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What are Ornamental Pepper Plants and How to Grow Them

Ornamental pepper plants are the most beautiful, colorful, and unique pepper plants out there. Growing one at home can add a splash of color to your home or garden. There are over 50 varieties of ornamental pepper plants that come in a variety of sizes, colors, and tastes.

Ornamental pepper plants are plants that produce colorful and beautiful peppers. They’re often grown in containers, as a property border, or in hanging baskets to add color to a landscape. They grow best with at least 10 inches of space, in warm climates, and less frequent watering.

If you want to know more about ornamental pepper plants, we have you covered. We’ll discuss what ornamental pepper plants are and give you a list of some of the most popular varieties. We’ll also tell you more about how you can eat your ornamental pepper plants while taking you through all of the steps to grow an ornamental pepper plant at home.

Photo of purple and gold colored ornamental peppers growing outdoors
Photo by Carmen Rockett

What are Ornamental Pepper Plants?

Ornamental pepper plants are pepper plants with beautiful, vibrant, multi-colored peppers. Since they’re so beautiful, many people use ornamental pepper plants to add color to their garden or yard. Most ornamental pepper plants are chili peppers with a unique shape, growing pattern, or color that makes them delightful to decorate with.

These ornamental pepper plants are usually used for decorative purposes because they may not have the most desirable taste. Most of the time, ornamental peppers are very spicy or have no flavor. Still, some stunning pepper varieties are both pleasant to eat and marvelous to look at.

Ornamental peppers are often smaller than other peppers, and their plants don’t grow any larger than 2 feet (61 cms) tall and wide. Since they’re such small plants, they can make excellent container or basket plants.

What are the Most Popular Types of Ornamental Peppers?

Most ornamental pepper plants are small, and their fruits are vibrant, multi-colored peppers. There are over 50 types of ornamental peppers, and each has its own unique size, appearance, heat level, and harvest time.

These are some of the most popular types of ornamental peppers:

Masquerade Ornamental Pepper

Masquerade plants bear small color-changing chili peppers that transform from green to purple, yellow, orange, and finally to red. Since their colors are vibrant and ever-changing, Masquerade pepper plants are some of the most prized and beautiful ornamental pepper plants.

Masquerade pepper plants usually only grow to be 12 inches (30.5 cms) tall and 12 inches (30.5 cm) wide, making them small and compact. It’s also an annual plant, usually grown on property borders, in containers, and in decorative gardens.

Sangria Ornamental Pepper

Sangria ornamental peppers are a very colorful variety of ornamental peppers. These annual plants grow tiny, slender peppers that change colors from green to orange to purple to red. The peppers are usually between 2 and 3 inches (5 and 8 cms) long.

Sangria peppers are very mild, with their heat level falling between 1,000 and 5,000 SHU. Still, they have a relatively bland taste, so you shouldn’t expect to taste them much if you eat them.

The sangria ornamental pepper plant grows between 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30.5 cms) tall and 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 cms) wide. They make excellent boundaries to properties, and they also grow very well in containers.

Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper

Black pearl ornamental peppers are strikingly beautiful and unique. They have purple to black leaves and deep purple flowers. The chili peppers that grow on this plant are deep black, and as they ripen, they turn bright red. Black pearl peppers are very spicy, usually falling between 10,000 and 30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. Unlike most ornamental peppers, they also have an excellent flavor that’s sweet and fruity.

Mature black pearl pepper plants are usually around 2 feet (61 cms tall) and wide. They’re annual plants but fruit from early summer through fall, providing you with plenty of their stunning, intensely spicy peppers.

Chilly Chili Ornamental Pepper

The Chilly chili is a mild ornamental pepper plant with beautiful, small peppers that change colors from yellow to orange to red as they mature. Chilly chili peppers grow upright, and they have slender bodies that usually only reach 2 inches (5 cms) in length.

Chilly chilis fall between 0 to 1,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, making them one of the mildest ornamental peppers. Still, they have very little taste, making them more decorative than suited for cooking.

These Chilly chilies are an excellent ornamental pepper for people with young children and pets in their families since accidentally eating one won’t burn anyone’s tongue. Chilly chili bushes usually grow to be 9 to 10 inches (23 to 25 cms) high, making them perfect for containers and hanging baskets.

Tangerine Dream Ornamental Pepper

Tangerine dream peppers are some of the most delicious ornamental peppers. Tangerine dream peppers are bright orange chili peppers with a low spice level, usually scoring between 0 and 100 SHU on the Scoville scale. They have a sweet, citrusy flavor and thick, crunchy flesh that makes them perfect for eating and cooking.

