Ornamental chili peppers (Capsicum annuum) are small plants that offer lots of color in addition to an edible vegetable, though the peppers are very hot. Prevalent in New Mexico, ornamental chili peppers produce color for about six weeks and have vibrant foliage year-round. They are good houseplants. Available in many colors, including purple, red or yellow, these small plants often are used in the Southwest as an alternative to poinsettias during the Christmas season.
Five-color chili peppers produce a variety of colors, including cream, orange, purple, red and yellow at the same time. The peppers are about 1 inch long and are shaped like cones, with the pointed end at the top. Its foliage is green, lance shaped and grows to about 2 inches long.
This cultivar provides color from the foliage and the peppers. The foliage is fluorescent purple and white, while early peppers are green and age to purple and red. It's peppers are extremely hot.
The Fresno cultivar is similar to a jalapeno and is also known as Caribe Guero and Kenyan. Fresno is a little larger plant than other ornamentals and grows to 30 inches. Peppers are elongated (up to 3 inches) and bright red.
Firecracker Piquin is the among the largest of the ornamental peppers and can grow to 3 feet when planted in the ground. The plant is open, and the 1-inch peppers are more round than pointed. Young peppers are purple but age to orange and red when ripe.
Developed at New Mexico State University, the NuMex line of ornamental chili peppers includes Sunrise, Sunset and Eclipse plants that were released in 1988 and have fruit that begins green but ages to yellow (Sunrise), orange (Sunset) and brown (Eclipse). There are also holiday cultivars, including the NuMex Christmas, which has dark green and red fruit, and NuMex St. Patrick's Day, which has light green peppers that age to orange.