US National Arboretum


New Ornamental Pepper Wins Prestigious Award

image of New ornamental pepper cultivar 'Black Pearl'
A new ornamental pepper cultivar 'Black Pearl', developed for ornamental use by arboretum Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit scientist Rob Griesbach and John Stommel of the Agricultural Research Service’s Vegetable Laboratory, was designated an All-America Selections® (AAS) Flower Award winner for 2006. AAS promotes new garden seed varieties with superior performance as judged in impartial trials in North America.

image of New ornamental pepper cultivar 'Black Pearl'

One look at 'Black Pearl' and it is easy to see why it won this award. The compact, upright plants bear distinctive semi-glossy, deep purple to black leaves, complemented with scores of shiny round black-purple "pearls" of fruit that mature to bright red. 'Black Pearl' performs well as either a bedding or pot plant, where it offers a vibrant accent to home gardens throughout the summer and fall seasons. This selection also offers nursery growers a new crop to add to their inventory of landscape plants.

image of New ornamental pepper cultivar 'Black Pearl'
'Black Pearl' is a product of a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement between ARS and Pan America Seed Company to tap genetic diversity in Capsicum species for development of new ornamental and dual-purpose ornamental/culinary pepper cultivars with novel fruit, foliage, and plant growth habit. Ornamental peppers have the highest per unit value of any pepper product and have become a profitable crop for greenhouse pot plant and transplant production and an innovative way for small farmers to produce a high-value alternative crop. Ornamental plants are one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture with an annual wholesale value of $5 billion. Seed of 'Black Pearl' is available only from the Pan American Seed Company, 622 Town Road, West Chicago, Illinois 60185, and through many seed catalogs.

AAS Trials were initiated in 1932 "to promote new garden seed varieties with superior performance judged in impartial trials in North America". AAS is recognized as the oldest, most established international testing organization in North America". Visit All-America Selections® at The 'Black Pearl' Award statement from their web site is shown below.

image of AAS logo

2006 All-America Selections® Winner

Ornamental Pepper ‘Black Pearl’
Flower Award Winner

'Black Pearl' is a handsome plant with black foliage. But the standout quality is that 'Black Pearl' looks better as the summer season progresses. The plants branch, producing more clusters of black, pearl-like, shiny peppers. The plant grows taller and wider developing into a black pyramid shape without pinching, pruning, or grooming. 'Black Pearl' is exceptionally heat tolerant and requires minimal water and fertilizer. It is easy to grow from seed, bedding plants or pot plants with fruit set. There are no serious insect or disease problems. As the plant matures, the black peppers turn red, adding a new color to the plant. While edible, the peppers are very hot. Use with care! Black foliage is very trendy and 'Black Pearl' delivers true black leaves to the full sun garden. 'Black Pearl' is an effective background plant particularly with silver, white or pastel flowering annuals in the foreground.
image of New ornamental pepper cultivar 'Black Pearl' - credit All-America Selections
Never out of bloom, 'Black Pearl' has already been selected as a "most popular" new plant by consumers visiting a trial ground. Its foliage, color and low care will attract many gardeners and "non-gardeners" to 'Black Pearl.' It performs exceptionally well in containers and deserves to be featured as the centerpiece.


Genus species: Capsicum annuum
Common name: Ornamental Pepper
Unique qualities: First black-leaved ornamental pepper. Black peppers mature to red.
Fruit: 3/8 inch shiny round peppers 3/4 inch diameter - very hot taste
Color(s): Lilac flowers
Plant height: 18-20 inches
Width: 16-19 inches
Garden Spacing: 18-20 inches
Length of time from sowing seed to flower: 20-24 weeks to first fruit
Closest comparison(s) on market: 'Explosive Ember,' Pretty in Purple'

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Last Updated  February 9, 2006 10:46 AM
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