How To Grow Hydroponic Hot Peppers

Photo of author

By Jeff Hale

We know that there are many hot pepper fans who want a constant and dependable crop all year around. But most hot peppers are seasonal. However, when growing them indoors hydroponically means you can grow them all year around.

While we’ve all heard the names of these wickedly hot plants, this guide will be general information about growing peppers (capsicum) like:

  • Ghost Pepper
  • Carolina Reaper
  • Trinidad Scorpion
  • And Naga Viper

Growing hot peppers is a crop that takes around five months in a hot and humid climate. Let’s talk about what other conditions hot peppers like to grow in.

Related: How To Grow Hydroponic Bell Peppers

Perfect Conditions For Growing Hot Peppers

Hot peppers are a part of the capsicum genus, which is also a member of the nightshade family. It is native to the southern states of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

Over the centuries, many capsicum (C) cultivars have been cross-bred and created. Some of the many cultivars are:

  • C. annuum var. Annuum
  • C. annuum var. Glabriusculum
  • C. chinese
  • C. frutescens
  • C. baccatum
  • And C.pubescens

While there are loads of different cultivars, they all prefer hot and humid conditions. Also, if you were wondering, the word “annuum” means annual. Most hot peppers are not annual plants but are just frost-sensitive perennials.

And as a crop that is now grown around the globe, they are called different names. They are referred to as “capsicums” in Australia and New Zealand, while the rest of the world, including Americans, refers to them as chilies. No one really refers to them as peppers, though.

When germinating seeds, it is advisable to use a heating mat. We recommend using Rockwool as the potting medium, which needs to be moist but not waterlogged. Using a heating mat can dry out seedlings fairly quickly, so you should keep an eye on them. And some seeds will take as long as 35 days to show sprouts.

The seedlings will need to be placed under a sunny window or grow light. And make sure that the daytime temperature is above 70°F and never drops below 60°F at night.

Also, be aware that hot peppers can grow to be between 20 inches or six feet tall.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about what makes the best hydroponic system for hot peppers.

Best Hydroponic Conditions For Hot Peppers

As we mentioned, it is best to germinate your hot pepper seeds in Rockwool. It is suggested that you use filtered water that’s at room temperature.

The water’s pH will need to be adjusted down to between 5.0 – 5.5. When ready, dip the Rockwool cubes into the water and shake off excess moisture. Be wary of not compressing the cube too much.

Place into the germination dome. Propagation domes with vents are the best and will help maintain that high heat and humidity. The temperature must be maintained between 75°F to 80°F and humidity around 80% – 90%.

After 10 to 14 days, you should start to see seedlings emerge. The lighting cycle should be around 16 hours daily, and your hot peppers don’t need a particularly powerful light.

When the seedlings are around six to eight inches tall, you can start transplanting them into your system.

The hydroponic system best suited for growing hot peppers is a deep water culture (DWC). You can either build your own DWC system or purchase the best DWC hydroponic system online. While you can try them in an ebb and flow or nutrient film technique, these don’t allow for the plant’s roots to reach their full potential as a DWC system does.

The potting medium can be lightweight, expanded clay aggregate (LECA), a peaty mixture, coco coir, or the Rockwool it was sprouted in. If you choose the last option, you will mitigate any risk of root contamination or other plant diseases.

But at the end of the day, the potting medium will be determined by the size of the plant. Smaller hot peppers will be alright with Rockwool or a plant up to six inches tall. While anything larger will require a different potting medium.

Hot peppers like a moist soil that drains well.

Most first-time hydroponic growers forget to check the nutrient solution’s temperature, which needs to be around 75°F. This can be achieved with a water heater. One issue with such as high temperatures is algae and microbe growth. To maintain the hygiene of the water solution, you can add hypochlorous acid. This is completely food safe and kills all unwanted water pathogens.

When the plants have developed their true leaves, you can start to feed them. While usually, we’d recommend an organic solution, these can lead to issues when introduced into a warm nutrient solution. Basically, the water will act as a breeding ground for any introduced pathogens.

Purchasing fertilizers that have been created for hydroponic systems is the way to go. These fertilizers will have enough nitrogen, low phosphorous, some potassium, and loads of calcium, magnesium, and iron.

In a system like a DWC, you will monitor the contents of the nutrient solutions with electrical connectivity (EC) and pH device. You will need a reading of around 250-350 PPM or 0.3 to 0.5 EC when starting out.

As the plant starts to flower, you will want to see this increase to 1200 PPM. Look out for the signs if you are concerned about feeding the plant too much. These include foliage going darker and browning leaf tips.

Lastly, your hot peppers will thank you for a warm light on them for 10 – 12 hours a day.

Now that we’ve established the best hydroponic conditions, it’s up to you to prepare your space for your hot peppers.

Growing Hydroponic Hot Peppers Is Fun

Hot peppers are very rewarding if you’re looking for a challenging grow that delivers plentiful produce. Also, on hot pepper plants, you can expect roughly 20-50 peppers per plant, on average.

This is a load for anyone. It means you’ll want to dry them out, freeze them, or create your own hot sauce. And remember to treat them with respect.

For example, a Carolina Reaper has a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 2,200,00 SHU. This makes it 200x hotter than your average Jalapeno.