Peperomia are beautiful little houseplants. Super-easy to grow, these small-leaved treasures add a pop of color to nearly any location. While they don’t typically produce fancy flowers (instead producing pale or light green spikes), they are lush and vibrant additions to your home.
There are dwarf varieties that only grow a few inches tall, and even the largest rarely get above 12-15″ in height. Some varieties have variegated leaf coloration, where others have a single shade. They’re all extremely easy to grow and care for!
Peperomia can be grown as houseplants, of course, and zones 10-11, they may even thrive outside as well.
Let’s dive into the fascinating world of the radiator plant, baby rubber plant, emerald ripple plant, and many other varieties, and explore everything about growing peperomia!
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|Common Name(s)||Peperomia, winged peperomia, watermelon peperomia, watermelon begonia, arid-land peperomia, hairy peperomia, etc.|
|Scientific Name||Peperomia alata, Peperomia argyreia, Peperomia blanda, Peperomia caperata, Peperomia nivalis, etc.|
|Origin||Tropical regions worldwide depending on species|
|Height||Species-dependent, ranging from 4-5” to 1.5 feet|
|Light||Low to medium indirect light|
|Water||Water sparingly, every 7-10 days or when completely dry|
|Temperature||65-75 degrees optimal|
|Humidity||40-50% humidity optimal|
|Soil||Extremely well-draining, often a 50/50 blend of peat moss & perlite|
|Fertilizer||Balanced liquid fertilizer, diluted. More fertilization in spring/summer.|
|Propagation||By seed or cuttings|
|Pests||Pests are rare, but most common are fungus gnats and spider mites.|
Types Of Peperomia
Peperomias are part of the Piperaceae family. Piperaceae are commonly known as the pepper family, and in fact the black pepper we use to cook with is a distant relative of peperomia!
However, while this plant may be related to Piper negrum, the black pepper, you probably won’t want to eat it.
Rainforest dwellers, these plants usually come in one of three types.
Epiphytic peperomia come from rainforests, often in South America. These typically grow in conditions where their roots don’t draw in much moisture, and they absorb it from the humid air around them. This makes up most of the species we’ll cover today.
Succulent varieties tend to be from high altitude environments. They can handle occasional and patchy direct sun, if not heat. During the winter, they are fine in low-moisture surroundings, but can be damaged by frost.
Geophytic types produce tuberous roots, and are very drought-resistant. These varieties require a cool season at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit to rest, but will come back to life the next spring.
There are about a thousand species and varieties of this vibrant little plant. With this level of diversity, it’s impossible to cover each variety here, but let’s go over some of the most popular houseplant varieties!
Peperomia alata, ‘Winged Peperomia’
A geophytic variety which spreads by rhizomes, Peperomia alata gets its name from “wings” that extend off its long stems. It produces tight, furry-looking green flower spikes. The leaves are oval to lanceolate, and are typically medium to dark green in color.
Originating from South and Central America, it can be found in parts of Florida as well as in the West Indies. In Florida, it grows in swamps and is a low groundcover.
Peperomia argyreia, ‘Watermelon Peperomia’, ‘Watermelon Begonia’
The watermelon peperomia has distinctive watermelon-like striping on its leaves. Seen at certain angles, the leaves create an interesting visual effect, looking like tiny watermelons attached to a vine. It’s not related to either watermelons or begonias, so its name is deceptive!
Peperomia argyreia has its origins in South America, although it’s grown widely in the rest of the world as a houseplant. It is an evergreen perennial.
Peperomia blanda, ‘Arid-Land Peperomia’, ‘Hairy Peperomia’, ‘Alaala Wai Nui’
Found in Hawaii, ‘ala’ala wai nui is a common epiphytic bedding plant. However, it’s not limited to the Polynesian islands, and is found in most tropical regions of the world including Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas. It is often found growing on damp rocks.
This arid-land plant is a deep green perennial which often is considered a creeping or low-lying species. In some conditions, it may have an upward growth up to 20-22″, but usually stays close to its growing surface.
Peperomia caperata, ‘Emerald Ripple Peperomia’, ‘Ripple Peperomia’, ‘Green Ripple Peperomia’, ‘Little Fantasy Peperomia’
Rippled, heart-shaped leaves with a bright green hue are the sign of a healthy emerald ripple peperomia. These somewhat-succulent little evergreen perennial grows in a mounding habit, reaching up to 8″ in height.
Native to Brazil, peperomia caperata is one of the most popular peperomia species to grow indoors. It does well in moderate to low-light environments and produces fuzzy white flower stalks. It does not like temperatures below 60 degrees.
Averaging six inches in height, peperomia nivalis has tiny leaves which are fleshy and hatchet-shaped. It is a very common houseplant worldwide, and tends to be semi-succulent.
Originating in Peru, this plant tends to grow in a rounded or mounding sort of fashion. Its flower stalks are nearly the same color as the leaves, and tend to be understated.
