To get a double show in your garden featuring both flowers and then colorful, berrylike, long-lasting fruits, go for an ornamental pepper. Unlike the bigger, veggie garden varieties, ornamental peppers have been bred to for their looks rather than flavor, even though they are edible. With a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, ornamental peppers can add season-long interest to the garden.
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From little black pearls to larger cone-shaped fruits that resemble Christmas lights, the showy little fruits of ornamental peppers make stunning garden displays and are available in a rainbow of colors. They also make great additions to mixed containers and don't mind hot weather in summer.
New varieties feature novel fruit shapes and colors, and even foliage colors. Keep an eye out for varieties that may also have better habits and longer bloom times.
Ornamental Peppers Care Must-Knows
Growing ornamental peppers is as easy as growing garden vegetable peppers. They need full sun to thrive, and anything less will result in leggy plants with fewer fruits. These annuals prefer to be planted in well-drained soil. Make sure that your ornamental pepper plants don't stay too wet or they may rot in constantly moist 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 to fuel their rapid growth and fruit production.
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, so be sure to know your particular 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 until frost. With continuous bloomers, make sure to remove ripe peppers. This encourages the plant to keep setting new flowers and fruits.
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.
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.
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.
Ornamental Pepper Companion Plants
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 long 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!