Peperomia: Happy Houseplant Series
An 1874 botanical book wrote that ‘The Peperomias were never cared for by cultivators until the passion for leaves sprang up; they were regarded as plants for the botanists, that is to say, ugly uninteresting things that were unworthy of the attention of anyone in search of beauty'. How tastes change.
Look in any plant nursery today and you’ll be sure to find several species of Peperomia in stock, though no two will look alike. The Peperomia genus contains 1000 species, mostly from Central and South America and some from Africa. It boasts a stunning diversity of foliage colors, textures, shapes, and growth habits. You could easily decorate a space just with plants from this family. Some, like the Pepromia gravolens, are considered succulents, meaning that they retain water in their stems and leaves. Others have woodier stems and thinner leaves. Leaf shapes range from the almost spherical (Perpromia obstufolia) to resembling tear-drops (Peperomia caperata and clussifolia).
Many Peperomia species are common houseplants. Others are rarer, making the Peperomia ideal for a collector’s hobby. Some rarer species are the Peperomia fraseri and the Peperomia macrorhiza, neither of which I have seen on sale. Peperomia fraseri is unusual for its attractive white petalled flowers, as opposed to the simple, green vertical spikes of most species. Peperomia macrorchiza have single circular leaves on long stems. Their otherworldly appearance is in keeping with the rocky high-altitude moonscapes of Northern Peru where they originate.
Peperomia tend to be easy to care for. Peperomia species are small and compact, rarely reaching more than 12 inches in height, so won’t require much pruning or repotting. They are also perfect for shady spaces since they dislike full sun. Many prefer higher humidity and make good terraria plants (Peperomia Metallica) while others will grow well in the drier climates of centrally heated buildings.
Peperomia will need soil that is light and crumbly. This will ensure there is enough air around the roots. Succulent soil mixes will work well, mixed with a little orchid bark to ensure it is loose and airy. Make sure the soil includes perlite or coarse gravel to ensure that water drains through rapidly. Feed twice a month with a half-strength balanced fertilizer during spring and summer but not the fall or winter.
Here are some popular Peperomia species.
A visually dramatic peperomia species that is easy to grow. It has dark purple leaves that are deeply veined. Because they are sensitive to over-watering, let the soil dry out almost completely before watering. To propagate, snip at the bottom of a petiole and place in sandy soil. Petioles are the stalks that support the leaves.
Peperomia argyreia (Watermelon Peperomia)
The Watermelon Peperomia is one of the most striking Peperomia varieties. Peperomia sandersii compete with flowering plants for visual impact due to its bright stripes on green foliage and red stems. It requires medium to bright light, so an east or west window would suit. Brighter light will make the foliage more pronounced but avoid direct sunlight.
Peperomia obtusifolia (baby rubber plant)
David J. Stang https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=Peperomia+obtusifolia&title=Special:Search&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Peperomia_obtusifolia_4zz.jpg
This plant is extremely low maintenance. Its leaves are round, rubbery, and succulent. Though they prefer medium to bright light, they can grow in partial shade. Variegated varieties will need brighter light. There is a variety called the Rainbow Peperomia or Peperomia Clusiifolia with pointed leaves and some red in the leaf. See our guide on how to use Keiki Paste to boost leaf development in the Peperomia obtusifolia.
Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=Peperomia+verticillata&title=Special%3ASearch&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Peperomia_verticillata_'Red_Log'_kz02.jpg
This peperomia features closely clustered dark leaves with deep red undersides. A sculptural addition to your houseplant collection. See our guide on how to use Keiki Paste to boost leaf development in the Peperomia verticillata.
Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=Peperomia+hoffmannii&title=Special:Search&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Peperomia_hoffmannii_kz03.jpg
This trailing variety is ideal for hanging baskets. Can grow in indirect full sun (for example, on a bright windowsill behind a net curtain) or partial shade. Pinch leaves from the top to encourage bushier growth.
To propagate, snip just below a node (a point on the stem where leaves grow from) and remove any leaves from the bottom, ensuring there are some leaves along the cut stem. Insert into sandy soil and place in a bright position.