Ornamental peppers. A fiery fiesta
A tender perennial, Capsicum is native to the New World, from Mexico to South America, and thrives in full sun and the long, hot days of summer. In colder areas they’re grown as warm-weather annuals or as pot plants to be brought in when the weather cools and the days shorten. Ideal for patios and other hot, sunny spots, ornamental peppers are increasingly popular and you can easily snag a range of attractive greenhouse-grown plants for yourself in the spring. They’re also not that hard to grow from seed. If you have the knack for sprouting other close pepper relatives, like tomatoes, you might as well give these treasures a try from seed. And save yourself some money, as well.
It’s the height of hot August right now. Ornamental peppers abound everywhere and I’m reminded of the colorful display that turned my head in Longwood Garden’s test beds last summer. It was a veritable dictionary of cultivars. The fruits were in an astonishing range of colors and shapes, from cream and whites, to brilliant yellows and orange and reds, and then off into pastel lavenders or dark purples and blacks. It was truly a fiery fiesta! Check out that celebration below.
Eventually, though, every celebration has to end and the long days of summer will shorten. And the heat slowly fade away. Ornamental peppers will slow down their growth but the fruit usually hangs on outside until a frost kills the plants. These are tender perennials, though, so bring them inside it you’re growing any in pots. Here, again, they’ll like a warm, sunny spot. Eventually the days get too short. The plants do slow down and the peppers will dry. Come the return of longer days in late winter and spring, trim the plants back for shape, repot if needed, and they’re ready to party for another season.
Above left and right, ‘Chinese Five Color’.
Above left, ‘Chilly Chili’; above right, ‘Treasure Red’.
Upper left, ‘Peppa Pepperoni’; upper right, ‘Peppa Orangina’‘; middle left, ‘Peppa Purple-Tangerine’;
middle right, ’Peppa Blanca-Rose’; lower left, ‘Goldfinger’; lower right ‘Garda Tricolor’.
Upper left, ‘Purple Flash’; lower right’, Masquerade’;
lower left ‘Calico’; lower right ‘Black Pearl’.
Above left, ‘Filius Blue’; above right, ’Starburst Yellow’.
Above left, ‘Garda Hocus Pocus’; above right ‘Pointsettia’.
Above left, Red Missile’; above right, ‘Numex Twilight’.