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Backstory

Hey everyone, first post in this stack, so sorry if I didn't see an answer to these questions (I did check though).

So I have a Scorpion Butch T plant that I bought about 2 months ago (63 days). It was already grown to ~9 inches tall, but with most of the stalk trimmed of leaves. Only foliage was at the upper 4-5" mark.

Anyway, it's grown to about 16" now and is finally starting to grow a new leaves. In the past 2 weeks it dropped 6 large leaves that were lower down, so now it's looking like a poodle or something. This Seems quite slow considering that my wife's plant (1 week older) has more than tripled in size so far and is producing ~50 chillies. Now hers is a pepper pequin plant, so I'd expect them to grow differently, but this is just silly.

So, not only does my plant seem to be growing pretty slow, but it's been dropping every flower bud, many of them even before flowering. At the moment this is my biggest concern. What is interesting to note is that they were flowering before the large leaves were dropped and since they haven't even really opened at all.

My wife and I have just been using regular old Miracle-gro and some acceptable soil I got from work. When I started looking I found that there's a lot of science being applied to pepper growing! So I got a soil test kit.


Plant Environment

The one I got only goes to a value of 4 at the top... so yeah. 1. pH: 6-6.5 2. N: 4+ (I estimate ~12 based on darkness) 3. P: 4+ (I estimate ~12 based on darkness) 4. K: 3-4

Los Angeles area 12" potted-plant, so temp now is ~65-95F for the most part. Humidity can get pretty low, but the environment on my balcony has been pretty good. Where my plant sits it get ~10-11 hrs of direct/full sun. Wind is hit or miss. If it's windy, they it will get a gentle breeze at least, but the walls on the balcony keep it from getting too violent. I have played with my watering practice a bit and found that it seems to like a good soak that fully drains away, but what's odd is the soils stays fairly wet for ~5-7 days.

Added Info

The soil is a mixture of potting soil, natural Los Angeles earth (which can be pretty sandy) and some manure that got mixed in a couple seasons back. There are some rocks in the soil, although I've been removing them when I come across them, but I didn't add any rocks.

On watering, the last 2 weeks I've kind of experimented. The pot does have holes, but the dish underneath seemed to have been blocking them a bit. I put some bottle caps between the pot and dish so there's more space, and that seems to have done the trick. Today when watering the water took ~10 seconds to drain (and didn't drain that much water). Also I did let the souls get drier than before.

My wife and I have basically done the same practices with regard to watering and fertilizing, although I've used less of the Miracle-gro. I'm thinking of changing the soil soon cause we bought some fruit/veggie soil which looks much better.


General Questions

So I suppose if anyone has experience with Scorpion peppers in particular, let me know what stands out to you. For anyone whose cultivated fruits and veggies, I imagine you may be able to impart some relevant knowledge, and I definitely appreciate whatever you've got!


Specific Questions:

Why is it dropping blossoms and not growing peppers at all!?

Is NPK of 12-12-3 (or 4-4-1) bad for chili/pepper plants?

Is the soil not draining well enough or being overwatered?

With my NPK this far out of whack, should I try to balance it with specific fertilization (like potassium sulfide, phosphorus etc.) or let the plant stabilize the soil before beginning proper fertilization?

If doing targeted fertilization of the NPK, what tricks or methods work best, especially considering that I do want to consume the fruit yield?


Images

My Scorpion Butch T My Scorpion Plant closeup closer another

My wife's Pepper/Chili Pequin My Wife's Plant Update in the Wife's Pequin


UPDATES

So I reported by pepper (thoroughly washed my hands and wore gloves to avoid tobacco contamination ;) ) with new soil and did a new set of tests on it. It's now

  • pH ~6.5-7
  • N: 4
  • P: 4
  • K: ~3.5

I also did some trimming of the leaves that were most yellowed and took care of a new little cluster of aphids.

It's looking better and while checking for aphids, I found 2 flowers that have started fruiting!!!

So I'll keep monitoring it and see what's what. Thanks for everything so far!

As of yesterday...FIRST FRUIT

Plant's also got about 6-10 blossoms that are opening up. We had a hot spell a few weeks back, but now that it's getting more temperate, to doing quite well. So excited!


