The name peperomia might not roll off your tongue, but you could get lost in this wonderful genus of tropical plants native to Mexico, South America, and the West Indies. With more than 1,000 known species, these hearty plants boast thick, fleshy leaves that contribute to their drought tolerance and vigor. If you haven't experienced much luck with flowering houseplants, you will appreciate that the peperomia sports foliage that is highly ornamental in its own right—its leaves can be textured or smooth; red, green, gray, or purple; variegated, marbled, or solid; large, heart-shaped, or tiny.
Plants in the peperomia genus can look so different from one to the next that it's difficult to discern if they are even related. But one thing all peperomia plants have in common is that they are slow-growing, can be planted all year long, and are low maintenance.
|Botanical Name||Peperomia spp. (including P. caperata, P. obtusifolia, and others)|
|Common Names||Baby rubber plant, pepper elder, radiator plant, shining bush plant, emerald ripper pepper|
|Mature Size||6–12 in. tall, 6–12 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Flower Color||White, brown|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Mexico, South America, and West Indies|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Peperomia Plant
Peperomia Plant Care
The peperomia plant is a smart choice for beginner houseplant enthusiasts. Not only are they forgiving plants that tolerate some benign neglect, but the spectacular variety of colors and textures available within the species means that you can amass an interesting collection of plants for every style and space, all of which require the same care.
Plant peperomia in a pot with ample drainage holes, using an orchid potting mix, then place the plant in bright indirect light. Peperomia plants require little in the way of attention—you water them only when the soil is quite dry, and feeding is rarely (if ever) necessary.
Peperomia plants need medium to bright light to maintain their vibrant foliage colors. Morning light and filtered light is fine, as well as 12 to 16 hours of artificial light. Insufficient light will result in fewer leaves, leaf drop, and drab coloration. Direct sun rays should be avoided, as it can burn the leaves
Many peperomia plant species grow as epiphytes in the wild by settling into the nook of a tree and sending their roots into some slightly decaying bark. The key to a thriving houseplant choosing a soil blend that mimics these conditions and is chunky, loose, and acidic. An orchid potting medium typically works well, but regular potting soil is fine too—you can always lighten it with a handful of peat moss or vermiculite.
The succulent leaves of peperomia plants indicate that the plants don't need frequent watering to maintain vigor. Allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. Keeping the peperomia on the dry side is better than saturating it, which leads to root rot and fungus gnat problems.
Temperature and Humidity
Peperomia plants are hardy to USDA zone 10, which means they cannot be exposed to temperatures less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit. As tropical plants, peperomia plants prefer a warm and steamy environment, especially in the summer months when their. growth is most active. If your plant doesn't get an outdoor vacation in the summer, place it on a tray of pebbles and water to increase ambient humidity, or invest in a small-scale humidifier to place nearby.
When it comes to fertilizing your peperomia plants, less is more. Discolored or dropping leaves are usually a sign of inadequate light or excessive watering, not poor nutrition. As a slow-growing epiphyte, the peperomia can go its entire life without supplemental fertilizer, getting what it needs from its planting media.
Potting and Repotting
Peperomia plants can live for years in a relatively small container. They enjoy a somewhat root-bound existence, and this combined with their slow growth rate means you can leave them alone unless you see roots coming out of the drainage holes. If that's the case, repot into a slightly larger container with an acidic potting mix or orchid bark.
Varieties of Peperomia
There are hundreds of different varieties of peperomia plants, many of which make exceptional houseplants. Some of the most popular varietals include:
- Peperomia verticillata 'Belly Button': an eye-catching varietal with a compact form and tiny leaves, somewhat reminiscent of the baby tears plant
- Peperomia metallica var. Colombiana: a dazzling, tri-colored plant with foliage of bronze, silver, and red
- Peperomia nitida (cupid peperomia): a varietal that's ideal for hanging baskets, complete with heart-shaped leaves edged in cream
- P. perciliata: a trailing varietal that has a tight growth habit and produces oval-shaped foliage and red stems
- Peperomia caperata 'Suzanne': a unique plant, with deeply ridged foliage and silver accents
Propagating Peperomia Plants
Because of their thick, succulent nature, peperomia plants are easy to propagate via cuttings. To do so, remove a leaf with an inch of stem from the mother plant in the spring when growth is most active. Place the cutting in a small container filled with potting soil, cut end down. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloche to create a mini-greenhouse environment and help retain moisture. Water consistently and never let the soil dry out. You should notice roots forming within a few weeks; your cutting can be transplanted into a larger container once it outgrows its original one.
Potting and Repotting Peperomia Plants
Peperomia plants can live for years in a relatively small container. They enjoy a somewhat root-bound existence, and this, combined with their slow growth rate, means you can leave them alone unless you see roots coming out of the drainage holes. If that's the case, repot your plant into a slightly larger container with an acidic potting mix or orchid bark.
Container culture is the most popular way to grow peperomia plants because it allows a gardener to cultivate and maintain this slow-growing houseplant over many seasons. Choose a container that has excellent aeration to foster a healthy root system. An orchid pot with large openings is suitable, provided you use orchid bark that won't fall out of the drainage holes. Terracotta pots are also excellent containers for peperomia because their porous nature keeps soil from becoming soggy due to overwatering.
Common Pests and Diseases
Peperomia plants are subject to the same common pests that can affect most houseplants: mealybugs, spider mites, and whitefly. Insecticidal soap is the best non-toxic treatment for these pests. Additionally, leaf spots might occur, and the plants are susceptible to rot if the soil is consistently too moist.