A pepper might look strong, vibrant, and healthy on the outside, but nothing is quite as disappointing as cutting into it only to find the walls are paper-thin. This isn’t a rare occurrence; many gardeners have to deal with thin-walled peppers during their first few seasons. Luckily, the fixes are pretty quick once you know why it’s happening.
Here are 8 reasons your peppers have thin walls:
- The soil pH is off.
- You are harvesting your peppers too soon.
- You are watering too much.
- You aren’t watering your peppers enough.
- Your plants need more sun.
- It’s too hot.
- The weather’s too cold.
- There’s an illness or pest invasion.
Below, I’ll detail some of the most common signs of the above causes for peppers having thin walls. Afterward, I’ll provide you with a few quick fixes to the problem. To round out the article, I’ll remind you of some of the ideal conditions for growing your pepper plants.
1. The Soil pH Is Off
Soil pH has a lot to do with how well your plants grow, which might surprise you if you’re a new gardener.
Typically, we might think that the most important components for a plant to thrive are sunlight and water. Sunlight and water are necessary, but nutrients can be just as crucial. The nutrients your plant needs are all in the soil and are only available at a certain pH.
For most plants, including peppers, your soil pH should be somewhere between 6.5 and 7.0. A pH of 7.0 is “neutral” on the scale. Anything below 7 is acidic, and anything above it is alkaline.
The list below shows the essential elements and their corresponding functions:
- Carbon (primary): supports plant structures
- Hydrogen (primary): supports respiration, energy production, and your plant’s structures
- Oxygen (primary): supports pH, hydration, and water retention
- Nitrogen (primary): helps with amino acids and chlorophyll and helps the plant form cells
- Phosphorus (primary): helps with cell formation
- Potassium (primary): helps with enzymes and water
- Sulfur (secondary): helps with protein, amino acid, and vitamin formation
- Calcium (secondary): helps with roots and enzymes
- Magnesium (secondary): Secondary nutrient that helps with metabolism
- Boron (micro): helps with enzymes
- Chlorine (micro): helps with chlorophyll formation and cellular development
- Copper (micro): helps with enzymes
- Iron (micro): helps with enzyme development and activity
- Manganese (micro): supports enzyme activity and pigments
- Molybdenum (micro): helps with enzyme activity and is especially supportive of legumes
- Zinc (micro): helps with enzyme activity
Plants can obtain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from the air and water, while the other elements must be present in the soil to be accessed by the plant. The absence of even one of these nutrients can have detrimental effects on your peppers (including but not limited to thin walls!).
Moreover, these nutrients are only readily available for your plants in the correct soil pH. Otherwise, though they may be in your soil, your plants can’t access them.
This video does a great job of explaining this in terms of a dining table:
So, if your peppers have paper-thin walls, there’s a chance they’re missing an essential nutrient, or they just haven’t been able to get it because the soil pH is off.
How to Fix This
To fix this issue, you first have to detect it. You can detect the soil pH by using a pH test kit or sending a soil sample to a lab. The pH test kits are more readily accessible because you can buy them at a gardening store or online.
Alternatively, if you want a full scope of what’s going on with your plant soil, I’d suggest sending a sample to a lab. Typically, they’ll provide a container with instructions on how to collect and send a sample to them and they will send you a comprehensive lab analysis back.
The lab results include what nutrients and pH your soil has and give you some insight into what microorganisms are lingering around and if there are any diseases and issues that need to be addressed.
Once you get your result back, you have a few options.
If the soil pH is too high (something over 7.0), then you can lower it by adding sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or sulfuric acid. If the soil pH is too low (something more acidic, under 5.5), then you can raise it by liming your soil.
2. You’re Harvesting Your Peppers Too Soon
When you harvest a fruit or vegetable before it’s ready, its taste and texture will be different from a store-bought counterpart. For peppers, in particular, they may taste bitter or spicier than you planned, be a different color, or have thin walls.
Though they may look ready for the picking, having a batch of thin peppers may mean they need a little longer to grow.
How to Fix This
Unfortunately, technology hasn’t gotten us to a place where you can just scan your produce and see if it is ready to be harvested. However, you can be vigilant of a few signs that indicate that pepper is ready.
