Potted pepper plants for sale

Capsicum Annuum

We have all seen in grocery stores, eaten or cooked a variety of this plants fruit known as capsicum, sweet peppers, cayenne peppers, and chilli peppers, which this species has been bred from for ornamental purposes.

The common name of Christmas pepper was given to the plant because many are sold during December and the red colorful fruits provide a festive appearance. Outdoors they fruit during the summer so the common name Christmas is not always used, which makes sense.

Cultivars: There’s a number of cultivars to choose from within this species, with the most common being the plant with peppers that turn from green to yellow and then red. Other fruit colors are also available, like the Bolivian rainbow which produces a variety of colors or the variegated flash with it’s purple fruits.

Gift and garden plant: Ornamental pepper plants are sold mainly as flowering gift plants which are grown for the fruit and thrown away once the plant loses the fruit and the foliage becomes unattractive. They are also grown in gardens during summer and look attractive placed around borders or in containers, although they will not survive the winter frost in temperate regions.

Edible: The fruit is edible but it’s extremely hot and can lack sweetness, depending on the variety grown. If you use them for cooking, do protect your hands or keep them well away from any other skin area – until they have been washed thoroughly.

Flowers and foliage: During summer small white colored blooms appear which don’t attract anywhere near the same attention the fruit gets. Lots of oval shaped leaves grow up to about 4 inches long creating a bushy appearance. Pinching the top of the plant stems (just above a branching point) will encourage the plant to branch out and become more bushy and full looking.

Level of care: The level of care needed to grow the pepper plant is moderately easy and just needs the basics, such as moist soil, plenty of light and moderate to cool temperatures.

How to Take Care of an Ornamental Pepper Plant

Ornamental pepper plants are dwarf pepper plants with more colorful fruits and foliage than the standard hot pepper varieties. They are ideal as houseplants because of their small size and easy growth habits. Although you could grow these plants indoors at any time of year, they are particularly popular as a way to bring some color inside during the winter. This is reflected in the names of ornamental pepper varieties such as “Holiday Lights” and “Poinsettia Pepper.” However, there are also varieties such as “Black Pearl” and “White Fire” available. Check nurseries and seed catalogs to find the latest selections.

Fertilize when planting. You can also fertilize lightly with a low-nitrogen fertilizer (marked with 5-10-10 or similar ratio) once a month, but this is not necessary after the pepper fruits start to form.

Keep inside once temperatures fall below 55 degrees F. Ornamental pepper plants will remain small enough to make good indoor plants.

Place in a sunny window or provide supplemental lighting. This will help the plant to produce more blooms and thus more peppers.

Choose a location that is high enough to be out of the reach of pets and small children. Ornamental peppers are very spicy and their oils can cause eye irritation.

Water your ornamental pepper plant daily, but make sure that the soil is not oversaturated. Make sure that your pepper pot has good drainage.

Pinch new growth to keep your plant compact and encourage new growth. Ornamental pepper plants are naturally small, but this will help to keep them at their best.

Pick fruits for decoration or allow to dry on the plant. Do not eat as ornamental pepper plants may have been treated with pesticides or fungicides not intended for human consumption.

Ornamental Pepper Care: How To Grow Ornamental Pepper Plants

Ornamental pepper care is easy, and you can expect fruit from mid spring until fall. Bushy, glossy green foliage and colorful fruit that stand in upright clusters at the end of the stems combine to create an outstanding ornamental plant. The fruit comes in shades of red, purple, yellow, orange, black or white, and the peppers change colors as they ripen, so you may see several different colors on the same plant. Use them as bedding plants in the garden or plant them in pots so you can enjoy them on sunny decks and patios.

Ornamental Pepper Plants

Although ornamental peppers can be grown as perennials in USDA growing zones 9b through 11, they are usually grown as annuals. They can also be grown indoors and make attractive houseplants.

Are Ornamental Peppers Edible?

Ornamental peppers are safe to eat, but they are normally grown for their attractive color and ornamental qualities rather than their flavor, which you may find disappointing. Most people consider them too hot to enjoy anyway. Peppers bred for culinary use produce better fruit for eating.

How to Grow Ornamental Pepper Plants

Start ornamental peppers indoors in small individual pots filled with potting soil or seed starting medium. Bury the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep. Allow one to two weeks for the seeds to germinate and another six to eight weeks for the seedlings to reach transplanting size.

