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Hydroponics and You

Thought about trying hydroponics to get your seeds going? Here’s one method.

Starting and growing out hot peppers in stacked solo cups is nothing new. It’s a straightforward concept that dips slightly into the hydroponics realm once the plant has a bit of root on it.

  • Start with two cups of equal size, opaque is best, at least for the outer cup. Plastic solo cups are a good blend of cheap and sturdy.

  • For the next step, you will be poking a moderate size hole or several smaller ones with something hot. Holes must be large enough to allow water drainage and root passage. No pinholes. In this case a piece of 3/8″ steel and a blowtorch worked perfectly. Overkill? Never.

  • There it is. Now, depending on the final environment of this plant, there is a choice to make concerning number/diameter of holes. After enough growth, there will be roots poking out of whatever hole is in the bottom of the top cup. Since our peppers are getting transplanted, we opted for one large hole, allowing one cut down the side to get the plant out cleanly with minimal root damage.

    Poking holes with a hot piece of metal yields round, clean edged holes. Attempting to drill or otherwise cut the plastic will probably crack the bottom.

  • Put the cup with the hole inside the unscathed cup, we opted to use one clay ball as a spacer between the two cups (you could also use marbles or stones). Fill the top cup with with dirt, water top down to compact, allow to drain, sow the seeds, cover with clear plastic, and set in a warm windowsill. Remember, peppers prefer warmer climates and will sprout faster if kept happy. Happiness of peppers is of utmost importance.


Keep the soil moist but not overly-saturated while the seeds are sprouting. This is pretty easy if the cups are covered with clear plastic wrap. There are two ways to water the sprouting plants. One route is watering from the top only for a couple weeks. After enough plant growth, roots will poke out into the lower cup. At this point, stop watering from the top, instead putting water only in the lower cup. Water in the lower cup will encourage deep root growth and is convenient for feeding hydroponic nutrients. These plants are getting General Hydroponics MaxiGro/MaxiBloom.

The other method, and the one I will be using, is only watering from the bottom after the initial soaking. Pick your favorite, it probably has little effect over the long run.


Pepper enthusiasts have managed to grow plants from seed to fruiting entirely within the stacked solo cups so there is no rush to get plants transplanted. As more leaves develop and transpiration increases, water/hydroponic nutrient will be quickly consumed requiring frequent watering. Once the outdoor soil temperature is consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and frost risk has passed, peppers can be safely transplanted. In Ohio, it’s after Mother’s Day at best.

In our case, all of the plants will be in the ground with the exception of one Thai chili that will be grown out hydroponically. Keep an eye out for more tips on how to start and grow your pepper plants by subscribing below or following us on Instagram. If you’d like to see more of our setup, check out Growing Peppers: Double Solo Cup Pseudo-Hydroponics Method.

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