Peperomia obtusifolia, ‘Baby Rubberplant’, ‘Baby Rubber Plant’, ‘Pepper Face’, ‘Blunt-Leaf Peperomia’
Pepper face, also called the baby rubber plant, comes from Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, and Florida. It looks quite a bit like an actual rubber plant, but this evergreen with its leathery, cupped leaves is actually not even related to the rubber plant.
Some cultivars of peperomia obtusifolia have different coloration on the leaves than the standard deep green. They can have cream, grey, or gold streaking. However, the growth habit is still that of an herbaceous perennial, and it seldom gets larger than 1 foot tall or wide.
In addition, a few cultivars have gained the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit. This is one of the best-known peperomias.
Peperomia pellucida, ‘Pepper Elder’, ‘Shining Bush Plant’, ‘Man To Man’, ‘Silverbush’
Pepper elder has a mustard-like aroma when the leaves are bruised, and is often used in traditional herbal medicine. A clumping growth habit with succulent-like stalks, heart-shaped fleshy leaves, and shallow epiphytic roots is common.
Found around the world in tropical, shaded and damp habitats, it is native to the Americas and Asia. It is used as a food plant as well as medicinally and ornamentally in segments of South and Central America.
Peperomia tetraphylla, ‘Acorn Peperomia’, ‘Four-Leaved Peperomia’
Epiphytic peperomia tetraphylla is located in portions of Asia, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and other Pacific Ocean island regions. It prefers moist, semi-tropical environments overall.
Growing in clumps, this particular peperomia can be encouraged to be a ground cover plant in shady, humid areas. It can also be found spread across tree branches or on rocky outcroppings.
Peperomia wheeleri, ‘Wheeler’s Peperomia’
In the wild, peperomia wheeleri is found almost exclusively in Puerto Rico from where it originates. This fleshy-leaved plant is also epiphytic, clinging onto the native rocks and humus found on its island habitat.
Considered endangered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, there have been steps taken to preserve specimens of Wheeler’s peperomia, both in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. It can occasionally be found as an ornamental, but is relatively rare outside of its ideal growing conditions.
Excellent houseplants, this particular species is surprisingly low-care. Let’s look at the perfect growing conditions for your plant, and you’ll soon learn just how easy they are!
Peperomia often grows in jungle or rainforest environments, and because of that, it’s a plant that can often handle low-light conditions. It naturally will turn towards a light source, so when keeping it as a houseplant, it needs to be turned to encourage even growth patterns.
Smaller-leaved varieties tend to grow in the lowest light conditions. The larger the leaves, the more light the peperomia may need, increasing to a medium light requirement. However, for most species, direct sunlight can cause sunburning to the leaves and other damage.
Loving the tropics, peperomia is ideally grown in the 65-75 degree range for most species. There are a very few varieties, mostly ones grown at high altitude, that can tolerate temperatures in the 40-50 range. Most cannot survive if it drops below 50.
In addition, while these plants can accept hotter temperatures, they need to be well-shaded from direct sunlight. Temperatures that regularly rise above 85 degrees are risky, and long periods of time in the 90’s or above should be avoided.
These temperatures often make this a perfect candidate for indoor growing, as most people like to maintain temperatures around 70 degrees indoors.
Wild peperomias get their water infrequently. Much will be absorbed through the leaves, so these plants prefer it to be relatively humid where they’re growing. 40-50% humidity is a good range to aim for, although higher can be better.
Water your peperomia plants sparsely, allowing their soil to dry out before watering again. A good rule of thumb is to water every 7-10 days.
If you keep your peperomias in a terrarium or grow them in the bathroom, the added humidity in the air will keep them surprisingly happy.
Since so many peperomia plants grow in loose soils or moss/humus in the wild, it’s really important to provide similar soils for your houseplants. A sandy, well-drained soil can work well. So can houseplant potting soil with extra perlite blended in.
A popular homemade blend for growing peperomia is a 50/50 blend of perlite with peat moss. This works quite well for any of the epiphytic varieties. Some of the ones which form tuberous roots will also do well in this soil blend.
Fertilizing your indoor peperomia should be done more frequently during the spring/summer months than the fall/winter months. Peperomia tends to do much of its growing during the spring and summer, and some varieties rest to rejuvenate during the cooler months.
Usually, a balanced liquid plant food every 3 weeks is good for the spring or summer. Be sure it’s one which is diluted properly, and use it sparingly. Spray it directly on the potting mix rather than on the plant itself to avoid foliar burn.
In fall/winter, reduce your frequency of fertilizing. Every month in the fall, or month-and-a-half in winter should be adequate.
If you are lucky enough to live in a climate where you can grow your peperomia outdoors year-round, skip fertilizing in the fall or winter months. Your plant is likely going to go dormant during that time anyway and does not need the added nutrition.
While certain species of peperomia do produce seeds, most people find that propagation from cuttings is easiest.
