How to Plant, Grow and Care For Watermelon Peperomia
Are you looking for a new low-maintenance houseplant to add to your indoor plant collection? The Watermelon Peperomia might be the perfect plant for you! This popular variety of peperomia has beautiful variagation and performs quite well in a variety of different indoor growing locations. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley shares everything you need to know about this popular indoor plant, including its maintenance and care needs.
Watermelon peperomia has high popularity because of its beautiful foliage, which is striped like a watermelon. This houseplant’s compact growing habit makes it ideal for smaller spaces. When fully mature, it is only 12 inches tall.
If you provide the proper conditions, growing watermelon peperomia is fairly easy. It will produce a bloom, but it’s nothing showy. It is primarily grown for its unique foliage and ease of care. Watermelon peperomia adds visual interest among other houseplants.
Caring for this tropical houseplant isn’t difficult, but you must understand its needs. Let’s learn how to plant, grow and care for watermelon peperomia.
Watermelon Peperomia Plant Overview
Plant Type Perennial
Native Area South America
Sunlight exposure Bright, indirect
Plant Size 12 inches
Water requirements Medium
Hardiness Zone 10-12
Soil Type Moist, well-draining
Pest Mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites
About Watermelon Peperomia
Watermelon peperomia is native to South America, specifically Brazil, where it grows beneath the rainforest canopy. It is a member of the Piperaceae (pepper) family, which contains over 3,600 species split into multiple genera, including Piper and Peperomia.
The name of this plant is so fitting because the leaves resemble tiny watermelons with dark green to light green stripes. The entire leaf has a shimmer that makes it stand out from other plants. While it can produce a bloom, the flower is long and slender with no visual appeal.
Peperomia is easy to care for and adapts well to change, making it a great choice for beginners. This tropical native is commonly grown indoors but can be cultivated outdoors in warmer zones. Enjoy the striped leaves on their own or mix them in with flowering perennials for pops of color.
How To Plant
Planting your watermelon peperomia is rather simple. Often, they come in plastic garden pots from a retail store or garden center. Once you bring your watermelon peperomia home, choose a container that provides plenty of air circulation and proper drainage.
Terracotta and ceramic pots are breathable, allowing air to reach the roots. Before planting, check that the container has at least 1 drainage hole. You can also drill a hole to allow excess water to drain. Then, it’s time to re-home your watermelon peperomia.
- Fill the container halfway with fresh potting mix.
- Carefully remove the plant from its container to avoid damaging the stems or roots.
- Gently shake some soil from around the roots. You can also rinse the roots with water.
- Once the roots are cleaned, place the plant in the new container.
- Fill the remainder of the pot with potting soil.
- Water until you see water draining from the bottom.
- Place in bright, indirect sunlight and monitor for stress.
How To Grow
Watermelon peperomia doesn’t ask for much beyond standard houseplant care. If you understand its native environment, you can provide the best conditions possible for flourishing striped leaves.
For the successful growth of watermelon peperomia, you need to mimic its natural environment. In its native habitat, it grows below the canopy of rainforests. The canopy provides dapple lighting throughout the day. This is somewhat difficult to do inside, but as long as it isn’t receiving direct light it should be happy.
Watermelon peperomia does well in bright to medium indirect sunlight. It’s best to set the pot back from a west or east-facing window. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this can cause the leaves to burn.
However, the watermelon peperomia should not be placed in low-light conditions either. If it doesn’t get enough light, the leaves will be small, and the stems will be leggy. Inadequate lighting can also cause the beloved watermelon striping to fade.
It is critical to set a proper watering schedule for your watermelon peperomia. If you forget to water plants, watermelon peperomia may not be the best species to add to your home. It is sensitive to overwatering and underwatering, so establishing a good water routine is important.
Allow the top few inches of the soil to dry between waterings. Be sure to water thoroughly until water begins to run out of the drainage holes.
The most common sign of overwatering is yellowing leaves. Overwatering can also lead to root and stem rots, damaging or killing the plant.
If you believe your watermelon peperomia has root or stem rot, you must act quickly. You can remove brown and mushy roots or stems to keep the disease from spreading. Repot into fresh soil, and it has a good chance of recovery.
