Peperomia is a genus of tropical plants with beautiful ornamental foliage. As a houseplant, Peperomia requires virtually no attention, best left alone while showering it with love. An ideal plant for beginners who think they don’t really have a green thumb.
These plants can come in a wide variety of interesting growth forms. Their glossy leaves can come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of colours as well. Some varieties can grow tall and bushy, while others can be more compact, or even have long trailing stems with tiny leaves.
Peperomias make a wonderful choice for beginner plant owners with their minimalist care requirements and tolerance for neglect. Even though there are over 1500 species of peperomias to choose from, their low maintenance qualities are generally universal.
Peperomia Quick Care Guide:
Even though peperomia plants are generally considered easy to grow, there are still a few common care mistakes. Keep reading to find out how make sure your peperomia will thrive.
Peperomia (also known as radiator plant) refers to a genus of slow-growing tropical plants native to Central and South America, which contains over 1500 species.
In the wild, they grow mostly as perennial epiphytes. This gives their roots the special ability to absorb nutrients and moisture from the air and water around them.
As a result, these plants are most often found growing below the canopy using a host, like rotting tree stump.
However, some peperomias are considered to be succulents, or succulent-like, with the ability to store extra water in their thick, fleshy leaves. This is why it is important to avoid overwatering peperomias, as they can be very susceptible to root rot.
As with most epiphytes, peperomia plants generally prefer warmth and higher humidity conditions. This can easily be maintained with frequent misting, or a cup of water placed on top of a radiator close by.
While there are many different variations in growth forms and foliage, most peperomias have one thing in common: their insignificant flower spikes.
Many peperomias are able to produce flowers which look like white, pink, or greenish spikes at the end of a long stem. However, it is highly unlikely that your peperomia plant will ever flower indoors.
Calathea orbifolia or Goeppertia orbifolia
Family: Marantaceae, Genus: Calathea
Tropics of the Americas
100cm/3.2ft high, leaves: 30cm/1ft wide.
Moderate and indirect
Soil must be kept moist but not soggy.
Ideal pH is around 6.5, slightly acidic well draining soil
Summer (note that they do not usually bloom indoors)
How To Care For Peperomia Plants
Peperomias are known for their lush, exotic looking foliage and forgiving manner. An excellent choice for beginner plant owners, these plants require very minimalist care requirements.
To keep your peperomia happy and heathy, there are just a few things to remember. Let’s dive deeper into the details of peperomia care.
1. Plant Peperomia In A Well-Draining Potting Mix
One of the most important aspects to a happy peperomia plant is the soil. Well-draining potting soil is a must to keep peperomia foliage looking vibrant and healthy.
With the ability to store extra water inside the leaves for times of drought like succulents, peperomia plants can be very prone to root rot or yellowing leaves if the soil is not able to dry.
Succulent and orchid soil mixes are both good choices for potting peperomia plants. These mixes tend to be loamy, containing lots of peat and perlite to allow excess water to drain. If you would prefer to make a soil mix yourself, an ideal recipe would be 2 parts peat moss and 1 part perlite or sand.
2. Place Near A Window That Receives Bright Indirect Light
While some varieties of peperomia plants can survive in shade or low-light conditions, most will do much better with bright light.
Receiving plenty of bright, indirect light will en-sure that your peperomia plant is able to produce beautiful healthy foliage, especially if there is variegation.
The most ideal location for a peperomia plant would be in the windowsill of an east or west-facing window. However, be sure to protect the plant from any harsh direct rays using a sheer curtain.
While bright light is beneficial, the heat produced from direct sun-light can be harmful and cause the leaves to burn.
One of the many reasons that peperomias have become such popular houseplants is their ability to tolerate low-light conditions.
They can be grown in a North-facing room or in a shady spot, unlike most other houseplants. They can also do very well under artifi-cial florescent lighting, like in an office for example.
3. Water Every 7 To 10 Days And Allow Top Soil To Dry Out Between Waterings
Peperomia plants do not require frequent watering to maintain vigor. In fact, overwatering is the number one problem that most people have when keeping a peperomia plant indoors.