Begin feeding the seedlings with half-strength liquid fertilizer at two week intervals about three weeks after they germinate if you have planted them in seed starting medium. The medium manages water well and helps prevent fungal diseases such as damping off, but it doesn’t contain nutrients the plant needs to grow. Good potting soils contain enough nutrients to support the plant until transplanting time.

Transplant the seedlings into a sunny part of the garden with organically rich, well-drained soil. Space the plants according to the directions on the seed packet or plant tag, or about 12 inches apart. If you prefer to grow your ornamental peppers in containers, use 6- to 8-inch pots filled with good quality general purpose potting soil.

Ornamental Pepper Care

  • Ornamental peppers require little care. Water the plants when there is less than an inch of rain in a week.
  • Side dress with general purpose fertilizer when the first fruits appear and again about six weeks later.
  • Growing ornamental peppers in containers lets you enjoy the colorful fruit up close. Keep the potting soil evenly moist and use a liquid houseplant fertilizer or a slow-release houseplant fertilizer as directed.

Thai Hot Ornamental Pepper

Light requirements: Full sun.

Planting: Space 12 to 48 inches apart, depending on type. (See information above for specific recommendations.)

Soil requirements: Peppers need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with 3 to 5 inches of compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.2 to 7.0.

Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation.

Frost-fighting plan: Pepper is a hot-weather crop. A light frost will damage plants (28º F to 32º F), and temps below 55º F slow growth and cause leaves to look yellowish. If a surprise late spring frost is in the forecast, protect newly planted seedlings with a frost blanket.

Common issues: Plants drop flowers when daytime temps soar above 90º F. Few pests bother peppers, but keep an eye out for aphids, slugs, pill bugs, and leafminers. Humid weather (especially in gardens with heavy soil that doesn’t drain well) can invite fungal diseases like leafspot.

Harvesting: Check image on plant tag (or at the top of this page) to learn what your pepper looks like when mature. Some peppers turn red, yellow, or other colors at maturity. Others are ready in the green stage, but will turn red if left on plants. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut peppers with a short stub of stem attached. Pulling peppers by hand can cause entire branches to break off. Fruits store longer for fresh use if you don’t remove the stem, which can create an open wound that’s ripe for spoiling.

Storage: Store unwashed (or washed and dried) peppers in the refrigerator in a loosely closed plastic bag. Moisture is a pepper’s enemy and hastens spoiling. For peak flavor and nutrition, use within a week.

For more information, visit the Peppers page in our How to Grow section.

Ornamental Pepper

Ornamental Pepper

To get a double show in your garden—both flowers and then small, berrylike peppers—go for an ornamental pepper. Unlike the bigger, veggie garden varieties, ornamental peppers have been bred to be just that—ornamental. They are edible, but they have not been bred for taste. What they lack in flavor, ornamental peppers make up for in looks. With a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, ornamental peppers can add season-long interest to the garden.

genus name
  • Capsicum
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 6 to 12 inches
flower color
  • Purple,
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Purple/Burgundy
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Drought Tolerant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

How to Grow Ornamental Peppers

Growing ornamental peppers is as easy as growing garden vegetable peppers. They need full sun to thrive, and anything less will result in subpar, leggy plants with fewer peppers. Ornamentals prefer to be planted in well-drained soil. Make sure that your ornamental pepper plants don’t stay too wet, as they will not tolerate consistently wet soil. Drastic fluctuations of wet and dry can stress pepper plants and cause them to lose leaves as well as drop flower buds and young fruits. They also appreciate a slow release fertilizer or regular liquid feed.

Many varieties will benefit from an early pinching to encourage good branching at the base. (Some of the very dwarf varieties don’t need this pinch, and it can actually cause the plants to have an odd habit if they are pinched. Be sure to know your plant variety’s needs.) Some determinate varieties will bloom and set fruit all at once. Many of these will not bloom again after their initial fruit set, so you can treat them as a disposable plant. Others are indeterminate, and will bloom and fruit continuously. With continuous bloomers, make sure to remove ripe peppers. This encourages the plant to keep setting new flowers and fruits.

Ornamental Pepper Colors and New Types

From little black pearls to larger cone-shaped fruits that resemble Christmas lights, these showy little fruits make stunning garden displays and are available in a rainbow of colors. They also make great additions to mixed containers, and have great heat resistance during the summer.

