You likely came across Peperomias when you visited a nursery or a store that sells plants, as these gorgeous plants are quite popular. Varieties such as the Red Ripple Peperomia (Peperomia caperata), Metallic Peperomia (Peperomia rosso), and the ever-so-famous Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia) are very eye-catchy.
These plants are loved because of their versatile foliage; oval-shaped, round, pointy, heart-shaped with variations of textures such as rippled, velvety, or flat with an array of patterns and colors. Peperomias are sometimes referred to as “radiator plants” because of their strong tolerance to heat and warm air with the ability to thrive in both wet and dry conditions.
Peperomia is one of the largest genera of angiosperms (vascular plants), with around 1400 species (imagine how many Peperomias you can get for yourself)! These plants grow in tropical and subtropical regions of the world but are largely distributed in the Americas, where most varieties are found in Southern USA.
Some beginners may find Peperomias as daunting to take care of because of their succulent-like leaves. The truth is these plants are super easy to take care of, and they make for great indoor plants! If well taken care of, they can even reward you with inflorescence, which resembles a smaller version of an anthurium flower’s spadix, or you’ll be greeted with a similarly exciting rat tail looking bloom.
All the relevant info at a glance. Read the whole article for more in depth information about Peperomias, caring for the plant and how to keep it happy and thriving in your home.
Plant name: Peperomia
Native to: South America
Lighting: Bright and indirect light
Care: Water once or twice in two weeks (allow the soil to dry out before watering), slightly high humidity (but enjoys low level as well), low to room temperature (15 °C – 27 °C)
Common problems: various forms of rotting, mealybugs, and aphids
Toxicity: Considered non-toxic to both humans and pets
How To Care For Peperomia Plants
- Bringing the plant home
- Light conditions
- Toxicity Information
- Pests and other common issues
Bringing Your Plant Home
As with other plants, there are some checklists when you purchase a new Peperomia. Always go with the basic questions,
“Is this plant healthy?”, “Are there no visible pests or diseases?”, and “Are the roots intact and stable?”
Once you have checked all these from the list, the next thing to do is find a good spot to let your plant acclimatize to its new surroundings. If you have other plants in your home, keep your new plant away from others for a week or two in case of any hidden pests.
For beginners, you wouldn’t be the first to think that watering your newly bought plant is a good idea. We can’t blame you. You just want to shower it with love. But this may become a problem. As Peperomias do not tolerate overwatering and may start to rot if given too much water.
Another thing to remember is if you are really tempted to repot your plant right away, check if the roots are already stable. If not, it might be a good idea to give your plant some time to acclimatize.
To help your plant get used to its surroundings, you may want to prune some unhealthy leaves so the plant can focus its energy on supporting the healthy ones. With some (a lot) of Peperomias, you can propagate the plant from leaf cuttings (check out how we propagated peperomia watermelon).
Does my Peperomia need much light?
Peperomia plants do great indoors as they do not need much light. Bright and indirect light will give them just the amount of energy to thrive. If they don’t get enough light, with some varieties, the color or patterns on the leaves might fade, while others will become leggy as the leaves stretch towards the light.
Do not expose your Peperomias to too much sun. It may scorch the leaves of your plant and cause it to dry eventually.
They tend to do well under fluorescent lights too.
How often should I water Peperomias?
Peperomias do not just have succulent-like leaves; they also have some succulent like traits. With that being said, these plants don’t tolerate overwatering well.
The perfect way to water your plant is to monitor how fast it drinks up the water. Let the soil dry out between watering. Our Watermelon peperomia requires more frequent watering than our peperomia Ginny – this depends on the variety, the size of the plant, the soil, and even the pot. To avoid the soil from holding too much water, it would be best to use fast-draining soil.
Peperomias can tolerate being dry for a while. If you forget to water the plant, the leaves of Peperomia plants will start to droop – but will look healthier after watering (if you didn’t leave it dry for far too long). While not ideal, checking for when the leaves start dropping can help you figure out the watering routine your plant requires. Once you get the hang of watering it, try to avoid allowing your plant to droop the next time.
Watering Peperomias can be a bit different for some species. Although not commonly grown indoors and are more known for their health benefits Peperomia pellucida and P. klopfensteinii are normally found in areas near small bodies of water. Such species would do great for terrariums with very high humidity.
Some other Peperomias such as the P. obtusifolia, more commonly known as Baby rubber plant (although does not bear any connection with the usual rubber plant), would not mind a bit more than the usual water you give your other Peperomias. This species has thick and sturdy stems that do not resemble the usual fleshy stems on species like that of the Peperomia rosso.
Most indoor Peperomias can easily get root rot if frequently overwatered or potted in soil that holds too much moisture. So, watch out!
Despite being mainly seen in rainforests and tropical regions, Peperomias can thrive very well in less humid environments such as a typical house setting.
Although they can do well with lower humidity, they will thrive in higher humidity.
Maintaining and Cleaning Peperomia Plants
Sometimes, if you leave your Peperomias in a slightly shaded spot just beside a more well-lit area, the leaves will tend to run towards the light and become leggy. Peperomias are heliotropic. This only means that they tend to grow towards the direction of light.
Pruning your plant may be a good idea to keep it in the desired shape. To prevent a leggy Peperomia, try to rotate the plant once in a while from its spot to ensure that it gets equal sunlight.
