How To Grow Hydroponic Peppers – Hot Ones Too!

How To Grow Hydroponic Peppers – Hot Ones Too!

Can you grow peppers without soil? YES! In fact, many types of peppers, including bell peppers, chili peppers, and sweet peppers, can thrive in hydroponic systems. Hydroponic cultivation offers several advantages for growing peppers, and can make a great addition to your indoor garden. In this complete guide, we’ll cover the basics of hydroponic gardening, what systems work best for growing peppers, the best pepper varieties to use, and tips for success.

(Featured Image: Hydroponic Peppers by H. Amara)

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Which Hydroponic System Is Best For Growing Peppers?

Deep Water Culture System (DWC)

  • Description: DWC is a popular choice that is chosen for its simplicity and effectiveness. With a DWC system, plants are grown in containers, usually made of plastic, with holes in the lids to hold net pots or cups that support the plants. The pots or cups are suspended in a nutrient-rich water solution. DWC can also be a great option if you are not working with a lot of space but would like to grow large plants like peppers or tomatoes.
  • How it Works: An air pump and air stones are used to oxygenate the water continuously. The plant roots dangle in the nutrient solution, absorbing water, oxygen, and nutrients directly. The solution is usually kept at a consistent level, ensuring the roots are submerged but not submerged too deeply.
  • Advantages: DWC provides excellent oxygenation to the roots, promoting rapid growth and healthy plants. It’s easy to set up and maintain, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced growers. DWC is scalable, allowing you to grow multiple pepper plants in a single system.
  • Best Systems: The most simple form of a DWC system is a bucket hydroponic setup. This setup involves a 5 gallon bucket, pump, airstone, and net pot and is easily contained in smaller spaces. I highly recommend a bucket hydroponic setup if you are a beginner, as it is the easiest way to learn hydroponics. We love the VIVOSUN Bucket Hydroponic Kit because it contains everything you need to start a hydroponics setup. One pepper plant will fill a single 5-gallon bucket, so investing in the 4 or 6 pack will enable you to grow a few pepper plants at once.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

  • Description: NFT is a hydroponic system that uses a continuous thin film of nutrient solution flowing over plant roots. The plants are supported by sloping channels or gutters, typically made of PVC.
  • How it Works: A nutrient solution reservoir is located at one end of the channel, and a pump circulates the solution to flow over the roots. The nutrient film provides a constant supply of water and nutrients to the plants. The roots are exposed to oxygen in the air gap between the channel and the nutrient film.
  • Advantages: NFT is water-efficient and requires less nutrient solution compared to some other systems. It’s excellent for smaller to medium-sized pepper plants and provides good nutrient delivery. NFT systems are known for promoting fast growth and efficient nutrient uptake.
  • Best Systems: Most NFT systems consist of a series of PVC pipes that can be custom configured to fit your space. We love the Gardyn Home Kit 3.0 because of its sleek and modern design, and ease of use. Gardyn has created a system that is perfect for beginners and advanced gardeners alike, containing everything you need to grow your own food indoors. This system can also fit up to 30 plants so it is a great system if you want to grow peppers along with a variety of other crops.

Drip System

  • Description: Drip systems are versatile and commonly used in hydroponics. They involve delivering a controlled amount of nutrient solution directly to the base of each plant through tubing and emitters.
  • How it Works: A nutrient solution reservoir is connected to a pump, which pushes the solution through tubing to emitters or drip lines positioned near each plant. The solution drips onto the growing medium (e.g., rockwool or coconut coir) and the plant’s roots. Excess solution drains back into the reservoir for recirculation.
  • Advantages: Drip systems are highly customizable and can be adapted for various plant sizes and quantities. They provide precise control over nutrient delivery and are efficient in water and nutrient usage. Drip systems work well for pepper plants and are suitable for both beginners and experienced growers.
  • Best Systems: Some drip systems work in a similar manner to DWC systems, and some can also be converted into DWC if that method is preferred. We chose the MARS HYDRO Auto Drip Irrigation Kit for this reason – you can utilize the bucket system as a drip system or you can convert it to a DWC bucket system with just a few additional parts. These large buckets are ideal for growing huge pepper plants.

Which Hydroponic System Is Best For Growing Peppers?

Several different varieties of peppers work well for hydroponic gardening, and the choice depends on your personal preferences and the specific hydroponic system you’re using. Here are some pepper varieties that are often considered suitable for hydroponic cultivation:

  1. Bell Peppers: Bell peppers, including green (California wonder), red, yellow, and orange varieties, are popular choices for hydroponic gardening. They have a sweet flavor and are versatile for cooking.
  2. Chili Peppers: Various chili pepper varieties, such as jalapeños, habaneros, and serranos, thrive in hydroponic systems. These peppers can range from mild to extremely hot, catering to different tastes.
  3. Sweet Peppers: Sweet pepper varieties, such as Sweet Banana or Cubanelle peppers, are known for their mild and slightly sweet flavor. They are excellent for salads and stuffing.
  4. Miniature or Dwarf Peppers: These smaller pepper varieties are well-suited for hydroponic systems with limited space. Examples include Mini Bell peppers and Mini Sweet peppers.
  5. Thai Peppers: Thai chili peppers are small but pack a lot of heat. They are often used in Asian cuisine and can be grown hydroponically.
  6. Paprika Peppers: Paprika peppers are used for making paprika seasoning. They can be grown hydroponically and provide a unique flavor.
  7. Cuban Red Peppers: These small, round, and red peppers are commonly used in Spanish dishes and can be grown hydroponically.
  8. Pimento Peppers: Pimento peppers are mild and sweet, often used for stuffing olives or in pimento cheese. They can thrive in hydroponic systems.