Learn more about peppers with our ultimate guide.

New varieties feature new fruit shapes and colors, and even foliage colors. Keep an eye out for varieties that may also have better habits and longer bloom times.

More Varieties of Ornamental Pepper

‘Black Pearl’ pepper

This Capsicum variety, an award-winning variety, features iridescent purple-black 3/4-inch diameter fruits that turn scarlet-red at maturity. Compact plants with purple foliage are good for containers or in beds and borders. It grows 18 inches tall and wide.

‘Calico’ pepper

Capsicum ‘Calico’ bears attractive purple-and-white variegated foliage with purple fruits. It grows 1 foot tall and 16 inches wide.

‘Chilly Chilli’ pepper

This selection of Capsicum bears nonpungent ivory fruits that mature to bright red. It grows 10 inches tall and 14 inches wide.

‘Pretty in Purple’ Pepper

Capsicum ‘Pretty in Purple’ offers attractive purple fruits, stems, and leaves. It’s a great ornamental as well as edible hot pepper. Fruits turn red at maturity.

‘NuMex Twilight’ Pepper

This cultivar of Capsicum bears cone-shape purple fruits that mature to bright red.

‘Medusa’ Pepper

Capsicum annuum ‘Medusa’ hold mild fruits, a great option if you garden around children. Fruits fade from yellow to orange and eventually red for a multicolor effect. Annual.

‘Purple Flash’ Pepper

This variety of Capsicum bears new leaves in colorful shades of purple and white that mature to rich dark purple. It also has purple flowers and round black fruits. It grows 15 inches tall and 2 feet wide.

‘Sangria’ pepper

Capsicum ‘Sangria’ bears green foliage and bright purple fruits that mature to shades of oranges and red. It’s always producing new fruits, so it’s continually showing a range of colors. The fruits are nonpungent. It grows 1 foot tall and 18 inches wide.

Plant Ornamental Pepper With:

This tough plant endures poor soil, baked conditions, and drought beautifully and still produces bold-color, daisylike flowers from summer to frost.A perennial in Zones 9-11 — the hottest parts of the country — gazania is grown as an annual elsewhere and blooms from mid-summer to frost. A summer plant often grown as an annual, gazania bears boldly colored daisy-shaped flowers from summer to frost. The flowers appear over toothed dark green or silver leaves (the foliage color differs between varieties). They’re great in beds and borders and containers, too.Plant established seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Do not fertilize, and keep soil on the dry side.

Chrysanthemums are a must-have for the fall garden. No other late-season flower delivers as much color, for as long and as reliably as good ol’ mums. Beautiful chrysanthemum flowers, available in several colors, bring new life to a garden in the fall. Some varieties have daisy blooms; others may be rounded globes, flat, fringed, quill shape, or spoon shape. They work exceptionally well in container plantings and pots. Learn more about using mums for a fall-flowering garden.

Verbena is a spreading plant ideal for cascading over retaining walls, pots, baskets, and window boxes. As log as the soil is extremely well drained, verbena will reward gardeners with countless clusters of small blooms all season.It’s fairly drought-tolerant, making it a great choice for hanging baskets, rock gardens, planting in cracks between stones, and other tight places. One annual verbena, ‘Imagination’, is a standout for taking the hottest, driest conditions. It will even do well in a clay strawberry pot!

Can You Eat Ornamental Peppers?


Ornamental peppers are truly beautiful – from the onyx-like Black Pearl to the colorful Bolivian Rainbow. But are the fruits of these plants more than just window dressing? Can you eat ornamental peppers, or are they just for show. The good news: ornamental peppers are safe to eat. But there’s a little bit of a catch.

Cooking with ornamental peppers – prepare for heat

That’s right, go ahead and try these uniquely beautiful chilies in your next dish, but know going in that they are often surprisingly spicy. How spicy? Both the aforementioned Black Pearl and Bolivian Rainbow peppers range from 10,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units. In comparison to our jalapeño pepper reference point, that’s approximately four to twelve times hotter than a jalapeño. They can be even hotter than a serrano chili, closing in on the low end of cayenne pepper. And then you have the likes of the NuMex Twilight – a sight to see – but weighing in at 30,000 to 50,000 SHU – the equal to cayenne.

