Peperomia (Peperomia spp.) is a genus of tropical plants from Central and South America containing more than 1,500 species, with the common types often being grown as compact houseplants. The species vary in appearance, though many feature leaves that are rounded and slightly thick. And while many peperomia plants have bright green leaves, the foliage can come in different colors, textures, and patterns. In general, they make for slow-growing and low-maintenance plants. You typically can plant them anytime as houseplants, though planting at the start of the growing season in the spring is ideal.
|Common Name||Peperomia, radiator plant|
|Botanical Name||Peperomia spp.|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||6-12 in. tall, 6-12 in. wide|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist, well-draining|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Flower color||White, green|
|Hardiness Zones||10-12 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Central America, South America|
Peperomia plant care is not particularly difficult and its small size makes it perfect for desktops and container gardens. These plants will rarely overtake their neighbors or shade them out.
Also known as the radiator plant, peperomia is neither as striking as begonias nor as hardy as dracaena, which might account for their relatively low profile in the world of houseplants. But peperomia might have all the features you're looking for in a good indoor plant: They tolerate a range of growing conditions, sport interesting foliage, and stay relatively small.
Peperomia does not need lots of sun and generally prefers to grow in partial shade. Avoid exposing the plants to direct afternoon sunlight, which can burn the foliage. Indoors, place them where they can receive bright, indirect light from a window. They can tolerate low-light situations, though the foliage might not be as vibrant. They also do well growing under fluorescent lighting.
A loose, well-draining soil is key for peperomia plants or else they can develop root rot. Opt for a houseplant potting mix with peat moss. You can also add a good amount of orchid bark into the soil for an optimal growing environment for your peperomia plant.
These plants like regular watering but not to the point that the soil gets soggy. Allow the soil to dry to the touch in between waterings. And slightly cut back on watering in the late fall and winter when the plant is not actively growing.
Temperature and Humidity
Peperomia plants typically do well in room temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But be sure to protect them from drafts and airflow from air-conditioning and heating vents that cause extreme temperature fluctuations. Moreover, they prefer moderate to high humidity levels. To raise humidity levels, you can mist the leaves or set the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water, as long as the bottom of the pot doesn’t touch the water.
Fertilize every other week during the growing season (spring to fall) with a diluted liquid fertilizer, or use slow-release fertilizer pellets at the beginning of the growing season. Do not fertilize in the winter.
Types of Peperomia
One of the great joys of peperomia is the many leaf forms available. Many are trailing and others grow upright. Here are peperomia varieties you're most likely to find at your local garden center:
Peperomia caperata: This is by far the most popular peperomia available. It features wrinkled, slightly heart-shaped leaves with a hint of red, purple, or orange and dark veins.
Peperomia argyreia: Sometimes called the watermelon peperomia, this plant features oval leaves with a silvery pattern marking its leaves. It grows especially well in containers.
Peperomia obtusifolia: This plant has an upright growth habit, with dark green (usually) and rounded leaves.
Peperomia albovittata: This type of peperomia also has leaves that resemble the look of a watermelon but with more of a silvery shine and purple veins.
Peperomia rotundifolia: This type of peperomia is a trailing plant with small round leaves
Pruning your peperomia plant isn't usually necessary. But you might want to prune back the plant if it stretches taller than a foot. Use a sterilized knife or scissors. The goal of pruning is to maintain the size you desire, though heavy pruning should be avoided as it will permanently damage the plant and inhibit growth. Cut off dead or damaged growth as needed.
Most peperomia species are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings, similar to the way African violets are propagated. Take these easy steps:
- Use a sterilized garden tool to cut and remove large leaves with their stalks (petioles).
- Dip the stalk in rooting hormone to increase the odds of success.
- Bury the leaves in a pot filled with seedling starter soil.
- Place the cutting in a warm, bright place until new growth emerges.
- Transplant the seedling to its permanent container.
Potting and Repotting
Peperomia thrives when it's slightly potbound, so choose a pot that just fits its root ball. Repot plants in the spring every two to three years, even if it's just to refresh the soil. You can either replace them in their existing container if the roots still fit or go up to a slightly larger pot size.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Fortunately, peperomia plants aren't prone to developing any serious pest or disease problems. However, peperomia plants can be susceptible to mealybugs, so keep an eye out for cottony white masses on the stems or undersides of leaves.
Common Problems With Peperomia
This easy-going plant doesn't have many problems. If you see any of the following issues, take action to save your plant.
Wilting Leaves/Scabs on Leaves
Overwatered peperomia tends to wilt or can form raised, scab-like protrusions on the leaves. The biggest problem facing peperomia plants is usually related to incorrect watering and humidity. These plants are native to Central and South American subtropical and tropical regions, where they often grow in the cool and moist understory of rainforests. As houseplants, they like moderate soil moisture and high humidity, but they can be very sensitive to overwatering.
Don't be alarmed if your plant loses a few bottom leaves, as this is normal. But a massive leaf drop is usually due to a drastic temperature change or a fertilizer problem.
Is peperomia a succulent?
They are considered to be succulents, but with a caveat. Most peperomia plants are succulent-like with fleshy leaves and thick stems for water storage. In nature, most peperomia plants grow as epiphytes, just like orchids.
Does peperomia flower?
Yes, but the flowers are insignificant and not constant. The tiny blooms are located on a slim spike that is often called a peperomia "rat's tail."
Why are peperomia plants called radiator plants?
Peperomia loves to be located on window sills near warm drafts, especially the kind emitted from radiators (but make sure they don't get burned by extreme heat). However, they were coined radiator plants decades ago by famous American horticulturist, Liberty Hyde Bailey.
Peperomia Diseases. University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Peperomia Production Guide. University of Florida, IFAS.
Plant of the Week: Peperomia. University of Arkansas Agricultural Division Research and Extension.
Year of the Peperomia. National Garden Bureau.
Peperomia: Foliage for the Holidays. Rutgers University New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.