Chile peppers have been highly regarded as ornamental plants since being introduced to Europe in the 15th century (Armitage and Hamilton, 1987). Chile peppers considered by the horticulture industry to be “ornamental,” are compact plants with colorful or showy fruit that grow well in containers (Stommel and Bosland, 2006). From the 1800s to the 1920s, chile pepper plants were given as Christmas gifts because they had pods with red and green fruit colors associated with the Christmas holiday. Today, the typical Christmas plant is a poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), and ornamental chile peppers have lost their association with this holiday (Hammer, 1980). However, in addition to spring and summer sales for outside plantings, ornamental chile peppers are commonly marketed for sale as house plants in the late fall and early winter months (Stommel and Bosland, 2006).
Standard chile pepper cultivars have a dichotomous growth pattern, whereas ornamental chile pepper cultivars have polychotomous branching of the basal stems giving plants a shorter and more compact growth habit. This makes them ideal as container plants with commercial value for the greenhouse and landscape industry (Bosland et al., 1994). Many of the commercial ornamental pepper cultivars currently available need to be pinched or sprayed with a uniconazole foliar application to achieve a dwarf or semidwarf plant habit (Starman, 1993). Dwarf and semidwarf plants are generally recognized as being smaller than normal size plants, whereas compact plants are defined by a dichotomous growth pattern (Bosland et al., 1994). Conversely, Corley and Dempsey (1971) described a compact ornamental chile pepper plant as a plant reaching 48 cm or less in height, which is too tall for most container production and required pinching or spraying to reach the desired dwarf and compact plant habit. This study compared 12 currently available commercial ornamental pepper cultivars considered to be compact and introduces 13 new ornamental pepper cultivars that do not require pinching or a uniconazole foliar spray to develop a dwarf or semidwarf plant habit. The 12 currently available ornamental pepper cultivars were chosen based on their popularity as nursery-potted plants, whereas the 13 new and commercially available ornamental pepper cultivars are being evaluated for the dwarf and semidwarf characteristics. In this study, dwarf is considered to be 15 cm or shorter in height, whereas semidwarf is considered to be 16 to 25 cm.
Hammer, P.A. 1980 Other flowering pot plants, p. 442–445. In: R.A. Larson (ed.). Introduction to floriculture. Academic Press, New York, NY
Stommel, J.R. & Bosland, P.W. 2006 Ornamental pepper, Capsicum annuum, p. 561–599. In: N.O. Anderson (ed.). Flower breeding and genetics: Issues, challenges and opportunities for the 21st century. Springer, Dordretch, The Netherlands
Xrite Inc 1980 Munsell book of color. Glossy edition. Xrite, Grand Rapids, MI