How and When to Water Chili Pepper Plants

How and When to Water Chili Pepper Plants

If you love growing peppers, you’ve probably already asked an expert or yourself this question: “How often should I water my chili plants?” Don’t worry, you’re not the only one asking this question. If you need information about growing pepper plants, see my post “How to Grow Chili Peppers“.

Watering Chili Plants

A common problem indoor gardeners have while growing peppers is overwatering.

Chili plants need far less water than people think. Regardless of whether your pepper plants are growing in a pot, raised bed or directly in the ground, watering them excessively is one of the worst things you can do to your plants. For example, too much water can impede the plant’s growth. It also washes away nutrients and increases the risk that your plants get infested with pests and disease.

Peppers natural environment is dry and warm and water is not always available in these climates. This means that the pepper plants can spend a long time without any water.

They can seem sick but often recover fast once they have received water. If you find your plants withered, don’t worry, just soak them with water and they’ll soon recover!

Signs of overwatering pepper plants

You may wonder why you shouldn’t overwater your pepper plants. There are of course many reasons why not excessively water your plants.

If your chili plants roots are waterlogged or overwatered, they cannot absorb oxygen. All plants need oxygen to transport nutrients to all parts of the plants including the sugar created in photosynthesis. When you overwater your plants, this transportation is hindered and the plant will not grow and flourish.

Leaves turn yellow

One sign of too much water is wilted and yellow leaves. The leaves, both young and old, fall from the plant to early. A clear sign of both overwatering and underwatering is, further, that the leaves are discolored. Luckily, the appearance of the leaves is different for overwatered and underwatered plants. Too much water will result in a limp appearance whereas underwatered leaves are brittle and dry.

Green and healthy leaves

Lack of oxygen will not only affect the transportation of nutrients. If the roots are deprived of air continuously, the roots rot. Indoor chili plants in pots are at relatively higher risk of root rot.

Too much water will drown the roots, the plant will develop rot, the foliage begins to dull and turn yellow. Stems and roots of the infected plant become soft, will break easily and tips turn brown.

In the end, the roots die and no roots mean no water for the leaves.

 

The leaves will become brown between the leaf veins and along the edges. Eventually, the browned leaves will die and fall off. And so will your pepper plant!

Diseases and pests

Another negative result with overwatering is that your chili plants will get more susceptible to pests, bacterial diseases, and fungal infections. Overwatering plants can lead to that the roots, the crown, and the stem rot when they become infected by fungal pathogens such as Pythium, Fusarium, and Phytophthora.

Tips on how to water chili plants

Growing peppers in pots mean that you’ll need to water more often than if you were growing them in the ground. I typically water when the plants are wilting. It is important, however, that you also keep track on the temperature in your grow box or tent.

Seedlings

If you are growing chili peppers from seed you they are typically germinated using a germination method. When the sprouted seed or seedlings have been put into soil you should check their moisture levels more than once. Note, you grow them in a small greenhouse or put a plastic bag over the pot you may only check once in a while. It is important that you don’t let the seedlings dry out.

Aji Cito Seedling
Moist soil

How much, and often, you water your chili seedlings depend on the temperature, the size of the pot, air flow, and humidity. Keep an eye out so that the moisture levels are, more or less, the same all the time. If you notice that the soil is to moist, don’t water until the soil is dry again. Again, don’t let it completely dry out. See my earlier post if you are interested in how to germinate chili seeds.

Watering chili plants

If the temperature is high, the plants may wilt during the day. The same is true if you are growing outside or in a greenhouse. If you grow outside, you should make sure to check the containers to be sure that it is dry. You don’t want to overwater your plants due to sun-related wilt!

I grow peppers indoors and I keep track of the temperature using a thermometer. Whether you are growing indoors or outdoors I want to stress, again, that you should make sure that the pot is dry.

Many times the top of the soil is dry but the lower layers are mud. This can be avoided if you use the right pots for growing peppers (or any other plant, in fact).

Increase drainage and aeration

Make sure you buy containers that have great drainage. You can also fill the bottom of the pot with expanded clay aggregate (LECA). I typically also add perlite to my pepper soil mix to improve drainage and aeration (see my post on the best soil mix for peppers).

I lift the pots almost every morning so that I know the weight of them. This way I learn when the soil is dry. When the pot is completely dry I soak the pot. Again, not too much water!  If you water the plants too much, all nutrients flow with the water.

From time to time I also use my fingers and dig down 7-10 cm in the soil. If you feel that the soil is dry, soak the soil but don’t let it get too wet and sticky.

Watering outdoor chili plants

Basically, the same rules apply if you are growing your peppers outdoors, in raised beds, or in the ground. But you don’t have any pots to lift, of course!

Additionally, you don’t need to water the pepper plants as often as when growing in pots. When the plants are becoming bigger it’s not unusual that I water my chilis in pots every day. It depends on how big the containers are and how well-developed the roots are.

Drip irrigation

A drip irrigation system may be a very good idea. Especially, if you are growing chilies outside. There are some benefits will drip irrigation that makes this very interesting:

  • A drip irrigation system is much more efficient as it will give water with much less runoff or evaporation
  • A drip irrigation system can give your pepper plants water when they need it and directly to the root system. This may save both water and money.
  • A drip irrigation system that directs the water at the root systems of your plants and can reduce pest, weeds and harmful fungal growth.

One of the backsides is that many drip irrigation systems are expensive. Especially if you have a big garden with many pepper plants.

Self-watering containers

Self-watering containers may be an alternative if you are growing peppers indoors. There are many systems out there but you can also make one yourself. I have no experience with self-watering pots but I plan to make one in the future.

When to water chili plants

The best time to water your plants in the morning hours. This way the sun (growing outdoors or on windowsills) or the heat from your grow lights will evaporate some of the excess water.

Don’t water your capsicum plants in the evening. Wet plants sitting overnight are more likely to develop disease and fungi.  I emphasize, do your best to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.  Your pepper plants are more likely to produce high quality and many chili pods (but see the end of the post).

Note, when you are adding nutrients the opposite is true. Especially, when growing in ground or beds you should add the liquid fertilizer in the evening. This way the nutrients will trickle down through the soil.

If you add the fertilizer in the morning, however, the water can be evaporated. This means that the salty nutrient can be left. This may hurt your plants.

Tap water

When growing indoors most of us use tap water. In many countries tap water contains Chlorine. Plants cannot process this chemical.

Watering pepper with tap water
Bottle containing tap water

Salty deposits will be built up within the plant’s veins and the leaves turn yellow. Chlorine negatively affects the chili plants by reducing the amount of photosynthesis.

I always have one or two watering cans, a couple of glass bottles, filled with clean warm water. Chlorine will evaporate over the night and my chili plants always have great looking green leaves. When I keep feeding them nutrients and minerals, that is.

Some last tips, and thoughts, about watering chili plants. First, both overwatering and letting them wilt can increase the heat of your chili peppers. Note that overwatering is riskier as it increases the risks for pests and diseases. Personally, I let my plants wilt from time to time because I want to them to be as hot as possible.

Take home message

  • Overwatering is in many ways bad for your chili plants.
  • Well-drained soil is important
  • Improve drainage and aeration by using LECA and perlite
  • The best time to water without nutrients the chili plants is in the morning.
  • Liquid fertilizers should be added to your plants in the evening.
  • Let the tap water stand for one day so that Chlorine evaporates

Now you know that overwatering is bad for your chili plants and how to avoid it. I have, of course, not covered all aspects of giving your plants too much water.

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