The fleshy, succulent-like leaves of peperomia plants are able to store excess water for safe keeping in case of times of drought. This behaviour makes these plants highly susceptible to root rot and is the reason why its so important to allow the top inch or two of soil to dry before watering again.
You should always water deeply so that the water drains from the bottom of the pot. Typically, you can expect to water peperomia plants about every 7-10 days during the growing season. However you should always focus more on the moisture level of the soil, rather than by the last time the plant was watered.
Wilting stems, rotting stalks, yellowing leaves, or a heavy pot with waterlogged soil are all signs of overwatering.
4. Feed Your Plant About Once Every Couple Of Months During The Spring And Summer
Peperomia plants tend to have very low nutrient requirements due to their compact size and slow growth.
For the most part, soil which is rich in organic matter is enough food for peperomia plants. Since peat moss is generally sterile and lacks nutrients or microorganisms, adding a small amount of compost to the potting mix is a good option.
Too much fertilizer is a very common mistake when growing peperomia plants indoors. Since these plants will not be using very much nutrients to grow, adding too much fertilizer will create salt build up in the soil and may burn the roots or cause leaf drop.
If you feel the need to add fertilizer, you can use a liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. However, be sure to only do this about once every couple of months during the growing season.
An important care tip to avoid salt build-up and burning the roots is to flush out the fertilizer between feedings. Do this by watering thoroughly with the next watering after a feeding, so that the water is able to drain from the bottom of the pot.
5. Keep Peperomia plants in a warm location
As tropical plants, peperomias tend to prefer a warm environment. They are only hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 10, which means if grown outdoors they cannot withstand temperatures below 30°F (-1°C).
Luckily, average room temperatures are suitable for most peperomia plants to thrive. The ideal temperature range for peperomia plants is between 65°F and 75°F (18° – 24°C). The absolute minimum temperature they are able to withstand as a houseplant is around 50°F (10°C)
As with most plants, it is important to avoid sudden or frequent changes in temperature. Do your best to keep your plants away from any warm or cold drafts, like near a furnace vent or an old drafty window for example.
6. Peperomia Prefer High Humidity And Do Not Like Dry Air
Many peperomias feature succulent-like leaves which are able to store extra moisture, so they do not require extra humidity to thrive indoors. However, there are some varieties of peperomia plants who would greatly benefit from increased humidity.
The easiest way to tell how much humidity your houseplant would need is by looking at the thickness of its leaves.
Since thicker leaves are able to store more water, it makes sense that a plant with thinner leaves would require higher humidity levels.
There are many easy ways to provide increased humidity, even without a humidifier. You can mist the leaves regularly to provide extra moisture, place the plant container on top of a pebble tray with water, or even just leave a cup of water sitting on a radiator near by to evaporate.
Since central air heating tends to draw moisture out of the air, it is essential to use one of the methods listed above to provide increased humidity in the winter months. Air which is too dry can and will negatively affect plant growth.
7. Repot Your Peperomia Plants In A Bigger Pot Every 2-3 Years
Peperomia plants will not need to be repotted very often. They actually prefer a relatively root bound existence. This, combined with their slow growth rate means you can usually leave them in the same pot for a few years.
Its good practice to repot your peperomia every 2-3 years to avoid hard compaction of the potting soil, which will negatively affect its drainage over time. You should only repot your peperomia into a new pot which is just slightly larger than the one its coming from.
Gently remove the plant from its current pot and try to shake off as much of the old potting mix as possible. This is a good time to observe the roots and prune off any roots that might be dead or unhealthy.
Generally healthy roots should be white and might appear to be covered in tiny hairs. If there are roots which are dark brown, black, or seem slimy, you should pull them off. Then, carefully transfer the plant into a prepared new pot, and cover with soil.
Make sure the soil is packed down slightly to provide support for the plant, but do not compact it too much. Finally, water the plant deeply to give it a good start in its new home.
8. Prune Your Peperomia To Make Your It Thick And Bushy
Pruning peperomia plants not only keeps them healthy, but also helps to give them a bushier appearance and improves their overall ornamental look.
