by Robert Burns, in the Website AgriLife Today
With its nearly black leaves overlaid with dark purple and white swirls, the ornamental pepper Purple Flash — a new Texas Superstar plant — can be used in landscapes as a backup or a stand-alone bedding plant, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research horticulturist.
“Though it has bright colors, the overall effect is dark, so it’s more often used as a foliage plant,” said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board in Over-ton. “The red peppers come later in the season, and they’re showy in themselves, but Purple Flash is still used in flower borders or mass plantings.”
Purple Flash, Capsicum annuum, is fast growing, Pemberton noted, but it rarely gets taller than 12 to 15 inches and can also be used “very effectively” in mixed containers.
“It’s a nice, semi-compact plant,” he said.
All Texas Superstar plants undergo extensive tests through-out the state by AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists, Pemberton said.
To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must perform well for consumers and commercial growers throughout Texas, Pemberton said. Superstars must also be easy to propa-gate, which ensures the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but are also reasonably priced.
In addition to disease resistance, summer plants like Purple Flash must tolerate Texas heat well, and Purple Flash has proven itself exceptional in this regard too, Pemberton said.
In fact, Purple Flash doesn’t simply tolerate heat well; it thrives in it, said Wayne Pianta, PanAmerican Seeds representative, Fort Worth. PanAmerican released Purple Flash along with a number of other ornamental peppers in 2008.
“It’s like a lot of the ornamental peppers,” Pianta said. “It seems to actually do better in the heat. It loves the sun and heat of Texas landscapes.”
With its variegations of color, Purple Flash looks great with some of the other PanAmerican flowering plants that have done well in Texas trials, such as the East Texas bedding plant trials, which are conducted by Pemberton, Pianta said.
“Because Purple Flash provides its landscape color from its foliage, you don’t have to wait for it to bloom,” Pianta said. “This feature also makes it the perfect companion to flowering plants that have been previous Texas Superstar win-ners like Angelonia Serena.”
Though it likes sun and heat, Purple Flash will also tolerate partial shade. It won’t develop as deep variegations of black and white with purple flashes in partial shade, but it’s still a beautiful plant, Pianta said.
In Texas, Purple Flash can be planted in the spring, late spring — or even into the summer — as long as it is watered regularly during establishment, Pemberton said. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade. It is also tolerant of a wide variety of soils and potting mixes as long as they are well drained. With a little care, it should last through Texas hot summers and into the fall.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/.