How Do I Choose the Best Ornamental Pepper Plants?

O. Parker

With their vibrant colors, ornamental pepper plants create a striking visual point in the garden or landscape. An array of fruit colors are available, with varying shapes, growth habits and sizes. These physical characteristics are important considerations. Ornamental pepper plants can also be grown from seed in a greenhouse or planted from purchased starts. When selecting ornamental pepper plants, only healthy, disease-free plants should be introduced into the garden or indoor area.

Ornamental peppers are available in a variety of colors.
Ornamental peppers are available in a variety of colors.

Many types of ornamental peppers are also edible, but as they are grown for color and shape, they tend to be extremely hot without providing a lot of flavor. Pepper plants are frost-tender perennial plants. They grow year-round in mild climates but die back with the first frosts in cold climates.

Ornamental pepper plants can be grown from seed in a greenhouse environment.
Ornamental pepper plants can be grown from seed in a greenhouse environment.

Peppers are often grown as annuals in cold climates. As annuals, the plants die back at the end of the growing season and are replanted from starts or seed the following spring. An alternative is to keep the plants in containers indoors for the winter. Ornamental pepper plants grow best when temperatures are 65 to 75°F (about 18 to 23°C).

There is an array of colors to choose from when selecting ornamental pepper plants. Common colors include bright red, yellow, orange, white and purple — with some almost black. Many ornamental peppers produce small oval pepper fruits while others grow long, narrow peppers. The fruits grow in clusters, creating bright spots of color against the bright green pepper leaves. Some selected varieties produce clusters of peppers with a variety of colors.

The fruits start out green and gradually turn color as they ripen. Hot peppers require heat and sunlight to grow well. In areas with short growing seasons, ornamental pepper plants are not likely to develop their full array of colors before the end of the season. The growing season can be extended by starting seeds indoors in winter. Indoor plants can also benefit from a grow light.

Ornamental peppers can be harvested and used as decoration indoors. Once the fruits develop their full color, the branches can be removed from the plant, and all the leaves can be pinched or clipped off. As the stalks and peppers dry, the color dulls slightly but remains vibrant for several months.

Bringing unhealthy plants into the garden can spread disease among other plants. Nursery plants should be green and bushy. Ornamental pepper plants with yellowing leaves should be avoided, as this is often an indicator of disease.

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