Pepper plants are not as prone to pests as other vegetables, but they do occasionally have problems with insect damage. We don't usually worry about a few holes in the leaves, but sometimes pests are more troublesome so we have our tips on pest prevention below. We never advise using insecticides or pesticides in your garden (remember, bugs are bird snacks!) instead, read our natural pest prevention and control tips below to keep your pepper garden healthy and happy:
Top Pepper Plant Pests:
Cutworms are one of the worst pests of peppers, as they target seedlings by often chewing the base of the plant and cutting it down completely, as well as chewing on the leaves. If you see cutworm damage, you can either go out at night with a flashlight and pick them off, or you can also rake the soil around the base of the plants during the day and you'll sometimes find the large curled up cutworms that you can dispose of. You can also sprinkle used coffee grounds or egg shells around the base of your plants to discourage these pests.
Slugs can be a problem when there is a lot of rain or moisture, but as peppers like it fairly dry (watering only after the soil dries), slugs rarely flourish in pepper beds. They can be controlled by hand picking, sometimes we'll put a wood board in the garden, and pick it up in the late morning after all the slugs have "moved" in underneath it, then just pluck them and put them in soapy water or squish them.
Grasshoppers sometimes chew on pepper plants. To help keep them at bay, attract birds to your garden. They LOVE grasshoppers and will eat tons of them daily. Include a bird bath that you refill with fresh water daily, hang bird houses, and plant flowers, trees and shrubs nearby to attract birds. Read more about attracting birds towards the end of this post.
Aphids are not often problems for pepper plants, but if you do find these soft-bodied pests congregating on the leaves and stems, an easy fix is to spray them off with water daily to dislodge them. There are also insecticidal soaps but we find they often burn our pepper plants so we don't use them. Often, it's only one plant that is affected, so sometimes we'll just sacrifice the plant. Attracting Ladybugs, Lacewing, and Hoverflies to your garden by planting Sweet Alyssum and other flowers with your peppers will help greatly as these insects and their larvae eat lots of aphids! Read more about Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects »
Flea Beetles sometimes also attack younger seedlings, eating lots of tiny holes in the leaves. We find that as the summer progresses and the plants grow larger, flea beetles usually go away, so we don't typically do much about them. You can plant later in the season after the flea beetles are most active. Flea beetles are repelled by basil and catnip, so you can plant them around or in your garden. They are also attracted to radishes and nasturtium so you can plant those to draw the flea beetles away from your peppers or tomato plants. We don't find that flea beetles are a long-term problem, since they usually dissipate as the season progresses.
Best Pest Control for Peppers:
1. Birds are great at pest control! To attract birds to your pepper garden, plant lots of flowers such as Sunflowers, Coneflowers, Black Eyed Susans and native plants nearby to attract birds year-round with seeds. Plant trees and shrubs nearby (avoiding shading the garden of course!) Include a bird bath and/or feeder, as well as as bird houses, which will attract birds to visit your garden. Birds eat huge amounts of insects, and will hop around and snag grasshoppers, cabbage loopers, cutworms, and other pests to keep them from eating your vegetables. They are especially great in the spring when raising their young, you'll watch the bird parents catch hundreds of bugs every day to feed to their young. Birds have amazing vision for spotting bugs, and they are one of the greatest sources of pest control.
Above: Lacewing eggs on tomato plant.
2. Beneficial Insects are also great to attract to your yard, Ladybugs, Lacewings, Wasps, Hoverflies, and their larvae are all great for eating pests by the hundreds. Planting flowers and plants that attract these predators will help keep pests in your vegetable garden at bay. Learn more about Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects »
Holes in Leaves?
Also, if your chile pepper plants have a few holes in the leaves, don't worry, that means they're organic and safe to eat. Try to handpick pests when you see them, and attract birds and beneficial insects to your garden. A few holes in the leaves of a chile pepper plant doesn't hurt the overall harvest, and it means that your garden is a healthy ecosystem.
Pesticides for Peppers:
We never encourage the use of pesticides, who wants poison on their food?! Additionally, when you poison insects, you are also poisoning the birds and other creatures that eat them – which, in turn, causes more pest problems as their natural predators are reduced. Instead, create a healthy ecosystem with birds, beneficial insects and native plants around your vegetable gardens to enlist their help keep pepper pests at bay.
Want lots more growing tips for the best chile pepper harvests?
Learn more about How to Grow Peppers »
Peppers are easy to grow from seed!
Sandia Seed specializes in New Mexican Green Chile like Hatch Chile seeds, plus lots of unique rare pepper seed varieties from around the world, so make sure to check out all of our seeds including super hot pepper seeds, hot pepper seeds, Hatch chile seeds, and sweet pepper seeds. We also sell delicious Heirloom Tomato seeds which of course go great with chiles.