Peperomia: an Undemanding Houseplant

Grow several kinds of Peperomia – they don’t ask much!

“Give it up, it’s dead.”

That was gardening advice I got as a college freshman from some guys visiting us from another dorm. The cute little green plant I bought and placed in the special little ceramic pot was no more. It was a little stump, shriveled and brown.

“I thought it might grow back,” I said.

Laughter all around. And the conversation moved on to other things.

I pretended not to care but inside I was crushed. I had killed it. Maybe I couldn’t grow plants – all plants.

The thing was, I bought this little plant on a visit to a local garden shop. I knew after this trip I really wanted to grow houseplants:

Just curious and with nothing else to do, a group of us walk to a campus houseplant store we’d heard about. Upstairs on the second level of an old wooden building we see plants covering the inside of the windows like living curtains. This is it.

Through the door and it’s magic! Humidity in the air thickens the earthy smell of living greenery. Everywhere rows and rows of small happy plants grow in black plastic containers, a different kind in every row.

Larger potted plants sit in any available space showing off shiny or fuzzy or textured leaves, some with flowers. From rafters, hanging plants trailing lush leafy stems catch my head and shoulders as I walk by. Endless colors and textures up and down.

I want to be a part of this lively tangle – or at least bring a little of it to my dorm room.

A wondrous plant store. A purchase of a small Peperomia and a ceramic pot. The beginning of a lifelong fascination with growing plants.

Back at the dorm, the cute little plant sat on my dorm dresser. In a ceramic pot measuring two inches across it dried out pretty quickly.

The dresser was right next to the steam heat radiator. Behind the radiator was the window giving light to our room and the plant. The radiator pumped out so much good warm heat that to balance the temperature, we had to open the window to get some cold winter air.

Super hot air and super cold air and not enough water – I was right.  I did kill the plant. Not because I wanted to. I just didn’t think of the needs of this pretty living plant that I dressed up in a cute ceramic pot. Once I figured out that there was a little more to this plant growing fascination, I was up for the challenge of growing all kinds of plants.

Despite my poor gardening start, Peperomia has turned out to be one of the easiest plants to grow because it’s really not too demanding.   

Features of Peperomia

  • Native to:  Tropical areas in Central and South America.

Name:  Piperaceae family which counts peppers as a member.

  • Leaves:  The reason they are so popular as a houseplant! There are many different shapes, textures and designs in leaves.   

The three most common ones sold at neighborhood stores are:

Watermelon Peperomia – Smooth, striped leaf that look like its namesake.

Emerald Ripple Peperomia – Ridges and valleys on each leaf.

Baby Rubber Plant Peperomia – Round thick leaf. One variety is all green, the other yellow green marbling. Not related to the true rubber tree.

More varieties are available online.   

  • Blooms:  Shaped like a rat or mouse tail – greenish reddish stalk, ending in a pale green or cream fuzzy tip.
  • Height: Varies by species but can be a few inches in the trailing varieties to 12 inches for upright plants. 
  • Width: Varies by species.

Care

Sunlight:  Bright but indirect light. Too much sun burns the leaves. Grows well in fluorescent light.

Soil: Medium potting soil that drains well. Repot when it outgrows the current one. Use the next size pot – too much soil holds water which creates potential for rot.

Water:  Check to see if most of potting soil is dried out. Water well every week to week and a half.

Fertilize:  Light use of soluble fertilizer spring through fall.

Propagation: Grows from seeds, roots, cuttings either from leaves or stems. Most grow new plants by rooting a stem cutting.  When making a cut be sure a node, the lumpy joint of the stem where leaves appear, is close to the bottom of the cut stem. Place in water. New roots grow from the node.

Problems/Pests

Root rot is the biggest problem. They don’t require a lot of water.

Some things I’ve learned:  Pay attention to the plant’s growth requirements. Some plants are easier to grow than others. Don’t give up on a plant. Try another strategy or two, but know when to move on.  I never did successfully grow the first variety of Peperomia that I bought. I have done well with others!

Copyright 2019 Juli Seyfried

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juli

Juli is a writer and serious gardener. She gardens a small yard in an older suburban neighborhood. There is a lot of problem-solving and fun on a small property. She likes to share what she's learned. She learns from others too.

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