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Tiny peppers, pretty hot, pretty ornamental

By Ralph E. Mitchell

If you can get double-duty from a plant – why not!  One such plant is the ornamental pepper.  To me, almost any small colorful pepper can be ornamental, but there are some developed specifically to add beauty to the landscape and a condiment to your plate!

Most of these ornamental peppers are rarely over twenty inches tall with a similar width.  The small leaves and spreading nature add to these plants as functional groundcovers.  Although ornamental peppers can grow on more than a year, they are best kept as annuals in a flower bed, mass planting, as a border, or in any number of planters.

Ornamental peppers are very colorful ranging from red to orange, yellow to purple, and even white.  The small, bright fruit is round to conical in shape and generally less than two-inches in length.  Some ornamental peppers even have attractive foliage – many being reddish or purple in color.  As peppers ripen, they change from green to the mature color.  This is color change is going on randomly throughout the plant so that there are green as well as many intermediate colors as they ripen – extra attractive!

Ornamental peppers are easy to grow from seed and will germinate in about seven days.  Started plants are also available at local garden centers.  These peppers grow best in full sun for abundant fruiting.

The actual fruit of an ornamental pepper is spicy and hot.  As such, only connoisseurs of hot peppers may appreciate these tiny edible embers.  Others, like me, greatly appreciate the visual beauty of these hardy plants, but not the heat!

Instead of flowers, ornamental peppers use bright, colorful fruit to make an impact in the landscape.  Explore the world of ornamental peppers and you will surely find one or more cultivars that will beautify your yard. If you have any gardening questions, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/.  For information on all types of gardening topics related to edible ornamentals, please call Ralph E. Mitchell, Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Gilman, E. F. Howe, T. (2014) Capsicum annuum – Ornamental Pepper.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2020) Ornamental Peppers.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.

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