Growing hydroponic hot peppers can be a tad burdensome. There are several issue which plague hydroponic gardeners with this type of crop. The most common is flower drop.
Once you’ve mastered some of the stumbling blocks associated with growing peppers hydroponically you will find that they give you a more robust and healthy plant, as well as a larger yield, in a fraction of the time of conventional soil-based gardens.
Hot Peppers can be grown using hydroponics in any season and with most systems. Deep Water Culture (DWC), Ebb & Flow, NFt, and Drip Systems are all suitable for growing hot peppers.
Hydroponic Hot Pepper Requirements and Getting Started Guide
- Light: 10 – 12 hours Daily
- Nutrient pH -6.0 – 6.8
- EC 3.0-3.5
- PPM 2100-2450
- If you are using Rockwool slabs, soak the slabs, not the plants, for a day with a nutrient solution before transplanting,
- Soak the roots in room-temperature nonchlorinated water to gently remove clinging soil.
- I find that netted pots work well, but you can also use variations such as Planters made of plastic mesh.
- Your pots should be spaced 7 – 9 inches apart, depending on the variety you are growing. With hydroponics, if you don’t space them properly, it is much easier to move them as the plants mature.
Hydroponic Hot Pepper Lighting Requirements
The grow lights should be 6 to 8 inches over the pepper plants. Any closer could cause scorching, any further and the plants will not get the full benefit of the lighting system.
As the plants mature- naturally you will have to periodically adjust the height of the lights to maintain the 6-8 inch distance.
Peppers tend to produce better Under higher light conditions. 10 – 12 Hours of light daily is optimal – be sure they also have adequate periods of simulated nighttime darkness, which is as essential to the plant growth as the light is.
LED vs CFL Lighting
Optimal daytime temperature is 73°F to 80°F Optimal night temperatures should not be lower than 70°F.
Peppers are warm-weather plants and require light and warmth in abundance. The correct temperatures are needed to promote flowering and fruit set. This is one of the primary causes of flower drop – temperature issues either excess heat or too cold.
Once you’ve gotten to the stage of fruit set, temperatures should be bumped up another 5 degrees.
Once your peppers are growing, the peppers themselves that is, meaning they have set healthy fruit, it is a good idea to pick some while they are immature.
Eating an unripe pepper is copacetic although not as good as a fully ripe one though. Picking a few early will also encourage the plants to produce more buds as well as to dedicate more energy to the remaining peppers leaving you with a much higher quality pepper harvest.
If growing indoors be aware that pepper plants are self-fertile, each flower contains the elements needed to produce fruit. However, without insects and air circulation self-pollination does not readily occur.
You can still hand pollinate them to contribute to genetic diversity and hopefully higher quality with fewer instances of blossom drop.
Enhancing the heat of Hot Peppers.
For any of you masochistic hot pepper enthusiasts, you can actually bump up the capsaicin levels in hot pepper varieties by intentionally stressing the plants.
Capsaicin is the primary compound that creates the fiery hot taste associated with chili and similar pepper varieties.
Stress the plant only once it is established and healthy by cutting back on its moisture, increasing the temperature and or lighting.
Troubleshooting Hydroponic Hot Peppers
Flower Drop in Pepper Plants is the most common problem. Common Causes of flower drop are .
1. High Temperatures
2. Low Temperatures
3. Excessive Nitrogen fertilizer
4. Lack of Calcium and or Magnesium
5. Excessive water
6. Improper Lighting
7. Poor air circulation (which will deny pollination).
8. Pot Size too small.
When the plant is struggling to produce flowers but has insufficient green foliage engaged in photosynthesis it will frequently abort flowers. Regardless of what nutrients are present without adequate foliage to synthesize light the plant will not produce healthy flowers and will drop what it has produced.
High temperatures can cause blossoms to wither and fall off, this frequently occurs when temperatures exceed 90 F for prolonged periods.
During its flowering stages, pepper plants need slightly elevated amounts of Magnesium and Calcium. This is usually present in commercial nutrient formulas marketed as a bloom or blossom formulas. A lack of these compounds does sometimes cause blossom drop although it is not a major cause.
Plant stress from factors such as temperatures, irrigation, and nutrient issues will sometimes lead to Blossom End Rot. The same factors can also cause Growth cracks and splitting.
Common diseases of peppers are gray mold , tobacco mosaic virus and tomato spotted wilt virus .
Common insect pests that sometimes find their way into hydroponic systems include white-flies, aphids, mites, thrips, fungus gnats. Many of the aforementioned insects, in particular, fungus gnats, are feeding on algae in the system as well as the plants themselves
Mites are difficult to detect at first due to their natural camouflages and minute size. At the first sign of any plant defects, such as tip withering, end rot, yellowing, examine the plant with a magnifying glass to inspect for creepy crawlers before moving on to your next diagnosis.