Pepper plant leaves curl because of damage from aphids and other insects, but the most common cause of this problem in pepper plants is the mosaic virus. When infected, pepper plants become yellow and mottled, and new growth is stunted. The plant appears to curl down onto itself, particularly the leaves. There is no cure for this plant virus; your best weapon to protect your pepper plants is prevention.
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Insects, particularly aphids, carry mosaic virus from infected plants to uninfected plants. Aphids suck juices from the plant stem and leaves, causing severe damage. Look for a sticky excretion called honeydew on the plant to confirm the damage is caused by aphids. Begin treating your pepper plants with pesticides as soon as you see any sign of aphid activity. Aphids hide on the undersides of leaves, so be sure to direct the pesticide toward all parts of the plant and leaves.
Mosaic virus affects a wide variety of plants and weeds. Plan your garden carefully, and do not plant your pepper plants near cucumbers, tomatoes, clover, alfalfa or tobacco as all of these plants are highly susceptible to mosaic virus. Planting them close together enables the virus to transfer from plant to plant even through seemingly harmless activities like watering your garden. Close proximity also allows easier access for insects to carry the virus from plant to plant. Be sure to keep weeds away from your pepper plants, as they are also frequent carriers of mosaic virus and can infect your garden.
When removing diseased plants from your garden, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching healthy plants. Even a small amount of the virus left on your hands can infect your entire garden. Destroy the diseased plants, and do not place them in your compost heap. The mosaic virus can survive on plant matter for quite some time and you do not want to risk infecting the rest of your garden.
Choose resistant varieties of pepper for your garden, especially if you have had to deal with mosaic virus in the past. Blushing beauty, Spanish spice and garden salsa are three mosaic virus resistant pepper plants to try in your garden. Cut your pepper plants back after the first harvest to encourage them to bloom and bear fruit again. Pepper plants can be prolific when they are healthy.
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