Tangerine dream peppers are bright orange, and they grow on dense bushes that usually only reach 18 inches (46 cms) tall. They’re widely known as an excellent indoor plant since they’re hardy and drought resistant.

Mini Bell Peppers

Mini Bell peppers are another ornamental pepper plant that bears highly edible fruits. Mini Bell peppers taste like the larger Bell peppers, but the fruits are usually only an inch to 2.5 inches (2.5 to 6 cms) long. Mini Bell peppers are very mild, and they have sweet, crunchy flesh that makes them perfect for stuffing.

Like larger Bell peppers, mini Bell peppers come in green, yellow, orange, and red varieties, making them another beautiful, colorful decorative plant.

Mini Bell pepper bushes grow slightly larger than most ornamental pepper plants, usually reaching heights of 24 to 30 inches (61 to 76 cms) at full maturity. Since they’re larger plants, they typically do best when grown in the ground.

Photo of orange, peach, and purple ornamental peppers growing on a white pot on a windowsill
Photo by Roman Bjuty

How to Grow Ornamental Pepper Plants (Step-by-Step Guide)

So, let’s talk about how you can grow an ornamental pepper plant at home. While you can grow ornamental pepper plants in containers, baskets, or the ground, no matter where you put your plant, it’ll need at least 10 inches (25 cms) of space to grow.

Before you can plant your ornamental peppers, you will need seeds, seed starter pots, and potting soil. If you want to grow your pepper in a container, ensure that you have a pot that’s at least 10 inches (25 cms) in diameter.

To start growing your pepper plant:

  1. Sow your seeds. Fill your seed starter pots with potting soil and place your pepper seeds just beneath the surface of the dirt. Moisten the soil and keep your seed pots near a bright window or underneath a grow light.
  2. Keep the soil moist. Moisten the soil in your starter pots every day and ensure that it never dries out. Most of the time, it’ll take around 14 days before your seed starts to sprout.
  3. Harden after the seedling’s leaves shed. When a seedling sprouts, it has two light-green leaves that it uses to push the shoot out of the soil. As the seedling matures, it’ll shed these smaller leaves and grow more robust, darker green leaves. Usually, it’ll take six to eight weeks for your pepper plant to develop adult leaves. Once your seedling grows adult leaves, you can start to harden it.
  4. Harden your pepper plant. Once your pepper plant has grown two or more adult leaves, you can gradually introduce it to the outdoors, using a process called hardening. On the first day of hardening, place your pepper plant in a shady spot outside for one hour. On the second day, move it a bit closer to the sun and leave it out for two hours. Increase the sun exposure and hours spent outside every day for seven days.
  5. Transplant your pepper plant. After your pepper plant is accustomed to the outdoors, you can transplant it into the ground, a pot, basket, or another container. Ensure that your pepper plant has at least 10 inches (25 cms) of space around it to grow.
  6. Soak the soil. After transplanting, soak the soil around your plant. When you water it, ensure that the dirt has adequate drainage and never becomes muddy. Pepper plants grow best when their soil is moist, but they’re susceptible to overwatering.
  7. Water every two to three days. After transplanting your pepper plant, water it less. Usually, watering every two to three days is best, unless the weather is extremely hot. Always water your plant in the morning. Since peppers are susceptible to overwatering, it may be helpful to only water your plant when the leaves start to droop or when the soil feels dry.

Depending on your pepper plant’s type, you should start to see significant growth or flowering within a month or two of transplanting. Some ornamental pepper plants will begin to form peppers in early summer. Others may fruit later, so if you want to know when you should start to see peppers on your plant, you should investigate the specific blooming and fruiting times of your ornamental pepper plant.

How Long do Ornamental Pepper Plants Last?

Ornamental peppers will last many years, as long as they’re not exposed to cold temperatures. Many ornamental pepper plants can last up to three years when kept in the right conditions. Some last even longer when kept in constantly warm temperatures.

Some pepper plants are hardier than others, meaning that only some will last over winter, even when cared for properly. Pepper plants like to be always kept in temperatures of over 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) and letting them to get too cold will result in plant death. They’re also very sensitive to overwatering. So, you should always be careful not to overwater your pepper plant if you want it to last as long as possible.

Are Ornamental Peppers Annual or Perennial?

Ornamental pepper plants are perennials but often are treated as annuals since it can be challenging to keep them alive during the winters. It’s possible to keep ornamental pepper plants alive year-round if you keep them indoors during the cold seasons.