When selecting pepper varieties for hydroponic gardening, consider factors like the available space, desired taste, and whether you prefer sweet or hot peppers. Additionally, some hydroponic growers may choose to grow a mix of different pepper varieties to have a diverse harvest.

How To Germinate Pepper Seeds

You will want to start your pepper seedlings before setting up your hydroponic system. Your seedlings should have 3-4 mature leaves before being transplanted into your hydroponic system. I have found the best method for germinating hydroponic pepper seeds is to start with rockwool plugs.

  1. Soak the Rockwool:
    • Before using, soak the rockwool cubes or plugs in pH-balanced water for at least an hour. This allows the material to absorb moisture and balance its pH level.
  2. Create Seed Indents:
    • Once soaked, gently squeeze out any excess water from the rockwool cubes. Use a pencil or a dibble to create a small hole in the center of each cube. The hole should be deep enough to hold the pepper seed.
  3. Plant the Seeds:
    • Place one pepper seed into each hole you’ve created. Press it gently into the hole, ensuring it makes good contact with the rockwool.
  4. Label the Cubes:
    • Label each rockwool cube with the pepper variety or type you’re planting. This will help you keep track of your seedlings.
  5. Provide Warmth (Optional):
    • If your environment is cooler than the ideal germination temperature for peppers (around 75-85°F or 24-29°C), consider using a seedling heat mat. Place the tray with the rockwool cubes on the heat mat to help maintain a consistent temperature.
  6. Maintain Humidity:
    • Cover the tray with a clear lid or use a plastic dome to create a mini greenhouse effect. This will help retain moisture and create a humid environment, which is conducive to germination.
  7. Monitor Moisture Levels:
    • Check the rockwool cubes regularly to ensure they remain consistently moist but not waterlogged. If the cubes dry out, mist them with pH-balanced water.
  8. Provide Light (Optional):
    • While light isn’t necessary for germination, once the seeds sprout and develop leaves, they will need adequate light. If you’re germinating in a dark environment, you can introduce a low-intensity light source.
  9. Transplant Seedlings:
    • Once the pepper seedlings have developed at least two sets of true leaves and are sturdy enough to handle, they can be transplanted into your hydroponic system. Ensure that the system is properly set up with the appropriate nutrient solution and environmental conditions.

Remember to keep a close eye on your germinating seeds, providing them with the right conditions for successful growth. With proper care, you’ll soon have healthy pepper seedlings ready for hydroponic farming.

Yellow peppers grown in a hydroponic setup.

Yellow Hydroponic Peppers

How To Grow Hydroponic Peppers

Growing hydroponic peppers involves creating a controlled environment where the plants receive all the necessary nutrients through a water-based solution rather than soil. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you grow hydroponic peppers:

Materials You Will Need:

  1. Hydroponic system (e.g., Deep Water Culture, Nutrient Film Technique, Drip System)
  2. Pepper seedlings (started from seeds or purchased)
  3. Growing medium (e.g., rockwool cubes, coconut coir, perlite)
  4. pH and EC (electrical conductivity) meters
  5. Balanced hydroponic nutrient solution suitable for pepper plants – we highly recommend Fox Farm Grow Big Hydro Concentrate
  6. Grow lights (if growing indoors) – LED Grow Lights will work great for peppers!
  7. Timer for grow lights
  8. Reservoir for nutrient solution
  9. Air pump and air stones (if using a system that requires aeration)
  10. Water pump (if using a recirculating system)
  11. Thermometer and hygrometer (for monitoring temperature and humidity

*If purchasing a hydroponics system kit, most of this equipment is likely included!

1. Set Up Your Hydroponic System

  • Choose a location for your hydroponic system. It can be indoors, in a greenhouse, or outdoors, depending on your climate and space availability.
  • Assemble your chosen hydroponic system following the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure it is level and stable.
  • Make sure the system is clean and free of any contaminants before adding your plants.

2. Transplant Seedlings

  • Transplant your pepper seedlings into the hydroponic system. Gently remove them from their original containers or growing trays.
  • Make a hole in the growing medium to accommodate each seedling’s root system.
  • Position the seedlings so that the base of the stem is at the same level as it was in the original growing medium.
  • Firmly press the growing medium around the seedlings to hold them in place.

3. Prepare The Nutrient Solution

  • Mix the hydroponic nutrient solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Follow the recommended dilution ratios for the growth stage of your pepper plants.
  • Ensure that the pH and EC of the nutrient solution are within the appropriate ranges for peppers (pH around 5.5-6.5 and EC adjusted to the plant’s needs).

