Hot Bolivian Rainbow Peppers (Capsicum Annuum) with leaves and flowers. Clipping paths for both pepper and shadow, infinite depth of field

Bolivian Rainbow Peppers: Heat & Beauty

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Bolivian rainbow peppers are a beautiful rainbow variety of chili peppers that can add a pop of color to any garden or dish.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about these colorful peppers, including heat level, taste, where to get them, and how to grow them at home.

Facts about
Bolivian Rainbow Peppers

Heat level:
10,000 - 30,000
Capsicum annuum
South America

What are Bolivian rainbow peppers?

Bolivian rainbow peppers are a stunningly colorful variety of chili peppers that can add a pop of color to any garden or dish. These peppers are small, bushy plants that produce hundreds of small, tear-shaped, hot chilies that start creamy, turn purple, then golden, then orange, and finally an impressively bold red! These peppers produce early and continuously throughout the season, making them a great choice for gardeners who want a beautiful and productive plant.

Characteristics of Bolivian rainbow peppers

The pods of these peppers grow to be between .5 and .75 inches and up to .5 inches wide. They are conical in shape, with the “piquin” pod type. The flesh of the Bolivian rainbow pepper is relatively thin.

During the summer, the plant can contain dozens of chilies at various stages of maturity, providing a beautiful color array resembling Christmas lights. The foliage and blossoms of the plant are purple, adding to the unique look of the plant. In terms of flavor, they are slightly grassy and bright, but mostly only bring heat.

Are Bolivian rainbow peppers the same as Christmas light peppers?

Similar to the term “ornamental pepper”, which includes a diverse array of peppers used for decoration (Stommel & Bosland, 2006), “Christmas light pepper” is a nonspecific category of peppers that resemble twinkling Christmas lights. So, Bolivian Rainbow peppers certainly could be considered Christmas light peppers!

Are they the same as Chinese 5-color peppers?

Bolivian rainbow peppers are often confused with Chinese 5-color peppers due to their similar appearance. However, these are distinct varieties of chili peppers. While both of them are capsicum annum varieties, as the names imply, the rainbow pepper originates in Bolivia while the Chinese 5-color pepper is from China. The Chinese 5-color pepper is also a significantly larger plant, growing up to 4 feet tall, while the Bolivian rainbow pepper only grows to be 30 inches tall.

Are Bolivian rainbow peppers edible? 

Although they are mainly grown as ornamental plants, Bolivian rainbow peppers are edible. But one thing is certain: they are not the most delicious pepper you’ll ever try. You can add them to fresh salsas or salads or pickle them.

What do they taste like? 

The most notable taste element these peppers bring is the heat. These chilies pack a punch and bring a lot of color to a dish, but in terms of flavor, they are not the most complex chilies. They taste a lot like a significantly spicier version of bell pepper: slightly grassy, a little bit sweet, and just a little bit tart.

How hot are they?

10,000 – 30,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

Although Bolivian rainbow peppers may look more like Christmas lights than hot peppers, they pack a decent punch. These peppers range from 10,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units, which is similar to a serrano pepper.

Where to get Bolivian rainbow peppers

Because these chili peppers often are used in landscaping, the most likely place you’ll find them is a local gardening center. You can also buy Bolivian rainbow pepper seeds online and grow them at home. It’s unlikely that you’ll find these peppers at a supermarket since they serve more as a decoration than food in most cases. You may be able to find them from specialty pepper farms at your local farmer’s market.

How to grow Bolivian rainbow peppers at home

As long as you get a lot of heat in the summer, Bolivian rainbow peppers are pretty easy to grow at home. These plants can grow up to 30 inches in height, making them a good option for container gardening. They need at least 8-12 hours of direct sunlight a day, so they may be difficult to grow indoors unless you have artificial grow lights.

Here are some tips for growing Bolivian rainbow peppers:

  1. Plant the seeds in well-draining soil in a sunny location
  2. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged
  3. Fertilize the plant regularly with a balanced fertilizer
  4. Pinch back the plants to promote bushiness
  5. Harvest the peppers when they are fully ripe, and use them fresh or pickle them for later use — or leave them be and enjoy them as a beautiful decoration!

I you’re looking for a colorful and festive addition to your garden, Bolivian rainbow peppers are a great choice. With their bright colors and surprising heat, they will add a fun aesthetic and decent kick to any recipe.