Cultivation of peppers in hydroponics

3 min read

Cultivation of peppers in hydroponics

Presentation of chilli

What is chilli?

Pepper is a vegetable plant, from the Solanaceae family, like tomato or eggplant. It is grown as an annual in our regions, but it is actually perennial and can live for several years. Originally from South America and Central America, it is now cultivated in many countries. India alone produces almost 40% of world production.

The real name of pepper

Landes pepper and its first fruits.

Chili is actually a common term for the fruit of plants belonging to five different species of the genus Capsicum. Peppers also depend on this genus. These five species, cultivated for consumption, are therefore:

  • Capsicum annuum : it is the most cultivated in the whole world, grouping together the different varieties of peppers, sweet peppers from the Landes, Espelette peppers… and many others. There are more than 150 different varieties in the French catalogs of species and varieties .
  • Capsicum baccatum : this species comes from Peru, better known as the yellow pepper “Aji amarillo”. It has the particularity of having different citrus flavors.
  • Capsicum chinense : originally from Mexico, we find the West Indian pepper or bondamanjak in the French West Indies. It is extremely strong, rated from 100,000 to 577,000 on the Scoville scale.
  • Capsicum frutenscens : here we find cayenne pepper, bird pepper, or the Tabasco variety which makes it possible to make the sauce of the same name.
  • Capsicum pubescens : this is the rocoto pepper. It has the particularity of having black seeds and purple flowers. It is a very hardy variety that withstands cold temperatures down to -5°C and can live for about fifteen years.

How to grow chilli in hydroponics?

Flowers and fruits of Landes pepper

Materials required: 

  • hydroponic system
  • horticultural lighting (for indoor cultivation)
  • hydroponic fertilizers
  • pH up or pH down
  • pH meter
  • Conductivity meter (EC-meter)

Pepper seedlings in hydroponics

Before embarking on the hydroponic culture of peppers, it is necessary to start by germinating the seeds. We advise you to carefully read our article on rock wool cube sowing to help you in this first step. This substrate is perfect for seedlings as it can easily be transplanted into any type of hydroponic system.

Then, we believe that the use of a heating mat is essential for the germination of pepper seeds. Indeed, it is very slow compared to other plants and differs depending on the species grown. To be able to optimize your chances of success, here is what you need to know:

For Capsicum annuum :

  • Ideal germination temperature around 25°C .
  • rising time: about a week .

For Capsicum baccatum, frutescens and pubescens: 

  • ideal temperature around 27°C
  • emergence time: 2 to 3 weeks .

For Capsicum chinense: 

  • ideal temperature around 30°C .
  • rising time: about a month .

Once germinated, your young seedlings can be installed in a hydroponic system fed with a suitable nutrient solution.

Chili seedling in an indoor DWC hydroponic system.

Parameters of nutrient solution for chilli

  • The first two weeks: EC = 0.8 / pH = 5.5 to 6.0
  • During the vegetative phase: EC = 1.8 / pH = 5.5 to 6.0
  • During the flowering and fruiting phase: EC = 2.5 / pH = 5.5 to 6.0

Maintenance of chilli stalks

Chilli can have a very impressive development, especially in hydroponics. It is therefore important to maintain it by pruning it from time to time.
The size allows:

  • to avoid exhaustion of the foot linked to too many fruits.
  • faster fruit ripening.

Indeed, when your foot of peppers bears between 10 and 15 fruits, you can prune each stem above the last fruit. Be sure to leave the pair of leaves located above this last fruit, to promote the recovery of new branches.

Cultivation of chilli in hydroponics in winter indoors

Landes pepper grown hydroponically in a DWC system indoors under horticultural lighting.

Peppers being a perennial plant, it is quite possible to keep them indoors for the winter to enjoy them the following summer. It is even more interesting to place it under horticultural lighting in order to continue to harvest regularly during this period. You still have to offer him a sufficiently powerful lamp to be able to really benefit from good harvests.

Use of horticultural lighting

Indoors, the power of the horticultural lamp determines what you can grow, but above all defines the usable cultivation area. For the chilli, we advise you to use a 250W LED horticultural lamp for an area of 0.5m2.
Then, in terms of photoperiod, lighting of 16 to 18 hours day and 8 to 6 hours night is perfect for growing peppers indoors.

Pollination of chilli flowers indoors.

In the wild, we don’t really care about the pollination of pepper flowers. Indeed, it is done mainly through insects, or the wind. But indoors, in winter, it’s not so obvious. There are different methods to pollinate flowers manually. The simplest is to add a mini fan to your grow space. It will produce a current of air favorable to this pollination.

Harvesting peppers

Landes pepper harvest after 3 months of indoor hydroponic cultivation.

Whether for peppers or peppers, it is possible to pick them green, yellow, orange. They have the advantage of keeping longer, but they will have less taste.

When fully ripe, the fruits have more flavor. They are sweeter for the sweet varieties. And the spiciness is more intense for the strong varieties. On the other hand, they are to be consumed more quickly because they keep much less well.

You can finally collect the seeds of mature fruits, they will have a better chance of germinating later than the seeds of green fruits.

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