Peppers are hot. Growing your own peppers is hotter. And what’s even hotter is growing them hydroponically.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to grow hydroponic peppers in 9 easy steps.
Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, peppers are used in a variety of dishes ranging from soups and sauces to sandwiches and salads.
They’re also one of the most popular plants to grow using hydroponics, and growing them this way comes with several benefits.
5 Advantages Of Growing Peppers Hydroponically
Used to traditional soil gardening? Here are 5 reasons why you’ll want to make the switch to growing peppers hydroponically:
- Increased yield in a smaller area
- Larger pepper size
- Lower chances of pest and disease infection vs in soil
- Faster growth rate
- Can be grown at all times of the year regardless of climate
Hydroponic Peppers: Overview
One of the most important factors to consider learning how to grow hydroponic peppers is that pepper plants are heavy.
You can use an ebb and flow system, but the most easy and effective of all is the deep water culture system (DWC). This is where roots of the plants are completely and permanently submerged in an oxygenated solution of nutrient-rich water.
Pepper plants grow better in an aerated DWC system than in a non-aerated system (or the Kratky method) with significantly higher yields.
Growing media for peppers
You can use Rockwool, a sterile and porous growing medium made by spinning molten mineral or rock materials.
Another popular choice is expanded clay pellets, also known as Hydroton.
You can also use coco coir or Growstones, among other top growing media for DWC.
Our complete guide to the 13 Best Hydroponic Growing Media has all the info you need to make the right choice.
For the best results, it’s important that your plant receives the right amount of nutrition.
The three important nutrients that plants need come in an NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) fertilizer mix. Depending upon the growth stage of the plants, the need for each of these nutrients varies and must be altered to achieve desired yields.
Peppers generally require a fertilizer that’s highly rich in potassium.
Our guide Complete Guide To 16 Essential Plant Nutrients explains everything in detail.
During the early growing stages, your pepper plants need a lot of nitrogen to boost their overall growth. Nitrogen helps plants produce new tissues that aid in stem and leaf growth. The plants need to have a strong and healthy vegetative growth to produce fruit later that’s also of high quality.
A few days into the vegetative stage, you need to give your plants a good amount of phosphorus. Phosphorus helps promote root growth and increases both flower and fruit production.
Potassium is needed for overall vigorous growth and disease-resistance.
After your plants have grown sufficiently big and healthy, you can start reducing the amount of nitrogen, since you don’t want your plant to focus on growing foliage anymore. Now, the plants can spend their energy on fruiting. It’s time to increase the amount of phosphorus.
Fertilizers like the General Hydroponics Flora series have different mixes for different stages of plant growth. FoxFarm Nutrients also has several good blends.
Broadly speaking, an 11-11-40 hydroponic fertilizer can be used to grow peppers. For a custom hydroponic mix, the concentrations in mg/L are 190-45-285.
The above three aren’t the only nutrients that your plants need. They need several other micronutrients as well, which often come with a general fertilizer mix containing NPK. If they don’t, you need to add them separately. You can learn more about nutrients here.
How To Grow Hydroponic Peppers
Ready to get your first hydroponic pepper crop going? Here’s how to do it.
1. Set up your DWC system
First, you need to set up a DWC system to grow your peppers. DWC is the simplest method of hydroponics, so this step isn’t very hard. You can use of the best pre-assembled DWC systems or make your own.
2. Germinating your seeds
You can start from scratch by germinating your plants from seeds. The simplest method to do this is by taking the seeds from a pepper fruit, putting them in Rockwool, and allowing them to germinate.
- Saturate the Rockwool cubes with water.
- Place the seeds with one in each cube.
3. Or grow from seedlings
You may also choose to grow peppers hydroponically from seedlings. If that’s the case, get a pepper seedling from a nursery or use one that you’ve sprouted in soil.
Make sure to clean the roots thoroughly so that the soil doesn’t interfere with the properties of the water, such as pH.
4. Mixing your nutrient solution
You’ve got your system set up and plants sprouted. Don’t mess up the nutrient mix! A pre-made mix like General Hydroponics Flora Series with three different solutions for the various phases of growth is your best bet.
Here are some other things you’ll need to know about your hydroponic nutrient solution:
- For DWC systems, you need to change the nutrient solution periodically as plants absorb it and ratios change.
- You also need to change ratios as your plants enter different growth phases.
Note About pH: Peppers grow best in a pH range of around 5.5 to 7.5. Use a pH up or pH down to adjust the pH of your water accordingly.
5. Transplanting your seedlings
After your seeds have started growing, you can now transplant them to net pots.
- Transplant your seedling to the growing medium, preferably Rockwool.
- Place them in a net pot.
- Place the net pot in its position in the DWC bucket in such a way that the roots are immersed in the nutrient solution.
6. Spacing your plants
Pepper plants grow big, so if you’re growing multiple plants make sure they’re spaced far enough apart so they receive enough air, light, and grow space. The ideal spacing is 18-24 inches, although this varies depending upon the pepper variety you’re growing.
Peppers need a lot amount of light to thrive. If you’re growing your plants indoors, use grow lights for up to 14-16 hours each day.
8. Pruning your pepper plants
Pruning your pepper plants results in stronger plants, increased yields, and a stronger vegetative structure that can support both the pepper fruits and the weight of the plant.
Pruning also helps expose the leaves in the middle of the plant to more light and air, which are otherwise blocked by densely-grown leaves. It’s an important part of the process of growing peppers, especially in the initial stages before your plant starts fruiting.
- Cut back the tip of the plant once your plant grows to a height of one foot.
- The tip will branch into two, resulting in the main stem looking like a V or Y.
- From now on, keep the main stem intact and start pruning alternate shoots that stem out of these two stems.
- Remove stems that are smaller than their neighbors.
- Remove excess leaves. The leaves that remain will become more developed.
- Remove the first flowers that appear on your plant. This ensures that the plant targets its growth more towards the stems and leaves, for them to become stronger and produce better yields.
- When the plant starts flowering, remove excess flowers.
- Remove leaves that appear to be overcrowded and that which have turned yellow.
Continue to trim your plants (though not as much) after they start to fruit.
Pruning won’t damage your plants since, with hydroponics, they always have constant access to nutrients and water.
9. Pollinating your pepper plants
Though pepper plants are self pollinating, it can be helpful if you’re growing them indoors (where insects cannot come) to occasionally shake them nicely and gently, which can increase fruit production.
How To Grow Hydroponic Peppers: Final Thoughts
Growing peppers hydroponically has several advantages, such as increased yields and larger fruits in a shorter time.
Though they may not always taste better than soil-grown peppers, it really depends on the nutrients that you provide and the pH of the water, so experiment with different nutrient mixes, growing media, and pruning strategies to dial in the recipe that works for you.
If you’re still wondering how to grow hydroponic peppers, comment below.