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The peperomia plant is a smart choice for beginner houseplant enthusiasts. Not only are they forgiving plants that tolerate some 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.
Peperomia are a family of tropical plants native to Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. With more than 1,000 known species, these hearty plants boast thick, fleshy leaves that contribute to their drought tolerance and vigor. Peperomia offer ornamental foliage. Its leaves can be textured or smooth in 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. All peperomia plants are low maintenance, slow-growing, and can be planted all year long. Peperomia belong to the Pepper Family, and are semi-succulents with very similar care requirements.
When small, peperomia houseplants can be used in dish gardens and terrariums. Indoors, mature peperomia plants never grow taller than 12”-18″ and are ideal for tables. Some varieties make excellent hanging plants. The most popular peperomias used as indoor house plants are the caperata and the obtusifolia varieties.
Light - Peperomia plants grow well in the bright, indirect light provided by a west or east-facing window. These plants even grow under fluorescent lights. Insufficient light will result in fewer leaves, leaf drop, and drab coloration. Direct sunlight burns the leaves.
Temperature - As tropical plants, peperomia plants prefer a warm and steamy environment, especially in the summer months when their growth is most active. Warm temperatures between 60°-80°F are best. Temperatures below 50°-55° F and cold drafts from windows, HVAC and doors damage peperomia plant leaves.
Peperomia will turn to mush outdoors if you get freezing temperatures. Bring your peperomia plant inside in early fall, long before the first frost. In the winter, you can significantly reduce the amount of water it gets. Some do not water this plant at all during the winter months.
Water - Allow the top 50% of the soil to dry out before you water. Over-watering, resulting in root-rot, is the main cause of serious peperomia plant problems. It’s best to water these plants from the bottom. This technique keeps the leaves dry and helps prevent plant diseases. The thick leaves of peperomia plants hold water and allow the plant to withstand long periods without moisture.
Humidity - Peperomia plants are originally from the rain forests of Brazil and like a warm, humid environment. They love Northeast Tennessee outdoors during the warmer months, provided they have the correct light! 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.
Soil - Many peperomia plant species grow as epiphytes, which means in the wild, they might settle into the nook of a tree and send their roots into some slightly decaying bark. The key to a thriving peperomia is choosing a soil blend that mimics these conditions; chunky, loose, and acidic. An orchid potting medium or coco coir mixture typically works well, but regular potting soil is fine too. You can always lighten it with a handful of peat moss or vermiculite.
Fertilizer - When it comes to fertilizing peperomia plants, less is more. Fertilize monthly in the spring and summer with a balanced houseplant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. It’s not necessary to feed a peperomia plant in the fall and winter.
Flowering - Peperomia rarely flower when kept as houseplants, but they occasionally do. Their unscented blooms appear as spindly spikes of brown and greenish-white. They don't look like flowers; you might even think they're offshoots, detracting from the look of the plant. You can cut them at the base of the shoot or leave them to fall off once the flower withers naturally. Its natural bloom time is summer, but if you have lighting and temperatures indoors that mimic summer, it can bloom anytime indoors.
Re-pot - 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 until you see roots coming out of the drainage holes. Re-pot peperomia plants to the next size container when the roots of the plant have filled the existing pot. Planting a peperomia in a pot that is too large prevents the soil from drying out quickly and causes root-rot.
Terracotta pots are also excellent containers for peperomia because their porous nature keeps soil from becoming too wet if you overwater by mistake.
Maintenance - Lightly prune peperomia plants in the early spring to correct any leggy, sparse growth. Pinching back the stems will help maximize the plant's lush appearance by encouraging more branching. Remove the end of each stem and the first set of leaves; you can pinch them off with your fingers or snip them off with hand pruners.
Pests - Peperomia plants are subject to common pests that can affect most houseplants: mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies. Isopropyl alcohol or insecticidal soap is the easiest treatment for these pests. DO NOT use Neem oil on any peperomia. The oils will suffocate the leaves and lead to the death of your peperomia.
Ringspot, a virus that marks the leaves with unsightly round marks, develops in high humidity. Since there is no good treatment for this plant disease, damaged leaves and even the entire infected plant may have to be thrown out. Keep peperomia leaves dry and provide good air circulation to prevent diseases.
Propagation - These plants are easily propagated from leaf cuttings, stem tip cuttings, and plant division. Peperomia plants can be propagated at any time, although springtime is when its growth is more active and likely the best time. If you're already planning to prune your plants in the spring, you can take a stem's extra leggy growth and easily propagate from that stem cutting. Be sure to allow the cut ends of the peperomia leaves or stems being used for propagation to dry out for several hours or overnight before planting them
Potential Problems - Discolored, droopy leaves and rotting smell is a sure sign of root rot and peperomia's fastest, sure way to die! Root rot is a disease that is caused by overwatering your plant. You may also notice a rotting smell. Mushy stems are often a sign of a fungal infection. To prevent root rot or fungal disease, make sure that the plant’s soil is completely dry to the touch before you water it. If you catch it quick enough, you can remedy this plant without throwing it all out. Sterilize your pot in a diluted bleach solution. You will need fresh, well-draining soil. Pull out the infected plant from the pot, and cut away any rotting, black or dark brown, mushy roots. Wash the remaining healthy roots. Lay the plant out and allow the roots to dry for a few hours. Then, repot it in the clean pot with fresh soil.
Special Notes - Peperomia are a pet & kid safe plant!