Looking for a unique holiday decoration? Try a Christmas pepper plant! These colorful beauties were once even more popular Christmastime gifts than poinsettias! Here is everything you need to know, from their unique history to plant care.
What Is A Christmas Pepper Plant?
The Christmas pepper plant is a chili pepper that may be grown indoors as an annual. The plant has relatively low sunlight requirements, only needing about 2—4 hours daily in an east or west-facing window, and rewards its owners with a profusion of fruits in ripening shades ranging from pale green to yellow, orange, and red. With the red peppers against green leaves and the fact that the peppers are shaped a bit like Christmas lights, these plants make for quite the Christmassy display.
Note: Many ornamental pepper plants carry the name “Christmas pepper,” so to find a true one look for the scientific name Capsicum annuum.
Where Did They Come From?
Peppers have been used as décor since at least the 16th century when Europeans would use them as ornamental plants rather than food. By the 20th century, Christmas peppers became popular along with the Jerusalem cherry and the poinsettia as part of Christmas displays.
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Why aren’t Christmas peppers as popular today? It may have something to do with the way poinsettias cornered the potted plant market. In the early to middle 20th century, the Ecke family of Los Angeles put serious effort into producing new poinsettias that were sturdier and longer-lasting, and with that, they also promoted these plants such that they became the popular Christmas decoration they are today. Unfortunately, Christmas peppers received no such promotion and fell by the wayside.
Plant Care Tips
Sunlight requirements—only those two to four hours a day—are what makes these plants ideal as a houseplant, especially in the winter when there are fewer daylight hours. Other than that, all you need to do is make sure that the potting soil stays well-watered, moist but not too soggy. These plants will grow in conventional potting mixes and only need to be repotted every year or two as they outgrow their pots. If you don’t pick the peppers, they’ll stay pretty and colorful for several weeks to months.
Can You Eat The Peppers?
The answer is yes—but with caution, and it’s not recommended. On occasion, Christmas peppers or other types of peppers sold as Christmas peppers won’t taste like much at all, but true Christmas peppers are hot. Be sure not to confuse this plant with Christmas cherry or Jerusalem cherry, which produce toxic fruits. To tell the difference, look at the shape of the fruit. Jerusalem cherries are round, closer in resemblance to a cherry tomato as opposed to a pointed pepper shape.
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Where To Buy
You can purchase Christmas pepper plants at any home and garden center or greenhouse. You can even order them online and have them delivered as a holiday gift!
Will these spicy darlings make a comeback? Only time will tell, of course, but one thing is certain: Even if poinsettias and other plants overshadow them, these spicy little peppers will always have a place in our holiday décor.
Join The Discussion
Have you ever given or received one of these plants?
Share your experience with your community here in the comments below!
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.