5 Reasons for Pepper Seedlings Turning Purple [360-Degree Solution]

Homegrown peppers have always been in huge demand. The freshly harvested peppers add an amazing taste in any dish that is guaranteed.  This is why homegrown peppers have a different kind of appeal in many diners and restaurants.

Moreover, peppers are very easily manageable plants. And the best thing about this is you can even grow them at home with very little space.

However, The main problem is, that the pepper leaves and stems turn purple very frequently.  But the good news is, this is something you can avoid if you follow the right directions.

But before taking any actions you have to be completely aware of the reasons that are causing the purple leaves on your pepper.  Here are the 5 major ones-Nutrient deficiency, sunburn, cold soil, viral infection, and lastly overwatering. 

In this article, I have discussed each and every of these reasons in a detailed manner so that you can revive the purple leaves of your pepper seedlings like a pro. 

So, let’s get this show on the road–

Why Are Pepper Seedlings Turning Purple?

1. Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrient deficiency can be dangerous for your pepper plants in many ways. For instance, it can make the plant very stunted and stop its growth permanently. 

Leaves and stems turning purple can be a very frequent scenario if your pepper plant is not getting the proper amount of nutrients. To be precise, most commonly the deficiency of phosphorus can turn your pepper plants purple. And also because of this, the seedling will end up losing a lot of leaves.

Your pepper plant needs phosphorus to produce energy and to make sugars and nucleic acids. You see, when the soil is lacking phosphorus, it raises the level of anthocyanin which is a purple coloured pigment.

However, older plants can somewhat tolerate it but the new ones will fail to cope up with the deficiency. As a result, the newly established green peppers will turn purple. 

Besides that, magnesium, potassium, and even calcium can induce these purple leaf symptoms on your pepper. Also, the spots can turn black on some occasions. 

And it is not always only one nutrient causing the purple leaves. Most of the time, magnesium, phosphorus, or a mixture of other nutrients deficiency cause this purple leaf symptom. In severe cases, the stems of pepper seedlings also turn purple.

Control Measure

To get the exact results of the deficiency it’s better to test the soil with a testing kit or you can send the samples to a soil testing lab. It will tell you accurately about what kinds of nutrients your soil is lacking and what amount you need to apply. 

But as a regular maintenance of the soil, you can apply a good pepper fertilizer that will also deliver the other necessary nutrients at the right ratio. (our pick: Pepper and Herb Fertilizer 11-11-40 Powder 100% Water Soluble Plus Micro Nutrients and Trace Minerals)

The good news is you can make a phosphorus fertilizer by yourself without costing you half a cent. Just you have to sort through your kitchen wastes and that’s it. Here is the homemade recipe below with simple steps: 

#Recipe 1:- Homemade Phosphorus Fertilizer Recipe

You can make this very easily without any hassle at all.   Just follow the simple steps:

  • Collect chicken or fish bones from the leftover meals
  • Dry them under the sun for a few hours 
  • And then use an electric blender to turn the bones into powder
  • Now keep the dried bone powders in an airtight jar. 
  • Sprinkle some of the powder around the seedlings every now and then.
  • Since it’s a homemade fertilizer it will not harm your plant like the chemical ones found in the market
  • And  don’t forget to water gently after applying the fertilizer 

2. Sunburn

Pepper seedlings are very fragile in the sense that if they get too much exposure to sunlight their leaves will start to turn purple. They are native to tropical America which means they thrive in the sunshine.

But every plant has a tolerance threshold. No matter how much your peppers love to soak in the sunlight, there is a limit they cannot cross. They suffer from sunburn under intense sunlight with longer exposure than 7-8 hours. As a result, the leaves turn purple and get dry and curled.

The same thing can happen if you are growing them too close under the grow lights. The problem can occur if you install new white LED lights that are too intense for the seedlings.

You see, in too intense light the plant gets under stress and to protect themselves they start producing more anthocyanins pigments. And this pigment is seen as a purple color on the leaves and stems. 

Control Measure

They need at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight everyday. So you have to get them to a place where this condition is met. It’s good for them if they can get a few hours of the mild morning sun. But as soon as the heat is increased, get them under shade. 

If you are unable to move your plant that frequently, before afternoon use a barrier against the sun so the pepper seedlings only get the filtered light. 

If you are growing them indoors, get dimmable grow lights so that you can adjust the intensity of the light whenever you feel necessary.

For your pepper seedlings, start by using 25% of the intensity and later increase the percentage over time. Gradually turn it to 100% when the pepper plants are in the flowering stage.

Also, make sure to keep the lights at an appropriate distance from the seedlings. After that if you see the same symptoms of purple leaves then reduce the light intensity or move the light source away from the plant for a certain period of time. 

3. Cold Soil

We already know that pepper plants are more suited to the tropical environment. They cannot thrive in colder regions. Even they cannot tolerate the cold if the temperature is below 10°C (50 °F)

This is because they cannot absorb macronutrients like phosphorus and potassium if the soil is too cold. And as a  result, the pepper plants turn purple entirely including all the leaves and stems.

Moreover, the peppers can even get black leaves and their growth can become stunted just as it happens in the nutrient deficiency. Evidently, the seedlings will grow up to be weak plants. And it will not produce enough flowers and fruits.

Control Measure

This problem can be naturally solved when the soil starts to warm up. Slowly the leaves and stem will become green again.

Controlling mother nature is not possible. But if you are growing them indoors then you can regulate your thermostat over 10°C to prevent them from going through cold shock. Try to keep the temperature from 18°C to 27°C to keep the environment warm and cozy for them. 

