Ornamental Pepper Plant Types

Ornamental pepper plant varieties. Growing and using decorative pumpkin chili peppers (also spelled chile). Ornamental pepper seeds. Edible ornamental chillies.

Ornamental outdoor chili peppers add an exciting new dimension to annual flower beds and borders. The taller varieties can be massed to fill gaps in the perennial border. Short types can be used to edge flower beds.

Either way, the impact is the same. Something bold and unexpected.

The bright colors of the ornamental pepper plant rings a festive note in the landscape. Ornamental pepper fruit is usually small but most plants are exceptionally productive and bushy.

First, they cover themselves in tiny white buds. The flower buds are quickly replaced with a heavy crop of fruit which typically starts out green but changes color as it develops. It is not unusual to see fruits of many different colors on the same plant!

Edible Ornamental Peppers

Fish peppers, an African-American heirloom chili.

Pepper, Hot, Fish 1 Pkt.(30 Seeds)

Tobasco Peppers

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Mild but flavorful 'Hot Mariachi' peppers.
Pepper, Hot Mariachi Hybrid 3 Plants

Ornamental peppers are designated as such, not because they are not edible, but because they are not GOOD eating.

Hot Fish peppers (above) are an exception to this rule.

Many gardeners ask, "Can you eat ornamental peppers?"

The answer is yes, but you probably wouldn't want to.

Hot Fish is an African-American heirloom chili featuring variegated foliage and striped fruit.

The best way to use ornamental chile peppers is as decoration. Most are extremely hot--too hot for the majority of people to eat. And even a chile head wouldn't eat them because they usually lack flavor.

If you want a good eating chile, there are hundreds to choose from and many of them are very pretty plants as well. You could easily find many hot pepper varieties that would enhance both your landscape and your meals.

Pumpkin Chili Peppers

This pot of tall pumpkin chillies is the central feature in the vegetable garden design at Pinewood Estate.

This pot of tall pumpkin chillies is the central feature in the vegetable garden design at Pinewood Estate in Lake Wales, Fl.

This picture will give you some idea of the stature and bearing habit of this ornamental chili.

Plants grow from 20-40 inches tall and produce approximately 30 fruits.

The crop will ripen in 105 days.

If you live in a short season area, the peppers can be left on the plants through very light frosts.

Pumpkin chili fruit in various stages of ripeness.

The mild heat of the pumpkin chili pepper makes it a good edible ornamental pepper but, while it may serve you well in the kitchen, this is not its best use.

Each fruit turns from green to red to orange as it ripens. Fully ripe pumpkin chillies look like miniature pumpkins. Their ability to harden and dry without molding make them useful as fall holiday decorations.

Pumpkin peppers are ready to eat at the red stage. Leave them on the plants until they turn orange if you want to dry them. You can dry the crop all at once by hanging the entire plant upside down in a dry, airy space.

Growing Ornamental Chili Peppers

Follow the instructions for growing hot peppers.

An ornamental pepper plant needs the same care as any other hot pepper plant. The only thing you are going to do differently is you are not going to harvest the peppers for use in the kitchen.

The only time you need to remove the peppers from the plants is when you want to rejuvenate them and bring them into a second bloom.

Do this after the first crop of peppers has begun to shrivel. You don't have to clip off each pepper individually, just shear the whole plant back by half its height. This is a good time to feed and water it.

If you do this in late summer, the plant should put on a good color show before it gets frost bitten.

Ornamental Pepper Seeds & Plants

Sweet Thing, a mild cayenne pepper.
Heatless Cayenne Pepper, Sweet Thing 3 Plants
'Hot Lemon' an heirloom chili from Ecuador.
Heirloom Hot Lemon Peppers 3 Plants
Pasilla Bajio is used in Mexican cooking.
Mexican Hot Pepper 'Pasilla Bajio' 3 Plants

Unless you are growing hybrids, ornamental pepper seed can be saved from the dried fruit pods for planting the following year.

Sow the seed in small pots indoors, at least 8 weeks before the last frost date. Keep the pots warm and moist, and the seeds will be up in 3 weeks.

Move the ornamental pepper plant seedlings into bright light so they don't get leggy.

Feed them every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer at half strength. Any houseplant fertilizer food will do to start them off. Once they are a few inches tall, switch to a high bloom formula.

Ornamental Varingata Pepper

White splashed leaves and purple flowers set this cultivar apart even before the purple fruit forms.

The ornamental pepper Purple Flash is another purple ornamental pepper. The leaves of this variety are variegated green, purple and black.

The round fruit is purple when it first forms. It ripens red. All of this takes place on a 24 inch plant.

Ornamental Pepper Sangria

Capsicum annuum ornamental pepper 'Sangria Hybrid' produces loads of scarlet and neon purple peppers that point toward the sky. They line the branches of the plant and resemble strings of Christmas lights.

Plants grow to about a foot tall and wide, are well-branched and bear heavily.

This variety is a perfect container gardening plant and safe around kids and pets as, unlike many ornamental peppers, it is very mild.

Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper Plant

A plant of 'Black Pearl' (center) surrounded by ornamental sweet potato vines.

A plant of 'Black Pearl' (center) surrounded by ornamental sweet potato vines.

Round, shiny, almost iridescent black fruit on a compact, upright growing plant with purple/black leaves is the ornamental pepper Black Pearl.

The "pearls" turn bright red when ripe and provide a shocking contrast to the dark foliage.

This plant grows into an attractive shape without pinching. It demonstrated exceptional heat tolerance in AAS (All-America Selection) trials in 2006. It needs less food and water than most other ornamental pepper plants.

At 20 inches tall and wide, Black Pearl would make a great centerpiece in an annual container garden. The black leaves would complement white or silvery foliage like that of Senicio cineraria.

A pink flowered periwinkle plant would also combine with it nicely.

The flowers of 'Black Pearl' are lilac.

Another ornamental pepper with round fruit is 'Lady Bug'. The fruit starts out green and turns bright red. Similar heat to hot cherry peppers.

This one is the exception to the rule and is good for fresh eating or pickling.

Twilight Ornamental Pepper Plant
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Numex Twilight was developed at New Mexico State University. It is a hybrid of the Thai ornamental pepper.

The 18 inch plant covers itself in purple ornamental peppers which then turn yellow, orange, and finally red when fully ripe.

There will be fruit in various stages on the plant at the same time. This produces a rainbow effect. The fruit is similar to bird peppers.

Tricolore Garda Ornamental Pepper

Tricolore Garda Ornamental Pepper

Ever-Changing Color Display!

Medusa Ornamental Pepper Plant

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Another great container gardening pepper.

This 12-18 inch ornamental pepper plant blankets itself in long, thin, upward pointing, yellow and red fruit in late summer. The fruit holds well on the plant and is only mildly spicy making it a safe bet for households with small children.

More Pepper Growing Advice:

When Should You Pick Serrano Peppers?

What Are Sweet Banana Peppers?

Growing Bell Peppers for Food and Fun

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