Hydroponic peppers

aram_sDecember 14, 2009

Hey garden web! this is my first posting here but have been reading here for a while

the reason why i finally decided to sign up is because i've been growing peppers hydroponically for a couple of months now with poor results.

i recently cut down the nutrient solution to half its strength and the ph solution is at 6.2

i use a 200 watt CFL for a 2x3ft area and recently added some small 42 watt CFLs.

the leave on 3 of my plants are wilting and have been for some time and 2 other plants are short with huge leaves and the leaves are curling inwards and upwards. i'll upload pictures as soon as my camera's battery gets charged.

in the meantime any help would be greatly appreciated! thanks!

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greystoke(South Africa(11))

pH 6.2 is OK
Can you tell us more about the nutrient solution you use ?
Peppers can be heavy feeders, while maturing.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 10:52PM
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wilting leaves generally means they're not getting enough water. big green leaves curling around often means excess nitrogen.
Nutrient information would definitely be good.
As you're sitting at about two months, are you seeing flowers yet? if so, do they appear to all be dropping?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2009 at 9:52AM
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alex818(z9 CA)

Barev Aram,

Curling upwards can sometimes mean that the lights are too close. A true 200 watt CFL can definitely get hot and stress the plant. What type of hydro method are you using to grow?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2009 at 7:14PM
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I use nutri plus (it's made in QC so might not be very popular lol) but it's a 2 part solution and it's 5-0-2 and 1-5-8.

and yes, i do see flowers and they all eventually fall and die. i'm guessing that means not enought phosphorus or too much nitrogen?! I cut down the nutrient solution by half so I don't know how they could still be getting so much nitrogen :/ when the remaining bottle of nutrients I have is used up, I'm definitely investing in a higher quality brand.

Barev Alex lol,

it is a true 200 watt CFl (emitting 14000 lumens, I know it's not enough for my area which is a 2x3) and I'm using a drip irrigation system 3 times a day for 30 minute intervals and they're being grow in rockwool in pots filled with hydroton. i recently added a few CFLs but that didn't seem to help, in fact it made the curling even worse so I turned them off.

thanks for all the help!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 12:08PM
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By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

By aram_s, shot with DSC-T200 at 2009-12-16

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 12:25PM
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Okay, here are my thoughts:
you could be over watering if the nutrient is dripping directly onto the rockwool. peppers are subject to rot near the crown if they're kept too wet.
You're irrigation system focuses the drip to much. Just after the drip cycle stops, is all the hydroton wet? If not, your roots might be squeezing water from itself. if only one region gets wet, it will be full of roots. newer roots generally develop on the outside of the root ball. if the moist zone is completely filled with older roots the newer ones are dying from lack of water. I don't think this is the problem, but hopefully you see where I'm going and can check it out.
A decent formula for your nutrients and your plants in the fruiting stage is something like 20ml/10L of the 5-0-2 and 30ml\10L of the 1-5-8. this yields 130 ppm N and 65.4 ppm P (elemental) for a P/N ratio of 0.5. That ratio is good for pepper fruits. in my last system, I generally ran a P/N ratio of around 0.46. Based on the 3 elements listed(n, P-elemental, K-elemental), your concentration of them based on above, is 413ppm. assuming they compose 70% of the total concentration, the total concentraion of your nutrient would be 413/0.7=590ppm. That is plenty strong enough for fruiting peppers. if your nutrient concectration is much lower than that, you're probably not providing enough food for the plants. for english unit comparison: 30ml/10L=2.25tsp/gal and 20ml/10L=1.5tsp/gal. so how strongly are you mixing yours?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 1:17PM
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The concentrations you gave were almost the same as on the label. It said 2ml/1L of each so that's what I had been using for a long time until I posted a picture on another forum and I was told that I might be over fertilizing them. I cut the nutrient concentration down by half. I did not see any improvements and it's already been a week.

After adding a few more CFL's (one was pretty close to the plant in the last picture) the shriveling got worse. Could it just be that I had the CFLs too close and the heat caused this to happen? That would explain why the two short plants' leaves are all curled up but what about the 2 big ones?

I'll try maybe cuting down the watering to three 5 minute cycles but without a dripper. Maybe that'll help the water spread out all around instead of one spot.

Also, when I first transfered the seedlings into bigger rockwool cubes I put them directly under light without hydroton. You think this might've cause some root rot and hence why they're so short?