Now if you are the type of plant parent who wants the leaves of their plants shiny and clean, you may find some difficulty with quite a few varieties of Peperomia. Some of the species under Peperomia genus, such as P. rosso and P. caperata have unique grooves on their leaves. It may be harder to clean the dust once it gets into the plant’s crevices and you may damage the leaves if you try to poke it too hard. We don’t want that!
Lightly mist the plant when it’s time to water them. The keyword here is “lightly”.
With plants like Watermelon peperomia, you need to be careful as the leaves can break off quite easily.
Feeding your plant with fertilizer
One thing is for sure, during winter, it is best to cut back on fertilizing your Peperomia, or even better, avoiding it altogether.
Your plant will benefit from a diluted 20-20-20 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium once or twice a month during the growing season.
If you are a bit hesitant in using liquid fertilizer because you are afraid of over-applying it, you can always opt for slow-release fertilizers.
Do I need to repot?
Peperomias tend to be slow growers especially when placed indoors. Their roots also grow slower than most plants. On top of that, they also love being rootbound. With slow growth and preference to being root-bound, that means less frequent repotting.
Just let your plant be until roots slightly grow out of the pot. This tells you that it is time to transfer it to a larger home. This can be many years.
Propagating your Peperomias
Propagating Peperomias is very fascinating. Almost all of its parts can be used for propagation (not with all varieties). Unlike other usual plants that need to be cut from nodes, most Peperomias can be propagated using their leaves too.
Some of the most common propagation techniques with these plants include stem cutting, direct leaf propagation, and leaf tip cuttings. Using stem cuttings of Peperomias for propagation is very easy. After cutting the stem with a leaf attached, you can either let the roots grow by sticking it into a well-draining soil or submerging the stem in the water while keeping the leaf dry. This also works for leaf tip cuttings. Place the cuttings firmly into your potting mix and provide your soon-to-be new babies with bright, indirect sunlight until new plants grow.
If you want to be sure to have more success in growing your propagations, a bit of rooting hormone might be useful. Dip the tip of the stem or leaf cutting in powdered rooting hormone or allow them to sit for a while in liquid hormone before placing them into the soil. Like other plants with a wide root system, Peperomias can be propagated by dividing the plant with roots.
What soil do Peperomias like?
Since Peperomias do not like having soggy feet, the best potting mix is fast draining. These plants love moist soil but will develop root rot fast because of their succulent-like characteristics.
In addition, your plant’s soil must be well aerated to provide room for the roots to grow and breathe. Adding perlite, peat moss, or coarse sand will help you achieve this consistency. When it is time to repot your Peperomia, try to lightly loosen the bound soil before adding more soil into the new pot.
Are Peperomias safe for cats and dogs?
One of the best reasons why these plants are good for indoor keeping is that they are generally non-toxic to both humans and pets. This is why P. obtusifolia makes a good alternative to the rather toxic Ficus elastic or the legitimate rubber plant.
This means you won’t have to run around and chase your pet if you saw it nibbling on your Peperomia.
Pests and problems involved with these plants
As far as creepy crawlies go, peperomias are pretty resistant to pests
However, there are quite a couple of other problems you may encounter. Do not worry; we have listed some of them and their general solutions.
This disease is commonly transmitted by propagating cuttings that have been infected. The disease is observed as concentric, brown, and decaying markings that resemble a ring which will eventually disfigure the leaves. This disease starts with a translucent spot with brown outlines that eventually enlarges as the diseases progresses. This disease is common in P. obtusifolia.
As these are commonly observes in propagations, ensure that the mother plant is healthy and that the soil and pruning shears you will be using are clean as well. Insects can also be carriers of this disease. As such, ensure that there is no pest around the entire plot. Once discovered, discard the propagations as they will not recover and will risk infecting the other plants.
This problem is quite common for the heavy-handed plant parents. It is caused by the fungi Phytophthora palmivora and P. nicotianae var. parasitica. The rot starts from the base of the leaf blades as blackening which will eventually spread throughout the leaf and the stem, killing the plant.
If you have a couple of Peperomia plants potted in a single location, and you observe that one of them has this disease, we suggest that you isolate the infected plant and give it up. Avoid overwatering as this promotes rotting.
Phyllosticta leaf spot
Specific to Watermelon Peperomia, this disease spreads from the margin of the leaf as concentric dark rings. Prune the infected leaves at first sight of symptoms and correct the keeping conditions of the plant.
Sclerotium stem rot
Also known as Southern Blight. This disease is observed as soft, brown area on the stems closest to the soil. Sometimes, fruiting bodies form around the infected area. To avoid this type of rot, always ensure that your propagation set-up is sterile.
Because of Peperomia’s fleshy leaves and stems, this plant is quite susceptible to pests. Aside from the usual pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and mites which can be easily killed with diluted alcohol solution, there a few other pests involved with Peperomias.
Included are fungus gnats which are small black flies found running around the leaves and soil. During their larvae stage, they consume both the roots and leaves closest to the soil. Damages caused by these pests become an avenue for bacterial and fungal infections. You can easily kill these pests with chemical treatment or by simply cutting back on watering and increasing air circulation.
Most infections are brought about by overwatering, so try to hold back a bit.