What is an Ornamental Pepper?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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An ornamental pepper is a pepper plant which is grown for its aesthetic value. Many peppers are quite compact and attractive, making them very suitable for decorative uses. In addition to being functional ornamental plants, these peppers can also be used in food and cooking, and their fruits have varying degrees of hotness. Many garden supply stores sell ornamental peppers, especially during the winter holidays, when they may be known as “Christmas peppers.” They can also be grown from seed.

Like other plants in the Capsicum genus, ornamental peppers like to be kept warm, and they are very frost-tender. They take well to being grown indoors, as long as they are kept in a patch of sun and the soil is kept moist, though not waterlogged. To shape the pepper, gardeners can pinch new growth, encouraging the pepper to branch out and become bushy. For people who like the flowers of the ornamental pepper, the fruits can be removed as soon as they emerge or shortly thereafter, which will encourage the plant to keep flowering.


These peppers vary widely in color and growth habit. Some produce fruits which are so dark purple that they are almost black, while others produce multicolored orange, red, and yellow fruits. The foliage may be deep green to purple, and when the plant is well-shaped as it grows, it can become very bushy. For people in warm climates, ornamental peppers can be planted outdoors to serve as fall foliage, adding some color to the garden as it winds down. To grow an ornamental pepper outdoors, the temperature should never fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

Many ornamental peppers are extremely hot. Since they are sold as ornamentals rather than food plants, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what kind of pepper you have, and the only way to know is to try the pepper. You may end up with an extremely hot pepper, or one with a very mild, neutral flavor. The peppers can be used fresh in a variety of dishes, or they can be dried and saved in whole or ground form. Remember that the bulk of the heat is in the seeds and white membrane inside the pepper.

If you plan to use an ornamental pepper to decorate and to cook with, you may want to purchase one from a garden store which specializes in food peppers and other vegetables. The staff can tell you what kind of pepper you have, and you can be assured that dangerous pesticides or fungicides have not been applied to the pepper. You can also grow an ornamental pepper from seed, bypassing this risk. If you aren't sure about the provenance of a pepper, you may want to avoid eating the fruit, using the seeds to germinate a new pepper plant instead.


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Post 5

A friend gave me a pepper that I dried and sewed. Had the plant four or five now! (Even planted more this winter... going to try banzai technique on 'em)I eat fresh ones in salads and dried out dozens if not hundreds for pizza topping!

Post 4

my mother grew them in florida without issues.

Post 3

Can they take sw florida's direct sunlight and heat?

Post 2

If the peppers are left to dry on the plant, they will happily reseed. I love them, I started with one, and now have more than I can count with no effort:)

Post 1

2 Years ago I planted a variety of ornamental pepper plants in my daughter's garden-Last summer, one of the plants came back and sent out about six more plants. Is this typical of ornamental pepper plants?

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