That’s very spicy for most people, and it causes some dissonance for first-time eaters of ornamental peppers. These chilies look near candy-like at times, yet they often have a surprisingly ferocious bite. After all, they are cultivated for appearance with not much growing consideration for toning down the heat.

Grown for looks, not flavor

Beyond their heat, ornamental peppers also aren’t typically the most complex pepper flavor on the block. Many tend to have a bell pepper-like grassy tang, but there’s not much more to it. Again, they are grown for their looks, not to enhance their unique flavor traits. So if you’re looking for chili pepper flavor complexity, choosing ornamental peppers for your dish is not typically the answer.

But boy do they provide drama to the plate

This is where ornamental peppers shine in the kitchen. They can turn even the most boring color palette into something heightened. This plays right into why they are grown in the first place – to be an ornament, something that brings beauty and enhances the spirit of a location. Used with a light touch (again many are surprisingly hot), they can distinguish a dish. We particularly love using colorful chilies like Bolivian Rainbow peppers chopped raw in a green salad. But, of course, we like it spicy.

Splashy, colorful ornamental peppers add dazzling bursts of red, purple, yellow, orange, black, or white to the garden. And many cultivars display upright fruits that change color as they mature.

While the species Capsicum annuum includes numerous pepper types that are commonly used in the kitchen, such as C. annuum ‘Jalapeño,’ this article will focus on the varieties and cultivars that are grown mainly as ornamentals – bushy, leafy plants that produce eye-catching clumps of vivid fruits.

Ornamental peppers are technically edible, but are not considered particularly tasty. Many are also quite high on the Scoville scale, meaning they can be eye-wateringly spicy. See our full guide to growing hot peppers for more information.

Despite having “annum” – Latin for “annual” – in their name, these plants are not true annuals. They are frost-intolerant perennials, and native to southern North America and northern South America.

In the United States, they are hardy only in Zones 9b through 11. In most of the country, these plants are grown outdoors as annuals, or grown in containers and brought indoors to overwinter.

These plants produce small flowers – with color that varies by type – beginning in May, followed by peppers that remain on the plant until the first frost.

Let’s learn more!


Some gardeners have had luck propagating ornamental peppers from cuttings, but this can be tricky.

Starting from seed or, better still, purchasing potted plants or seedlings from a nursery, are the best – and quickest – ways to get started.

From Seed

You’ll want to start seeds indoors in a rich potting soil 10-12 weeks before your expected last frost date. Plant seeds 1/8 inch deep and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

Place the seed trays or pots in a warm place or on a warming mat set at 75°F. They need temps of 75-80°F to germinate, which typically takes about two weeks.

Being tropical plants, chilis like a lot of light.

A sunny windowsill can be sufficient, but if there are trees or fences obstructing the light, you might want to consider using grow lights to get them off to a good start.

Position your lights above the tiny plants once the seeds have germinated.

After about eight weeks of growth, they are ready to be transplanted outdoors – provided all risk of frost has passed – or to a larger pot.

From Cuttings

If you want to try your hand at propagating ornamental peppers from cuttings, choose a healthy plant and trim off any dead or dying foliage.

Use a clean garden knife or sharp pruners to cut a 5-inch-long stem, making sure that it has at least two leaf nodes. These are small swellings on the stem that will eventually sprout new leaves.

Cut on a diagonal to maximize the surface area to allow for greater water absorption, the way you would when trimming flowers in a cut arrangement.

Strip the leaves from the bottom 2-3 inches of the cutting, and dip it in a powdered rooting medium.

Insert a pencil into a small pot containing well-draining potting soil with drainage holes, and remove it to create a hole for planting. Place the cutting into the hole you created.

Water, and place the cutting in a warm location. Do not allow the potting medium to dry out – keep it well watered and moist.

Transplant when your cutting has put on a few inches of growth, after about eight weeks.

How to Grow

Once your cuttings or seedlings are a few inches tall, they’ll be ready for transplanting either into containers or into your garden.

But first, remember they’ve been growing in an indoor environment and will need to adapt gradually to life outdoors.

This process is known as “hardening off” and involves putting your young chilis outside for a few hours a day, gradually increasing the time that they spend outdoors.

To begin with, place them in a sheltered spot where they won’t be buffeted by the wind.

