Carl H.T. Grutzner was trained as a locksmith and worked in several German cities. In Berlin he joined the Berlin Mission Society and after training as a missionary was sent to Durban, Natal Colony, in 1859. He and his colleague Alexander Merensky were supposed to start work in Swaziland. When this venture failed they established the mission station Gerlachshoop, between Lydenburg and Middelburg in the Transvaal, in 1861, among the people of the Bapedi Chief Maleo. Grutzner worked there until the tribe was massacred by a Swazi attack in July 1864. He and his friend Merensky then founded Botshabelo mission station near Middelburg in February 1865. Grutzner also worked in the territory of Chief Matlala, near Potgietersrust (now Mokopane), where the mission station Matlala was founded in June 1865. He worked there until 1872, when he was transferred back to Botshabelo and promoted to vice-superintendent of the Berlin Mission Society. In April 1862 he married Marie Friederika Juliane Nachtigal, with whom he had four daughters and a son.
At all three mission stations where he had worked Grutzner collected reptiles and amphibians, including several new species. He sent his specimens to W.C.H. Peters*, who described them in 1869, 1871, 1881 and 1882.
In 1876 Grutzner visited Germany on long leave. When he returned in 1878 he was sent to Bethanien (Bethany) in the Orange Free State. He became head of the Orange Free State synod of the Berlin Mission Society in 1880, and the society's superintendent in South Africa in 1884. His work at Bethanien continued until his retirement in 1908, when he returned to Germany and served as a director of the society until his death.