The process is nearly identical to how African violets are propagated. I’ve written extensively about that process, and you can read about it here. This video will show you the process which is used on African violets, and it works the same for most peperomia!
This plant does best in smaller pots, and in fact is surprisingly happy even when it seems rootbound. If it manages to become too large for its pot and starts to show signs of problems, increase only to the next largest size pot.
Even then, it’s quite likely that your plant doesn’t need a larger pot. As soil compacts down over time, it can start to become too dense for most of these plants to tolerate. When that happens it’s time to repot.
Prepare a batch of fresh, well-draining soil, and then carefully remove your peperomia from its pot. Knock off excess soil or compacted soil, and place it back into a new and fresh batch. Often, that’s all that’s required to keep your plant happy!
Cosmetic pruning is usually the most you’ll need to do to maintain these plants. Typically small in size anyway, it won’t require much other than softwood trimming from time to time.
Identify damaged or dead stems first and remove those with sterilized pruning shears. Examine your plant to see if it still requires cosmetic pruning after that point. If so, remove individual stems close to the base of the plant. You can always plant those healthy stems as cuttings.
Trying to encourage bushier growth? In the early spring, do a pinch-back on your plant. Remove the tips of the stems plus the first pair of leaves right before it starts into a flush of spring growth. This will spur the plant to bush out more.
Problems growing this type of plant are surprisingly uncommon on the whole. Most of the stuff I’ll list below is actually rather rare, but it can happen. Since it’s better to be prepared in advance, this is the best way to handle most of the possible issues that might arise!
One of the most common problems with peperomia is wilting. There are two potential causes for this.
If your plants are wilting despite regular watering and fertilizing, their soil may have become too dense. At that point, repot to encourage your plant to perk back up.
Similarly, excess salts in the soil from overfertilization can cause your plants to wilt. You can leech these excess salts from the soil, but simply repotting it in a fresh batch of mix should revive your plant.
Chlorotic leaves – ones which have turned pale or yellow – are a sign of a lack of chlorophyll in the plant. This is a sign of nutrient deficiency, and usually is related to a lack of either nitrogen or potassium. If caught early and fertilized, your plant can make a complete recovery.
While pests are pretty rare on these plants, a few may actually move in and take up residence. Most are more common in outdoor plants than indoor ones.
Both indoor and outdoor plants are susceptible to fungus gnats and spider mites. Both thrive in drier conditions, and keeping the humidity up around your plant may completely eliminate them. Whiteflies can also become a bit of an issue indoors, although usually in greenhouses.
Mealybugs and other scale insects can also take up residence on your plant, although they’re mostly outdoors. The fleshy leaves are appetizing to these annoying little pests. Thrips may also appear in outdoor conditions.
All of the above pests can be handled with a light misting of an insecticidal soap like Safer Soap. Again, these are relatively rare if your plant is indoors.
One other outdoor pest can appear: caterpillars. While various types of caterpillars will feed on your peperomia, they are usually drawn to other targets first. You should keep a watchful eye out for any which are trying to nibble your plants.
Most caterpillars can be simply hand-picked off your plants, as it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have more than one at a time. If you find yourself with more, using a product like Garden Dust should eliminate your caterpillar problems quickly.
The most frequent problems for peperomia growers are caused by fungal diseases.
A wide variety of leaf spots can occur. Anthracnose is one of the most common, followed by Cercospora, Rhizoctonia, and Myrothesium. All four can be treated similarly, usually with the aid of a liquid copper fungicide like Monterey Liqui-Cop.
Rots can become a problem as well. Phytophthora stem & leaf rot, Pythium root rot, and Sclerotium stem rot (sometimes called southern blight) can appear on your plants. Verticillium wilt can also occur.
For these diseases, your best protection is prevention. These are extremely rare indoors, but can usually be prevented by not overwatering and maintaining clean and safe soil. Plants which contract these diseases are often at risk of plant death, so it’s generally best to avoid these fungi.
There are also two viruses which can inhabit peperomia, and these are spread via pests like fungus gnats. Cucumber mosaic virus and ring spot virus both will make your plant rapidly sicken and die off. Keeping pests at bay is the best way to prevent these viruses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are peperomias safe around pets?
A: Generally, most peperomias can be presumed to be safe. While the ASPCA has not covered every single species of peperomia in their documentation, the following list have been determined to be non-toxic to dogs and cats, and in most cases also non-toxic to horses:
P. argyreia, P. caperata, P. clusiifolia, P. crassifolia, P. griseoargentea, P. obtusifolia, P. peltifolia, P. prostata, P. rotundifolia, P. sandersii, P. serpens variegata.
If your pepperomia is on that list, the ASPCA has determined it’s safe around your pets! Most other peperomias should be as well, but if there’s ever any concern, contact your local vet’s office to be sure.
Pretty, potted peperomias can certainly liven up your living space, and they’re easy to grow! Are you a fan of any particular version of peperomia? Let me know which one you like below!
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