Some of these signs include:
- The right color for the variety you are growing
- Seems to be full-sized (depending on which kind of pepper you are growing, this could be anywhere from 2 to 5 inches or 5-13 cm)
- The correct weight
If you’ve picked your plants too early because of the top two indicators, the third one will be your saving grace. Taking the pepper gently in your hand and weighing it might tell you whether or not your pepper is still growing.
3. You’re Watering Too Much
Peppers are picky when it comes to water. They need to be watered at least once a week, but their soil needs to properly dry out and drain before being watered again. For this reason, I like to tell gardeners to pay attention to their soil rather than the peppers when they’re watering.
Plants that are being drowned in water never do very well. Pepper plants that are watered too much may develop root rot. If that happens, their roots can’t take up all the necessary nutrients. This may result in a strange taste or thin walls. Or worse, your pepper plant may even die.
Other signs that you are watering too much are:
- Soil is getting muddy
- Wilted leaves
- Curling leaves
- Decaying roots
- Yellowing leaves
How to Fix This
If you’re overwatering, the fix is simple. Don’t water as much or as frequently. Wait until the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the soil is dry before watering your peppers again.
Pay attention to how wet your soil is between waterings. If you live in a rainy climate, you may never have to water your plant. However, if you live somewhere scorching hot, you might even need to water your peppers every morning
Another key element to consider when it comes to this issue is that your soil needs to drain properly. Otherwise, your plant may become waterlogged, and you are susceptible to root rot. If you are growing a container garden, make sure there are holes on the bottom that allow water to flow through when your plant has absorbed what it needs.
If you’re having drainage issues in your soil, you might want to look at the soil composition (too much peat moss may cause drainage problems) and check out ways to stop waterlogging.
If you need a little more support, there are tools you can buy to help make watering easier. Investing in a moisture meter will help you determine how moist your soil is. These devices go straight into the soil and indicate whether the plant is getting too much or too little moisture.
Additionally, investing in a drip irrigation system can help you water the same amount every day without the hassle. With peppers, you should proceed with caution on an irrigation system if you want it to do all the work for you.
Some irrigation systems can detect moisture or temperature, but others are set on timers. If the weather where you’re from is unpredictable, make sure to shut off the system before your plants drown!
4. You Aren’t Watering Your Peppers Enough
There’s also a chance you are watering your peppers too little. Some think that the flesh of your peppers is determined by how much you are watering them. In short, too little water means far too thin walls. Remember that peppers need more water during the fruiting stage in the growing season.
I talked a lot about the nutrients your soil needs to survive, and water is one of the most important ones. Without adequate moisture, the roots can’t access the soil nutrients and deliver them efficiently to the aboveground plant parts.
If you haven’t been watering your plant enough, there’s no way it can grow to its full potential. If your watering has been inconsistent, there’s an increased chance that the plant was stressed and halted at different parts of the fruit development process.
How to Fix This
The rate at which moisture is consumed by the plant or evaporates into the air can vary depending on various environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. Some days can be too hot and dry during the growing season, and your plant will need extra moisture during such days.
During hot and dry days, water your pepper plants every morning. During cool days, it’s okay to wait 2-3 days. However, these tips might be too simple, and the best indicator that your plant needs more water is the soil moisture level.
You can use your fingers to manually check the soil before watering. Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter for more accurate results.
I recommend using a device with a probe 18-24 inches (46-61 cm) long for in-ground peppers. Stick the probe 12-18 inches (30-46 cm) deep into the soil. For potted peppers, you can stick the probe into the upper 4/5 of the potting mix.
If the reading is on the lower to middle limit of the moist range (4-5), it’s time to water your peppers again.
5. Your Plants Need More Sun
Your pepper plants need full direct sun. This means that even if your plants are in a shady spot in the garden with only indirect sunlight for a few hours daily, the stems may become leggy or and the fruits will have thin walls.
Direct sunlight is key here. Nothing should be getting in the way of your pepper plants’ sunlight, no shade nor netting or other plants.
How to Fix This
Container gardeners can fix this problem easily by moving their peppers to a more sunny spot.