As per usual with most houseplants, it is important to continuously pinch off any dead or yellowing leaves to encourage healthy new growth.
The actual pruning process is quite easy for peperomia plants. It’s best done as an annual care routine each spring.
Simply cut back the stems to remove the last set or two of leaves. This will promote a bushier look and prevent the plant form becoming too leggy.
9. Peperomias Can Be Propagated From Stem, Leaf Cuttings
Luckily, propagating new peperomia plants is just as easy as it is to care for them. One peperomia plant can quickly provide you with many little peperomia babies to pass off to friends and family, or even grow your own collection.
There are two methods for propagating peperomia plants, from either stem or leaf cuttings. The best time to take peperomia cuttings is in the spring or early summer, allowing plenty of growing time and ideal conditions for the new cutting to thrive and grow strong roots.
How To Propagation From Peperomia Stem Cuttings
Propagating new peperomia plants from stem cuttings is most suitable for the trailing or tall, upright peperomia plants.
Propagation From Peperomia Leaf Cuttings
Since the stems of bushy peperomias tend to be thin and soft, it is better to propagate the more compact peperomia plants from leaf cuttings.
10. Watch Out For Pests and Disease
Peperomia plants can be affected by some fungal diseases, mites, gnats, and mealybugs.
However, these plants are very resilient and most of these problems can easily be solved with carful attention to watering and proper care.
Peperomia plants are prone to certain fungal infections such as Pythium, Cercospora, Rhizoctonia, or Phyllostica.
Pythium is a disease of the roots which can quickly kill a peperomia plant by causing root rot. Once the roots have begun to rot, you will notice signs of continuously waterlogged soil as the roots are no longer able to function properly. As the roots die, you will also begin to see wilting leaves and black spots on the stem of the plant.
To save a peperomia who has been affected by Pythium, the best method is to repot the plant and remove as much of the damaged roots as possible.
Shake out and pull away as much of the old soil as you can. Finally, pot gently into a new pot with a fresh batch of well-draining potting soil and water in lightly.
Other fungal diseases like Cercospora, Rhizoctonia, or Phyllostica can be a greater cause for concern, as they are able to spread to other plants inside your home.
These diseases will cause troublesome black leaf spots. If you notice black leaf spots on your peperomia, be sure to isolate it from your other plants as soon as possible.
Prune away all of the diseased foliage and carefully discard it. Remember to sterilize your pruning shears before and after dealing with a diseased plant to avoid causing the infection to spread.
Bugs That Attack Your Peperomia Plant
Fortunately peperomia plants are easy plants to care for, so they are not prone to very many pests. However, there are still a few common pests to watch out for. Mold under the leaves, stunted growth, or tiny black flies on the soil surface are all signs of pest pressure.
Mealybugs are small, white, wingless insects who suck the sap from plant stems. They will appear as little cotton-like masses on the stems or undersides of the peperomia leaves.
At first their damage will not be significant, however at higher numbers they can cause leaf yellowing and curling as the plant weakens.
They can be easily controlled using a natural neem oil insecticidal spray or an insecticidal soap from your local garden center.
Fungus gnats are another common pest who can affect most houseplants. These are small black flies who thrive on moist potting soil.
Their larvae mainly feed on the fungi and organic matter within the soil, however if allowed to persist at higher numbers they may begin to chew the roots of your plant as well.
Luckily, fungus gnats require consistently wet soil to thrive. Since most peperomia plants prefer drier soil conditions anyways, the easiest solution to a fungus gnat problem is to allow the soil to completely dry between waterings.
How Often Do You Water A Peperomia Plant?
Peperomia plants will do best in drier soil conditions, as they are highly prone to root rot. You should focus more on the moisture level of the soil, rather than how many days since the last watering.
Generally, you should only water your peperomia plants once the top 1-2 inches of soil has dried. During the growing season, this may be once per week. However in the winter months, this may often extend to once every 10-15 days or so.
Why Are The Leaves Of My Peperomia Plant Turning Yellow?