If you want to make your pepper plant last as long as possible, you may want to follow some of these expert tips:

  • Fertilize in the early spring. Fertilizing your ornamental pepper plant in the summer could cause your plant to burst in growth, developing young, fresh leaves and stalks. These young leaves are prone to sunburn and sun scalding, so to protect them from the sun and encourage a more balanced growth in your pepper plant, only fertilize when the weather is still cool.
  • Water in the morning. Watering your pepper plant during the day can cause damage to the leaves and roots, and it could also cause your plant to wither. During the day, when the sun is at its hottest temperatures, water evaporates out of the soil, which could cause your pepper plant to dry out. Watering at night is equally hazardous since the water could sit on your plant all night, causing the leaves and roots to rot.
  • Bring your pepper plant inside in the winter. Whether your pepper plant is planted in the ground or a container, you should always bring it inside as soon as the temperatures start to drop if you want it to survive. Pepper plants begin to wilt and wither at temperatures of 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). So, you should bring your plant inside or put it in a greenhouse as soon as the outdoor temperatures start to fall.
  • Water less in winter. When your pepper is not getting any bigger during cold months, you won’t need to water it much—only water your ornamental pepper plant once every three to four weeks in the winter months.
  • Prune your plant. During the winter, parts of your pepper plant will start to die off. This is entirely normal. When the plant’s leaves begin to wither, prune them off, and cut off any dead stalks.
  • Re-harden your plant before bringing it back outside. After keeping your pepper plant indoors for the winter, you will need to reintroduce it to sunlight gradually. On the first day of hardening, place your pepper plant in a shady spot outside for one hour. On the second day, move it a bit closer to the sun and leave it out for two hours. Increase the sun exposure and hours spent outside every day for seven days.

Sometimes, even when you follow all of these steps, your pepper plant will still die over the winter. Some ornamental pepper plants are hardier than others, so don’t be too disappointed if your pepper plant doesn’t make the cut. Still, if your plant does survive, it’ll produce even more peppers during the following season.

Are Ornamental Peppers Poisonous?

Ornamental peppers are not poisonous. Most ornamental peppers are chili peppers that either have a very high spice level and/or are bland tasting. Still, some ornamental peppers are flavorful and moderately mild. Whether your ornamental peppers are delicious, intensely spicy, or bland, they’re used for decorative purposes because of their unique beauty.

Can You Eat Ornamental Peppers?

Ornamental peppers are entirely safe to eat. However, many of them aren’t grown for their flavor. Some are very spicy, while others are very bland. Because of their undesirable flavors, they’re primarily used as decoration. Still, some ornamental peppers are better to eat than others. You can use the spiciest ones to add heat to hot sauces or chili pastes, and you can use the blander, milder ones to add color to various dishes.

However, some ornamental peppers are excellent for cooking. Mini Bell peppers and Tangerine dream peppers are mild, sweet, and delicious ornamental peppers that add color, flavor, and crunch to whatever you put them on.

What do Ornamental Peppers Taste Like?

All ornamental peppers have different tastes, appearances, and spice levels. Some ornamental peppers taste almost flavorless, while others are incredibly spicy. Some even have a unique and desirable flavor. Still, most often, ornamental peppers are either too spicy or bland to be considered garden variety eating peppers.

One of the best-tasting ornamental peppers is the Black pearl pepper. Black pearl peppers have a sweet, fruity taste, although they pack a powerful punch of spiciness. Tangerine dream peppers also have a sweet taste, but they’re much milder than Black pearl peppers. Mini Bell peppers are another ornamental pepper that are excellent for eating and cooking.

Other ornamental peppers, such as Chilly chilies, Masquerade peppers, and Sangria peppers, are very spicy and don’t have much flavor. Since they have no sweetness or fresh, unique flavors, they’re usually only used for their heat or simply as decorative peppers.

Photo of yellow, orange, red, and green ornamental peppers growing
Photo by Zigzagmtart

Are Ornamental Peppers Spicy?

Some ornamental peppers are very spicy, while others can be very mild. Peppers such as the Chilly chili, Tangerine dream, and Mini Bell peppers are very mild and entirely edible. Still, others like Masquerade and Sangria peppers are incredibly spicy with no flavor. If you’re unsure about whether your ornamental pepper plant is spicy or not, you should look into what species the plant is.

Are Ornamental Peppers Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?

Ornamental peppers are poisonous to dogs and cats. Peppers, like tomatoes and potatoes, belong to the nightshade family. Nightshade plants contain an alkaloid toxic to many animals and even humans when eaten in very large quantities. Since dogs and cats, and many other animals, have more sensitive digestive systems than humans, it’s critical to ensure that they don’t eat peppers.