I really appreciate your help, normally I'd try a whole bunch of things until something works but it seems like nothing's woring lol thanks again!

PS, I ordered an EC meter and it should be coming in soon.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 8:27PM
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I should also mention that I'm still in the growth stage.

Haven't really moved my plants to the flowering room where I'm also having problems with another pepper plant in DWC. All the flowers just wilted and died in the past week (around the time i put in under my 400 watt HPS)

I'm starting to think I shouldn't have picked up this hobby. It's expensive and difficult lol

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 12:45AM
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I can't offer a lot of advice in regards to lights. I only grow using the sun. (that cuts the cost A LOT and seems to simplify things).
what kind of system are you using. is it DWC with an occasional pump running a dripper? or something else?
Rot is not going to be affected by light. it happens when too much water is held against the crown for too long. the crown is that point where the roots become the stem. I don't use rockwool but have experienced this in EnF systems where the high water mark was above the crown. I've also heard of this problem with rockwool before.
By in large, your plants don't look that bad to me.
For things like curled leaves, one week may not be long enough to see a difference from changing solutions.
Judging by the number of flower pods in those last pictures, I'd say you need to switch to a flowering concentraions. again, this should be something along the lines of 50% more of the 1-5-8 than the 5-0-2. I noticed in your first post you said the plants were a couple of months old now. this further reinforces my thoughts the plants are ready to fruit.
only the plants in your first picture appear wilted. the three primary causes for wilting are too much heat, too much humidity, not enough water at the roots. these are not exclusive and are most often a combination of them.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 8:26AM
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It's just a bucket DWC with an air pump (no dripper). My tomatoes seem to love it, not so much the peppers as all the flowers wilted and died. I'm gonna try lowering the pH to 5.7 and see how it reacts.

I just purchased a 3x3 EnF tray and will put the rest of my plans under my 400 watt HPS and see if they flower and hopefully stop wilting and start growing!

I'll keep experimenting with different concentrations and a new fertilizer and see if there's any progress.

Heat might actually be an issue. Last night I left the door of the grow room open and this morning the leaves of the two short plants were upright so instead of sucking air out I made it so that cool air is being blown into the grow room. Hope that'll make a difference too!

Anyway, you've been very helpful. I'll keep updating with pictures when I see improvements! Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 4:52PM
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alex818(z9 CA)

Aram, in regards to the leaf curling if its mostly the top leaves that curl that usually suggests heat stress from the lights. Also, rockwool is known to cause PH problems. If I remember correctly it raises PH levels. I personally use Rapid Rooter plugs.

In regards to flower drop, that can possibly be high nitrogen or temperature swings. At the flowering stage maybe you can try using Fox Farms "Tiger Bloom" and for vegetative growth try their hydroponic "Big Grow" nutrient, its a nice balanced fert for peppers IMO. Also look into adding some magnesium to the mix. You can use Cal-Mag Plus or just some epsom salt. I think the dose for epsom salt is 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per gallon for hydroponic and 1-2 table spoons per gallon for soil (probably safer if you go with the dosing of Cal-Mag plus). I cant see your pics right now at work because the lame firewall our company has blocks images hosted at personal storage sites but I'll take a look when I get home.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 5:19PM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Perhaps DWC may not be the prefered method for peppers. My son had a similar experience. He switched over to EnF with much more succes, but right now he grows them in dirt (He says that he wants the peppers without the hassle).

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 10:42PM
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i only grow my peppers with dwc and they grow like champions.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 8:28PM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

So there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with peppers in DWC.
That's good news !

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 4:12AM
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The wilting at the top can indicate a few different things. Water is the most likely. However, there are lots of things that cause a plant to not take or keep water. One is the heat mentioned. However, the leaves don't have the distortion that I've seen on plants too close to lights. I think grizzman was definitely on to something with the second bullet in his post above. If the plant gets big enough to not be able to take up enough water to keep up with evaporation you experience results very similar to those above. With ground plants, that is commonly from nematodes or a root disease. With hydro it can be from fertilizer build up. In that case, flush for a couple days really well. Then resume feeding. Or, as was stated, if not all the roots are getting what they need then neither will the rest of the plant. There is also pH of the medium, but with regular drip systems that isn't so much of a concern as the solution helps regulate that enough to at least keep the plant going. Maybe not optimum, but not unhealthy either. Root rot can obviously be a concern. Particularly in the type of containers you are using. Flush one of them good and smell the water. If it's foul, you might have a problem. You can try a little peroxide if that is the case. By a little I mean a few teaspoons per gallon of water max. It's like radiation for plants. Radiation is bad for us. Peroxide is bad for roots. But if something else is killing you, it's better to get sick from radiation and survive. The peroxide will damage roots, but can also kill bad microbes. Hopefully the plant will heal. I'd only do it if you know there is a root disease.

