Medusa Pepper: “Hair Of Snakes” Ornamental Pepper

medusa pepper plant in pot
Medusa peppers are a beautiful variety of ornamental chili pepper known for their fiery appearance and unique sweetness. While this “hair of snakes” plant is primarily used for decorative purposes, Medusas are excellent for cooking.

What Is A Medusa Pepper?

Medusa peppers are an ornamental variety of Capsicum annuum originating from South America. They get their name for the pepper plant’s unique snakelike appearance, looking similar to the character in Greek mythology: Medusa.

The long peppers twist upward out of the plant in all directions, depicting a head of long curly hair or, in this case, snake-like peppers!

Each pepper on the Medusa pepper plant will grow to be about 2 inches in length and will slowly mature in color from green to yellow. When fully ripened, Medusas will become a deep orange and bright red when ready for harvest.

What sets Medusa peppers apart from other ornamental peppers is that they are also delicious! Most ornamental peppers are known for having simple or frankly bland flavor profiles; however, Medusas have fruity and sweet characteristics that make them a perfect skinny bell pepper replacement.

Medusa pepper plant.
Medusa pepper plant.

How Hot Are Medusa Peppers?

Medusas are mild, coming in at between 1-1,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). This is another aspect of Medusas that is typically uncharacteristic of an ornamental variety, as many ornamentals are known for their heat.

Jalapenos are often used as a good point of comparison for the heat level of other chili peppers. Most jalapenos average between 2,500-8,000 SHUs, making them at their hottest, at least 8 times hotter than the hottest Medusa ornamental pepper.

Can You Eat Medusa Peppers?

Medusa peppers are 100% edible and also remarkably tasty.

While ornamental peppers are generally underwhelming for adding flavor to a dish, Medusas have an excellent peppery and fruity sweet taste.

If you plan on harvesting your Medusa peppers and using them in the kitchen, I highly recommend using them as a topping and a way to add color to any dish. The peppers themselves are small enough to make the perfect garnish, and harvesting them at different stages of maturity will give your dish a wide range of colors!

Because of their sweetness and overall mild flavor, Medusa peppers are a great alternative to bell peppers. If you can’t get your hands on Medusas, Carmen Italian sweet peppers and gypsy peppers make great alternatives.

How is a Medusa pepper different from a masquerade pepper?

You may have seen masquerade peppers planted alongside Medusas, as they are ornamental varieties of Capsicum annuum. When grown together, the pepper plants have beautiful and vibrant color combinations that pair well with one another.

However, there is a big difference between these two ornamental pepper plants. While Medusas are mild, masquerades are quite spicy, coming in at around 70,000 SHUs.

This is the perfect reason to mark pepper plants in your garden. While masquerades and Medusas will produce similar-looking peppers, their heat levels are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The last thing you want to do is accidentally include masquerade peppers in your child’s lunch when you meant to use Medusas.

How To Use Medusa Peppers

Medusas are ornamental plants, meaning they are best used for decorative and landscaping purposes. They will grow well in flower and veggie gardens, bringing them to life with a pop of color. 

You can also bring Medusa pepper plants into your home, as they will do well in pots and containers indoors. Ornamental peppers look particularly good in hanging baskets inside and outside your home.

In the kitchen, Medusa peppers can be used in the same way you would any other mild, sweet pepper. Their slender size and thin walls will give you a different texture when used in place of sweet bell peppers.

Medusa pepper plant
Ornamental Medusa peppers create beautiful edible landscaping.

Where To Buy Medusa Pepper Plants

If you want to purchase fresh Medusa peppers to be used in cooking, then farmers’ markets will be your best option. It isn’t likely that your local grocery stores and supermarkets will carry this rare pepper, so you’ll have to hope that someone nearby is growing them seasonally.

The best way of acquiring Medusa peppers is to grow them yourself! While this may seem daunting to inexperienced gardeners, ornamental pepper plants are some of the best beginner plants to grow. You can purchase Medusa pepper seeds online from a variety of online sellers.

How To Grow Medusa Peppers

Growing your Medusa pepper plant is optimal for enjoying these peppers. Not only will you have wonderfully sweet peppers to harvest and eat, but you’ll also enjoy them as ornamental plants while they grow!

Medusa pepper plants usually have a 2-3 week germination period starting from seed and will take another 4-6 weeks on average to fully mature. Most Medusas will grow to be approximately two feet high and one foot wide, making them the perfect size for a pot or near other pepper plants.

Six to eight hours of full sun is required daily for your Medusas to grow to their full potential. Similarly, you’ll want to ensure that your Medusa plants are well watered. Plan on watering your peppers about 2 times a week and even more often during dry and hot weather conditions.

It’s recommended that you begin fertilizing your peppers once the first flowers bloom, as this will ensure that the fruits grow big and with better coloration. 12-12-12 type fertilizers are recommended to provide the most balanced nutrition for ornamental peppers.

While Medusa peppers are considered to be annuals, you can successfully overwinter them if you’d like to have multiple growing seasons. Since they are ornamental, bringing your Medusas inside for the winter will also add beautiful color to your home through the winter months.


Leland has spent most of his life in both the garden and the kitchen. A veggie garden is a place of harmony between his love of cooking and working with plants. Naturally, he loves peppers and plants about a dozen new and interesting varieties every year. His current pepper project is preparing to overwinter a jalapeño plant which he hopes will continue to flourish until the next flowering season. Leland is always excited to learn about new spicy and flavorful chilis, and he is constantly looking for new recipes to put his new peppers to the test!

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