Are you interested in learning how to grow hydroponic lettuce? You’ve come to the right place.
This is often touted as being one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and with so many different varieties to choose from (Iceberg! Leaf! Romaine! Spring mix!) it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find some variation in most backyard gardens.
But what if you don’t have room for an outdoor garden - or you want to be able to grow lettuce anywhere, at any time of the year?
Enter hydroponics. When you grow lettuce hydroponically, you open up a whole new world of possibilities for your gardening - and for your salad bowl.
If you’re ready to start growing hydroponic lettuce at home, read on. Our complete guide is going to cover exactly how to do this. We'll discuss which system you should grow in, along with what it takes to get the grow started and see it through to harvest.
We'll start by covering why exactly you should give this a try, which varieties are easiest, and more basic information!
Why Learn How To Grow Hydroponic Lettuce?
Why would you want to grow lettuce hydroponically? There are lots of good reasons to get started but one of the best is that it is incredibly easy.
In fact, many gardeners claim that lettuce is the easiest vegetable to grow hydroponically. If you’re a beginner, it’s a great plant to start with when you’re new to hydroponics.
It grows quickly, takes up minimal space, is easy to maintain - and let’s not forget about how delicious and nutritious it is!
Plus, lettuce plants can be pulled from repeatedly for a “cut and come again” kind of garden.
Benefits Of Hydroponics
In general, we want to cover some of the benefits of hydroponic growing in general. This is a far cleaner, more efficient style of gardening than traditional container gardening in soil.
You'll use less water and nutrients over the long run, which saves you money and time. But, you'll also see increased growth rates since the plant roots are directly exposed to the nutrient solution.
Plus, hydroponically grown lettuce tends to taste better, because it's cleaner - you're also able to cultivate bigger, more nutritious lettuce heads. This is due to the highly concentrated nutrient solution, helping your plants achieve their full potential.
If you aren't super familiar with this style of growing in general, we recommend you start with our complete guide to growing hydroponically.
How Long Does Lettuce Take To Grow Hydroponically?
The time to maturity for your lettuce in a hydroponic system will vary depending on what cultivar you decide to grow.
In most cases, lettuce will be ready for harvest in as little as six to eight weeks, but in many situations, it can be as little as three weeks.
Is Hydroponically Grown Lettuce Good For You?
There is a common misconception out there that hydroponic lettuce is not as nutritious as garden-grown lettuce.
Some gardeners claim that if you don't grow it in soil, you'll be lacking crucial nutrients.
However, the reality is that it honestly depends. Plants make their own vitamins and plants grown in hydroponic systems can be just as nutritious as those grown in soil - it all depends on the nutrient solution that you use.
And if you follow our complete guide, you'll be providing plenty of plant nutrients and cultivating big, healthy plants!
What Is The Best Lettuce Variety To Grow Hydroponically?
You can grow any kind of lettuce hydroponically. However, the most common types that hydroponic growers turn to are butterhead, romaine, and looseleaf.
You can also grow related leafy greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and bok choy for a more flavorful, nutrient-dense salad.
How To Grow Lettuce In Hydroponics At Home
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to this approach to growing lettuce. And to your surprise, it is actually much easier than you may have expected!
Now, we're going to teach you how to grow lettuce in hydroponics. It can be easy, but keep in mind that hydroponics in general has a learning curve.
If you can't commit to spending time and energy managing the system and helping your plants meet their potential, you are better off growing in soil.
But if you're up to the task, we need to start by helping you choose the best system of growing lettuce in hydroponics!
Start By Choosing The Best Hydroponic Lettuce Systems
You can always build a DIY hydroponic system - but really, there’s no reason to when there are so many premade, affordable hydroponic lettuce systems on the market. Here are some of our favorite options.
Hydroponic Ebb & Flow Systems
Ebb and flow systems are some of the most popular systems used for hydroponic growing. They work by repeatedly flooding the growing media and root zone of your plants with nutrient solution, followed by draining the solution back to the reservoir.
These systems are beneficial for lettuce because they are easy to maintain and affordable to set up. There are also plenty of options for customization so you should be able to find just about anything for your needs.
If you are looking for a pre-built system and you have plenty of space, consider the Super Closet Super Flow System. With options ranging from 20 sites to 32 sites, you can choose whichever fits your needs.
This system is fully automated, and will help you grow plants up to 5 times faster, safer, and easier!
We also have some flood table style systems that are super popular among growers these days. You can view our full collection of ebb and flow systems at Hydrobuilder by clicking the button below.
Hydroponic Drip Systems
Drip systems are also popular when it comes to growing hydroponic lettuce. These offer a bit more control over water and nutrients supply and are easier to scale up if you decide to grow more. They are relatively low-maintenance and affordable, too.
The SuperCloset SuperPonics Hydroponic Grow System is one of Hydrobuilder’s most popular hydroponic systems, and a great option for growing lettuce.
