Most peperomias are dwarf and compact, rarely exceeding 12 inches
in height. Some species have thread-like trailing stems, while
others have thick, succulent, upright stems. Some species are
particularly well suited for hanging baskets or dish gardens.
They’re grown for the decorative leaves, the flowers (if seen at
all) being elongated, upright spikes resembling a tail.
Leaf shapes may vary from heart-shaped to lance-shaped, although
the most common peperomias have rounded leaves. Colors may range
from solid green to striped or marbled. Leaves may be outlined in
pale green, yellow, creamy white, red, or gray. The leaf stems of
some types are red or pinkish. Leaf surfaces may be smooth,
shiny, or rippled.
Peperomias may be grown in pots, shallow pans (dish gardens), or
in hanging baskets. A soil composed of peat moss, loam, or sand,
or any potting mixture with good water drainage can be used.
Peperomias, as a rule, should be kept slightly pot-bound.
The soil should not be overly fertile. Too much fertility can
injure roots, or cause excessive growth. Use a houseplant
fertilizer, according to label rates, about once a month in summer
or when plants are growing, and about every three to four months
otherwise. Or, you can use half strength fertilizer, twice
Don't let the soil for peperomias get too wet, as these plants are highly susceptible to stem and root rot and to “oedema” (o-DEE-mah)— a non-parasitic disease that appears as corky, raised swellings on the undersides of leaves. Water plants only when the soil is quite dry, and in winter make sure water is room temperature and not cold. Often, watering once a week is sufficient. Drench the soil thoroughly and make sure the pot drains excess water, and that saucers are emptied. If in doubt, don’t water. Plants are much happier when the soil is too dry, than too wet.
On the other hand, coming from humid rain forests originally,
they prefer higher humidity than is found in most homes,
particularly during winter. Place them near a humidifier, or
on a tray of pebbles which is kept moist, in order to keep
humidity levels higher around them in dry rooms.
These plants thrive in bright light, although they will tolerate
poor light even at high temperatures. Variegated leaves,
however, lose their coloration in poor light. They grow well under
plant grow lights or on lighted plant stands. Avoid direct sun in
summer. Peperomias do well in average to warm temperatures during
the day (65 to 75 degrees F is a good range), and no lower than
about 50 degrees.
If you trim back plants, or want to propagate them, this can be
done with leaf cuttings, similar to African violet
propagation. Remove a large leaf with piece of the stalk,
and stick this end into a seedling starting mix or combination of
vermiculite and perlite. Using a rooting hormone on the cut end
may help. Place cuttings in a warm spot and bright, but not
direct, light. “Tent” them in a plastic bag to
maintain high humidity.
The only pest that you usually may find on these are the white,
cottony mealybugs. Simply wipe these off with a damp cloth,
or with a cotton swap dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Of the over 1,500 different peperomias, several are commonly
found at garden outlets. The baby rubber plant or
blunt-leaved peperomia (Peperomia obtusifolia) has glossy,
thick, rounded leaves with a waxy surface. These are held
close to stems that can get to one foot tall on upright
plants. This is a common species with several cultivars
(cultivated varieties) with variously colored leaves—‘Variegata’
with irregular creamy areas, ‘Green and Gold’ with golden areas on
leaves, ‘Golden Gate’ with creamy-white edges, ‘Tricolor’ with
cream variegation and pink leaf edges, ‘Sensation’ with purple
stems and gold areas on leaves, ‘Alba’ with creamy leaves and red
streaks on stems, ‘Gold Tip’ marbled with gold toward leaf tips,
the common ‘Albo-marginata’ with creamy margins on pale green
leaves, and the short ‘Minima’ with small, dark green leaves.
Emerald ripple (P. caperata) is another commonly found
peperomia. The heart-shaped, green leaves are so dark that
they appear almost purple. Leaves are quite wrinkled, hence
the name, held on pink to reddish stalks. This species only
grows about six inches high, with a mounded habit. You may find
variations of this species such as the reddish-purple ‘Red
Ripple’, the dark red ‘Theresa’, or the silvery ‘Suzanne.’
Watermelon peperomia (P. argyreia) has rounded leaves,
striped silvery white and green, resembling a watermelon
rind. It has a similar height and mounded habit to emerald
ripple. Appearing much the same is the parallel peperomia (P.
puteolata), its elongated dark green leaves featuring
parallel silvery-white stripes.
Red-edged peperomia ‘Variegata’ (P. clusiifolia) has dark
green leaves with red edges. In the same species is the
cultivar ‘Rainbow’, with light green leaves flushed pink and with
creamy yellow edges. Another cultivar of this species is
‘Jelly’, its large green leaves being edged in cream and pink.
Good for terrariums, with its small dark-green teardrop-shaped
leaves is the teardrop peperomia (P. orba). For
hanging baskets look for the trailing or cupid peperomia (P.
scandens) with small, heart-shaped leaves, or prostrate
peperomia (P. rotundifolia) with tiny, dark green leaves on
slender, trailing stems.
Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.