How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Peperomia Frost
If you are thinking of adding a new plant to your indoor garden, you could do far worse than the peperomia frost! This hardy little plant has become quite popular as an indoor houseplant over the last decade. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton examines how to plant, grow, and care for peperomia frost.
Peperomias are a group of plants with fascinating leaves in different colors and shapes. They also grow well together in groups. With these two factors combined, it’s hard not to want to start a collection of these popular houseplants. While they may not be quite as popular as other houseplants, they are slowly becoming more and more well known.
One of the favorites has to be Peperomia Frost. It exemplifies its name, with leaves that look like they are covered in a layer of frost. This silvery leaf color is what makes it so special and a good plant to pair with other variegated houseplants, or as a standalone feature.
These plants have become quite popular with houseplant enthusiasts over the last several years, and it’s easy to see why. No matter now you plan to plant them, they are useful and pretty houseplants that are definitely worth a try. Let’s take a deeper look into planting, growing, and caring for Peperomia Frost.
Peperomia Frost Plant Overview
Plant Type Houseplant
Species Peperomia caperata Frost
Native Area Central and South America
Exposure Bright Indirect Light
Height 8-12 inches
Watering Requirements Medium, With Misting
Pests Spider Mites, Mealybug, Whitefly
Diseases Root Rot
Soil Type Well-draining
What Is Peperomia Frost?
Peperomia caperata Frost or simply Peperomia Frost is also known as Silver Frost Peperomia, Silver Peperomia, or Frost Peperomia.
As part of the Piperaceae family, Peperomias (Radiator Plants) form the second biggest genus of the group, the biggest being the Piper genus (including pepper plants or pepper vines).
There are over a thousand species of Peperomias that originate in tropical and subtropical regions of the world – mostly from Central and South America. This plant has thousands of different varieties, and many are quite popular indoor plants.
In tropical America where these plants come from, Peperomias are known as low-growing herbs. A few species also grow as epiphytes.
The first description of the genus can by tracked back to Spanish botanists Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez in 1794. They visited many South American countries between 1779 and 1788 and are the botanical classifiers of thousands of plants.
Ruiz and Pavón were the first official Spanish explorers commissioned by Carlos III to study and capture the essence and uniqueness of any new plants for botanical and illustrative purposes. They were tasked with describing the plants in detail to artists, who then created a real likeness of the plants in color.
One of the common names for Peperomia is Radiator Plant, named by American horticulturist and botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey. He was also the co-founder of the American Society for Horticultural Science, known extensively for many academic studies and literary papers as well as his taxonomic study of palms.
It is believed the name Radiator Plant was given due to the plant’s ability to thrive in warm air and tolerate wet and dry climates – just as you would find indoors with a radiator.
Frost is part of the Peperomia caperata species, also known as Ripple Peperomias due to the ruffles in their leaves.
They also have heart-shaped leaves with a metallic finish, available in shades of green, red, and purple as well as the lovely silver of Frost. All these types of Peperomias come from Brazil.
Where To Buy One
While this cultivar was once considered rare, it is now quite common and easy to find. Look for plants at local nurseries in their indoor plant section or at home goods stores. Alternatively, there are several online stores, such as Amazon and Etsy, that sell these plants.
Peperomia Frost is a fairly compact plant, growing to about 8 inches in height and spread. However, it can grow up to 12 inches high in ideal conditions.
It is primarily grown as an indoor plant, but in warmer zones, it can also be used as a groundcover outdoors if positioned out of direct sunlight in an area that gets dappled shade.
Outdoors, they can be grown in USDA zones 11-12 as a leafy plant for partial shade in garden beds. They are also grown in areas with warm humid summers and colder winters, as long as they are grown in containers that can be moved indoors or into a greenhouse when the cold hits.
Indoors, they can be grown anywhere with the right conditions.
When considering where to position these plants, think of where they grow naturally. They reside in tropical rainforests sheltered by overhead trees and shrubs and never in direct sunlight. The closest match is a spot with bright indirect light and high humidity.
