Growing peppers--either sweet or hot--is easy in a hydroponic system. Peppers thrive better in hydroponic gardens than they do in traditional soil gardens, and because hydroponic gardens are usually located in a climate-controlled environment, you can start pepper plants at any time and have a year-round crop. The most important considerations for growing peppers hydroponically are the type of hydroponic system, the growth medium and the nutrient solution.
Choose the Right Hydroponics System
Peppers thrive in deep water culture (DWC) and nutrient film technique (NFT) systems. They do well in ebb and flow systems as well, and will grow in other types of hydroponic gardens, just not as well as in DWC or NFT systems.
A deep water culture garden is one in which the roots of the plants grow down into the nutrient reservoir. This is the simplest type of hydroponic garden and requires only a very basic pump and some air stones to keep the nutrient solution aerated.
Nutrient film technique is the most complex type of hydroponic garden. The nutrient solution is misted directly onto the roots of the plants. It is especially good for cuttings, as the NFT system encourages root growth. You will need to pay close attention to the misters, as they tend to get clogged.
Ebb and flow systems closely mimic the natural cycle of rain and drought. A pump floods the growth tray with nutrient solution for 15 minutes every hour, then turns off and the nutrient solution drains back into the reservoir.
Choose the Right Growing Medium
Peppers tend to grow very tall in hydroponic systems, so the growth medium you choose is important. Growth media provide support to the plant, just as soil would in a traditional garden.
Rockwool cubes are good for starting seeds and are best when used in an ebb and flow system.
Perlite, vermiculite and fine gravel closely mimic soil's structure. HydroClay pebbles also work well for supporting tall plants like peppers. These types of growth mediums are good for DWC and NFT systems because the roots can grow between the particles and are exposed to the nutrient solution.
Use the Right Nutrient Solutions
You can use an all-purpose nutrient solution for peppers. This is the easiest way to grow peppers hydroponically and will yield an abundant crop. However, you can also customize the nutrients you feed your plants to support the two primary stages in the plant life cycle: growth and flowering.
During the growth or vegetative stage, use a nutrient solution specifically formulated for root development and leaf production. As soon as you begin to see buds, replace the nutrient solution with one formulated for flowering. This will encourage higher crop yields.
All-purpose, growth and flowering nutrient solutions are available online and from larger garden centers.