Native to South America, ornamental pepper plants are popular houseplants because of their small size, and the bright colored fruits they bear. These plants belong to the Capsicum group of plants, which also includes sweet and hot peppers. Besides their visual appeal, these peppers can be used for cooking as well. Although these plants can be grown any time of the year, they are one of the most popular choices to add color to one's home during the winter months.
Ornamental Pepper Plants
These plants belong to the family Solanaceae. They are the dwarf variety of other hot pepper plants, and their scientific name is Capsicum annuum. They grow upright and reach a height of 18", and have a width of 16". These plants have finely-shaped leaves, and they bear fruits that are small chilly pepper shaped or round ball in shape. These are dicotyledonous annuals, that gain popularity as an ornamental variety from the brightly colored peppers that may range from purple, to different shades of red and yellow. The fact that they are preferred for indoor gardening during the winter season is evident from names like Christmas Pepper, Holiday Lights, and Poinsettia Pepper. Alternate names of ornamental peppers are Black Pearl and White Fire.
Caring for Ornamental Peppers
Like members of the Capsicum genus, ornamental peppers like warm temperatures. They are frost tender and grow well indoors. However, if you grow them outdoors, ensure that the plant is kept at a place where it gets a patch of sunlight. In case it is grown outdoors, the plant should never be exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, the best way of ensuring proper care is to provide it with full sunlight coming from south/west direction.
Soil and Water Requirements
Ornamental peppers grow well in sandy to loamy soil. For proper growth, choose a soil that is well aerated and does not hold back water. The soil should be moist but not soggy. While buying soil for the plant, check that it isn't too tightly packed. In case it is, add sand or perlite and peat moss to it.
These plants need to be watered daily, however, they should not be over watered. Too much water, that may result in water logged soil, is harmful for the growth of the plant.
Feeding the plant with a water soluble fertilizer once a month would meet its general mineral requirements. Once the plant starts bearing fruits, add fertilizer to the soil twice every month. However, dilute the fertilizer to half its concentration. Alternately, one could also use a granular slow-releasing fertilizer once a year. If you want more fruits and less leaves, then avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
Although caring for the plant is easy, these plants are prone to spider mites, whiteflies, and aphids. The plants should be inspected regularly (the young parts for aphids) for pest infestations. Also while buying a variety from a nursery, ensure that the plant does not carry these insects already, as they may spread to other plants as well.
Ornamental peppers are a favorite of those who love gardening. With proper care, these plants can be colorful and exotic additions to one's garden.