Looking to add a pop of color to your garden? Ornamental peppers, a showy annual with colorful foliage and fruits, can add color and a whimsical aesthetic to your backyard.
Peppers are becoming increasingly popular as ornamental plants for home gardens. The fruits are actually safe to eat, but the flavor and heat can make them unpalatable.
Ornamental peppers can be planted in beds or containers. The species are quite varied, but usually grow in shrubby mounds, between 1 and 4 feet tall. The plants have medium green leaves and yellow or white flowers that can be bell or star-shaped. The flowers become flashy peppers that grow in clusters and come in a range of appealing colors, like red, yellow, purple, orange, or brown. Some are extremely spicy chili peppers, but others are sweet bell peppers. The plants usually have fruit from mid-spring to fall.
Another perk of peppers is that they tend to be easy to care for, and they aren’t susceptible to serious insect or disease problems.
The Kemper Center for Home Gardening is trialing more than 10 varieties of these peppers this summer to see how they perform in hot, humid St. Louis weather. You can do some trials of your own in your backyard.
Ornamental peppers do best in moist, organically rich, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun. Pinch young plants to promote fullness. You can start seeds indoors, six to eight weeks before the last frost date, then set seedlings out after the last frost date. You can also buy plants at a local gardening store, if you don’t want to start with seeds, and set them outside after the last frost.
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For more gardening tips, a monthly calendar of gardening tasks, and other helpful advice, visit theKemper Center’s Gardening Help page.
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