After a week or two of keeping them indoors at night (and during inclement weather) and outdoors during the day, they should be acclimated to life in the garden.

Ornamental peppers like full sun, but in particularly hot parts of the country, they will tolerate partial shade, too.

If you’re overwintering your plant indoors, be sure to place it near a sunny window.

These plants prefer a temperature range of 55-65°F at night and 70-80°F during the day.

They like well-draining soil that’s fairly rich in organic matter. If you’re transplanting into containers, place some drainage material such as gravel in the bottom of the pot.

The size of the container will depend on whether it’ll be one component in a grouping of other ornamentals, or planted on its own.

When you’re transplanting or repotting, make sure to keep the root ball intact to prevent damaging it, and water in well. In the garden, they’ll need one to two inches of water per week.

Water container-grown plants when the top 1/2-1 inch of soil has completely dried out, and add enough water so that it drains out of the holes in the bottom of the pot.

Fertilize pepper plants with a balanced fertilizer once or twice during the summer.

Growing Tips

  • Peppers appreciate fertile, well-draining soil.
  • If it’s really hot out, you might need to water plants more often, but don’t allow them to become waterlogged.
  • Add mulch within the growing area to retain water and discourage weeds.

Pruning and Maintenance

You can prune these plants if you want to encourage a more compact form, but pruning isn’t necessary. You can pinch the growth tips if you want to promote a more bushy plant.

To keep them looking their decorative best, be sure to remove any dead or dying foliage.

You can trim off about a half an inch of new growth from the main stem and side stems when they are about 4-6 inches long. Don’t trim any stems that have started flowering.

If you’re growing them in a container, you’ll likely need to repot every couple of years as the plant grows.

Snip off chilis when they start to dry out.

Cultivars to Select

From bright, vivid colors to moody dark hues, there are numerous varieties to choose from. Liven up your patio containers with cheerful reds and purples, or add a black-leafed variety for contrast. Here are a few of my favorite ornamental pepper cultivars:

Black Pearl

This unusual plant produces black leaves when it is grown in direct sun.

‘Black Pearl’

In young plants and those grown in shady spots, the leaves remain dark green. Growing to around 18 inches tall, it produces small peppers that start out black and then turn bright red when mature.

Find packets of 100 ‘Black Pearl’ seeds at True Leaf Market.

Bolivian Rainbow

This heirloom variety grows up to 3 feet tall and produces large yields of 3/4-inch-long peppers that are quite spicy.

‘Bolivian Rainbow’

The fruits morph from purple to light yellow to orange, and then to red, as they mature. The stems and leaves have a purple tint and the flowers are purple.

Grow your own ‘Bolivian Rainbow’ plants with these packets of 50 seeds, available via Amazon.

Chilly Chili

This type produces 2- to 2.5-inch blunt-nosed peppers that cycle through greenish yellow to orange and then to dark red.

‘Chilly Chili’

The compact plants grow to 9 to 10 inches tall and spread to about 14 inches. Unlike many ornamentals, ‘Chilly Chili’ is not spicy.

Get a packet of 100 ‘Chilly Chili’ seeds at True Leaf Market.

Filius Blue

This attractive variety is an heirloom type from Mexico. It produces 3/4-inch spicy, roundish fruit that matures from green to purple-blue to peach to bright red.

‘Filius Blue’

The young fruit is very spicy, but as it matures, the flavor becomes milder. The green leaves are purple-tinged at the edges.

The plant grows from 12 to 18 inches tall and six to 10 inches wide.

Find packets containing 1,000 or 2,000 seeds for ‘Filius Blue’ from Outsidepride via Amazon.


The upright, twisty appearance of this plant’s narrow, 2- to 2.5-inch fruits is reminiscent of the infamous monster in Greek mythology whose crown sported venomous snakes in place of hair.


These peppers are more sweet than spicy, and are borne on compact plants that grow 6 to 10 inches tall and about as wide. The fruits mature from ivory white to shades of yellow and orange before turning bright red.

‘Medusa’ seeds are available from Amazon.

NuMex Easter

This 8 to 10-inch tall plant produces pastel-colored peppers in lavender, cream, pale yellow, and pale orange against a background of dark green leaves.

‘NuMex Easter’

‘NuMex Easter’ was an All-America Selections Bedding Plant Winner in 2014, and as such, is particularly useful as a bedding plant.

