Spice up your garden with ornamental peppers
Ornamental peppers spice up the garden with a hot new look. Not only are the peppers colorful, they're also edible.
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At Cantigny, Chilly Chili and Black Pearl, both All America Selection Winners (AAS) – Chilly Chili in 2006 and Black Pearl in 2002 – are gorgeous examples of the “hot” and the “not-so-hot.” (To receive the AAS award, a cultivar must show “superior garden performance”.)Skip to next paragraph
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The beautiful Black Pearl is very hot; while Chilly Chili, as the name implies, has little or no heat, and thus, is classified as “child-safe” according to the 2003 Ohio State University Ornamental Pepper Cultivar Trials.
[Note: The first photo at top shows Black Pearl, click at the bottom to see the second photo, of Chilly Chili, and for the third photo, showing the variety of fruits on ornamental peppers.]
Chilly Chili is a compact ornamental pepper that produces a heavy load of mild, two-inch long, erect chilies. The fruit starts out chartreuse, changes to orange and finally to a deep, waxy red, becoming ever more beautiful as the season progresses.
Long after the growing season is over, if the colorful red and yellow fruit of Chilly Chili is dried, the fruit can be used for indoor decorations.
Black Pearl, on the other hand, is sought after for its deep purple, almost black leaves. If started or grown indoors, the leaves will start out green, but once exposed to the sun the color quickly deepens.
Intermixed among the very distinctive semiglossy, deep purple to black leaves are scores of half-inch, perfectly round fruit, which start out as shiny, black-purple “pearls” eventually maturing to glistening orbs of fire-engine red.
Black Pearl, a true pirate’s treasure in the garden, grows to about 18 inches in height and 12 to 16 inches wide.
Like all peppers, these varieties love hot weather and are extremely drought tolerant. They are adaptable to any full-sun location and excellent in patio containers.
These photogenic ornamental peppers tolerate our hot and humid Midwestern summers and still exhibit great color when other plants have faded.
Feed your peppers with a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-20-10 at three-to-four-week intervals. Or, if you prefer, you can also use dilute, water-soluble fertilizer every other week.
Betty Earl, the Intrepid Gardener, is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She's the author of “In Search of Great Plants: The Insider’s Guide to the Best Plants in the Midwest.” She also writes a regular column for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and The Kankakee Journal and numerous articles for Small Gardens Magazine, American Nurseryman, Nature’s Garden, and Midwest Living Magazine, as well as other national magazines. She is a garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens and a regional representative for The Garden Conservancy. To read more by Betty, click here.