Artificial Light for Chiles

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Q: Dave,

I have 3 potted jalapeño plants that are producing pretty well.  I plan on keeping them indoors over the winter to see if I can sustain a year-round supply of peppers.  What type of light bulb is required and at what wattage?  I have been told that a black light will provide the UV rays but they are generally only five or ten watts.  Also, what is the preferred method of removing the peppers from the plant?  Will the plant select a new place to bud after a pepper has been removed?  I have no clue about these things so any help would be appreciated.



A: Hello Beau:

Below I have pasted some information that should help you.  It’s a bigger project than you imagine and you may want to reconsider for just 3 jalapeño plants.  Forget about black lights, as you won’t need them.  The plants always flower from new growth.  Just pick off the peppers, stem and all.

–Dave DeWitt


Artificial Light for Peppers

Types of Lights:  The least expensive way to set up an indoor pepper garden is with fluorescent tubes.  They’re relatively efficient, cost little to set up, and a standard fixture accepts two 40-watt tubes.  The number of fixtures to use depends on the size of the growing area, and they can also be placed vertically in corners for side lighting.  The major problem with fluorescents is that the intensity of light falls off very rapidly as a function of distance.  The tops of the plants must remain two to four inches below the tubes.  Standard cool-white fluorescent tubes can be used, but many gardeners prefer the Sylvania Gro-Lux with its pink and purplish light, high-intensity output lights, or Vita-Lites, which approach 92 percent of the spectrum of natural sunlight.  However, the Pierces report: "Our research indicates that the color spectrum only minimally–if at all–affects plant growth.  The biggest factor in plant performance is enough light, especially for plants setting flowers and fruit."  To avoid the problem of low light levels on lower foliage, serious pepper gardeners should use high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps.  They are very similar to the mercury or sodium vapor lamps used to light city streets and come in two basic types, metal halide, and high-pressure sodium.  They use more electricity than fluorescent tubes.  Metal halide lamps have a spectrum like the bright midday sun, while the high-pressure sodium has the spectrum of the early morning or late afternoon sun, which promotes flowering, according to Cap Farmer.  The high pressure sodium lamp emits more lumens of light than a metal halide lamp.  One word of warning:  This equipment is identical to that used by indoor marijuana growers.  The Drug Enforcement Administration has been known to subpoena the records of stores selling indoor growing equipment and to pay visits on indoor gardeners who have ordered it.  There will be no problem as long as you grow peppers–the legal high.

Reflectors:  Either paint the plant growing room white or line it with white trash bags to reflect and diffuse light.  Aluminum foil and mylar reflect light but do not diffuse it, causing numerous hot spots unless they are applied evenly, without wrinkling.  Line the floors with white plastic to protect them from spills when watering.

Varieties:  According to Cap Farmer, "The miniature varieties seem to do the best under lights, and I’ve had good success with Ethiopian and Black Dallas."   Other recommended peppers for growing under lights are Thai Hot, Super Chili, and varieties of  Piquin, such as Chiltepin.

Growing Hints:  The containers, soil mix, and fertilizing should be the same as with other potted peppers.  The Pierces told us that  "indoor pepper gardeners will benefit from an 18-hour light cycle rather than a 12-hour light cycle.  Think of it this way:   chiles are long-day plants, yielding best during the long days of summer.  They are not photo-period sensitive."

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