I use DWC with a bubbler ring (DIY hydrofarm). I also use ebb and flow. This was my first year with ebb and flow and peppers. Outstanding results. I am thinking of selling all my DWC stuff. With peppers, this was my best year ever and it was solely because of my ebb and flow system. I wish I would have tried that sooner.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 11:54AM
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thanks for all the help! i've been unable to log on for some time. you guys know how it is this time of year lol

anyway, plants seem to be doing a little better. i switched them to a 12/12 light period, fed them flowering nutrients and things seem to be looking up, somewhat.

My tomato plant is doing wonderfully, I see about 30 little cherry tomatoes sprouting and tons of flowers. I can't wait to see how much I end up with.

Unfortunately, the peppers (both in DWC and my drip) aren't so happy. In the drip system, they flower but then they dry up and die. In DWC, they don't even flower, they just bud, dry, then die. I'm gonna keep trying my DWC because it's my biggest plant and maybe I'll play around with the nutrient concentrations (I just got my EC meter in the mail!). As for the drip, I just won an auction on eBay for a 2x4 tent and I recently purchased a 600 watt light kit so I'll mvoe everything in there and have an EnF system. Hopefully you guys were right.

I'll keep experimenting until I get the results that I want and I'll post some pictures soon!


    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:21PM
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One "gimmick" I use, and it doesn't seem to hurt at all and is very inexpensive, is to add a female multivitamin to the bucket every other week. I say female because they have iron, male MVs usually don't. They help provide every micronutrient plants need.

Blossom drop can be caused by lots of things but among them are:
Temps too high
Temps too low
Too much nitrogen
Not enough "sexual" stimulation to pollinate the flowers

Don't dismiss the latter. Peppers, like tomatoes, can and do self-pollinate, but if there is no decent wind, bees or similar, they do not do a good job. It's not like they get pregnant because some good-looking male pollen shares a room with them.

You can always try a fan blowing on them, using a battery-powered toothbrush or massager to vibrate the stems or even gently shaking them. Supposedly, the best time to do this is 9-11 am, but my plants seem to be frisky all the time, unless the temps are high and the sun is bright! (I have not tried giving them an aspirin.)


    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 8:37PM
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Flower drop probable causes:

1. Day temp too high >95F
2. Night temp too low 3. Too much nitrogen fertilizer
4. Too much water
5. Low light levels (reduces fertility).
6. Very low humidity (reduces fertility)
7. Poor air circulation (air circulation contributes to pollination).
8. Lack of pollinating insects.
9. Size of pot

  1. Too much mineral in feedwater.
  2. Too much grower attention.
    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 9:14AM
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Either you have (and have had for a long time) a typo in # 2 or you are wrong. In almost the entire month of July it dropped below 65 and in my GH this winter, it's been below 65 every night since early December. Yet I am not getting much blossom drop - one here or there.

I think it should be 55 degrees, not 65.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 1:06PM
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aram, if you're putting a 600watt HID light in a 2x4ft tent it will be way too hot and you will cook your plants. i have a 2x4ft tent with a 400watt HID and i even had a vortex powerfan hooked up to take out some heat (when the doors were zipped up) and it was still too warm inside. now i removed the fan and i just keep the doors open at all times. basically the tent is just being used to hang my light. lol

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 8:26PM
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aram and greystoke,

here are a couple pics of my bhut jolokias in 3 gallon dwc buckets. fresh water and nutrients (botanicare pure blend pro) are changed every sunday.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 8:40PM
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Thank you guys for all the help. I opened the door to my tent this morning and after bringing down the nutrient concentration to around 1 EC (down from 2!) a couple of days ago, I see some peppers starting to grow! They're cayennes and an unknown type. My bhut jolokias haven't flowered yet but I'm hopeful! I'll bring down the concentration in my DWC bhut jolokia too and hopefully I'll see some good results.

You guys have been very helpful, and I'll be posting some pictures of my tomatoes and (hopefully) peppers!

PS, good luck chinamon

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 2:07PM
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