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I have a couple of newish chili plants growing in pots on my windowsill, they're about 15cm or so tall and seemed to be doing well enough so far. However, this morning I've noticed that the stem at the base of one of these plants has split open from just above the soil to about 2cm up the plant.

Here are shot of the whole plant with the split highlighted:
Full plant shot with split stem highlighted

And a close up image of the split (click for full size image):
Close up of the split stem

Why has this happened?
Can the plant survive and be healthy?
If so, there anything I need to do to 'help' the plant?

  • 1
    Looks like maybe too much water and the stem burst? – Deirdra Strangio May 2 '14 at 19:02
  • As a follow up, the plant with the split stem seems to be have continued growing without any apparent ill effects. Having been repotted in the meantime it's now a good 30cm or 40cm tall or so and seems fine. – DMA57361 May 20 '14 at 10:36
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    One other comment, you can do this with just about all nightshade family plants, bury the stem below the soil line and the will sprout roots and make the split part of the stem more stable as it grows bigger/taller. Also to make the pepper plant grow out (if you do not have flowers yet) is to top it. The plant will shoot out 2 or more main stems from where the top was cut. – Deirdra Strangio May 23 '14 at 1:56
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This can happen when the stem is still quite soft, with a thin skin, and the cells are full of water. It happens more often on fruits (tomatoes, cherries, grapes, etc.) and is known as cracking.

The plant will have a shorter, sturdier stem and smaller, less heavy leaves if grown under stronger light. Your plant is top-heavy and leaning, and that, combined with the condition of the stem (thin watery, soft) is what caused the crack to form. Other than that, the plant looks quite happy, and as Deirdra Strangio pointed out, you can build the soil up around the stem, to help support the plant, which in turn will root into the new soil, becoming more robust.

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I was always told that building soil up around the bottom of the stem on nightshades was something one should do anyway, so add about an inch or so of soil there. Not only does this better support the rest of the plant, but it also adds roots that will further help provide nutrients. If you add just a touch of root enhancer to the split it would encourage the roots, but you don't need to really worry.

Also, I would suggest that you provide a bit more support via the use of a small bamboo cane or similar. You don't need a full cage, but caning the pepper is something I've found useful in the past.

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