Spice Up Your Garden With Ornamental Peppers

Who doesn't want a plant that looks like it was made for Carmen Miranda's headdress?

Published April 17, 2023
Ornamental peppers in pots

Ornamental peppers have such a striking presence that they look like they belong in one of Carmen Miranda's elaborate headdresses. This annual plant that makes petite, bold-colored produce is a favorite with landscapers and home gardeners who favor visually exciting displays. Give your garden a pop of bright color by learning how to grow and care for a few ornamental pepper plants.

What Are Ornamental Pepper Plants?

Ornamental peppers are an annual plant in the Solanaceae family. According to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, they typically grow up to 2' tall. Unlike most other pepper plants, ornamental peppers grow their peppers upright (sticking up) which gives them this tropical, vibrant appeal.

They also get their name from this visual display as they fall in a category of flora planted for their aesthetic value.

Ornamental peppers

Guide to Planting Ornamental Peppers

You don't have to be a seasoned gardener to care for ornamental pepper plants, so long as you follow this helpful guide.

What Popular Ornamental Peppers Can You Plant?

There's not a single type of ornamental pepper plant; in fact, there're multiple ones you could add to your outdoor garden depending on what color or height profiles you need. Some of the more popular ornamental pepper plants people pick are:

  • Black [earl
  • Bolivian rainbow
  • Chilly chili
  • Medusa
  • NuMex Easter

When Should You Plant Ornamental Peppers?

Because they need a ton of sunlight, you should plant your pepper seeds about eight weeks before brusque summer temperatures. Many people like to start germinating their seeds two weeks before the last spring frost. And, depending on when you planted, these annuals will yield their fruit throught the summer and wither by the end of autumn.

Where Can You Plant Ornamental Peppers?

Ideally, you need to plant your ornamental peppers in areas with full sunlight. If you don't live in areas where temperatures reach above 70° during the day, then you're not going to see the best results. Make sure you plant them in slightly acidic soil (6-6.5 pH) about 2' apart from each other to give them space to grow out.

How Much Water Do They Need?

Only plant ornamental peppers in well-drained soil, but make sure you keep their soil moist. They're relatively drought resistant but will perform their best when they're not being forced to dry out.

Should You Use Fertilizer?

Fertilizer is going to be a helpful aid with your ornamental pepper plants because they need the extra nutrients to grow big and beautiful peppers. Your pepper plants won't need fertilizer until they're producing their fruit, and when they do, you should start by diluting it just to make sure they can handle the specific composition you've chosen.

Do You Have to Harvest the Peppers?

Unlike some vegetable-producing plants, you don't have to prune or harvest the peppers themselves. Usually, people aren't eating ornamental peppers, so you don't need to gather the ripe produce to encourage a bigger bounty.

Can You Grow Them Inside?

While you can grow ornamental peppers in large indoor pots, it's more difficult than doing so outside. Because they require so much sunlight and heat, it's hard to find a location in your house that gets the adequate amount. However, if you've got a sunroom or a breakfast nook that gets a lot of sunlight throughout the day, you can try setting up shop there.

Can You Eat Ornamental Peppers?

Technically…yes. Should you eat ornamental peppers, though? Probably not. Unlike hot pepper varieties like jalapeno and habanero or sweet peppers like bells, ornamental peppers don't add much flavor save for spice to a dish. They have a distinctive grassy taste, and to some they're particularly spicy. Other than spice, there's just not a lot going for it. So, ornamental peppers should stick to exciting your eyes, not your tongue.

Add a Little Flash and Fire

You could say that ornamental peppers are the divas of the plant world. They've got big personalities, are so beautiful to look at, and can be a little spicy. Amateur and seasoned gardeners can tackle growing these lovely tropical plants in their summer gardens with the right know-how.

Spice Up Your Garden With Ornamental Peppers