This popular plant is as decorative to look at as it is eye-catching, which makes it a great addition to the garden, particularly if you’re looking for a solo performer.
It also grows well alongside other Peperomia species.
The story of Peperomia
This genus is related to pepper and is a member of the Piperaceae family. It is little wonder, as the word Peperomia translates to ‘resembles peppers’. This large group of plants make up an astounding 1,500 species, native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.
They generally come in the shape of herbaceous plants, climbers or shrubs – all feature spikes in the place of flowers, which look a little like tails. If you’re a fan of decorative leaf shapes, colours and markings, the Peperomia plant is the perfect addition to your garden.
Styles and variants
Peperomia plants can have thick, plump, smooth, rippled or shiny leaves, all of which come in various shades of red, green, grey and cream.
The leaves are often embellished with marbled, striped, or solid hued patterns. The flowers on the other hand, are tiny in size and grow in clusters upon upright conical spikes. The smaller Peperomia houseplants can be used in terrariums and dish gardens.
When grown indoors, mature Peperomia plants will never reach a height higher than 12-18 inches, which makes them the perfect option for tables, the most popular styles being Caperata and the Obtusifolia. Other varieties make excellent hanging plants.
What to look for when buying Peperomia?
Peperomias are categorised by plant shape, pot size, height and consistency. Many species are sold in mixed trays, however, if you wish to grow a particular specie, you’ll find trays by species are also available.
When buying Peperomia, there are a few tips and tricks to follow. Always ensure the plant is pest and disease free. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as Peperomia plants are lucky in that they’re not usually prone to ailments.
These plants are easily propagated from stem tip cuttings, leaf cuttings and plant division. It’s wise to allow the cut ends of the Peperomia leaves or stems being used to dry out for several hours or overnight before planting them.
The majority of Peperomia plants grown from cuttings are all are sensitive to cold. It is therefore important to ensure seedlings are stored at the correct temperature. Between 55°F – 60°F (c.12°C – 15°C) is ideal.
If you notice dark spots on the leaves, this can be a sign of cold damage. Botrytis and fungal rot on the other hand are a sign of water damage. It’s a good idea to keep the plants reasonably dry in the storage phase, especially if storing plants in sleeves – as this can cause the plant to rot from the inside.
Other ailments include red spider mite, mealy bug and aphid. If you notice the leaves are discoloured or faded, then it’s likely the plant is infested. These pests only tend to attack in warm and dry conditions.
Blackened leaves are another ailment to watch out for. This only tends to happen if the leaves are sprayed with leaf shine, which Peperomia are extremely sensitive to. Peperomia plants feature papillae on the top of their leaves and leaf shine can block these papillae.
Ringspot, is another ailment that can affect the Peperomia plant. This virus marks the leaves with unappealing round spots that occur in high humidity. It’s important to keep Peperomia leaves dry and place in a location that provides good air circulation to avoid this disease.
Types of Peperomia
There are more than 1,000 types of Peperomias in existence, although not all are cultivated and grown for public distribution. A number of unusual varieties are also available to plant collectors.
These species often come in the shape of arboretums and are used for indoor displays at botanical gardens.
Using Peperomia houseplants to brighten your indoor displays
There are a number of Peperomias to choose from, all of which offer different textures, hues and leaf shapes. Some of the more popular variants include:
Peperomia caperata: This variant boasts pretty heart shaped leaves and foliage with a texture similar to that of a waffle. The eye-catching, rich green leaves and stems showcase a glint of silver and burgundy.
The watermelon Peperomia (botanical name P. argyreia): This specie has elliptical shaped leaves with silver stripes. It can grow to eight inches in height and width, but only if planted in a container big enough to allow for root development. These plants have draping leaves and a mounding habit.
Peperomia obtusifolia: This baby rubber plant boasts an upright posture. Some of these types of Peperomias have leaves variegated with gold and white hues, while others feature solid, green, shiny leaves.
P. obtusifolia `Minima’: This specie comes in the shape of a dwarf specimen, which grows just four inches in height!
When growing a Peperomia indoors, choose a location that offers medium to low light and place away from direct sunlight. In certain situations, you may wish to grow Peperomia plants under fluorescent lighting.
For best results, opt for a light houseplant mixture with coarse gravel or perlite, as this will allow the roots access to good air circulation, which is necessary for their health and development. A sign your plants are not receiving enough oxygen is wilting leaves.
It’s important to water Peperomia houseplants sparingly. However, it is also important to allow the soil to dry thoroughly in-between watering.
Allow the top 50% layer of soil to dry out before watering again. The Peperomia plant’s thick leaves hold water and allow the plant to withstand long periods without moisture.
This is because the plants boast semi-succulent properties, which allows them to store moisture in their corpulent stems and leaves, which they use to rehydrate themselves in the dry, summer months.
Over-watering can result in root-rot, so it is therefore best to water these plants from the base of the pot. This will ensure the leaves are kept dry which helps to prevent plant diseases.
These species of plants are said to be slightly poisonous to pets and children, with a number one toxicity level.
It’s therefore important to plant them in a location that is out of reach. They tend to grow well in bright indirect light (direct sunlight burns the leaves), next to a west or east-facing window.
For best results, fertilise Peperomia plants on a monthly basis in the month of spring and summer, using a basic houseplant food.
This should be diluted to half the recommended strength.
Warm temperatures between 60°F – 80°F (c. 15°C – 27°C) provide the best growing temperatures for these species of plant. Temperatures below 50°F – 55°F (c. 10°C – 13°C). together with cold drafts, will damage the leaves of the Peperomia plant.
As these plants are native to the rain forests of Brazil, they enjoy a humid environment.
The flowers of Peperomia plants are less interesting than the leaves. In fact, the long flower spikes, covered with very tiny flowers, boast no scent whatsoever.
Flowers will typically come in shades of yellow and brown.
When potting these plants, opt for a well-aerated loose potting soil that drains quickly. When re-potting Peperomia plants, do so when the roots of the plant have filled the existing pot.
Avoid using a pot that is too large, as this stops the soil from drying out which can cause root-rot.
Those who have Peperomia plants will often prune them only when they begin to look a little unruly. They can be pruned anywhere along the stem. You will shortly begin to see new growth developing from the nodes, just below the cut in the stem.
With some basic care, Peperomia plants can inject plenty of colour and greenery into your indoor or outdoor space. If you’ve tried your hand at growing them yourself, we’d love to know how you got on.