Peperomia make good indoor plants. As houseplants they are low maintenance, with fleshy leaves that help them to retain water. There are more than 1,500 types of peperomia – the main attraction is their foliage, with a wide choice of leaf shape, texture and colour, from Peperomia argyreia with leaves that resemble the rind of a watermelon, to the large, glossy leaves of Peperomia obtusifolia, and the tiny patterned leaves of Peperomia prostrata.
One of the main things to consider when taking care of a peperomia plant is its position. These plants come from tropical jungles, where some species grow on trees and others on the jungle floor. This means that their ideal position is one where they get bright, indirect light. They don't need or enjoy direct sun.
Although some peperomia have the common name radiator plant, avoid putting plants right next to a radiator as their compost will dry out quickly. The name is more likely to refer to the fact that peperomia need warm air, so keep plants in a room where temperatures don't drop below 10ºC in winter.
A healthy peperomia should live for 5-10 years at least. As long as you take care not to overwater them, these are easy plants that are perfect for beginners.
How to grow peperomia
Place peperomia in a well-lit room, but keep it out of direct sunlight. Peperomia plants need humidity so a bathroom or kitchen would be ideal, but they will thrive in other rooms if you mist regularly. Their ideal temperature is 18-24ºC.
Where to grow peperomia
Peperomia grow best in bright, indirect light. They can tolerate low light but if they are in a shadier spot it's a good idea to reduce watering. Keep them out of direct sunlight, which will scorch the leaves. Keep away from radiators and draughts and, ideally, place in a room with high humidity levels. Mist in the summer to keep up humidity or stand your plant on a tray of moist pebbles.
How to plant peperomia
Most peperomia are slow-growing and will only need repotting every three to four years. Use a general, peat-free house plant compost, potting up your plant into a container one size bigger than its current pot. If you go up too many sizes, water retained in the excess compost can lead to root rot. It will need a extra 2-3cm around the rootball.
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How to care for peperomia
Wait until the compost is dry enough to look pale before watering. Water to dampen the compost surface all around the plant. Allow the compost to dry out again before re-watering. Peperomias are prone to root rot if overwatered. Rainwater is good for houseplants as it contains fewer chemicals, but tap water is fine too.
Mist peperomia regularly, especially in a room with low humidity. Keep them away from radiators as central heating dries out the compost and lowers humidity.
Feed peperomia every month during the summer with a general houseplant fertiliser.
How to prune peperomia
Use a clean pair of scissors or snips to remove any dead foliage or yellowing leaves. Trim lightly if you want to reduce the size of your plant.
How to propagate peperomia
Peperomia are easy to propagate from cuttings. Either take cuttings from the stems or use the leaves to create new plants. For stem cuttings, cut a shoot around 8cm long. Cut just below a node and remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem. Place the cutting in a jar of water until it develops roots and new growth. Replace the water every week until this happens. Once it has got a good root system, pot it into compost to grow it on. Alternatively, use the leaves to make more plants for free.
Choose a young, healthy, mature leaf to take a cutting from and carefully snip it off the parent plant.
To help reduce moisture loss, cut the leaf in half with a sharp pair of scissors, making a clean, horizontal cut halfway through the leaf.
Insert the leaves, cut-side down, into trays of a just-damp 50:50 mix of perlite and peat-free, multi-purpose compost.
Cover the tray with a clear plastic lid and keep out of direct sun, in a humid spot at 20ºC. Remove the cover when the cuttings have rooted.
Common problems for peperomia plants
Pests that might affect your peperomia plant include mealybugs. Mealybugs are sap-sucking insects that leave a sticky substance called honeydew on leaves. This can cause sooty mould to grow. Remove mealybugs with tweezers if there aren't too many. For large infestations you may have to use a soapy spray or a biological control.
Peperomia are easy plants to look after and are generally disease-free, but keep an eye out for any of the following common problems for houseplants, which can usually be fixed by altering your watering regime:
- Yellow lower leaves or leaves with brown edges - this could mean your plant is not getting enough water
- Brown roots or yellow, curled leaves could mean that you are overwatering. Look out for rotten areas or mouldy flowers and leaf loss.
- Mould on the soil could mean that your peperomia is getting too much shade or that you have given it too much water
Best varieties of peperomia to grow
Watermelon peperomia (Peperormia argyreia) is named because of its leaves, which resemble the skin of a watermelon. Place it in a warm spot out of direct light. It's easy-going and compact, only growing to around 30cm. Mist occasionally in the summer to maintain humidity.
Height x Spread: 30cm x 30cm
This peperomia grows to about 25cm and is evergreen with fleshy leaves, either green or variegated. The variegated variety grows to about 10cm and has creamy-white edges. Peperomia obtusifolia produces greenish-white flowers, but is grown primarily for its foliage. It can tolerate low light levels.
H x S: 10cm x 20cm
Perk up your shelves with a trailing peperomia. Peperomia prostrata has red stems and small, circular leaves that resemble turtles' shells. In the growing season it also sometimes produces spikes of brown flowers.
H x S: 20cm x 50cm
Also known as emerald ripple, Peperomia caperata has ridged leaves with red undersides. It has similar needs to most peperomia, enjoying bright, indirect light and humidity. Peperomia caperata 'Rosso' is a popular variety.
H x S: 40cm x 40cm
This plant, with the common name string of coins, has tiny, glossy, round leaves on red, trailing stems that make it perfect for placing on a shelf. Peperomia 'Pepperspot' doesn't need regular watering, so it's easy to look after. Water when the top 3cm of compost is dry. You can trim to keep it neat if it gets too bushy.
H x S: 20cm x 50cm
If you want glossy foliage, this is a beautiful species with large, teardrop-shaped leaves in a deep green. The variety 'Raindrop' is slightly taller than the species plant.
H x S: 30cm x 20cm
'Hope' is a trailing peperomia with small, thick leaves. At first the stems will grow up, but when they're long enough they will trail over the side of the pot, making it a great choice for a hanging basket or to display on a shelf.
H x S: 15cm x 30cm
This is a creeping variety that reaches no taller than 10cm when mature and has small leaves, up to 1cm across. It's also known as the trailing jade plant and sometimes produces spikes of yellow flowers.
H x S: 10cm x 20cm
Advice on buying peperomia
- Always check plants on arrival or when buying at the garden centre – look for pests and any signs of ill health such as yellowing or spotted leaves
- There is a huge selection of peperomia varieties to choose from. Research before buying to find the best one for your home