There are a few reasons why peperomia leaves might turn yellow. The most common reasons would be an issue with either water or light.
Most peperomia plants prefer drier conditions, so it is important to allow the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry before watering the plant again.
If this doesn’t seem to help and the soil is remaining moist for extended periods of time, this could be a sign of root rot. Try repotting with a fresh batch of well-draining potting soil and removing any dead roots in the process.
Remember that most peperomias cannot tolerate direct sunlight, and there are only a few who can tolerate it for short periods of time.
Make sure your peperomia plant is not in a south-facing window, as the light will be too strong here and cause yellowing leaves as a result of burning.
Why Is My Peperomia Dropping Its Leaves?
Leaf drop is often a normal growth behaviour for peperomia plants. However, it can also be a sign of some health problems.
As a peperomia plant matures and develops new growth, it will sometimes drop some of the lower, older leaves in an attempt to focus more energy towards the new foliage. This is a completely normal process and no cause for concern.
However if your plant is dropping a large amount of leaves from all over the plant, including from the top, this may be a sign of some major health issues.
Check for signs of pests and diseases and be sure to take extra care in optimizing your plants growing conditions as outlined in this article.
Why Are The Leaves Of My Peperomia Plant Starting To Curl?
For peperomia plants, curling leaves is a rare issue which is usually a sign of pests or nutrient deficiency. The first step is to inspect your plant for a pest infestation, especially mealybugs.
Mealybugs will appear as small cotton-like masses on the stems or undersides of the leaves. They can usually be eradicated pretty easily using a neem oil insecticidal spray or an insecticidal soap.
If you cannot find any pests, then the next thing you should consider is an issue with nutrients. While peperomia plants do have relatively low nutrient requirements, a calcium deficiency is known to cause leaf curling.
Calcium deficiency can be caused by over-watering while using a naturally acidic growth medium like peat moss, which is recommended for peperomia plants. High acidity makes it harder for your plants to absorb calcium, so this is yet another reason to avoid over-watering your peperomia.
Another cause of calcium deficiency would be an excess of nitrogen or phosphorus in the soil. When there is too much nitrogen or phosphorous in the soil, it can block the plant from absorbing calcium.
In this case, you should hold off on fertilizing the plant for a while and consider repotting into a fresh batch of potting soil.
Why Are There Black Spots On The Leaves Of My Peperomia?
Black leaf spots on peperomia plants are most often the result of leaf burn due to excessive direct sunlight. Make sure your peperomia is receiving bright, indirect or filtered light.
If you are worried that your plant is receiving too much light you can use a sheer curtain to protect it, or move it to a more shady location.
However, black spots on the leaves of a peperomia can also be a sign of a more severe issue with disease. If your plant has black leaf spots and is not in a location which would be too sunny, it might be infected with a disease like Cercospora, Rhizoctonia, or Phyllostica.
In this case, you should immediately isolate it from your other plants as soon as possible. Next, prune away all of the diseased foliage and carefully discard it.
Remember to sterilize your pruning shears before and after dealing with a diseased plant to avoid spreading the infection.
Do Peperomia Plants Have Flowers?
Yes, most peperomia plants are capable of producing flowers. However, these flowers are rare and insignificant.
Peperomia flowers will appear as skinny white, pink, or light green spikes on top of a stem. Some even say they look like a rat tail with tiny flowers on it. These stems will usually be around 2-3 inches tall and the flowers do not have any scent.
It is very rare that a peperomia plant will get enough good quality sunlight to produce flowers when being grown indoors. If your peperomia does happen to flower indoors, it is very good sign of healthy growth.
Peperomia plants can make a very beautiful and beginner friendly houseplant. There are thousands of different types of peperomia plants to choose from, varying widely in their colours and growth forms.
What each of these plants has in common though, are their convenient low maintenance care requirements.
What these plants lack in impressive floral displays, they easily make up for with their unique and vibrant foliage.
Once you have chosen the perfect peperomia to suit your space, the best thing to do is just leave it alone to thrive.
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.