You can order a packet of 10 seeds from Park Seeds via Amazon.

Orange Wonder

This bright green plant grows to about a foot tall and produces conical orange peppers in summer and fall, amongst bushy foliage.

‘Orange Wonder’

Find a packet of seeds for ‘Orange Wonder’ at Eden Brothers.


You’ll get lots of fruits on this plant, which grows to be about 12 inches tall and as wide as 18 inches.


The 2- to 3-inch fruits start out purple, then change to orange and finally to red.

The chilies produced by ‘Sangria’ are not spicy, so this plant may be a good choice for households with curious young children who might be tempted to take a bite.

Get packets of 25 seeds from Seedsown, available via Amazon.

Managing Pests and Disease

Ornamental peppers may fall prey to a few insect pests, as well as a couple of diseases.


A few common bugs can pester these plants, and insect damage can be unsightly when you’re growing them for decorative purposes.

This is usually not much of an issue indoors, but keep an eye out if your pots are on patios, or in planters by the front door.


Soft-bodied aphids enjoy sucking fluids from a wide variety of plants, and ornamental peppers are no exception. These small, pear-shaped insects cause plants to become stunted and deformed.

Blast them off with water, or use an insecticidal soap to kill them.


“Cutworm” is a generic name applied to the larvae of a number of moth species.

They are usually brown or gray and often mottled. They do their damage by cutting into the base of plant stems. They also like to gnaw on roots.

Get rid of these pests by sprinkling diatomaceous earth around your plants.

Pepper Maggots

These small, white pests are the larvae of a fly that lays its eggs under the skin of peppers.

The larvae snack on the inside of the peppers, damaging them by stunting their growth. You can usually detect the presence of pepper maggots by the tiny “stings” they leave in the skins of the fruit.

Use sticky traps to catch the adults before they have a chance to lay their eggs.


These pests are small white flies that suck out plant juices, causing deformed plants. Control these pests with insecticidal soap or sticky traps.


A couple of diseases can plague ornamental pepper plants.

One of the hazards of growing them ornamentally is that you may be inclined to group them closer together than you would your crop plants, inhibiting airflow. Keep your plants looking fresh by removing any damaged or dying fruits and foliage.

Mosaic Virus

Plants infected by mosaic virus will exhibit white, green, or yellow spots, stripes, or streaks on their foliage. You may also see curled or wrinkled leaves, and the plant’s growth may be stunted.

This virus can be spread by aphids, so prevent it by keeping those pests in check.

Affected plants cannot be cured and must be pulled up and destroyed. Prevent viruses by practicing clean gardening practices such as keeping the growing area free of weeds and debris, using clean tools, and keeping pests at bay.

Verticillium Wilt

This disease is caused by any of six species of fungi that live in the soil and enter a plant via the roots. The disease manifests in wilted plants, and discolored and curled leaves.

Affected plants must be pulled up and destroyed. Contaminated soil may be cured via solarization, a process of heating up the soil to kill the fungus.

To do this, clear the soil of plants and debris, then till or dig up the soil. In the hottest part of the summer, wet the soil thoroughly, and cover the area with a clear plastic tarp.

Bury the edges of the tarp to trap the heat. Leave the plastic in place for 4 to 6 weeks, and then remove it.

Best Uses

Many gardeners enjoy growing ornamental peppers in containers for their decorative value, both outdoors and indoors.

These colorful plants make attractive specimens in the landscape, and also look spectacular in mass plantings.

Shorter varieties make a beautiful addition to borders.

Incidentally, small pots of ornamental peppers, wrapped in colorful cellophane and tied with a bow, are often given as gifts at Christmastime.

Some folks might know them as “Christmas peppers” because of this tradition.

If Not Delicious, Certainly Beautiful

Colorfully attractive and sometimes – but not always – tasty, ornamental peppers add spectacular interest to the landscape, or a pop of brilliance to a sunny spot indoors.

And all that beauty comes with relatively little effort. They do appreciate compost-rich soil and a good amount of water, but aside from those requirements, you won’t spend a lot of time worrying over these beauties.

Keep an eye out for a few pests, and that’s about it! You’ll enjoy a brilliant show of colorful fruit for weeks on end.

Have you grown ornamental peppers? Do you grow them in the landscape, or in containers? Share your tips in the comments section below.

