Former Extension Educator, Horticulture
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Ornamental chile peppers may provide just the kick you're looking for to spice up your landscape. Breeders at the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute have paired the vibrant and variable colors available in chile peppers with a compact growth habit and upward-facing fruits. The result? A whole suite of ornamental chile pepper cultivars.
Since the 1990s, NMSU has released a series of holiday
These plants are well suited to growing in full-sun flowerbeds and patio pots; you can even grow them indoors as long as they have 12 hours of strong light. The short stature of ornamental chile plants—maxing out below 12 inches— makes them perfect for the shorter tiers in your landscape design.
Ornamental chiles can tolerate hot conditions, but for best growth, water when the top half inch of soil becomes dry. Ornamental chile peppers are frost tender, so hold off planting until several weeks after your area's average frost-free date. For more on cultivating peppers, visit U of I Extension's "Watch Your Garden Grow" (go.illinois.edu/peppers).
In 2014, 'NuMex Easter' was named an All-America Selections winner for its superior performance at trial gardens across the country. All-America Selections is an independent, not-for-profit organization that tests new varieties of garden plants, releasing the best as AAS winners. The judges appreciated the cultivar's compact and uniform plant size, colorful and eye-catching fruits, and ease of growth. Ornamental chile peppers come with the bonus of being edible, at least if you enjoy spicy flavors. For more information about All-America Selections winners, visit all-americaselections.org/winners.
To see how 'NuMex Easter' and 'NuMex Halloween' look in person, stop by the Jackson County Extension Office in Murphysboro. I have a demonstration garden planted with these and other ornamental vegetables and herbs.
Ornamental peppers are a fun and unique addition to the garden, sure to start conversations and attract visitors.