump in for a quick bite, each one has its own sneaky way of messing with your plants. 

1. Slugs and Snails

These garden pests are particularly active during the night. While they mainly each decomposing organic matter, they will eat plants when they need to.

Slugs and snails will usually feed on the leaves of your pepper plants, leaving jagged-looking holes as evidence of their activity.

Also, be on the lookout for their slime trail, which is easy to spot and recognize. It’s an easy indicator that your pest issue is indeed some type of slug.

Solution:

Handpicking them at night is one of the easiest solutions when it comes to slugs.

If a ‘hand’s free’ approach is what you want, then using some sort of slug control pellets that has iron phosphate in it (iron phosphate is a natural molluscicide that discrupts the snail’s and slug’s digestive system).

Just sprinkle some around the base of your plants, and you’re good to go.

Long-term Tips:

One proven way to deter them long-term is to always make sure to water your plants in the morning.

Why?

This way the soil will be less moist at night, which slugs and snails do not want. 

Slugs naturally want to work in moist conditions (which is why you see them out during or after rainfall). So if you make sure to water during the day and not in the evening (when slugs are naturally out, since they’re nocturnal), then you help alleviate part of the issue.

If you have a really bad case of these pests, you can try spacing out your plants further apart next planting season, which will reduce the hiding spots of these pests.

2. Flea Beetles

Another kind of insect that might put a hole in your pepper plant is the flea beetle. These small insects target the leaves of young plants.

They usually leave small holes, which can definitely weaken the plant over time. What you’re usually looking for are a bunch of really small holes that are irregularly spotted across your leaves.

Often-times, when there is one, there is a family. You may want to lightly shake the plant, or check to see if they’re hiding inside the flowers. They will usually fall onto the ground when they’re disturbed.

Solution:

A quick solution to this problem is by spraying non-toxic pesticides that have pyrethrin or spinosad in them. These two ingredients act as a natural insecticide by attacking the fleas nervous system, and effectively killing it.

Long-term Tips:

One of the best long-term solutions for this is to plant some trap crops like radishes or mustard with your peppers. This helps divert the flea beetles attention away from your pepper plant.

Another way is to use floating row covers, which give your plant added protection from these insects.

Something else some people try is to attract natural predators, like lacewings, lady bugs, ground beetles, or tachinid flies to naturally fight against them.

3. Cutworms and Armyworms

Cutworms and armyworms are larvae of large night-flying moths. These types of worms can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm) long.

They usually hide under the soil during the day and feed on plants during the nighttime.

These worms are caterpillar-like pests that usually feed on the leaves AND stems, causing holes or sometimes even killing a whole plant by eating through their stem. 

While both feed in the same way (i.e. they leave pretty much the same type of hole), cutworms will eat by themselves. Armyworms, on the other hand, will feed in groups.

Both are also fond of eating any leafy green, so if you have holes in other plants that are close to your peppers, these guys may be the culprit.

Solution:

A little neem oil or garlic oil spray can go a long way with these guys. The neem oil will help disrupt their immune system, while the garlic oil will (usually) cause them to not want to eat the leaves or stem.

Long-term Tips:

Because these are larvae and worms, the best thing to do is have nature take its course.

Raking the soil when you notice that these worms are present is one of the first things you can do. This helps expose the eggs of the worms which natural predators will eat.

Attracting birds to your peppers, with bird feeders or bird nests, can also help as well.

And if you can, you can also try to get other natural insect predators like tachinid flies and braconid wasps, as they’ll lay their eggs inside these worms, helping disrupt the lifecycle.

4. Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms

These caterpillars (of the hawk moth) can grow up to 4 inches long. They are one of the most destructive pests in tomato family plants (Solanaceae or nightshades).

That not only includes peppers, but also tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, and tobacco. They’re pretty easy to spot and can defoliate a young pepper plant fast.

They usually start eating a pepper plant from the top while moving down until they eat all the leave off the whole plant.

Solution:

Due to its size, it is easier to spot them. Quickly handpicking them off the plant is usually good enough to disrupt the lifecycle and get them under control.

Or if you want to get rid of them entirely, you can use a spray that contains spinosad (an organic insecticide that attacks their nervous system).

5. Aphids

Last but not least, are aphids. Small but mighty when it comes to causing damage, these tiny bugs suck the life out of your plants.

Literally.  

What they do is suck the sap from the backside of the leaves and on the stem of your pepper plant.

If you see places where it looks like the leaves are drying up in a really small circle, or if you see a sticky, sweet coating on the leaves, or that your plant is wilting, then it’s a good chance that you have an aphid infestation.

Solution:

A little horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or neem oil, will definitely make those aphids disappear.

Long-term Tips:

A proven long-term solution is to plant trap crops like mint or sunflowers, which helps keep the aphids away from your peppers.

Also, encouraging ladybugs and lacewings will also help keep the aphid population down as well.

Can Disease Cause Holes In Your Pepper Plant Leaves?

Now, if you’ve ruled out bugs and there hasn’t been any stormy weather recently (which can also cause holes in the leaves), you might be dealing with some sort of disease.

While I won’t go too in depth, here are two main diseases that can cause small holes on your leaves:

Alternaria Fruit Rot

This disease usually attacks already-damaged peppers. So if your plants are pretty healthy, then it’s probably not Alternaria Fruit Rot.

What happens is that these airborne spores that lead to disease will find some pre-existing damage on your pepper plants (like pest damage, or sun scorches), and take up shop there.

Bacterial Leaf Spot

This one’s a sneaky disease that loves humid conditions. It’ll make the leaves look all spotty. While it doesn’t make many holes, it will leave your leaves starting to turn yellow.

How to Prevent These Diseases?

Aside from trying to use some sort of fungicide, there are three main things you want to do to help prevent the disease (and this applies more than just these two diseases mentioned above).

First, making sure you have nutrient-dense soil is what you will need, as it will keep everything healthy. This will not only help against disease, but could also help against insects as well.

Second, rotate your crops often, so that you don’t run the risk of disease carryover from the previous season.

Third, be careful on how you water your plants. Some of these disease get transferred to the pepper plant leaves through the water. So instead of overhead watering (i.e. watering the entire plant, leaves, and stem), water at the base, so there is less of a chance to be spreading any of the disease.

And there you have it! Whether it’s bugs, bad weather, or sneaky diseases, you’ve got this. Your pepper plants don’t stand a chance against your newfound knowledge.

Now It’s Time To Get Rid Of Those Holes!

Phew, that was a lot, but we made it through!

I’ve covered everything from slugs to aphids, and even touched on different diseases.

The key takeaway here?

With the right knowledge and a bit of TLC, you can protect your pepper plants and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and give your plants the love they deserve.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below with what you think is causing holes in your pepper plants!

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