It’s a drip system designed for smaller growers who want a simple, easy-to-maintain countertop system. The only thing to note is that a grow light is not included - you’ll need to add grow lights by checking out the options we have on site.
Fluorescent lights tend to work best for lettuce, something we’ll discuss in more detail below. If this system doesn’t meet your needs, Hydrobuilder offers several other drip systems that you may want to consider.
We offer everything you need to build your own drip hydroponic system, including stands and trays. Most units are fully customizable and we offer a wide range of sizes for any kind of grow operation.
Grow Cabinets - A Complete Hydroponic Grow Kit
If you don't have a dedicated space to growing indoors - such as a grow tent or room - you should consider a hydroponic grow cabinet.
These are a type of grow tent kit, and include everything you need to start growing hydroponically indoors!
You get the the grow cabinet itself - which will seal off your grow from the rest of your home, allowing you to optimize the environment for growing hydroponic lettuce.
You also get the grow light, a ventilation system, and the hydroponic system itself.
We mentioned the Super Closet brand as a great choice in both ebb & flow and drip systems, and these grow cabinets include the very same brand of systems, so you know you're getting quality.
How Do You Start Hydroponic Lettuce?
To get started with your hydroponic garden, you’ll need to first select a growing medium or a seed starter to sow your seeds.
You can also start a lettuce garden from cuttings or start transplants, but doing so with seeds is a far easier method of beginning your hydroponic garden.
Germinating Your Lettuce Seeds
Lettuce tends to have a high germination rate. Depending on the specific variety you are growing, you should find that the seedlings germinate in just a few days.
If you don’t see any growth at all in two weeks, you probably have not been successful and may want to start over. Our complete guide to germinating seeds is a good place to start if you aren't an experienced seed starter.
You can sow your seeds thickly and thin the seedlings as they grow or you can space them out by about four to six inches each, depending on what kind of lettuce you are growing.
Once your lettuce seedlings have four to six mature leaves and the roots are sticking out of the bottom of the growing medium, you can transplant into your system.
Of course, you will need a few basic materials to get started with this - including your growing medium, seeds, pH testers, and trays. You can find everything you need to get started at Hydrobuilder.
How Much Light Does Hydroponic Lettuce Need?
Lettuce seedlings need around 18 hours of light during the day and six hours of darkness overnight to mimic outdoor conditions.
The best way to provide this light is through fluorescent grow lights, which are ideal especially when you are first starting your lettuce garden.
Tips For Growing Lettuce Hydroponically Indoors
Lettuce thrives in cooler environments, so it’s best to keep your grow room at or around 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Consider running a fan near your plants to improve ventilation but don’t point it directly at the plants - this can cause them to dry out.
Feeding Your Hydroponic Lettuce Nutrients
The entire basis of your hydroponic lettuce system revolves around the nutrient solution that recirculates in your reservoir. If you haven't already, we encourage you to check out our complete guide on nutrients & pH.
You will need to feed your hydroponic lettuce every seven to ten days, but check the levels daily as the strength of your nutrients may change as your plants take up water. Our EC meters will tell you whether the nutrient content is too low, too high, or just right.
Some kinds of lettuce feed more voraciously and need to be fed more often so you may find that you need to adjust as you go along.
One example is with calcium. Lettuce is extremely prone to calcium deficiency so you will want to make sure your calcium levels are up to snuff to prevent tip burn.
Before starting your grow, be sure to grab a hydroponic nutrient package. These include everything your lettuce needs from start to finish, so you can be sure you're feeding them a rounded nutrient profile.
Harvesting Your Hydroponic Lettuce
When it’s time to harvest, you can cut individual leaves from your plants so that you don’t have to remove the entire head.
This will allow you to cut larger outer leaves while allowing the inner ones to continue to grow - you can keep harvesting until the plants die back.
Alternatively, you can also wait for the whole head to develop (unless you’re growing a leaf-type lettuce, in which case you’ll want to start harvesting as soon as possible, usually around three or four weeks of maturity).
If you wait for the entire head to develop before you harvest, it will usually be mature around five or six weeks.
Why Is My Hydroponic Lettuce Bitter?
The most common cause of bitterness in hydroponic lettuce is an excess of nutrients.
Lettuce does not require a lot of nutrients in order to grow, so if you are finding that the lettuce is bitter, that’s likely caused by an overabundance of nutrients.
Consider flushing the system to remove the bitter taste. Sometimes, too much heat can cause your hydroponic lettuce to become bitter, too.
In that case, providing cooler temperatures or moving your lettuce a bit further from your lights can help resolve the issue.
Final Thoughts On How To Grow Hydroponic Lettuce From Home
Are you ready to start learning how to grow hydroponic lettuce at home? There’s no time to waste!
Whether it’s buttercrunch or Batavia, bibb or romaine that has your heart, you can grow any kind of lettuce in a hydroponic growing set-up.
To get started, consider the advice we gave you above - and shop our extensive line of hydroponic growing supplies at Hydrobuilder.
From seed starting trays to aerators, growing media to grow lights, we have everything you need for a successful season.