4. Monitor And Adjust pH And EC

  • Use a pH meter to regularly check the pH of the nutrient solution. Adjust it with pH up or pH down solutions as needed to maintain the desired pH range.
  • Use an EC meter to monitor the electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution. Adjust the EC level by adding more nutrient solution or water to match the stage of growth.

5. Maintain Proper Lighting

  • If growing indoors, place your grow lights at an appropriate distance from the plants to ensure they receive adequate light. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for light intensity and duration.
  • Maintain a consistent light schedule of 14-16 hours of light per day to support plant growth during the vegetative stage.
  • Drop down to 10-14 hours of light per day once flowers begin to appear on your plant, this will push the rest of your pepper plant into the flowering and fruiting stage.

6. Control Temperature And Humidity

  • Use a thermometer and hygrometer to monitor temperature and humidity levels in your growing environment.
  • Maintain daytime temperatures between 70-80°F (21-27°C) and slightly cooler nights.
  • Use fans or ventilation to ensure proper air circulation and humidity control

7. Aerate The Nutrient Solution (If Needed)

  • If your hydroponic system requires aeration (e.g., Deep Water Culture), set up an air pump and air stones. Place the air stones in the nutrient solution to provide oxygen to the roots.
  • Your hydroponics system may already include an air pump and stones, check the item description before purchasing additional materials.

8. Monitor Growth and Adjust Nutrient Levels

  • Regularly inspect your pepper plants for signs of nutrient deficiencies, pests, or diseases.
  • Adjust the nutrient solution strength and composition as needed based on the growth stage and the plants’ requirements.

9. Prune And Support Plants

  • As your pepper plants grow, prune away any dead or yellowing leaves. Remove any crowded or unproductive stems.
  • You can also ‘top’ certain varieties of pepper plants for shorter, bushier growth. Do this before flowers appear, but after 4 sets of leaves have grown.
  • Provide support for the plants using stakes or trellises to prevent them from becoming top-heavy and falling over.

10. Pollination (if growing fruiting varieties)

  • If you are growing pepper varieties that produce fruit (such as bell peppers), you may need to assist with hand pollination. Gently shake the plants or use a small brush to transfer pollen between flowers.
  • Q-tips or small paint brushes can assist in pollination. If you are unsure what type of pepper variety you have, it is safe to try to pollinate any variety to ensure proper fruit production (pepper production).

11. Harvest Your Peppers

  • Once your peppers have reached the desired size, color, and maturity, use clean scissors or shears to carefully harvest them. Be gentle to avoid damaging the plant.
  • Harvest peppers as you need them. Hydroponic pepper plants will continue to produce peppers for many weeks.

Remember that growing hydroponic peppers requires regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure optimal conditions for growth. With proper care, you can expect a productive and healthy pepper harvest from your hydroponic system.

An indoor grow facility mass produces hydroponic peppers with an extensive indoor grow setup.

Hydroponic Peppers Commercial Grow

Can You Grow Hydroponic Spicy Peppers?

Yes, you can definitely grow hot peppers hydroponically. In fact, many varieties of hot peppers, such as jalapeño peppers, habanero peppers, and Thai chili peppers, thrive in hydroponic systems. Hydroponic cultivation provides precise control over growing conditions, making it an excellent choice for hot pepper enthusiasts who want to grow their favorite spicy varieties.

How Much Light Do Hydroponic Peppers Need?

Hydroponic peppers, like most plants, require a significant amount of light to grow and thrive. The amount of light they need can vary depending on the specific growth stage of the plants and the type of peppers you’re cultivating. Here are some general guidelines for providing the right amount of light for hydroponic peppers:

Seed Germination and Seedlings (0-2 Weeks)

  • During the initial stage, when your pepper seeds are germinating and developing into seedlings, you can use lower light levels. Seedlings typically require around 12-16 hours of light per day.

Vegetative Growth (2-6 Weeks)

  • Once your pepper seedlings have developed true leaves and are actively growing, they require more light to support vegetative growth.
  • Aim for 16-18 hours of light per day during the vegetative growth stage. High-quality grow lights with the appropriate spectrum for plant growth (blue and red wavelengths) are essential.
  • Maintain the lights at a distance from the plants to prevent heat stress or burning. Adjust the height as needed based on the light intensity and plant response.

Flowering and Fruit Development (6 Weeks Onward)

  • As your pepper plants transition to the flowering stage and fruiting stage, they continue to need abundant light.
  • Provide 10-14 hours of light per day to ensure proper flowering and pepper fruit set.
  • Maintain the same high-quality grow lights and appropriate light spectrum.
  • Pay close attention to the distance between the lights and the plants to avoid light stress or heat damage to the developing peppers.

Add More To Your Hydroponic Garden

Hydroponic gardening is a great method of growing a wide variety of crops. If you are passionate about gardening and want to bring your garden indoors over the winter, hydroponics is one of the fastest and easiest ways to do it. To read more about other crops that grow well in hydroponic setups, check out these step-by-step guides:

Hydroponic lettuce grown in a hydroponic garden indoor facility with climate controls.

Indoor Hydroponic Lettuce Setup