The Carolina Reaper Planting Guide: A To Zing

None more hot in the garden…

If you’re looking to grow sun-like spiciness, there is nothing more wicked than the Carolina Reaper. This is the hottest pepper in the world, so don’t approach this chili lightly. The oils of this pepper, even when still whole on the vine, can cause major chili burn so approach Carolina Reaper planting with care. Use gloves when caring for your plants, and double-down with kitchen goggles when you’re cooking with this pepper. Still here? Ready for the extreme of extremes? Let’s review what you need to know to successfully grow Carolina Reaper peppers.

Carolina Reaper planting fast facts

Scoville heat units:
The Carolina Reaper’s rating on the Scoville scale ranges from 1,400,000 – 2,200,000 SHU.

PepperScale profile page:

Buy Carolina Reaper seeds:
Buy from Amazon

Light requirements:
Like most hot peppers, Carolina Reapers require full sun.

Soil requirements:
You will want to plant your Carolina Reapers in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.

Space requirements:
Plant the seedlings approximately 4 feet away from neighboring plants.

Water requirements:
Plants should be given at least 2 inches of water per week but take care to avoid overwatering.

Carolina Reaper plants take roughly 90 days to get to the point of sexual maturity, which is when they will be ready to produce fruit.

Plant size:
When planted in the ground or a suitably large container, Carolina Reaper plants grow to be approximately 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Chili size:
Peppers are 1 to 3 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide.

The Carolina Reaper is a container-friendly plant; you will need a container with at least a three-gallon capacity.

The site and season: Where and when to grow Carolina Reaper

As with most super hot peppers, you are better off starting your Carolina Reapers indoors. Move seedlings outdoors once there is no danger of frost damage and they have grown to a height of at least six inches. You will want to do this only after daytime temperatures average about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperatures at night are no longer dipping below 50 °F. Like most peppers, Carolina Reapers do best in warm weather but have little tolerance for weather above 85 °F. Overly hot weather can cause them to lose blossoms and stop producing fruit.

Carolina Reapers prefer soil with a pH of approximately 6.5.

If you are growing your Carolina Reapers in a container, note that 3 gallons is the minimum container size but is not optimal. Ideally, you will want to place them in a 5-gallon container or they may not be as productive as they can be.

Feeding and watering Carolina Reaper plants: How often and how much

Fish emulsion or 5-10-5 fertilizer is fine for fertilizing your pepper plant. Start fertilizing only after your Carolina Reaper has started showing blossoms. You should also provide your pepper plant with magnesium in the form of Epsom salts. You will want to avoid fertilizing with high-nitrogen fertilizers; these will not be beneficial for fruit production.

Provide the pepper plant with about 2 inches of water weekly but decrease that amount once there is fruit on the plant. Water stress can help to increase the heat of your peppers.

Carolina Reaper harvesting: When to pick

You can pick your Carolina Reapers while they are green, but you will get more heat and flavor from them if you wait for them to ripen. Reapers will turn bright red when they are ripe. Note that these are very hot peppers, so you may need to handle them carefully. Consider wearing disposable latex gloves when harvesting.

Carolina Reaper plant care: What to watch out for

Mosaic is a common disease spread by aphids and whitefly. Pepper mosaic results in narrow, thickened leaves. In plants that are severely affected, the only real remedy is to pull the plants up and dispose of them to prevent healthy plants being infected. To control an aphid problem, you should consider getting ladybugs as these are predators of the aphid. Other control methods include spraying with water to remove them manually from the plant and the use of insecticidal soap.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content. It was originally published on September 15, 2016.
  • I’ve grown Carolina Reapers since last year using 5-gallon containers, with great success. I can tell you, though, that these plants are very susceptible to cross-pollination with other varieties of pepper. So, if you live in an agricultural area where peppers are grown, or even if your next-door neighbor is growing a few different peppers outdoors, there’s a good chance that your Reapers will get cross-pollinated and produce odd hybrids that look nothing like the classic Carolina Reapers. In my case, one of my neighbors was growing a couple of varieties of mild hot peppers, and we inadvertently cross-pollinated a couple of plants…so, I got a few oddly-shaped Reapers, and she got a hell of a surprise when she harvested her plants for cooking.

  • I have a friend who was growing some reapers for me. Unfortunately, he didn’t harvest them and we had our first freeze a few nights ago. The peppers are pretty wrinkled and soft now, but the coloration is still really good.

    Are they still good to make a hot sauce with?

  • i got Carolina seeds and planted them in Uganda a some months ago.
    My yield although indeed very hot changed shape completely. The shape is our ordinary small long peppers we call “Kamurali” and not the shape I see online.
    I have been told it is a result of Cross Pollination which I cant confirm yet.
    The hotness confirms to me that it is indeed Carolina as our ordinary Kamulari is not that hot otherwise I would have thought that I was given fake seeds

  • I haVe a carolina reaper plant which I have moved indoors. The plant is still green and has small peppers on it. All the leaves are gone. Can I revive the plant and how do I help it stay alive.

  • I live in Vietnam. I planted this carolina reaper for 5 months. It has a lot of blossoms but just 2 or 3 fruits. Can anyonne help me to produce more fruit? It is full sun and the weather is about 80°F – 95°F. I fertilize it with the following ingredients: N: 12 % ; P2O5: 12% ; K2O: 17%; S + CaO + MgO: 9%; B + Cu + Zn + Fe + MN + Si ≥ 0,4%


    • Even in the article it states: “85 Degrees is the maximum it should be exposed to heat. Any higher and you can risk losing the blossom and the fruits.”