What else will you add to your garden? Check out these helpful growing guides next:

  • Grow Crunchy, Sweet Bell Peppers In Your Own Backyard
  • How to Plant and Grow Ground Cherry, a Tasty Tropical Berry
  • 15 Best Heirloom Tomato Varieties for the Garden


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© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Amazon, Eden Brothers, Outsidepride, Park Seeds, Seedsown, and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

Purple Flash Pepper

Light requirements: Full sun.

Planting: Space 12 to 48 inches apart, depending on type. (See information above for specific recommendations.)

Soil requirements: Peppers need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with 3 to 5 inches of compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.2 to 7.0.

Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation.

Frost-fighting plan: Pepper is a hot-weather crop. A light frost will damage plants (28º F to 32º F), and temps below 55º F slow growth and cause leaves to look yellowish. If a surprise late spring frost is in the forecast, protect newly planted seedlings with a frost blanket.

Common issues: Plants drop flowers when daytime temps soar above 90º F. Few pests bother peppers, but keep an eye out for aphids, slugs, pill bugs, and leafminers. Humid weather (especially in gardens with heavy soil that doesn’t drain well) can invite fungal diseases like leafspot.

Harvesting: Check image on plant tag (or at the top of this page) to learn what your pepper looks like when mature. Some peppers turn red, yellow, or other colors at maturity. Others are ready in the green stage, but will turn red if left on plants. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut peppers with a short stub of stem attached. Pulling peppers by hand can cause entire branches to break off. Fruits store longer for fresh use if you don’t remove the stem, which can create an open wound that’s ripe for spoiling.

Storage: Store unwashed (or washed and dried) peppers in the refrigerator in a loosely closed plastic bag. Moisture is a pepper’s enemy and hastens spoiling. For peak flavor and nutrition, use within a week.

For more information, visit the Peppers page in our How to Grow section.

‘Purple Flash’ and ‘Calico’ Peppers

Latin name: Capsicum annuum
Common name: hot peppers, sweet peppers, ornamental peppers, chili peppers
Cultivars: ‘Purple Flash’ and ‘Calico’
Family: Solanaceae
Origin: Southern U.S. and South America
Plant type: annual
Flowers: small single white flowers
Foliage: varies from variety to variety; can be dark purple, green or a variation of those two colors along with white.
Mature height: 6” – 24” depending on variety
Hardiness: annual
Soil: well-drained
Exposure: full sun
Water usage: medium
Sources: mail order/ retail

With fall in the not too distant future, dreams of cooler temperatures arouse gardeners to get back outside into the garden and get their hands dirty! Luckily for us here in Texas, our warm climate allows us to grow plants later into the year! So what should you be putting out now to capture the warm yet cooler feeling of fall? ORNAMENTAL PEPPERS!

The cool color of the newer purple-foliaged forms with hot-red or orange fruit will definitely capture that feeling! There are hundreds of different varieties of peppers that you can grow, and they come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Some are small and reach only 6 inches tall, while others are tall and bushy and can grow up to 3 feet. The fruit varies as well, from long, narrow peppers that point straight up off the foliage to small, round peppers that hide and shine behind dark, beautiful foliage.

The varieties I’d like to introduce you to are two spectacular new varieties that just arrived on the scene this year from Ball Horticultural Co. — ‘Purple Flash’ and ‘Calico’. Both of these varieties are considered to be annual ornamental peppers — edible, of course (though I am too scared to see how hot they really are)! They both grow to be 12 to 16 inches tall and have a nice arching, bushy habit. ‘Purple Flash’ has dark purple, almost black, foliage, with hints of bright purple and white. The fruit is small, round and black. ‘Calico’ on the other hand is a little brighter, but with the same growth habit as ‘Purple Flash’. ‘Calico’ has tricolor foliage in variations of purple, cream and green. Its conical fruits turn red as they mature.

Some people don’t know exactly how to use a pepper plant in the garden; the first thing they wonder is why put vegetables in the landscape?! Well, these varieties can make any landscape POP! Take, for instance, ‘Purple Flash’ with its dark purple to black foliage. This variety would make an excellent backdrop for many fall plants like annual garden mums or marigolds! Orange or yellow against the purple screams “autumn.” You can use ‘Calico’ in a mass group planting in the front of your perennial or shrub beds as well. Not only do they look good in the ground, but they make excellent filler plants for containers. Pot them up with pansies and violas, Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’, or ornamental grasses.