Watermelon peperomia do well in standard potting mixes as long as they are well-draining. Avoid using cactus or succulent soils because these are designed to drain water rapidly. You need to use soil that will absorb moisture without becoming too soggy or dry.
A peat-based soil mix is a great option. You can also mix 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite for a well-balanced potting mix. Ensure the container you choose for your watermelon peperomia has proper drainage holes.
Starting with good-quality soil will help keep your watermelon peperomia happy and thriving for years. Spending a bit more money on a good potting mix is worth it to keep watermelon peperomia healthy over time. You won’t need to repot it as often, and it will have a lower risk of fungal diseases.
Watermelon peperomia makes the ideal houseplant because its temperature requirements are what a standard home’s temperatures are. The ideal range is between 65 and 75 degrees F. The plant is originally from tropical forests so temperatures, so it cannot handle the cold.
If temperatures fall below 50 F, the watermelon peperomia can become stunted or die to inadequate temperatures. If you place the plant outdoors during summer, monitor the weather. As cooler temperatures approach, bring it indoors for colder nights, and it can return during the warm days.
As the seasons change, watch for temperature changes around your watermelon peperomia. A warm windowsill during the summer may not be ideal for the winter. The plant can become stressed when placed near a drafty window or vent. If you notice signs of stress once temperatures drop, consider moving to a warmer location.
Watermelon peperomia benefits from regular applications of fertilizer during the growing season. Depending on your preference, you can use a liquid or a slow-release fertilizer. Apply a liquid fertilizer every 2 to 4 weeks in the spring and summer months.
If you choose to use a slow-release fertilizer, you can apply it in the spring and repeat it every 3 months until winter. Slow-release fertilizers differ on when and how much to apply, so be sure to read the directions before using them.
Always follow label directions when applying any fertilizer. Over-fertilizing or under-fertilizing can cause damage or death. When using a liquid fertilizer, apply it at the soil level. Applying over the leaves can lead to chemical burns on the leaves.
Watermelon peperomia is not needy compared to other houseplants. Provide them with basic nutrition, and they will thrive for years. A little fertility and pruning can go a long way to improve the health and appearance of your plant.
If you forget to prune plants, then watermelon peperomia is a great plant to add to your home. The plant rarely needs to be pruned, maybe once or twice a year at most. The only pruning will be removing dead or yellowing leaves.
The plant naturally stays compact, and only light cleaning of dying leaves is needed. Remove dead leaves that fall to the soil surface. Leaf debris can cause fungal disease to grow, which can transfer to the plant.
Misting your tropical houseplants isn’t necessary, but it can be beneficial in certain situations. If your home is dry for long periods, consider adding a humidifier. During the winter, the average home drops to about 30% humidity. Watermelon peperomia benefits from a light misting near the leaves a couple of times a week.
If your home has a difficult time retaining humidity, consider adding a small plant humidifier near your plants to increase localized humidity. A pebble tray with a small amount of water under the plant can also provide ambient humidity.
Misting should be done during the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. When temperatures drop, you don’t need to mist as often. Be cautious when misting, as it can contribute to the development of mold and fungal diseases on the leaves in moist climates.
These houseplants don’t need to be repotted very often. They enjoy being slightly pot-bound. You will only have to repot every 3 years or so. If soils become waterlogged and unable to drain properly, you may need to repot sooner.
When you transplant your watermelon peperomia, choose a pot that is only a couple of inches bigger than the original pot. Remember, they like breathable materials such as terracotta and ceramic and containers with drainage holes. You can always add a drainage hole if you find a container you love without one.
Use fresh potting soil when repotting and resume routine care. Repotting should be done in the spring or summer so the plant can recover from transplant shock. If repotting is done in the winter, the plant will have difficulty growing out of shock.
Watermelon peperomia is very easy to propagate. Even the most novice houseplant owner will have success. The plant is often called the “friendship plant” because it is so easy to share with friends and family.
Propagation should be done during the growing season to help prevent shock. There are two methods of propagating watermelon peperomia: division and leaf cutting.
You may notice that your plant is beginning to send out offshoots or “pups.” This is a good sign that your watermelon peperomia is happy and healthy. These offshoots can be removed from the plant and repotted in a separate container. Propagating is a cost-effective way of filling your home with more plants you love.
