Carolina Reaper – Soil and Fertilizer Guide


You’ve decided to grow your own Carolina Reapers because you’re clearly a sucker for punishment – what else could explain your desire to grow one of the world’s hottest peppers? Luckily, if you have the right equipment and products, Carolina Reapers are no more difficult to grow than other peppers. In this post, we’ll go over the basic soil and fertilizer requirements that will help you grow healthy, spicy Carolina Reapers.

The best soil to use when growing Carolina Reapers is a light, well-draining loamy soil with a pH that ranges between 6 and 6.5. The best types of fertilizer for a Carolina Reaper plant are either fish emulsion or a 5-10-5 fertilizer.

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Carolina Reaper Soil Recommendations

Stage of GrowthRecommended Product
Seedling Sun Grow Black Gold Seedling Mix
First and Final TransplantFoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Organic Mix
The above table highlights the seedling mix and potting soil I use for growing Carolina Reapers at home

Carolina Reaper Fertilizer Recommendations

Stage of GrowthRecommended Product
Seedling No fertilizer needed
First TransplantNeptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 
Second TransplantMiracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Plant Nutrition
Before FloweringFox Farm Tiger Bloom
The above table shows the Fertilizers I use for growing Carolina Reapers at home

What Type of Soil is Best to Grow Carolina Reapers?

Like most peppers, Carolina Reapers do well in a fluffy, loamy soil that is well draining and has a pH level between 6 and 6.5.

Photo of Fox Farm potting soil and Black Gold seedling mix that works well for Carolina Reaper plants
For my Carolina Reapers, this growing season, I’m using Fox Farms Ocean Forest potting mix and Sungro Black Gold Seedling Mix. Photo by Spicy Trio

What is the Best Soil to use When Seedling?

To start your Carolina Reaper peppers, place your seeds in a sterile medium, only covering them about a quarter of an inch (0.6 cm) deep. Sterile soil is garden or potting soil that is less likely to spread diseases because it has undergone a chemical or other process to kill off any pathogens that are in it. Potting soils that have undergone this process are usually labeled with “sterile” on the package, so they are easy to spot. Keep in mind, nothing can stay sterile forever, and soils can eventually get infested if exposed to pests, but sterile soil is less likely to contain diseases from the start.

If you can’t find sterile soil, you can use an organic seed starter which you can sterilize at home by either baking, microwaving, or steaming it before you use it. If you go this route, I recommend Sun Gro’s Black Gold Seedling Mix, which you can get on Amazon.

What is the Best Soil to use when your Carolina Reaper Plant Begins to Sprout?

Once your Carolina Reaper plant has grown a few inches tall and has at least six leaves, it is time to move it from its seedling tray into a bigger pot. You can transplant it to a 2.5-to-3-inch (6 to 8 cms) nursery pot, before you move it to its final pot. Carolina Reaper plants can grow up to four feet tall and six feet wide, so it is important to get a large container that is at least three gallons.

As with the seedling mix, you want to make sure to use a healthy and sterile potting soil with a pH balance of roughly 6.5 to ensure healthy growth. Make sure the potting soil and the pot drain well and do not accumulate too much water which will drown the plant. I recommend and use FoxFarm Ocean Forest Organic Potting Soil, which has a pH level of between 6.3 to 6.8, making it ideal for growing peppers like the Carolina Reaper.

Do You Need to Change the Soil of Your Carolina Reaper Plant when it Flowers and Fruits?

If you plan to keep your plant in the 3- or 5-gallon pot you transplanted it into, you will not need to change the soil during the rest of its growing stage. This is the case whether your plant is in a pot and kept indoors or outside.

If you intend on moving your plant from its pot into the garden, the first thing you need to do is test the soil in your garden. This is an important step to take which will allow you to measure your soil’s pH and nutrients level, so you know what adjustments you need to make to the soil to make it appropriate to grow Carolina Reapers. One way to test is by using a soil probe, which you can learn more about by reading this post.

If your soil has a pH level that is below 6, you’ll need to add lime to make your soil less acidic and more alkaline. The lime you add comes from limestone rock, which includes ingredients such as calcium and magnesium. On the other hand, if your soil pH level tests above 6.5, you should take steps to make it more acidic. Some ways you can do this is by adding fresh coffee grounds or diluted white vinegar to your soil.

Do You Need to Change Your Carolina Reaper Plant’s Soil After Harvest Time?

You’ve done the hard work, and it’s paid off with a bountiful supply of deliciously spicy peppers. You might wonder what steps you need to take to keep your Carolina Reaper pepper plant healthy between seasons. Like all peppers, Carolina Reaper plants are perennial and can provide peppers for many seasons.