Since peppers like it warm, they will last only until first frost. Other than that, they are maintenance free! They are extremely drought and heat tolerant, so be careful not to over-water them. If you plant them in early summer next year, the fruits will begin to show as hot weather approaches.

Capsicum ‘Purple Flash’ and ‘Calico’ should be available in retail stores, but if you can’t find them there, they should be an easy find on the Internet.

This ornamental pepper is grown as an annual in zone 7. It performs best in moist, organically rich, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun. Best foliage color occurs in full sun. Plants have good tolerance for high heat, humidity and drought. ‘Purple Flash’ may be grown from seed. Start seed indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost date. Set seedlings or purchased plants out in the garden after last frost date. Space plants 8-12 inches apart. Avoid planting where peppers, tomatoes or eggplants previously grew. Plants may also be grown in containers. Plants generally need little pruning.
Noteworthy Characteristics
‘Purple Flash’ is a herbaceous ornamental pepper that is most noted for its near black foliage accented with occasional flashes of bright purple or white and its tiny jet black fruit. It grows vigorously in an upright bushy mound to 15” tall and 20” wide. Leaves retain good color throughout the growing season. Small dark purple flowers appear in clusters in early summer. Flowers are followed by small, round, glossy, jet black fruit. Fruits are technically edible but extremely hot.

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2006 AAS Flower Winner

Black Pearl is a handsome plant with black foliage. But the standout quality is that Black Pearl looks better as the summer season progresses. The plant branches out, producing more clusters of black, pearl-like, shiny peppers. The plant grows taller and wider developing into a black pyramid shape without pinching, pruning, or grooming. Black Pearl is exceptionally heat-tolerant and requires minimal water and fertilizer. It is easy to grow from seed, bedding plants or pot plants with fruit set. There are no serious insect or disease problems. As the plant matures, the black peppers turn red, adding a new color to the plant. While edible, the peppers are very hot. Use with care! Black foliage is very trendy and Black Pearl delivers true black leaves to the full sun garden. Black Pearl is an effective background plant particularly with silver, white or pastel flowering annuals in the foreground.

Never out of bloom, Black Pearl has already been selected as a “most popular” new plant by consumers visiting a trial ground. Its foliage, color and low care will attract many gardeners and “non-gardeners” to Black Pearl. It performs exceptionally well in containers and deserves to be featured as the centerpiece.

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Capsicum annuum ‘Black Pearl’

Hot pepper plants (Capsicum annuum cvs.) are one of my passions. They are not only one of the world’s healthiest vegetables (chock-full of beta-carotene and vitamin C and known for their pain-relieving properties) but also very ornamental in a mixed border or patio container. Some of my past favorites have been ‘Trifetti’ for its variegated leaves, and ‘Medusa’ and ‘Nosegay’ for their multicolored, miniature fruit. This year, laurels go to the exciting, miniature-fruiting cultivar ‘Black Pearl’.

A 2006 All-America Selections winner, ‘Black Pearl’ boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. In a border, ‘Black Pearl’ makes an outstanding visual foil for silver-foliage plants, like artemisias (Artemisia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantina and cvs., Zones 4–8), and verbascums (Verbascum spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9). Variegated-foliage plants, like some of the dappled and spotted heucheras (Heuchera spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8) and heucherellas (X Heucherella cvs. Zones 3–8), are also exemplary companions in pots.

Like all peppers, ‘Black Pearl’ needs plenty of sun and warm temperatures for optimal growth. Start seed indoors two to three weeks before your last frost date. Plants are ready to go outdoors when the soil temperature reaches 60°F. The leaves will start out green but will turn black as soon as they hit full sun. Clearly heat tolerant, ‘Black Pearl’ requires minimal water and fertilization during the season. Similar to other hot peppers, it comes with its own built-in pest-deterrent system.

In midseason, ‘Black Pearl’ begins to display lilac-hued blossoms, which are followed by the fruit. The fruit turns from black to a rich, glossy crimson as it ripens, lending an additional visual bonus that continues until frost. The fruit, while small, packs an extremely hot punch, so employ them with care in the kitchen. All in all, ‘Black Pearl’ is a bona fide garden stunner that is as delicious to the eye as it is to the palate.

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