However, for in-ground peppers, if you’re knee-deep in your growing season, you might need to wait until the following year to get better-quality fruits. At the beginning of the new growing season, look for a spot that will give your peppers the full, direct sunlight they need.
They’ll need at least six hours of sunlight a day. If you don’t know what spot in your garden will do this, you can get a sun meter or grab a moisture meter that doubles as a sunlight meter.
If it’s too late to plan your pepper spot for more sunlight, it’s not a total loss. See if you can remove whatever barriers block the sunlight for your pepper plants. I’d highly suggest being 100% sure sunlight is the issue before sacrificing any of your other plants.
6. It’s Too Hot
I think that some people assume that peppers enjoy desert temperatures because some of them are pretty spicy. This isn’t the case, though many first-time gardeners are guilty of this common misconception. In reality, your pepper plants will prefer something between 70 and 80 °F (21 and 27 °C).
How to Fix This
If your plant is getting too hot, some extra watering may be in order as long as the soil isn’t already wet. Additionally, you may want to look into getting a sunshade for your pepper plants to help protect them from the sun’s scorching heat.
I’d put the shade over my peppers during the mid-to-late hours of the day when it’s the hottest and ensure they are getting the bulk of their sun in the morning or evening (maybe from 8 AM to 11 AM and again from 4 PM to 7 PM depending on where you live and how long the sun is out). This will be especially easy for container gardeners who can pick their plants up and follow the sun.
As far as heat goes, don’t forget to check the temperature of your soil. It’s not rare for a reflective surface, such as a car in the driveway or a tin roof on a shed, to reflect excess sunlight onto a garden patch and heat it. This can be the case if you’ve noticed it’s the right temperature outside, but for some reason, your plants are wilting from the heat.
7. The Weather’s Too Cold
Just like how too-warm temperatures can affect your pepper plant, so can too-cold temperatures. As mentioned, peppers prefer weather that’s between 70 and 80 °F (21 and 27 °C). If you’ve planted your peppers too early or late, or your climate isn’t right for them, you might notice thin walls and strained growth.
Peppers are not frost resistant, and they’ll become stressed when nighttime temperatures hit below 55 °F (13 °C).
How to Fix This
If you want homegrown peppers really bad but just don’t have the weather for it, you can grow your peppers in pots and move them indoors when the nighttime temperatures become too low.
Alternatively, you can grow your peppers permanently indoors. However, you will need to invest much time, effort, and even money. You’ll need special grow lights because peppers won’t bear fruits without adequate red light during the fruiting stage.
Otherwise, just make sure your plants are getting proper sun. A southern window receives the most sunlight daily and is the best spot for indoor peppers. If you can plant them in a spot where they’ll always be pretty warm, even if it’s next season, your peppers will be thankful for it.
8. There’s an Illness or Pest Invasion
Insect pests can stress your pepper plants as they suck moisture and nutrients out of the stems and foliage. Your pepper plants have to tap into their most important energy sources to fight off infections and continue to grow, but they can’t do this if the pests or diseases are going for the roots. In that case, your plants will have no way of getting the nutrients they need.
How to Fix This
To fix this, be extra observant. Do you see little creatures crawling all over your plants? If so, what are they? Is it just your pepper plants that ended up funky this season, or so is everything else in your gardening bed? Are you noticing bite marks or discoloration?
You can brush the insect pests off the leaves and stem into a tub of soapy water or a sticky trap.
Neem oil is also an excellent way to get rid of pests and ensure they don’t come back because the smell kills and deters them. In the evening, you can wipe the leaves with a clean cloth soaked in neem oil solution containing 1 tablespoon neem oil, 1 tablespoon Castille soap, and 1 liter (0.26 gal) water.
The Best Conditions for Growing Peppers
If you feel that it’s too late to fix your peppers this season, don’t worry as you can improve the growing conditions the following year. Here are the parameters to keep in mind for better-quality fruits:
- Temperature: between 70 and 80 °F (21 and 27 °C)
- Sunlight: full, direct sunlight for at least six hours a day
- Watering: consistently moist soil during the fruiting stage (water when the top 1-2 inches or 2.5-5 cm are dry)
- pH: between 6.4 and 7.0