How to Grow Peperomia Obtusifolia (Baby Rubber Plants)

Peperomia Obtusifolia plant with small and round leaves on table top

The Spruce / Missy Schrott

Looking for a compact, low-maintenance, tropical-looking houseplant? You can't go wrong with the baby rubber plant (Peperomia obtusifolia). This humidity-loving, pet-friendly plant is typically grown indoors.

Despite its common name, this epiphytic species isn't related to the rubber plant (Ficus elastica), but instead is part of the large Peperomia genus, and the epithet obtusifolia means "blunt-leaved".

It's all about the foliage with the baby rubber plant. It does bloom occasionally, but the small-white green flowers aren't showy. The glossy, spoon-shaped, fleshy, succulent-like leaves are usually dark green, but you can also find cultivars with white and green marble-like variegation. Over time, the upright stems of these plants can develop a trailing habit, and the epiphytic roots cling well to surfaces, making them ideal for use in hanging baskets or on shelves.

Common Name Baby rubber plant, pepper face plant
 Botanical Name Peperomia Obtusifolia
 Family Piperaceae
 Plant Type Perennial, Herbaceous
 Mature Size Up to 1 ft. tall
 Sun Exposure Partial
 Soil Type Clay, Sand, Loam
 Soil pH Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
 Bloom Time Periodic through the year
 Flower Color White
 Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA)
 Native Area South America

Peperomia Obtusifolia Care

This South American native grows in tropical rainforest areas in its natural habitat, so it prefers a spot in your home where it's humid and the light is bright but indirect. Other than this, it's a fairly forgiving species that's not bothered by many pests or diseases and is a good choice as a beginner's houseplant.

Peperomia Obtusifolia plant with round fleshy leaves in small clay pot

The Spruce / Missy Schrott

Peperomia Obtusifolia plant with round and waxy succulent-like leaves

The Spruce / Missy Schrott

Peperomia Obtusifolia plant with round and shiny leaves closeup

The Spruce / Missy Schrott

Light

Keep your Peperomia obtusifolia out of prolonged, intense sunlight. The foliage can burn and, if you have a variegated cultivar, the unique coloration will start to fade. A partial shade position in a south, east or west-facing window which doesn't have too much direct afternoon sun usually works well.

Non-variegated cultivars can handle low light conditions, but a bit of bright, early morning sun promotes growth and is ideal for maximizing leaf patternation on variegated foliage.

Soil

Baby rubber plants might thrive in moist conditions, but these epiphytic species don't like to have wet feet, which leads to root rot. This means whatever medium you put them in needs to be well-drained. They aren't too fussy about type but do best in a loose, fertile potting mix. A mix of 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite or sand will do the job.

Water

If anything, it's best to under rather than overwater this species. They don't tolerate sitting in standing water. Moderate watering during the growing season (around every 1 to 2 weeks) is usually sufficient. Allow the potting mix to dry out on the top few inches before rewatering.

During the winter, you can let the soil dry out more between waterings. However, while the leaves do hold moisture and the plant does have a level of drought tolerance, don't frequently leave your baby rubber plant dry for long periods as this will affect growth and the foliage won't be so healthy.

Temperature and Humidity

Peperomia obtusifolia is the perfect plant for a bright, steamy bathroom. They thrive in temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit—if your house regularly dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, this isn't the plant for you.

Keep your baby rubber plant away from blasting heating or AC units and draughty windows too. If you don't have your humidity-loving plant in a steamy bathroom, consider misting the leaves and using a pebble tray with water under the plant, especially during their active growth period in the summer.

Fertilizer

With their small, epiphytic roots, Peperomia obtusifolia aren't heavy feeders. However, a dose of diluted all-purpose liquid fertilizer once or twice a month during the growing season can help encourage healthy foliage growth.

Types of Baby Rubber Plant

There are many baby rubber plant cultivars to choose from, including a wide selection of variegated options. Some popular options include:

  • Peperomia obtusifolia ‘Alba’: The young plants have stems tinged with red and an attractive creamy white variegation that gradually fades to green as it matures.
  • Peperomia obtusifolia ‘Gold Tip': Marbled variegation that turns a gold shade towards the tip.
  • Peperomia obtusifolia ‘Minima’: Particularly compact form with small, dense green foliage.

Pruning

With its bushy habit, you might want to cut back the foliage occasionally to maintain a tidy shape. Pinching the tips of stems helps to encourage new, healthy growth and saves your plant from starting to look overly leggy.

Removing dead and dying foliage also helps direct energy to healthy, growing leaves and keeps your baby rubber plant looking its best.

Propagating Peperomia Obtusifolia

Want to gift a new baby rubber plant or add to your existing collection? The good news is that Peperomia obtusifolia is easy to propagate stem tip cuttings or division. Here's how to create a new plant from a stem cutting:

  1. Remove the top of a healthy stem (around 4 inches) with at least a couple of leaves on it, and one node (a bump where a new stem will emerge) below the leaves.
  2. Use a small pot (around 4- to 6-inch deep) with a soilless potting mix.
  3. For an extra chance of success, dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone (although this isn't necessary for guaranteed success).
  4. Make sure only one or two leaves remain on the cutting, and the node should be embedded in the potting mix.
  5. Keep the potting mix moist but not saturated and in warm temperatures that are at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Place the cutting in a bright light position.
  7. Once new growth is clearly showing, you can move the rooted cutting to a more appropriate permanent pot size.

Potting and Repotting Peperomia Obtusifolia

You're not going to have to repot your baby rubber plant all that often—this compact plant doesn't have an extensive root system. Once every few years is usually enough. If the roots are starting to grow out of the pot's drainage holes or the soil is lifting off the sides of the pot, it's an indication the plant is outgrowing its current home. Repotting in the spring before the main growing season is best. Don't opt for a pot that's too big or deep as this can contribute to too much water absorption, and waterlogging can become a problem.

Common Problems with Peperomia Obtusifolia

Even the most easygoing plants can suffer from problems if you neglect them or don't give them the conditions they need. Keeping an eye out for the following problems can help you remedy them before your baby rubber plant suffers from irreparable damage.

Leaves Turning Yellow

One of the biggest problems for the baby rubber plant is overwatering. Leaves turning from their usual glossy green to yellow is one of the first signs you are going overboard, and this can lead to deadly root rot.

Drooping Leaves

Leaving your plant in an overly bright position, feeding them too much, and letting your plant get too dry can lead to wilting leaves that eventually drop off altogether.

Plant Leaves Falling Off

Ensuring your plant isn't subject to sudden extreme changes in temperature helps prevent problems with sudden leaf drop.

Browning Tips

Cold houses aren't suitable for the baby rubber plant. If temperatures regularly drop to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it can kill your Peperomia obtusifolia. The first sign of this being a problem is leaf tips turning brown. The opposite can also be true, and too much direct sun can result in leaf scorch.

FAQ
  • How long can Peperomia obtusifolia live?

    This easy-to-care-for plant lives for at least five years to over a decade with the right care and a suitable position in your home.

  • How do I retain the patternation on a variegated Peperomia obtusifolia?


    Peperomia obtusifolia prefers a position with filtered, indirect light, but the variegated cultivars will typically need a brighter position than those with solid colored leaves. While too little light can result in the variegation fading, don't be tempted to put them in a position with constant direct sunlight.

  • Can I grow Peperomia obtusifolia outdoors

    Typically, the baby rubber plant is grown as a houseplant. This is because it will only survive in a very limited set of USDA hardiness zones. However, if you live in a warm, humid region like Florida, it can grow outdoors.