Plant Profile: Peperomia

Peperomia is a genus of small, tropical plants which are accustomed to growing in low light. Popular for their compact growth habits, ornamental foliage and diversity of appearance, peperomia plants are a low light gardener's dream come true. There are more than 100 cultivated species from which to choose, each with varying leaf size, color and texture.   

Peperomia plants are compact, reaching 12 inches in length and up to 36 inches in width. Appearance between species is varied, but all peperomia share a few common characteristics. Thick, fleshy evergreen leaves are typical of the plant, although they may be any number of different shapes. Some are heart or lance-shaped and others are oval or strappy. A few peperomia species feature trailing, thread-like leaves, which makes them more suitable for hanging baskets than other types.

Many species of peperomia produce tiny, non-ornamental flowers which are borne on upright, conical flower spikes (pictured on right). The lush leaves of the plant, which can be solid green, marbled or striped, are supported by thick stems which also vary in color from green to pink or red.  Leaves may be tinged with colors of creamy white, yellow, gray or red, which makes for very colorful and attractive foliage.

Other Names: 
Peperomia is also known as baby rubber plant, pepper face, radiator plant, and American rubber plant. Although these names usually only apply to one species of peperomia (p. obtusifolia), they are often mistakenly given to any species in the genus.  

Native to southern Florida, South and Central America, and tropical areas of Africa, peperomia's natural habitat is a shady forest floor. Peperomia plants thrive in high humidity, moist soil and low light levels. They are best grown in small containers or hanging baskets, no larger than 6 inches in diameter, and should always be kept slightly pot bound.

Peperomias are happiest in light, airy well-drained soil. While they like moisture, they don't like to stand in water, which may cause fungal diseases. Add loam, sand, bark or styrofoam beads to a high-quality organic potting mix for the best results. Avoid peat moss and other moisture retaining materials if possible.   

Low light is best for peperomia plants, although they will tolerate medium  or even bright light. However, always avoid direct sun.Variegated species are not recommended for low light areas, as the  leaves will lose their coloration. As a general rule, variegated foliage requires more sunlight than darker green foliage. Keep this in mind while choosing a variety, particularly if you have very low light levels indoors.

Temperatures should be kept between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn't too difficult indoors. Peperomia are tropical plants, and can sustain serious damage from the cold if temperatures drop below 50 degrees, so keep them away from drafty windows in the winter.

Peperomia are not very drought tolerant, but they also don't like living in wet or soggy soil. It's a delicate balance, and extremes on both end should be avoided. Drench the soil thoroughly each time you water, but allow it to dry out in between waterings. A peperomia plant grown in low light may only need watering once every 7 to 10 days.

Mist the leaves occasionally during spring and summer with a spray bottle containing lukewarm water to increase humidity around the plant. Peperomia plants like high humidity, and a well-placed humidifier can cut down on the manual misting.

Soil should not be kept overly fertile, as peperomia are naturally slow-growing. and over fertilization can cause excessive growth. Feed plants once per month using a 20-10-20 NPK houseplant fertilizer. Refer to the manufacturer's directions for proper dosage and apply a half-strength dose at each feeding.

Little to no pruning is required for slow-growing peperomia plants. Simply trim back any stems that outgrow their bounds as needed.

Move peperomia plants to a larger pot any time the roots have wrapped completely around the bottom of the growing container. Repot in spring while the plant is actively growing when necessary, although peperomia plants rarely outgrow their pots. However, you may wish to repot once every two years simply to replace the potting mix.

Peperomia are very susceptible to root rot and edema, a disease in which they take on too much water. Keep the soil well-drained to avoid these problems. Wilting may be caused by too little light, low temperatures or excessive watering. Mealy bugs and spider mites can be a problem. Check foliage regularly for evidence of pests. Treat problems immediately by removing the insects by hand or using a recommended insecticide.


Scotkat said...

Great blog I inherited one of these beauties a year ago and is still growing well.

Many new leaves but still no blooms.

How long do they take to produce flowers?

YouseF Aash said...

Nice plant .. I love it and I have many of them :)

radhe bhai said...

All About Indoor House Plants With name and pictures flowering plants, terrace plants, office plants and all kinds of details.
Indoor Plants Guide -All About House Plants gro and propagation Information

Unknown said...

I just noticed some long spikes on my plant and just discovered that it's a flowering spike.

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