4. Viral Infections

Some viruses can cause purple leaves on the pepper plants. The viruses mainly cause wilting of the plant. Besides, the infection distorts the leaves and makes purplish marks on them. 

The leaves also have yellow concentric rings around the purple spot. Moreover, the peppers become misshapen and rotten. As a result, the harvest becomes inedible to the consumers. 

Control Measure

The viral infections are mostly carried by thrips, aphids, and whiteflies. So in order to treat the viral infection, you have to get rid of these insects first. Because once the seedling is affected nothing much can be done to the plants to completely recover it from the virus. 

This is why you have to treat your pepper seedlings on a regular basis with a good insecticide. Prevent from using any toxic chemicals. Rather choose one that’s very effective in killing the pests and non-toxic to the peppers. (our pick: Natria 706250A Neem Oil Spray for Plants Pest Organic Disease Control)

Neem oil and dormant oil are also very effective in killing these pesky pests and they also come a long way in preventing the thrips.  Here are their recipes:

#Recipe 1:- Neem Oil Recipe


  • 1 teaspoon of neem oil 
  • 500 ml of water 


  • Combine neem oil with water 
  • Spray on the  pepper seedlings every week


#Recipe 2:- Dormant Oil Recipe


  • ½  teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap 
  • 50  ml of any cooking oil like olive oil or vegetable oil


  • Mix the liquid dish soap and oil in a bowl and store this mixture in a bottle
  • Before spraying add a teaspoon of this mixture with a 100 ml of water and pour it into the sprayer
  • Spray on the pepper seedlings every week

Note: Sometimes homemade insecticide solutions can irritate the leaves of the pepper plant. This is why every time you try a new one, first check it on a single leaf. If it suits the leaf then start spraying in your whole plant.

5. Overwatering Issues

Overwatering can also turn the pepper leaves purple. The mechanism is still the same as I’ve discussed before.

You see when the seedling is overwatered it interferes with the nutrient uptake by the roots. Too much water can damage the roots and as a result, the root becomes unable to uptake enough nutrients. So it becomes insufficient for the pepper plants for its growth and development.

Control Measure

Pepper plants prefer to be dry rather than in wet soil. As a thumb rule, they should be watered once every week and the water should drain very well from the soil.

However, if the weather is too hot they should be watered twice a week. And if it’s raining you have to protect the seedlings from waterlogging.

Again as the plant grows it will need more water than that of the seedling stage. During very hot spells water them everyday but in little amounts so that the plant can absorb the necessary water.

But the bottom line is, that all this information can seem very confusing for anyone. So if you don’t have many hours to spend observing your seedlings you can get a moisture meter.  Because it will give you an instant reading of the moisture status of the soil and you will be able to water your pepper seedlings correctly (Our pick: Atree Soil Soil Tester Kits with Moisture, Light, and PH Test for Garden)

Whatever you do, don’t water them unless the soil feels dry. If you don’t have a moisture meter you can check by dipping your index finger through the soil. If it feels moist you don’t need to water them.

If you cannot manage to water it on schedule then you can put some straw or grass clippings around the plant so that it can preserve the moisture. 

How To  Save Purple Pepper Seedlings?

Aside from just turning purple an overwatered pepper seedling often wilt. And we can understand that a wilted plant cannot even stand tall in the ground let alone bearing peppers in them. And the same goes with a seedling that is nutrient deficient.

To rescue your seedlings and prevent the problem from happening in the future, follow these steps that will ensure the overall care of your pepper seedlings.

  • Move your plant in a place where the sunlight is not too intense
  • Check if the seedling is soggy soil. Pepper seedlings like to stay dry so be sure to make proper drainage.
  • Water only when the soil is dry to touch. However, do not leave it to dry for a long time. Because too dry soil will kill the pepper seedlings.
  • Always use a good insecticide from time to time to prevent the insects that carry the viral diseases.
  • If you suspect viral disease has got a hold of your seedlings, then separate them from other plants to stop the spread.
  • Feed them an adequate amount of phosphorus-rich fertilizer every other month.
  • During winter, try to regulate the temperature as much as you can to their preference. 
  • If you are growing under LED grow lights then keep the light intensity low until the flowering stage. 
  • Keep proper distance between each plant to facilitate good airflow.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does an overwatered pepper look like?

Overwatered pepper plants become very leggy. Their leaves turn yellow or purple and sometimes even brown with a droopy appearance. And if not revived in time, gradually the seedlings wilt and die.

Do pepper seedlings germinate in light or dark?

To germinate successfully,  the pepper seedlings need light but after the germination, direct sunlight can be too much for them to tolerate. So after germination, the seedlings should get 5-6 hours of indirect sunlight every day.  

Why is my pepper stem purple?

The pepper seedlings can get purple stems for mostly 2 reasons. One is nutrient deficiency and the other is cold weather. In both cases, the plant produces more anthocyanin than normal, which is a defense mechanism for the plant. This anthocyanin turns the pepper stem purple. 


As we have seen throughout the whole article there is a pattern.  You can follow this pattern in order to keep your pepper seedlings from turning purple.

Initially, it may seem like a tough job but as you start to work out the control measures and do them correctly, you won’t have to worry about the purple leaves at all. 

I hope you found this article helpful and convenient to treat your pepper seedlings that started turning purple. Make sure to share your results with us and don’t hesitate to ask out any queries related to your pepper plants.

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