So just to update, here's my plant as of this morning! fruuuuiiit!!!

So I think the solution for me was a number of factors:

  1. Putting actual potting soil, not garden soil.
  2. Learning the plants preferred watering schedule (this does fluctuate with temp/humidity changes) which seems to be about weekly with current weather.
  3. Sparingly using any kind of fertilizers/nutrient supplements!!!
  4. Using dissolved epsom salt every couple weeks.
  5. (The one thing I can't control too well) the weather in my locality. If I had more space, and no pets, I'd be willing to put my plant inside as needed with extreme heat or cold, but it's not really feasible. :,( So, this plant seems to be quite happy in the 68F - 83F range.
  • Gosh, Kyle...what a wonderfully worded question. One of the best! I've got to go find this guy I found who grows nothing but peppers to send to you. Your fertilizer is NOT a good choice for a plant you want to flower and fruit. That Nitrogen has to be lower than the other two numbers, the phosphorus and potassium. Your formula just might be a big problem. Is this the miracle gro formula? Did your wife use the same fertilizer? Do your pots have holes for drainage? Did you say you used potting soil out of a bag or garden soil? Did you put any rock or gravel below your soil? (not good) – stormy Jul 23 '17 at 20:54
  • ...do not water until that soil is dryer. At least an inch from the top. Are you using tap water from the city? What is different between what your wife has done and what you are doing? Anything? Pepper is a pepper is a plant. Stop fertilizing for sure and reduce watering. Please send pictures. It could also be too big of a pot for the size of plant... – stormy Jul 23 '17 at 20:59
  • I found the dude's video on peppers I recently watched...I thought you might like watching this. youtube.com/watch?v=zH0Jztqt5TY – stormy Jul 23 '17 at 21:28
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    @stormy Nice. :'( well I have some good new soil that I can change out tonight. – kyle_engineer Jul 24 '17 at 18:08
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    @Shule If you're talking about the ridginess, they've been like that since I got it from the nursery. They had 4 plants and all the small leaves were like that. When the leaves get bigger they flatten out. Color-wise though, some of them yellow sometimes, and others don't. For the most part the leaves look pretty good. – kyle_engineer Jul 28 '17 at 23:13
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By the look of it, I would suppose that the plant isn't getting enough calcium, even if there's enough in the soil. That is, if the same leaves initially grew like that (if not, I'd suspect a pest or possibly a disease). Many things could interfere with calcium absorption (e.g. too much nitrogen, which I believe is the case here, too much potassium, cool weather that makes the potassium more available, improper watering, too small of a container, calcium deficiency, etc.)

Although I think your nutrient balance is off in a different way, this question and its answers might have similar insights. A cal-mag supplement, a bigger container, and maybe even a zinc supplement might help. (The cal-mag supplement I linked to also has iron, which may or may not be a good thing, depending.) I don't recommend adding any more nitrogen fertilizer for a long time, and if it were a bigger container I'd say 'if at all'.

Stormy's suggestion of watering less should help whether it's calcium deficiency or any of a few other alternatives (at least if the container isn't too small) because nitrogen is more available in wet soil. High nitrogen and wet soil isn't the best combination. It could rot your roots, make the plant susceptible to pests/disease, etc.

Although I don't know that extra potassium without extra nitrogen would help your plant, it should help to inhibit the nitrogen to some degree, but your weather is possibly still cool enough at night that the potassium would cause other problems.

If potassium, calcium, nitrogen, and maybe other nutrients are off, you can get distorted leaves. Too much nitrogen and water and the wrong temperatures could lead to blossom drops.

Take a look at what this site has to say about calcium deficiency. It basically says some of the things I said and more, and it shows a picture of a calcium deficient pepper.

Don't forget that Pequin peppers are not only a different breed than Butch T., but also a different species of pepper with a different fruit size (C. annuum and C. chinense respectively). I also get the impression Pequin is a very unique, large and prolific pepper plant for its species. It's also said to grow wild in Texas and maybe other parts of the country. I wouldn't use it for a comparison if I were you, as it may be incredibly hardy.

But yeah, others are right that this could be a virus, spread either via tobacco or aphids. It's hard to tell, at this point, perhaps.

