I grew the Carolina Reaper for the first time last year, so I thought I’d relate my experiences and give a bit of info on what to expect.
This is the current record holder for the hottest chilli in the world, over 1.5m SHU.
I have probably grown most of the very hot ones over the years, but I don’t grow an awful lot of them as I’m not mad keen on super hot sauces and I find them quite difficult to offload onto other people, either as seedlings, mature plants or fruit. I obviously move in the wrong circles, most of my friends are happy to take anything I give them, but whether it is plants or fruit, they tend to prefer milder stuff.
The seeds, which came from Nicky’s Nursery and germinated well. I got 7 out of 10, which is pretty good going. On milder chillies I would expect 9 or 10 out of 10, but I am happy with 7 in this case. I always bang on about how difficult some of the very hot chillies can be, and how you have to get conditions absolutely right to get good germination but I’d say these performed well, proving that the seed stock was of good quality. I germinated them next to some Bhut Jolokia which did almost as well, so I must have got conditions right as Bhuts are very temperamental, susceptible to drying out or temperature fluctuations at critical times, and often take a long time.
These were all germinated in a heated propagator, in the region of 28-32°C and with constant humidity, and most were up within 12 days. More on germination times here. I used to use capillary matting in the bottom of propagators but these days I use about a cm of slightly moist sand to maintain a more steady level of warmth and humidity. This takes away the need to water the seed pots much at all, and the sand dissipates the heat coming from below so the pots don’t dry out from the bottom up. Once seeds have been planted in moist soil & vermiculite there probably won’t be much evaporation as the propagator lid is closed, so they won’t need to be drenched every day. As soon as seedlings start to emerge in a pot I move it to another propagator with a more open lid (or none at all) to give them more air flow.
I started the seeds along with most of my others, during the first week in March. I know these have a long growing season, and need the best start as possible, but I am an advocate of not planting seeds too soon. Experts in growing super-hots might start them earlier than this, but only do so if you have the conditions to keep them healthy when the nights are still cold, even indoors. You may need artificial lighting too, don’t put yourself in a situation where they grow tall and straggly. You are better off planting a bit later and growing healthy plants. more on light here.
Generally the plants grew well, out of 7 plants there were a couple that didn’t seem to take and were slightly stunted, so these were relegated to the compost heap. The Carolina Reaper fruited a bit earlier than the Bhut Jolokias nearby, which is great, and generally had more fruit on them too. Like all of the super-hots these definitely respond to being given big pots and more room for root growth, you can get a pretty big plant if you give them a good chance in life. By big plant I mean up to 1.5m high, and 1m wide. I put one in a bucket sized pot, and got it to 1m. Put it in a barrel for something bigger, but don’t expect it to fruit quite as early, and consider where you might put it if you want to keep it over winter. Often it is best to keep things like this in a more manageable pot.