A Rainbow of Peppers

Bell or green peppers are attractive as well as tasty additions to the vegetable garden. Bell peppers are one of the few vegetables that are available in a multitude of colors. Seed catalogs offer cultivars with purple, yellow, orange, cream, pink, red, or the typical dark green fruits. What you may not know is that all bell peppers start out green and most turn red if left to mature on the plant. Many cultivars go through several color changes as they ripen. However, many cultivar names are derived depending on the color stage of the pepper at harvest. Although peppers are sweetest when they are fully mature and red, they can be harvested anytime after they reach their mature size. Typically, each pepper should be blocky, 4 6 inches long and 3 5 inches wide when harvested.

Below is a list of several cultivars that grow well in Iowa gardens.


Color at Harvest


Big Bertha

Dark green to red

Unusually large fruit

Blushing Beauty

Dark green to pink to red

AAS winner 200



High yields



Needs good leaf cover to prevent sun scalding


Purple outside, ivory inside

Early season producer


Bright purple

Unusually sweet purple bell

Mini Bells

Yellow, red and chocolate

Approximately 75 small fruit



Nice deep orange color

Sweet Chocolate

Dark purple / brown

Early and heavy set of fruit

Generally peppers are started from seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Seedlings also can be purchased at garden centers and transplanted outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. Peppers prefer sites in full sun with well-drained soils. Water should be applied deeply and infrequently during dry weather; apply 1 inch of water per week. Fertilize with a diluted fertilizer solution as the first fruit begin to form. A complete fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 is ideal. Some pepper varieties may need support, especially during fruit development. When harvesting the fruit, use a knife or other sharp object to prevent damaging the plant and other ripening fruit.

Bell peppers are versatile and can be used fresh, cooked, or frozen for later use. They are nutritious and a good source of vitamins A and C. These easy- to-grow vegetables are as pretty on the plate as they are in the garden.

This article originally appeared in the 6/6/2003 issue.


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on June 6, 2003. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.