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Ornamental peppers display their colorful fruit through the winter.

Ornamental peppers display their colorful fruit through the winter

The showoffs of the pepper clan (Capsicum), ornamental peppers are bred for color--not flavor. In vivid succession, their fruits turn from green to yellow to various hues of red; plants often display all three colors at the same time. Fruit shapes range from cones to round. In pots, they make unusual decorations or gifts.

This month, look for potted plants at nurseries and florists. Ornamental peppers in 4-inch pots cost about $1.50, in 6-inch pots $4 to $10, and in 1-gallon cans about $4. Here's a sampling of the varieties. (Fruits of ornamental peppers are edible, but some have a fiery bite.)

"Candlelight' (shown in the larger photograph above) bears abundant 1- to 1 1/2-inch fruits that turn from green to crimson red. Plants reach 10 to 12 inches.

"Holiday Cheer' has round fruits that turn from yellow brushed with purple to red on 8-inch plants. (Don't confuse them with the toxic fruits of Jerusalem cherry--Solanum pseudocapsicum--another holiday plant.)

"Holiday Flame' is a compact plant (to 6 inches). Slender 2 1/2- to 3-inch-long fruits turn from brilliant yellow to scarlet red, contrasting with dark green leaves.

"Holiday Time' develops bright red, 1-inch-long, cone-shaped fruit above dark green foliage; plant grows 8 to 9 inches tall.

Indoors. Treat them as short-lived house plants. Once fruits begin to ripen, plants will live about two to three months longer indoors. Give them bright light, as in a south- or west-facing window. Water when soil is just dry to the touch (peppers are very sensitive to over- and underwatering). Remove fruits as soon as they begin to wither.

Outdoors. In mild-winter areas, set potted plants in a protected spot, such as on a covered porch or patio. Plants can't stand constant temperatures below 40| to 45|.

For warm-weather planting, seeds of several kinds are available ($1 to $2 per packet); plants mature four to six months after sowing, depending on variety. A mass of ornamental peppers such as "Candlelight' can make a colorful bed or border from summer until first frost.

Photo: A bright display against deep green leaves, ornamental peppers show off red fruits (above), yellow and red ones (below)
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1984
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