Introduction: Attempting to Grow the Carolina Reaper Chili Pepper Plant

Picture of Attempting to Grow the Carolina Reaper Chili Pepper Plant

So this is a chronicle of growing a Carolina Reaper chili plant. I thought it would be fun to attempt this over the winter indoors and time-lapse the growing.

This Instructable will cover growing all the way from seed until the plant plant flowers.

For those of you who don't know the Carolina Reaper is the hottest chili pepper in the world at the time when I started growing the plant and I believe it still is. To give an idea of how hot it is, a Jalapeño chili pepper is 2,500 to 8,000 SHU (Scoville heat units). The Carolina Reaper chili pepper is 2.2 million SHU!!

Step 1: Materials

  • A source of Carolina Reapers seeds, I got mine from www.peppernorth.com
  • Large pot
  • Good quality soil that has good drainage
  • Ziplock bag
  • Paper towel
  • All purpose fertilizer
  • 9w daylight LED light bulb
  • Lamp holder and cord
  • Some small lumber

Step 2: Germination

Picture of Germination

The seeds were spread out on a piece of wet paper towel. The paper towel was stored in a ziplock bag and then placed in a warm place. I placed the seeds on top of the case of a hot water boiler but near a heater will work too, you want it to be around 30C. These seeds took about 2-4 weeks to germinate, so it is a slow process. Check on it every so often to make sure it stays wet.

Once they start germinating let them grow until they are 1-2 cm in length. Don't pull them out of the paper towel as this will damage the roots, instead cut around the roots that have grown into the paper towel.

Step 3: Light Stand and Lighting

Picture of Light Stand and Lighting

In the mean time while waiting for the seeds to germinate, it's time to make a stand for the plant. I used some scrap lumber to make a stand that the pot could sit on and added a long vertical piece of wood so the light could be mounted. The light will be moved as the plant grows.

For the light source I used a single 9w LED Daylight bulb. The daylight bulb is close to the temperature of actual sunlight, at least in theory. From all the research I have done apparently the temperature of the light doesn't matter as much as the amount and brightness of the light. Since this light will be left on for a few months, it was important to use a LED that doesn't consume much power.

The light bulb was mounted using a lamp holder wire to the end of a plug. The lamp was then mounted to a piece of wood with an aluminum baking tray as a light reflector.

This is a very cheap yet effective grow light setup, I think the whole thing cost me under 10 bucks.

Step 4: Planting

Picture of Planting

Fill large pot filled with soil that has good drainage, I found that something that has a lot of organic matter grows best. Make a hole in the soil and plant the seed, gently cover it the roots with soil and leave the leaves above the soil.

Place the pot under on the stand and mount the light 6 inches from the top of the leaves. Try to keep the plant somewhere warm, I had mine in an area that was consistently 20C, ideally it should be warmer but it grew fine, just a bit slow.

Leave the light on 24 hours a day, the plant will grow faster if it stays on constant light. The location of the plant was in the basement that has no windows so the only light source was the single light bulb.

Step 5: Growing and Waiting

Picture of Growing and Waiting

So now comes the tedious and slow part, let the plant grow and water when needed. Once the plant gets to be around 3 inches, fertilizer it with some all purpose plant food. I found this made a huge difference, I had one plant that I fertilized and another that I didn't, the one that didn't get any fertilizer grew much slower.

Once the plant starts growing and gets taller move the light as needed. Do this for a few months and eventually it should flower.

Here is a video of growing of the plant and a cool time-lapse of 5 months of growing:

Step 6: Flowering

Picture of Flowering

If you plant is health and growing well it should eventually flower. Mine started flowering around 4 months of growing. At this point the flowers need to be pollinated, this is done by using a small artist brush or Q-tip and transferring pollen from the anthers to the stigma. The theory is to rub the inside of the flower to grab the pollen an then place it on the stigma. I had a lot of blooms and I tried a few different ways but unfortunate I was unable to successfully get any of the flowers to set fruit.

Ideally I would have put the plant outside to let bees do the work for me but since I was growing this over the winter, it was far to cold to put the plant outside and there were no bees yet.

So this was my attempt at growing the Carolina Reaper, it was almost successful, the nice thing is the pepper plant will keep growing and will reflower again. Currently it is warm enough to leave the plant outside so we will see how well it grows and when it reflowers hopefully the bees will be able to pollinate the plant.

What I learned from this attempt was, the light source worked very well and it is totally possible to grow with only one light bulb.

Hopefully someone will find some of this information useful and have better success than I did!

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