As far as what container I would personally recommend for outdoor peppers, I like 10-gallon moving totes (you can get them for a few dollars at Walmart). 18-gallon totes can be great for three plants, but the 10-gallon ones are more portable. I wouldn't get any bigger than a few gallons more than that, though, or it'll be very difficult to move with soil in it (my 30-gallon totes are pretty much where they're going to live forever, unless I shovel the soil out). I think the smaller ones work better than the 30-gallon ones for me, anyway (but your soil or climate may be different).

10-gallon totes are inexpensive and effective in my experience. I recommend UV-protecting them if it's not too expensive and if your winters aren't cold enough to make them eventually brittle anyway (like mine are). You can put one or two plants in each one. They won't hang like that Pequin pepper's container, though, unfortunately. You would have to drill your own drainage holes, however.

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Gosh, Kyle...what a wonderfully worded question. One of the best! I've got to go find this guy I found who grows nothing but peppers to send to you. Your fertilizer is NOT a good choice for a plant you want to flower and fruit. That Nitrogen has to be lower than the other two numbers, the phosphorus and potassium. Your formula just might be a big problem. Is this the miracle gro formula? Did your wife use the same fertilizer? Do your pots have holes for drainage? Did you say you used potting soil out of a bag or garden soil? Did you put any rock or gravel below your soil? (not good)

...do not water until that soil is dryer. At least an inch from the top. Are you using tap water from the city? What is different between what your wife has done and what you are doing? Anything? Pepper is a pepper is a plant. Stop fertilizing for sure and reduce watering. Please send pictures. It could also be too big of a pot for the size of plant...thank you, your plant is not too big for the pot.

I found the dude's video on peppers I recently watched...I thought you might like watching this. youtube.com/watch?v=zH0Jztqt5TY

Hey thanks for the pictures and more info. No do not mess with fertilizer for a while. I can see why you are a bit frustrated...two different plants, I'll concede this is the difference. Your plant has a disease, probably viral. It looks like it is trying to make a come back. The leaves that dropped are being replaced. Your plant is more susceptible to something and that something probably came in the good old LA soil that you used in your pots. Hers is just dealing with that soil better. I would go get a bag of potting soil. The cheapest is fine as long as it has been sterilized...

And Bamboo caught up with me...OUR next question, grins, is if you are a smoker? Mosaic virus is in that tobacco, in the smoke and on your hands. Just touching a susceptible plant will do the job. I would transplant your plant, your wife's seems to be happy so leave it be for now. You did real well raising the bottom of the pot off the saucer. They actually make 'pot feet' to do the same job. Eagle claws, lion paws or little spheres of clay with a ledge. But bottle caps and pieces of tile work just fine! Perhaps a close up of your plants leaves would help... – stormy Jul 24 at 18:11

....and those aphids are a great vector for virus. So it doesn't have to be Tobacco Mosaic Virus. It is a good thing to not allow your friends who smoke around your plants either but heck that is the smoker's perfect spot! We can help you chose plants that are resistant to the smoker's virus, later.

Hey, not many know this stuff about Tobacco Mosaic Virus...even the nurseries don't insist their employees take a shower, wash and sterilize their hands or smoke on break. Grins! Those zip ties are invisible! We'll look for your closeup picture of your plant. I hope your marriage hasn't been harmed by this little competition, grins!!

Sighs. Could be Mosaic. Not a thing you can do sweetie. Since the other plant seems to be fine, there aren't any others to catch this virus, I'd leave it alone except for transplanting. Or go get another one like your wife's...or two. More of one species of plant is very attractive and since your pequin chili plant does well, I'd go with that. POTTING SOIL only. Forget compost. Use Osmocote extended release 14-14-14 that you'll only have to use once maybe twice per year. And blow the smoke downwind. No touchy the plants. Wash hands really well to transplant.

  • A balcony or a deck can be made into an oasis! Sending a picture of a 'deck scape' I've done to give you ideas. The thing in the middle is a water wall! – stormy Jul 27 '17 at 23:20
  • I'll put it in my answer...this picture of a deck 'scape'... – stormy Jul 27 '17 at 23:21

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