Peperomia Spp. is a non-flowering ornamental plant that’s quite popular in house decorations. It’s also known as the baby rubber plant, emerald ripper pepper, and pepper elder.
This deep green leafy plant belongs to the Piperaceae family, along with more than 1000 other diverse species. Interestingly, it’s a close cousin of the Piperales order of plants, which is where black pepper comes from.
Most of them are subtropical and tropical, native to places like The Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
Despite their tropical origins, Peperomias aren’t sun-loving plants. In fact, they’d get all burned up if left to grow under direct sunlight.
Peperomia light requirements aren’t too complicated. They prefer being around bright, but indirect, sunlight. That’s why being indoors is where they thrive the most.
Can Peperomia Grow in Low Light?
Peperomias have a reputation for being capable of surviving even in dim light. This isn’t very accurate though, as low light could halt the plant’s growth and affect its overall wellbeing.
The general knowledge that Pepermia can grow in low light comes from the fact that it can tolerate such lighting conditions for some time. These plants are quite sturdy and resilient, but that doesn’t mean that this is the optimal growing condition for them.
There are some signs that would tell you whether your Peperomia is getting enough light or not. When there’s too little light, the plant would start becoming leggy, some types might lose their variegation, and the leaves might even fall off.
Thus, when it gets too dark in the wintertime, you might still be able to enjoy the joyful presence of a Peperomia.
Also, if your house has corners with little access to sunlight, you can still place a Peperomia there. Just remember to move it to a brighter spot from time to time.
What Kind of Light Do Peperomia Need?
Peperomia would thrive best in a spot where there’s bright indirect sunlight. The next best option is a place with moderate indirect sunlight.
This is often feasible inside the house. You can put it beside a big window or on a shaded balcony. You can also plant Peperomias in the garden in the self-shade of the house, or under thick canopies.
Being tropical plants, Peperomia plants also favor a bit more humidity and warmth than most shade plants. The best temperatures you can give them range from 65°F to 75°F, which is doable in various spots around your backyard.
This comes naturally to the locations in USDA hardiness zones 10–12. However, if you feel that the weather is too cold, or too dry, you can easily change these factors.
Placing the Peperomia in a warm room during the chilly months would keep it happy and healthy. Just remember to keep it away from the heat source, as these plants are quite sensitive to direct heat.
Similarly, if summer is unusually hot, you can move the Peperomia into an airconditioned room. Again, maintain a good distance between the plant and the cool air.
To adjust the humidity, simply place a pottery bowl filled with water beside the Peperomia pot. The natural vaporization of water should elevate the humidity level if the room is too dry.
Does Peperomia Need Sunlight?
Like all plants, Peperomia needs sunlight, and in ample amounts for that matter! The point is, that it can’t tolerate excessive sunlight.
Sunlight is essential for most plants, even the shade ones, as it’s the main source of energy for their survival. Photosynthesis, which is the process plants use to make food, is entirely dependent on sunlight.
In the absence of sunlight, Peperomia would fail to synthesize enough food to sustain its growth. Its leaves would become smaller and paler. Some might even lose their vibrant patterns.
Prolonged deprivation of sunlight can actually end the plant’s life eventually. That’s why placing the Peperomia in a dark corner is something we never recommend. It needs moderate to bright indirect sunlight to thrive.
Peperomias are slow-growing plants, so don’t expect them to act like Jack’s Beanstalk! A sufficient amount of sunlight should let them reach a height of six inches to a foot.
If there’s nowhere that seems to have enough light, then you can use grow lights to augment the ambient lighting conditions. The setting should still mimic a shaded area, rather than a sunny one, so low intensities are recommended.
Does Peperomia Need Direct Sunlight?
Many people think that Peperomias would love to bask in the sun, considering their tropical and subtropical origins. However, these plants aren’t like that at all.
The topics contain various types of plants that grow under thick trees and only receive filtered light. These species have adapted to that mode of lighting and it would be counterproductive to force them to live under direct sunlight.
As a matter of fact, if such plants like Peperomia receive full sun, for half a day, every day, they’ll soon show signs of sunburn. And eventually, they’ll wilt and die.
It’s best to give Peperomias sufficient sunlight, but not in a direct manner. Placing the plant pots in the shade of larger trees, in a bright spot inside the house, or in a shaded spot on the porch should be a much better choice.
Is It Possible to Grow Peperomia in the Garden?
