Friday, August 10, 2012

Growing Black and Bright with Ornamental Peppers

If you're paying attention to the new plants hitting the market, you've probably noticed what I call the "black and bright" trend in plant color. Countless new introductions have striking black (or otherwise dark) foliage and flowers, while many others feature hot, bright colors that stand out from across the garden. One species that captures both these trends is Capsicum annuum, the common pepper plant from which we get bells, jalepeƱo, cayenne and numerous other peppers with culinary uses.

In recent years, this edible species has been bred to be a garden ornamental as well -- some with striking foliage, others with gorgeous, jewel-like fruit. Today, I visited the Hartley Selections Garden at the University of Illinois Arboretum where they are trialing a large number of ornamental peppers. While I've never grown ornamental peppers in my own garden, today's visit has me considering them for next summer.

Here are a few of my favorites.


'NuMex Centennial'

'Purple F1'

'Black Pearl'

'Black Olive'

'Purple Flash'

'Red Missle'


'Chilly Chili'


  1. I think Purple Flash is a standout, the way the foliage flashes different colors. Chilly Chili is one of the showier, low-growing ornamental peppers, and it is considered 'child friendly'. Sangria is another one of my favs that is 'child friendly'.

  2. Jo Ellen, Definitely agree on Purple Flash. It changed dramatically as I walked around it. Very cool effect. For the bright ones, I liked Masquerade because of the addition of the purple.