One of the most interesting aspects of these Peperomias is their stalks of flowers that form in summer and autumn. The spikes grow upwards from the base of the plant and the flowers form similarly to the spadix of Anthuriums or Zantedeschia.
The flowers are tiny and usually white or cream and packed together along the spike. In fact, they are so small that a magnifying glass is needed to see them properly.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that the vertical stalks are an interesting part of a Peperomias growth pattern, along with the rippled heart-shaped, shiny silver leaves.
How to Grow
When growing this popular houseplant, there are many factors to consider so you don’t risk damaging your plant. You’ll want to ensure you hit capture the appropriate light, water, soil, and temperatures to ensure this plant grows to its full potential. Let’s take a deeper look at each maintenance point, and walk through why they are important.
Peperomias generally do best in bright indirect light next to an east or north-facing window. The plant will burn and the foliage will turn brown in direct sunlight, so south-facing windows are not suitable unless filtered by a sheer curtain.
Frost is suitable for low light areas but may need to be moved if it is remaining small and does not grow much.
Outdoors, they must be grown in the shade or semi-shade in garden beds. Plant under trees, in a shady position on a patio, or in a hanging basket that is sheltered from any direct sun.
Check the soil once a week. If the top half is dry, it’s time to water them. The best way to do this is to fill a sink or basin halfway with water and set all the plants in the water. Leave them for 30 minutes and then drain thoroughly before placing them back in their saucers or plant trays in their spots.
This time in the sink allows the water to soak up from the bottom, completely saturating the soil without getting the leaves wet. Although the leaves don’t like to be drenched in water, they do well with a little misting to keep the humidity around the plants up.
Peperomia Frost is not terribly fussy about soil, but good drainage is essential. Because Peperomias are quite succulent in nature, a well-draining houseplant is vital to prevent root rot and deliver enough oxygen to the roots.
You can make your own by mixing 2 parts potting soil with one part coconut coir, one part perlite and one handful of bark. Perlite is an important part of the mix as it lightens the soil helps the most with drainage.
Make sure the container you are planting in has plenty of drainage holes and add a layer of stones to the bottom before planting to further improve drainage.
You can also treat Peperomias like epiphytes and grow them in a mix of 3 parts coco peat to 2 parts perlite. This extra light soilless mix has excellent drainage but does not come with the extra nutrients that Peperomias could benefit from, meaning they will require regular fertilizing.
Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature for Peperomia Frost is between 60F – 80F. The hotter side of the spectrum is closest to what they experience in their natural habitats, improving health and growth. If your plants are outdoors in containers, bring them in as soon as the temperature falls below 50F
Keep plants away from cold drafts from windows or air conditioners, as they do not do well in wind or cold snaps. However, they do need good airflow around the plants to prevent fungal diseases and rot, so don’t pack them in a dark and musty corner either.
For humidity, think rainforest habitat. The preferred humidity levels are considered moderate – around 50%. A humidifier will help increase the humidity levels in dry climates. Alternatively, place your plants in an open terrarium to improve conditions.
Give the plants a spritz with a water spray bottle every so often, especially when it’s very dry.
The growing season for Peperomia Frost is between spring and autumn. During this time the plants will need to be fed with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month. Don’t feed in winter.
They are not particularly heavy feeders but will keep healthy with this monthly dose of nutrients.
Because they don’t get their leaves wet when watered, Frost may need frequent dusting and a wipe down, depending on the environment. Take a damp cloth and carefully wipe each leaf to improve photosynthesis and transpiration.
Peperomia Frost does not need regular pruning. Leaves will die off year-round and taking these off regularly will be enough.
However, to keep the plant’s shape you can prune during spring and summer when the weather is warmer and the plant has a better chance of quick recovery. Prune back at any point along the stems. New growth will start from the nodes just below the cut.
Propagation is simple for Peperomia Frost. There are various methods to choose from including division, stem cuttings or leaf cuttings.