If you live in a warm climate, are growing your Carolina Reaper plant in a pot, or growing it indoors, you do not need to change the soil after harvest. If you live in a cooler climate and need to overwinter your plant that is growing in the garden, you will need to transplant it to a pot with fresh potting soil.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

If you live in an area where the temperature never drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) or grow your peppers indoors, the good news is you don’t have to do anything! Just leave your plant as is, and water them occasionally, and they should be ready to go once Spring arrives. You do not need to touch the soil at all.

If you live in a colder climate where frost is an issue and are growing your plants outside, you will need to bring them inside and overwinter them. If your plant is in a pot, you can just bring your pot inside and leave it as, watering it occasionally to keep it alive. However, if you are transplanting your Carolina Reaper plant from the garden, there are few things you need to do. Make sure you dig up as many roots as possible trying not to damage the plant when removing it. When moving it to a pot, make sure to use fresh potting soil, which will reduce the presence of pests.

Three types of fertilizers set on a red back drop, including: Neptune's Harvest, Miracle Grow Performance Organics, and Tiger Bloom
These are the three Fertilizers I’m using for my Carolina Reaper plant: Neptune’s Harvest for right after transferring the seedling to a larger container, Miracle Grow Performance Organics for when I transplant the plant to its final 5-gallon container, and Tiger Bloom right before the plant produces flower buds. Photo by Spicy Trio

What Type of Fertilizer is Best to Grow Carolina Reapers?

The best types of fertilizer for a Carolina Reaper plant are either fish emulsion or a 5-10-5 fertilizer. A 5-10-5 fertilizer means that the fertilizer contains 5 percent Nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, and 5 percent potassium.

What is the Best Fertilizer to use When Seedling?

You do not, and should not, fertilize your Carolina Reaper when it is seedling. This addition of fertilizer will not do anything, so we do not recommend it.

What is the Best Fertilizer to use when your Carolina Reaper Plant Begins to Sprout?

Once your Carolina Reaper plant has grown a few inches tall and has at least six “true” leaves, it is time to move it from its seedling tray into its own pot. As noted above, an intermediary step is to transplant it to a 2.5-to-3-inch (6 to 8 cms) nursery pot, before you move it to its final pot.

When moving the plant to the nursery pot, you can add some fish emulsion fertilizer to the soil. I recommend using Neptune’s Harvest Organic Hydrolized Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer. It dissolves in water, which makes it easy to apply to your plants. Just mix it with some water and add to your plant’s soil. You can plan to apply this mixture weekly. You only need a little, so you can plan to use a ½ ounce of fertilizer with one gallon of water.

When your plant starts to out-grow its nursery pot, you can transplant it to its final 3-to5-gallon pot. At this stage, you can switch to a stronger fertilizer, such as the Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Plant Nutrition. This has an 11-3-8 ratio, so it’s quite high in nitrogen. You can use this fertilizer monthly, to encourage growth, but ease out of it when your plant gets to a good height and is ready to flower.

What is the Best Fertilizer to use to Encourage Flowering?

To encourage your Carolina Reaper pepper plant to flower, make sure to ease out of using a strong nitrogen fertilizer. During your Carolina Reaper pepper’s flowering stage, it’s best to switch to a phosphorous forward fertilizer, like Fox Farm’s Tiger Bloom which has a 2-8-4 ratio. It is not organic, but it is water soluble, which makes application quite easy, as with the fertilizers mentioned above.

Can you over fertilize Carolina Reaper Pepper Plants?

Yes, you can over fertilize Carolina Reaper pepper plants, so don’t overdo it! The fertilizers are quite potent, so make sure you dilute them accordingly, and only feed your plants on a monthly schedule when they are full grown and ready to flower.

Some signs that you may have overdone it with the fertilizer, include brown spots on your pepper plant’s leaves, often called leaf burn. If you start to notice brown burn spots on your leaves, don’t panic. You can still salvage your plant by flushing it with water. Make sure to allow the water to drain completely from your pot – the last thing you want to do is drown your plant as you’re trying to save it! Place the pot under grow lights or in direct sunlight, to ensure it can dry fully.

If you want to learn how to germinate Carolina Reaper seeds, grow Carolina Reaper peppers, and/or have a general curiosity about the pepper check out my links for related articles listed below, enjoy!

How to Quickly Germinate Carolina Reaper Seeds

How to Grow Carolina Reaper Peppers

How Long do Carolina Reapers Stay Fresh and How to Store Them

Is there a pepper hotter than the Carolina Reaper?

A Carolina Reaper Guide – Colors, Uses, Growing and More

Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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