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My Cayenne pepper plant has been in relatively good health until about 1 month ago (coinciding with when I harvested its one ripe pepper and also a brief brush with aphids which were eliminated using soapy water). Since then the top leaves have fallen off and the tips appear burnt with some white spotting.

I suspected that it might be too much fertiliser (currently alternate between Seasol and power-feed weekly) so drenched it in water last week and let the soil dry out, but there has been no improvement - if anything it has gotten worse. As for the soapy water I'd say that it has all been rinsed off previously.

Can anybody comment on my problem as to whether it is a feeding or a disease problem or something else?

Thanks

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  • The drainage and sun look good, soil looks fine...but the leaves look as if there is powdery mildew and/or aphids to distort the buds and leaves like that. Please send closeups of those leaves and buds. What have you been fertilizing with? Is this indoors or out of doors? How do you decide to water?
    – stormy
    Jul 8, 2016 at 3:02
  • @stormy: Fertilize with Seasol and powerfeed at bottle doses alternating weekly. Pot is outdoors on balcony. Attached additional photos above. Decide water by just using 1-2s from the watering can every morning (enough to keep the soil moist but not leak significant water from the bottom drainage hole)
    – xyz
    Jul 8, 2016 at 3:13
  • Just saw one of your problems, aphids. That last picture look beneath the leaf on top and you can see cute little antennae. Powerfeeding bothers me primarily because plants do not need to be FED. It is a big difference to learn to supplement soils in our artificial gardens with chemicals and totally a bad way to think that chemicals are FOOD for a plant. Watering every day is never good...I have got to go check a few other things and I'll be back. Do you have other potted plants? Outside?
    – stormy
    Jul 9, 2016 at 6:44
  • Yes I do - a few other pepper varieties and citrus
    – xyz
    Jul 12, 2016 at 1:27

4 Answers 4

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Seasol is like fish fertilizer, kind of a bit of a booster. Helps plants be more hardy. The Powerfeeder is a problem. You say you do this every week or alternate with the Seasol, right? Seasol is NOT A FERTILIZER FERTILIZER...but Powerfeeder is. The ratio is; 12-1.4-7. HIGH NITROGEN. To give this to any plant every other week will be an excess of nitrogen, thus the aphids (possibly some scale) sucking up all the carbohydrates. It is amazing you got one pepper off this guy. High nitrogen promotes VEGETATIVE growth. Of those three numbers the first is nitrogen, then phosphorus and potassium. If that first number is less than the last two that will promote reproductive growth, flowers and fruit/seed.

This pepper plant looks to me a goner. I'd get another one, replace the soil as it has too much chemicals. Start a tiny plant in a tiny pot. As it gets larger then upgrade the pot. Do not put a tiny pepper plant in this pot right away.

Watering as you are is fine for a baby plant but later you have to drench and dry before drenching again. I wouldn't use tap water, either. Don't drink tap water yourself...another story. You could cut this guy back making sure it has as many of the healthier leaves with which to feed itself. It might come back a it but you have to get rid of that high nitrogen/potassium soil and repot. No rocks or gravel at the bottom, just soil. Allow water to come out of the drain holes! Then allow to dry. Baby plant needs to be moist and you might have to harden off before allowing to be out of doors full time.

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  • Alright, I will try to cut out the Powerfeed and only use the Seasol fortnightly. Attempting to cut it back, change soil and see if it can come back.
    – xyz
    Jul 12, 2016 at 1:30
  • Don't use any 'fertilizers', chemicals for at least a month! Seasol, is similar to fish fertilizer, I use maybe once per year to add to hardiness but to do more is just too much. When you do fertilize again you have to find the three numbers X-X-X (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) with the first a lower number than the phosphorus and potassium. Water only when the top 1/4 or 1/2 inch of the soil is dry...you'll be able to soon tell when the plant needs water. Allowing it to dry and NEED water is a good thing. Good to change soil, keep the same pot.
    – stormy
    Jul 12, 2016 at 3:47
  • Plants make their OWN food. We humans need to add chemicals that just aren't available because we've cleared and removed the topsoil. We are trying to do what nature does only on a shorter, far shorter time scale.
    – stormy
    Jul 12, 2016 at 3:49
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Yes it could be salt damage from too much fertilizer.

Also, what are the high temps for your area in the past 2 weeks in Fahrenheit? Peppers need full sun and I noticed you have a black pot. That pot will get real hot and could damage the roots especially if there is inconsistent watering. (Damp soil has a cooling effect and takes a bit longer to heat up, dry soil takes less time to eat up, in my humid summers and loamy soil anyway. YMMV.)

So I think you have a compound problem here. I've never had any luck with peppers or maters in pots. The roots just get too hot. The upper part of the plants like hot weather, the roots do not. You can try to transplant the whole plant into the ground or just put the whole pot under ground making the pot soil level with the ground soil, and just see if that helps.

Some people get pot to work in hot weather. I never have. I need the thermal mass that planting in the ground provides. But your plant is really stressed for some reason.

Also try this: Do not fertilize for 2-3 weeks, and water REALLY well every day to wash out any salts that have collected there. Just soak the plant until water runs out the bottom.

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  • Thats a good point about the black pots - although has been only 60-70 F recently. Will try to wash out salts
    – xyz
    Jul 12, 2016 at 1:33
  • Do NOT water every day!! Do not stick to some silly schedule for fertilizer or adding...SOMETHING. By repoting
    – stormy
    Jul 12, 2016 at 3:50
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I grow cayenne as well. At some point, the plant may have been slammed by very dry heat, with the results showing up a couple of weeks later. Plus, you do appear to have aphids. I pulled off the dead leaf ends with my fingers, washed the bugs off gently with a dripping wet sea sponge (rinse aphids off the sponge into a bowl of water as you go) and added a Shade Dot to spot-shade the entire plant, which also helped it retain moisture. My cayenne is thriving now.

Shade Dot and Cayenne

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As a follow up, following stormys answer I cut it back and stopped using the fertilizers. Here is the result 6 weeks later:

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