First, remove the entire plant from the container to examine its stems and roots. Look for healthy offshoots that are longer than 1 inch. The longer, the better. Once you have identified the offshoots you want to propagate, gently remove them from the original plant. Be gentle during this process, as the roots and offshoots are delicate.
Once separated, plant the “pup” division directly into its new container and water thoroughly. Place the plant into medium to bright, indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist for 1 to 2 weeks. After that, you can resume regular watering as you did with the original plant.
Begin by identifying healthy leaves that are large and have good striping. Once you have removed the leaves from the plant, cut the leaf in half. You can dip the cut end into water and then into a powdered rooting hormone, but this isn’t always necessary. Still, a rooting hormone will help the leaf-cutting produce stronger and healthier roots.
Once cut and dipped in root hormone, place the cut ends into the fresh potting mix. Keep the plant in indirect sunlight and keep soils moist. The cut ends of the leaves should begin to develop roots after a week or so.
You can gently tug on the leaves to determine if the roots have begun to grow. If you can remove the cutting easily, roots have yet to be established. If rooting is unsuccessful, the cutting will die. After a month or so, you should see new growth emerging from the leaves. Allow new growth to establish for a few months before transplanting.
For the most part, this plant is problem-free. Problems typically arise from improper growing conditions. Luckily, growing conditions can be adjusted, and the problems tend to resolve over time. Let’s take a look at a few issues you may encounter and how to fix them.
This is a good indication that your plant needs to be watered. Check soils and determine if they need to be watered. The plant needs a drink if the pot feels lightweight and there is no moisture in the top few inches of soil. Once you give the plant some water, the leaves will perk back up in a day or two.
If the leaves are beginning to curl, this is also a symptom of under-watering. The plant has dried out too much, and the leaf edges droop downward. It can also be a sign that the plant is receiving too much harsh sunlight. If the soils are completely dry, give the plant a drink. Move it to a slightly shadier location.
If you notice brown or yellow leaves, this is a sign that the plant is stressed. Brown leaves can indicate many things, but some common causes are pests, lack of humidity, or overwatering. You will have to do some investigating to determine what is causing your plant to be stressed.
Check the soil for moisture and adjust accordingly. If you notice pests, separate the plant from others and begin treatment. There are many control methods online or in stores to help combat pests:
- Aphids can be removed by a blast of water or the application of diluted neem oil.
- Fungus gnats can be alleviated by reducing water and re-potting in fresh soil.
- Mealybugs and thrips are best removed with a horticultural soap spray.
Once all signs of infestation are gone, you can place it back in its original location.
If the leaves begin to crack, you may need to spend some time examining your plant. A common cause for cracked leaves is that the soil is too dry. Check the soil by touching the soil; if it feels dry, the plant needs a drink.
Another cause for cracking is the air is too dry. Try to keep the humidity around 50% to prevent cracking. Cracking may be more common in the winter because as temperatures drop, so does humidity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Watermelon Peperomia Toxic to Humans and Pets?
No! This houseplant is safe to have around small children and pets. However, the plant shouldn’t be ingested. It is still a good practice to keep it out of reach from small children and pets.
Can Watermelon Peperomia Grow In Water?
Watermelon peperomia is not designed to thrive for years in a glass container filled with water. The plant can be propagated in water but will later need to be moved to fresh potting soil. Although the plant will produce roots in water, it can not thrive for long periods of time without soil.
Why Does My Watermelon Peperomia Have Small Leaves and Long Stems?
If you grow a plant in low lighting, the leaves will be small and the stems will elongate. The leaves may also have paler stripes and lose their luster. A happy watermelon peperomia should have large leaves with a bushy appearance. Moving your plant to a sunnier location should improve its size of the plant. This will take time for the plant to adjust, so be patient.
Watermelon peperomia are lowkey houseplants that add contrast and life to any small space. They stay compact, making them great for offices or smaller living spaces. Caring for the plant is simple as long as you provide the basics. Consistent watering will be the most difficult part of caring for this plant. If your plant has big leaves, signature stripes, and a bit of a shimmer, you know it is happy and thriving.