Ornamental peppers add many wonderful attributes to design compositions in container gardens. They come in various colors, very rarely get attacked by pesty insects, and have interesting shapes. Additionally, the color of the fruit changes as it matures.
These attributes are something I’ve written about in previous posts. One post was when my sister purchased a pepper producing purple fruit from me, and another post was when I gave a black fruiting pepper plant to my vet as a thank you for the nose surgery he did on Hunter, my cat.
I really like the look of colored peppers in container gardens. Some end up in deep, dark colors, and others evolve into bright hot colors. You can include companion plants in the container combination to capitalize on this by thinking about when the other plant’s flowers will bloom and selecting bloom colors to match, echo, or contrast the colors of the peppers for seasonal interest.
The shape of ornamental peppers is interesting too. Some are pointy and long, facing upwards on stems, others are round and chunky, and some are perfectly round pearl shapes. Before the trend of incorporating veggies into perennial gardens, people would be surprised when they saw I had a pepper plant in my container gardens with other types of plants. Now I have a new candidate to suggest using, one by the cultivar name of, ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’. It has the most unusual shape.
Shaped like a Flying Saucer
‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ is a Brazilian pepper plant with fruit resembling a UFO. It has a wide to squat body shape with edges around it extending outwards a bit.
Dianne, one of my good friends, noticed mine in a container on my deck last summer, as shown in this photo to the left.
She asked, “What is that?”
When I told her the name of the plant and explained how I think it looks like a flying saucer, she replied with, “Only you, Cathy T, only you.”
Dianne is always super enthusiastic about my plant endeavors. She attends my classes regularly and always gives me words of encouragement and praise. I’m lucky to have her, and many other good friends, support my plant passions. She was really impressed with the unique shape of Ubatuba and said she had never seen one before either.
I asked Dianne, “Doesn’t the fruit also look like a body with arms hugging its belly?”
We both started laughing as she agreed. The fruit’s shape provides conversation opportunities to any admirer taking notice. But the shape alone is not its only talking point. There are some interesting facts about the plant’s name.
Named after a place, and from its shape
Ubatuba is a lovely beach town in Sao Paulo, and Cambuci is a municipality located in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. So, the plant is named after these two places. I also read that a river in eastern Brazil is called the Ubatuba River, and that Cambuci is a fruit tree apparently on the verge of extinction (and this tree’s fruit has a similar shape of this pepper!), and get this…Uba Tuba granite is quarried in Brazil for use in making kitchen counters. So there you have it – a plant named after a place and a shape.
Sometimes I think the name selections are off for plants – this one would be so easily called ‘Alien Nation’ and you would get it right off. But honestly, I haven’t visited Brazil, so I did not recognize the name as being from a place, but surely it is a tropical treat there, just like this pepper plant.
The first part of the plant’s cultivar name has ‘tuba’ at the end, and it is pronounced just like the brass instrument, so just add an OOH-BAH in front of that. The second part I wasn’t so sure how that goes, something like CAM…going into a BOO, and then the common e-e or ei sound at the end. Heck, you can just nickname it “Uba” for short, but there is a certain ring to saying Ubatuba – Ubatuba. This attribute, its name, is entertaining, at least to me.
Color Changes from Yellow to Orange, to Red
‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ starts off yellow, transitions to orange, and finishes to a bright attractive red. The fruit grows to about a three inch size. A little bit larger than the perfect bite size. The plant itself has a bushy habit and grows up to three feet tall. Its dark green foliage has good sized leaves and the stems are sturdy and strong. Fruit tends to stay stable on the plant because of this, and staking is usually not required, if only, towards the end of the season.
The added benefit of the pepper’s color changes is it can help you in the selection of your companion plants in your container garden design. If you think it through by period of bloom, matching the yellow stage of the pepper’s color to an early yellow bloomer of another plant, and the red color stage of the pepper to a flower blooming in late summer in the same container garden, you create seasonal interest.
Plant Companions to use with Ornamental Peppers
As shown in the photo to the left, the annual, Coleus ‘Gay’s Delight’ was used as a filler because of the purple veins in its bright chartreuse leaves. It highlighted the purple flowers and fruit of the pepper plant in this container. In this case, the pepper plant’s foliage was also a dark purple to black color.
Consider perennials; examples are Monarda didyma ‘Petite Delight’ with pink flower, Nepeta x faassenii ‘Dropmore’ with lavender flowers, and Verbena bonariensis; these would look stunning with purple peppers. This would create a mix of purple tones to show up against the dark foliage of the pepper plant as shown here for a softer combination of monochromatic colors.
If the pepper of your choice has a full, bushy habit, put a taller center plant to elevate above it, as in the example of tall Canna plants. Or combine your pepper plants with edibles to create quick dinner snipping sources. Include cherry tomato, basil, chive, and oregano.
Because many herbs are green foliage plants, select those with variegated leaves to make them stand out against the foliage of the pepper. Ocimum x citriodorum ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ has a creamy white coloring on the leaves’ edges, or Ocimum basilicum ‘Amethyst Improved’, showing off a deep dark shiny black color. Golden thyme plants work well, try Thymus citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’. For a spiller, nasturtiums are perfect and easy to grow, and are edible, look for Tropaeolum majus ‘Wine’ for the yellow and orange flower color.
For a hot red combination, plant Verbena x “Taylortown Red’, and add a Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ as a spiky accent with the ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ plant. I assure you, if you add an ornamental pepper, your friends will take notice, and you can have them taste test the fruit. Ask them if it is sweet or hot?
It is Sweet, no wait. It is Hot.
When I include peppers in my container gardens, the matured fruit does not last long because of a number one predator in my home, Steve, my husband.
Last summer, he walked up the back deck stairs, rather than entering through the front door when arriving home from work so he could partake in the daily offerings of my ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ fruit.
So I asked him when he took his first tasting, “”Is it sweet or is it hot?”
He responded, “It is sweet, no wait. It is hot.”
This pepper is listed as “mild-hot” in the catalog, but the plant’s label indicates “sweet.” There seems to be a little bit of both, starting off mild and transitioning to hot as you munch on it.
Adding tasty treats to your container gardens is a lot of fun, and of course, they can be used in cooking or dried later in the season to use in your recipes during the winter.
I can’t tell you how many people noticed my Stevia plants (Sweetleaf) offered for sale at a farmer’s market one season. It is a substitute for sugar, and when you bite into a leaf, it truly tastes like sugar…And that plant – one to blog about later – really grew well in my container gardens. But more on that later.
Culture and Container Size
For the container size, go large, at least 22-25″ diameter pot, especially if you combine “Uba” up with two or three more plants. ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’ appreciates moist, well drained and organic soil and the space to grow. Be prepared to water this plant in a container garden more often because it draws a good amount of moisture from the soil during hot summer months. I watered my plant daily toward mid to late summer. And of course, it needs full-sun to produce the best flowers and fruit. Remember to check your companion plants for the same conditions.
By the way, I actually had difficulty finding the Genus and species name for ‘Ubatuba Cambuci’. It is not noted on the plant’s label, nor was it in the grower’s catalog. I’ve read it is bred from a species Capsicum baccatum or Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum. Cultivars are typically distinguishable from the species by one or more characteristic. The most obvious characteristic being, in this case, its unique “flying saucer” shape. It is one you won’t forget after the first time you see it – just like when you spot your first UFO.
Container Crazy Cathy T
Please feel free to click on the ‘red stamp icon’ at the top of this blog to leave your comments, especially if you have grown this pepper, I’d love to hear from those of you visiting.