Colorful Peppers Guide: Rainbows Of The Scoville Scale

Let’s first set the stage. All peppers are colorful – it’s one of the beautiful things about this fruit – but our colorful peppers guide covers the real rainbows of the pepper scale. These are the chilies that spring forth in multiple bright hues, adding real vibrancy to a garden or landscaping. Most of the hot peppers on our list are considered ornamental peppers, though there is a notable exception (see fish pepper). If you want to explore the full world of ornamental color, take a look at our ornamental peppers guide. There you’ll find a world of rainbows, blacks, and everything in-between.

Sedona Sun peppers on the vine

Sedona Sun

If you love the variations in color of a Western sunset, then you’ll love the Sedona Sun pepper. Purples lead to multiple shades of yellow and orange, and it all ends with a lovely red hue when they mature. These have a family-friendly heat for an ornamental (0 to 1,000 Scoville heat units.) Though, in terms of flavor, they have a rather neutral “peppery” flavor (as many ornamentals do.)

Medusa pepper

With fruits that age from ivory white to a sultry red, and a world of oranges and yellows in-between, the Medusa pepper is a colorful looker. The chilies grow in clusters and straight up from the vine, reminiscent of Medusa’s serpent mane. It looks like it should be a much hotter chili, but the Medusa pepper is rather tame, with heat (1 to 1,000 Scoville heat units) closer to a zero heat sweet pepper (and a flavor to match) than a jalapeño.

Medusa Pepper

Chilly Chili

Chilly chili

Yellows and reds dominate the Chilly chili, though in-between it can take on multiple hues of orange. It’s a burst of color in the garden, with the fruits reaching up from the plant in clusters. And like the Medusa pepper, it’s a milder ornamental pepper (1 to 1,000 Scoville heat units), though without the Medusa sweetness. It’s more neutral in taste – peppery but with little nuance.

NuMex Centennial

These small bulbous chilies are like colorful Christmas lights on a plant. The NuMex Centennial ages with jewel-tone hues of purple, orange, red, and yellow. There’s a spiciness here that reaches that of a jalapeño pepper (1,000 to 5,000 Scoville heat units), but like with other ornamentals the flavor is rather neutral. It’s secondary to the colorful scene the NuMex Centennial paints in your landscaping.

Medusa Pepper

Fish Pepper

Fish pepper

The fish pepper isn’t an ornamental pepper, and it’s not as bright as some of the other chilies on our colorful peppers list. But its coloring is still quite unique for the pepper scale. It ages from white to green, then green to shades of orange, brown, and finally red. The colors are striated on the pepper, causing the chilies to appear in multiple colors on a singular pod as they age. Fish peppers are loved for their flavor – fresh and bright like a jalapeños, with a heat (5,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units) that ranges from a jalapeño to a cayenne.

Bolivian Rainbow

Arguably the most vibrant colorful pepper on the list, the Bolivian Rainbow pepper ages from purple, to shades of yellow and orange, and finally red. The colors are Easter-like, somewhere between pastel and jewel-tone that makes the fruits look a little candy-like. Though the heat (10,000 to 30,000 Scoville units) is nothing like candy – ranging from serrano pepper spiciness to the heat of a mild cayenne pepper. Flavor-wise – it’s neutral in taste (like most ornamentals), with peppery taste that leans a little into grassy.

Bolivian Rainbow Pepper

Loco Pepper

Loco pepper

Loco peppers begin purple and age into beautiful shades of yellow and orange, then finally to red. They have a more rounded shape than many of the other colorful chilies on our list, which may appeal to some. Take care, there’s heat here (15,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units) that can rival a cayenne at its heights. In terms of flavor, there’s a sweetness here, but, like most ornamentals, the flavor isn’t complex.

NuMex Twilight

Like the Bolivian rainbow pepper, the NuMex Twilight brightens up a space with shades of purples, yellows, oranges, and reds. They could compete well with the Bolivian rainbow for the title of most colorful pepper – though they hit in a different weight class in terms of heat. They have the same heat profile (30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units) as a cayenne pepper, which may be too hot for some. The NuMex Twilight also has more a salty, bitter flavor which doesn’t make it a great culinary choice. Still, it’s all about the colorful looks which this chili has in spades.

numex twilight

Aji Omnicolor

Aji Omnicolor

The whites and light purples that are mixed in with the oranges and reds of the Aji Omnicolor bring a pastel-like softness to the color palette of this plant. Those light hues belie a significant medium heat, the same Scoville heat rating (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) as a cayenne pepper. Best of all, these are quite flavorful chilies, particularly for an ornamental pepper – sweet and fruity. They are delicious for a colorful salsa.

Chinese 5-Color

Chinese five-color peppers are tiny conical chilies that pop in landscaping. What to expect from this chili is all in the name – five colors star: purple, cream, yellow, orange, and red. Their heat (30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units) equals that of a cayenne pepper, and there’s more flavor here than you’ll find in other ornamentals. There’s a fresh peppery sweetness. It’s not overly complex, but certainly tasty.

Chinese 5-color pepper

Prairie Fire Pepper

Prairie Fire pepper

Known also as Christmas peppers, prairie fire peppers are tiny, pendant-shaped chilies that show a lot like Christmas lights. Bright purples, reds, yellows, oranges, and creams cover the plant making them another contender for the most colorful pepper on the list. The flavor is rather pepper-neutral, but there’s quite a bit of heat here (60,000 to 80,000 Scoville units) with a spiciness that rivals Thai peppers. They make a mean colorful salsa while not brightening up your garden.

Must-read related posts

  • Yellow Peppers Guide: Looking for more of this bright shade to liven up your landscaping? We have you covered.
  • The Hot Pepper List: We profile 170+ chilies. Search them by name, heat level, flavor, and more.
  • Black Peppers Guide: If you’re one for something more dramatic, these chilies add a real sense of drama to your space.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on November 20, 2023 to include new content.
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