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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.
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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.