Propagating From Cuttings
The easiest way to propagate is by cuttings. The best time to take cuttings is in spring before the growing season but you can also take them in the fall.
Prepare a tray or pot and fill with a mixture of 1 part coco peat to 1 part perlite to create a light mix perfect for propagating. Make sure the mixture is damp before you begin.
Using a sharp pair of secateurs, cut off a stem just below a joint, making sure the cutting is healthy and has a few leaves intact. Prepare the cutting by cutting off all the lower leaves, leaving 2-3 leaves at the ends.
Dip each cutting in water then into a small container of rooting hormone powder. Make sure to decant a small amount of the hormone powder to use as you will need to discard it after use to avoid transferring any potential diseases across species.
Make a hole with your finger or a wooden skewer in the prepared container and place each cutting into the soil. Press down to firm in place.
Date and label the cuttings. Add a few skewers to the container and use these as tent poles to hold a plastic bag. The bag will make its own mini greenhouse and keep the cuttings moist until they have rooted.
Place the cuttings in an area that is bright but not in direct sunlight and at a temperature above 60F. If the temperature is too cool, place your cuttings on a heated grow mat to improve conditions.
Check the cuttings daily to see if they need water. You may want to remove the plastic bag for a couple of hours each day to improve air circulation. The climate in your area will determine if this is necessary.
In a couple of weeks, you should see new growth forming. Give them a little tug to make sure they are firmly rooted. They can then be moved to permanent containers.
Do this carefully as the root system is delicate and shallow.
To divide Peperomia Frost, take a healthy plant and remove it from its container. Shake off all the excess soil and pry apart the plant into smaller sections, making sure each section comes away with a bunch of roots.
Plant the divided plants into new containers and fill in with soil mix. Press down and water well before adding a layer of mulch.
Peperomias like to be a little snug in their pots and will only require repotting if bursting out their containers. This is not a yearly task like most other houseplants.
When they look like they need it, pot them into a pot one size up and no bigger. This is to ensure that the roots are not surrounded by too much soil which can result in root rot.
Use a clean pot with drainage holes. Fill the pot halfway with your preferred soil mix. Remove the plant from its old container and shake off any soil.
Remove any leaves and stalks that look damaged or yellow and repot into the new container. Fill in with potting mix and press down to settle the plant in its new pot. Add a layer of mulch to the top and water well from the bottom.
There are many common problems that you may run into once you welcome this houseplant into your home. The most common issues happen with overwatering and underwatering your plant. But there’s also disease, and some pests to try your best to prevent. Let’s take a deeper look.
The most common problem with overwatering. The stems quickly become soggy and entire leaves can drop off the plant.
If you think this may be an issue, wait until the plant dries out completely before watering again and make sure the plant does not sit in water.
Drain thoroughly after watering before placing on saucers or pot trays and check that water does not build up in the trays too.
Peperomia Frost should typically be watered every 7-10 days. While overwatering is more common, leaving them without water for too long could also cause them to wither and die.
Check that only the top half of the soil is dry by placing your finger or a wooden skewer into the soil. If you notice limp leaves and a droopy plant, water immediately.
Changes In Leaves
If the leaves tend to fall off, the temperature may be too cold for them. A comfortable temperature above 60F is ideal for them. Dropping below 50F can cause the plant to shed some leaves, letting you know it’s time for some warmth.
Yellowing in the leaves can be a cause for concern, but usually, it’s just part of the natural life cycle of the leaves. Simply remove and discard these.
Excessive yellowing of the lower leaves could be a sign of chlorosis – an indication that the plant needs to be fed. Use a high-quality houseplant fertilizer to add some nitrogen, potassium, and iron into the soil for the best results.
When older leaves wilt and drop in numbers, there may be too much salt in the soil due to overfertilizing. To fix this, pour water through the soil until it runs clear to remove the salts. Remember not to feed Peperomias too much in the future.
