PIPER ORNATUM (ornamental pepper)

16 deg C/61 deg F The name pepper is given to a number of ornamental plants, although this is the only one strictly deserving that title. It is the related species P. nigrum that is the source of most culinary pepper. The genus is large, with about 600 species. and all are natives of warm, moist climates, mostly tropical America. It is this that makes them difficult to grow as houseplants. However, given the right conditions the plants can become rampant.

P. ornatum is attractive and worth trying in a centrally-heated home. Without steady heat, it is a waste of time to attempt growing it. This species is a climber best grown up a mossy support. The leaves are broadly spear-shaped with bronzy-green colouring, the veins being llecked pink with a reddish tint below. Older leaves tend to become paler, with whitish variegation. The leaf colour and contrast varies with light conditions, the best contrast being developed where the light is good. However, direct sunlight should be avoided. This species comes from Celebes and warmth coupled with a good humidity is essential.

Spray with a mist of water from time to time, and grow them with other warmth and moisture-loving plants, so as to maintain a humid micro-climate. Better local humidity, as well as moisture for the aerial roots, will be obtained if a mossy support is used. Moreover, this method will help the plant, as it does not have an extensive normal root system. Chills will quickly cause drastic leaf fall.

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