  • Hello
    I live in the U.K and purchased some reaper seeds of the internet. Temperatures are lower here some the growth process was slow. But I’m starting to think I got ripped off and these aren’t reapers. They don’t resemble the angry looking reaper. But this is the first time I have ever grown any. What do you think they are ? Will they start getting all gnarly looking ? How much longer shall I leave them before picking as autumn is apron us and temperatures are dropping fast.
    Thank you.

    • That’s definitely not a Carolina Reaper. To me it looks like any number of ornamental chili’s (which normally grow ‘up’ as yours are, the CR grow downward and are certainly not as smooth and cone-shaped as yours). Perhaps you should contact the people that sold you the seeds and tell them they got it wrong.
      With any luck they’ll send the rights ones or give you your money back.
      Ornamental are okay to eat, by the way, so pick when ripe (red / orange is fine).

  • I live in the Midwest, and I purchased a plant in a pot. $4.00. I was like Ok? lets see where this goes. That was June 29th, the plant was about 10 inches tall. It is now about 14 inches tall, flowers and peppers every where. I have just watered them, and have not added any kind of fertilizer , I will be adding Epsom salt today. My question is, I will want to keep this plant alive, so there for be bringing it in during the winter. Would a grow light help the plant live healthier ? I keep my house at about 63 F during the winter., and I’m worried about lack of sun light.

    • Where did you buy a plant? I live in Illinois and haven’t been able to find them. I’m about to buy some seeds and try growing them indoors

    • I brought one In Over the winter and it was fine until it was infested with mites . With a grow light and some care I think it would do great indoors . I start seeds in a Aero garden at beginning of March and transfer outside . They do great . It has been a cold summer . My plant has ripe fruit , green fruit and flowering at the same time . Easy fun plant

  • my plant is doing really well. My question is that it says not to over water. My plant is about 4 feet tall with around 200 mostly green peppers. Should I keep it watered more than the two inches a week to allow for growth of this much fruit? I’m in oklahoma temps are around 95 right now.

    • Hi Morrey – I’d keep the watering as is personally. Straining the fruits some actually should increase the overall heat. Overwatered peppers tend to not be as hot.

  • I seem to remember reading that terroir applies to peppers as well as to grapes and hops. So, in order to get premium results, these (or any) peppers must be grown in the original climate and soil conditions. Any thoughts on this? Also, it could be possible to get hotter peppers with the right terroir.

  • Hello I successfully grew the Carolina Reaper last year. It made it through the winter and now I have a Woody stem plant and no leaves. Does it grow again for a second year or third year or do I start a new plant please help thanks Bob

    • I have grown Reapers for about 5 years. I have had years with no peppers, but there is something to learn each year. As far as the woody stem with no leaves, I have never had one come back my theory is plant suicide. The stem has to have a reason to live. The leaves are that reason. Once the leaves die the stem gives up. Like I said there is something to be learned each year. I grow in 5 gal buckets, so I can move them in and out. Two years is the longest I have kept one alive, so far.

    • I started plants last oct they blossomed in March tried hand pollination did not work for me put them outside to harden in spring all the leaves fell off I planted them anyway .cut back stems hoped for best they came back and now they are flowering have couple of peppers so far in fall plan on digging them bring inside winter them and try next spring this was my first try with hot peppers good luck

  • I bought 2 plants they got about 2-3 feet with lots of flowers. one made flowers then peppers(4 in all on one plant) then flowers again but looks like it is about to die now. The other just flowers and is still healthy looking. I live in southeast Texas. Temps have been over 95 degrees maybe even the 100s. I am calling this a success. Just picked the first peppers today.

  • I live in Hawaii, and as I’m sure you can guess, the climate is tropical and humid. Usually very sunny and around 85-90 during the day, and cool (65-75) and humid at night. I planted 4 each: Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Naga Viper, Kraken Scorpion. It’s been about 2 weeks, and although I think I may have over-watered, The Trinidads have sprouted, and the reapers and others don’t look to be too far behind. Any tips moving forward from someone with experience in a similar climate?

    • No , just dont put them out on the full sun without gettin gthem used to it. Start them indoor , then start putting out on the sun , 15 minutes , 20 minutes , until they make tolerance.

  • So my plant was inside over winter, and i put it back outside a few weeks ago, and they just started blooming flowers. My plants are about 1 foot and a half tall

    • Not the case here. I live in cold climate, så the plants live indoor with me, and they are all producing crazy amount of Chili. I have 3 Carolina Reaper, 3 Douglas Reaper and 2 Carolina Reaper Chocolate. All grown in autumn and now producing good amount of Chili INSIDE here in spring.

  • I find your “A to Zing” very informative.

    I bought seeds from EBAY about a month ago and when my order arrived, I started to germinate the seeds. I placed 4 per paper (origami) box, ended up six boxes, placed all six in big plastic (like shoebox) container so I may transport them in and out the deck in one carry.

    I use water spray bottle the wet the soil when I notice the paper box are dry.

    I hope I started the right way!.

    I live in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) where winter can be a hassle clearing my driveway, and now my backyard-garden-to-be might warrant another attention.

    My question is: Should I grow my Carolina Reaper plant in the basement (with fluorescent lighting and home heater) or plant it outside anyway?

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