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.
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.
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
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!