Usually, animals won’t try to eat spicy peppers. Because dogs and cats have a superb sense of smell, they won’t be attracted to peppers that are spicier, which could keep them from tasting a pepper plant.

If your dog or cat seems to eat everything, though, you should keep them away from your ornamental pepper plant. You may want to use chicken wire to keep animals out of your pepper’s area, or if your pepper is indoors, put it on a small plant stand.

Do Deer Eat Ornamental Peppers?

Deer will eat some ornamental pepper plants, but some varieties are unappealing to deer. Usually, they will only eat sweeter, milder peppers like Bell peppers and Chilly chilis, but they won’t eat the spicy ornamental pepper varieties. So, if you’re worried about deer eating your ornamental pepper plants, you should plant a spicier pepper variety.

What Can I Do with Ornamental Peppers?

Beyond their beautiful colors and shapes, you can use ornamental peppers differently depending on the pepper. You can use spicy peppers to add extra heat to hot sauces, chili pastes, pickled peppers, and various dishes. With spicy ornamental peppers, a little goes a long way, so you’ll be sure to have plenty of spice to add to your favorite spicy meals.

Spicier ornamental peppers are also used to make decorative pickle jars. Making decorative pickle jars is a fun way to preserve your ornamental peppers’ beautiful colors and shapes. All it takes to make one is a decorative jar or bottle, some peppers, and enough vinegar to fill the bottle.

You can also dehydrate and decorate with ornamental peppers that you don’t want to eat. All you have to do is string the peppers on a cotton string and hang them to dry over a window, door, or mantlepiece. Ornamental dried peppers are plenty of fun to decorate with, so feel free to get creative with your beautiful peppers.

You can eat milder ornamental peppers in any way you can imagine. You can use them to add color to soups, stews, noodles, salads, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, salsas, and so much more. You can also pickle mild ornamental peppers. They’re often excellent when mixed with salt, garlic, onions, and other varieties of peppers. Pickling with spices is a perfect way to add more flavor to blander peppers, as well.

You can also use the seeds from your ornamental peppers to expand your decorative garden. Once your peppers are ripe, just cut them open and remove the seeds. Set the seeds on a pepper towel or dishcloth for several days and store them in a dark, cool, dry place until you’re ready to sow them next spring.

Do Ornamental Peppers Need Sun?

Ornamental peppers need at least partial sun to grow in the summers, and they grow best with 8 to 10 hours of sun exposure every day. Placing your ornamental pepper plant in a location with southern exposure is usually best since the plant will be exposed to sunlight all day. If your pepper plant is kept indoors, you should ensure that it has enough light by placing it near a bright window or under a grow light.

How Big Do Ornamental Peppers Get?

Ornamental pepper plants are usually smaller than garden pepper varieties. Still, each type of pepper plant will grow to a different size. Most of the time, the largest that an ornamental pepper plant will get is 2 feet (61 cms) tall and wide. Smaller pepper plants will only grow to be around 10 inches (25 cms) tall.

Do you want to know how big your pepper plant will get? If so, you should look into the variety of pepper plants that you have and learn more about the qualities of that specific pepper variety.

Do You Need to Harvest Ornamental Peppers?

Harvesting ornamental peppers can help your plant stay alive, so it’s essential to harvest the pepper regularly. When you leave peppers on a pepper plant, it takes quite a bit of water for the plant to keep the peppers alive. It could also exhaust it, forcing it to shed its leaves, potentially killing it.

Leaving ripe peppers on the plant could also introduce harmful insects, fungi, and bacteria. If you leave peppers on the stem for too long, they’ll rot. Once the pepper starts to decay, bacteria, fungi, and pests will begin to grow on it, potentially infecting the plant’s healthier parts. So, it’s crucial to harvest your peppers after they ripen.

How to Pick Ornamental Peppers?

When you’re ready to harvest your ornamental peppers, use a pruning knife, shears, or sharp scissors to harvest the peppers. Cut the stem just above the pepper, cutting as close to the pepper as possible. Try not to bend or rip the stem since the plant will need to heal the cut after harvesting, and rough cuts take longer to heal.

Closing Thoughts

There are tons of ornamental pepper plants, so undoubtedly, one will fit into your outdoor or indoor space. All ornamental peppers are edible. Still, some are tastier and spicier than others, so you should look for an ornamental pepper plant that fits all your wants and needs before picking one. Planting them in your home or garden could add a bit of spice and gorgeous color to your living spaces.