Spots on the leaves may be a sign of a more serious fungal infection, requiring treatment with a suitable fungicide as soon as possible.
Pests and Diseases
Now that you’ve learned a bit about some of the common problems that are somewhat easy to troubleshoot, let’s take a deeper look at some of the most common pests and diseases that can plague this plant. Many of these are both preventable and treatable, but may are also not.
In heavily waterlogged soils, a parasitic water mold called pythium may attach to the roots, causing them to rot. These microorganisms are responsible for drooping leaves, discolored leaves, and wilting.
It is best to prevent this from happening by watering the plants correctly. If the plant is not too far gone and the damaged roots can be cut off and discarded while still leaving enough healthy roots to drive the plant, it can be repotted into fresh soil mix and saved.
Spider mites can float in from outside and land on your plants. These are small mites usually found on the underside of leaves.
If your leaves look a little dusty, or you can see webs, check for the little mites. They will open up leaf cells, especially on new leaf growth, eventually destroying a plant.
To get rid of Spider mites, give your plants a good shower in water and wipe off any webbing or dust you can see. Once the plant is cleaned, spray with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
For large infections, you may have to resort to commercially manufactured insecticides. Keep the plants outdoors while they are being treated to avoid spreading harmful chemicals around your home.
Mealybugs literally suck the life out of plants – the vampires in the plant world. They produce a white powder that is easy to see and looks like a fungus on the leaves. They can also cause the plant to wilt and the leaves to yellow.
As you would for spider mites, give the plant a good shower and then spray with neem oil or insecticidal soap. You can use rubbing alcohol to spot treat any visible bugs that may hatch after that and keep an eye on the plant until they are bug-free. You may have to respray the plant every week if the infestation is severe.
Use systemic pesticides as a last resort. The white powder is there to protect the eggs and so repels some pesticides. The manual approach is usually effective.
Another common pest for indoor plants is scale and they love juicy plants like Peperomias.
These parasites attach themselves to leaves and drain the leaves of fluid. They form hard waxy shells that are sometimes difficult to remove.
They hold on tight but they are best removed by scraping them off the leaves – as many as you can – and then following up with a spray of insecticidal soap.
For large infections, use a commercially manufactured insecticide for use on scale, and follow up as per the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.
An infestation of little white insects on the undersides of leaves could be whiteflies. Adult whiteflies look a bit like tiny moths, about a sixteenth of an inch long and triangular in shape, with powdery white wings.
Like aphids and mealybugs (to which they are closely related) whiteflies are soft-bodied, sucking insects that can drastically weaken plants.
The first thing to try for whitefly control is to simply vacuum the bugs off the infected plants using a handheld vacuum cleaner.
Neem oil can be sprayed on infected plants to kill eggs, larvae, and adults, but because the adults fly, they can be hard to effectively wet. You may have to resort to multiple treatments of a pesticide that has been registered for whitefly applied over a period of a few weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does Peperomia mean?
The name combines two Greek words peperi, meaning pepper, and homoios which means resembling or similar. Essentially, they are similar to a pepper plant due to their classification as part of the Piperaceae or Pepper family.
Is Peperomia Frost toxic?
The whole plant is non-toxic and harmless to children and pets, although ingestion is not recommended.
Are Peperomias easy to care for?
All Peperomias are relatively easy to care for. They require little water, little fertilizer, and virtually no maintenance except for the odd leaf removal and repotting.
Is Peperomia Frost frost tolerant?
Despite the name, the plant is not frost tolerant. The Frost comes from the color of the leaves and the look it has, almost as if it has a layer of frost over the top of the leaves – not its tolerance of cold weather.
Is Peperomia Frost rare?
The popularity of Peperomias in general over the last few years has made them widely available. Frost is therefore not particularly rare. If you can’t find one at your local garden center, buy them online.
Peperomias are easy plants to grow and care for. They require little attention and are perfect for those with less time to take care of their plants. The shiny, shimmery silver leaves of Frost go well in any decor setting and add a touch of bling to an indoor environment.