In the warm USDA hardiness zones from 10-12, Peperomia might feel the heat too much out in the garden. Additionally, it would be hard to avoid exposing them to direct full sun, which they can’t tolerate.
One alternative is to plant them in the shade of a taller plant, a fence, or a wall. Also, if you have a pergola that you want to decorate with Peperomia and other shade plants, you can certainly do that.
After all, this is a replica of their natural life in the native tropical lands where they came from. In these forests, there’s no indoors!
Another favorable condition for planting Peperomias outdoors is in the cooler regions. In some locations, the sun rarely comes out, and the plants are mostly kept in bright but indirect light.
There’s a bit of a problem in winter though. That’s when the weather might become too cold for the Peperomias. These plants are hardy, but they can’t take the frost.
A good solution is to keep these perennials out in the garden during the summer season, then place them in pots, and move them indoors during the winter.
How to Care for Peperomias Indoors
Indoor plant care is often a bit different from outdoor gardening. Fortunately, Peperomias respond well to living inside the house, as this is where they can get optimal lighting all year round.
Here’s how to take care of Peperomias indoors.
Plant Peperomias in the Right Kind of Soil
Most shade plants can be planted in generic gardening soil, with a few additives. Peperomias are a bit finicky though, and might not like that mix too much.
The reason is that in their natural habitats; Peperomias grow right beside trees. Thus, they extend their roots in soil that’s mixed with decaying bark. The grounds they favor are also slightly acidic and loose.
The soil mix that largely imitates these conditions is that of orchids. That potting medium is often light, chunky, and acidic, which is the closest you can get to the Peperomia’s native land.
It’s best then to use that potting mix whenever you’re planting or propagating Peperomias.
Water the Peperomias Sparingly
Peperomias like the soil around them to be moist, so a regular watering schedule should be good.
However, you need to be very careful with the possibility of overwatering these plants. They could tolerate a little underwatering, but an excess of water can quickly spoil the plant.
Thus, water your Peperomia sparingly, once a week or so, and only when the soil is visibly dry. Use the water-wait-water technique in pouring in the water to avoid soil compaction or quick release of the water.
The slow pouring gives the soil a chance to absorb the water. Additionally, it would retain most of it for a longer time.
Another important point related to irrigation is drainage. Make sure that there are sufficient drain holes in the pot, and that the soil isn’t clogging these exits.
Peperomias Enjoy a Warm Ambiance
These tropical plants only feel at ease around temperatures from 65°F to 75°F. Without even needing to measure, this is also the room temperature that makes us feel comfortable.
Some plants might need higher temperatures, so you might want to place them where they can thrive. You can tell by the depth of their color and the vibrancy of their leaves.
Keep the Humidity Level Up
Like all tropical plants, Peperomias prefer humid surroundings to dry ones. Some locations are naturally humid, so you wouldn’t need to change a thing if you reside in such places.
However, in extra dry places, you might need to add a bowl of water beside the plant’s pot, or if you have several plants, a humidifier would come in handy.
Give Them a Little Fertilizer
Peperomias aren’t fast-growing that put out a ton of leaves overnight or flowering plants in constant need of nutrients.
On the contrary, they are pretty slow growers and they don’t give off any flowers. Thus, they could do without fertilizers completely.
Additionally, the acidity of the soil needs to be maintained at a certain level, and an excess of fertilizers could offset the pH level of the potting mix.
You can still add a little fertilizer from time to time. Preferably at the beginning of summer, which is the onset of the growth cycle for Peperomias.
Prune Your Plant to the Nines
Spring cleaning applies to your plants as much as it does to your home! As the winter comes to an end, the Peperomia would most probably have several yellowing leaves, dead leaves, and a bunch of leggy stems.
This isn’t exactly the picture-perfect look that you’d like for your plant. The solution is rather easy. You can snap off the unhealthy growth or cut it neatly with garden pruners.
Aim for an even length of all the branches. This way, the Peperomia would have a chance to grow into a lush ornamental plant for everyone to admire.
Watch Out from the Pests
Houseplants are often an easy target for a set of pests that feast on their green leaves. The most common among these bugs are:
- Spider mites
They’re often easy to eliminate at the first sighting, and much harder to control as they become an infestation. Thus, it’s best to inspect your plant regularly for any signs of infection.
Washing the leaves with a diluted dish soap and water mixture is often useful in keeping the pests at bay. But as soon as they infest the plant, insecticides or pesticides would be more adept at combating them.
A nice preventive measure you can use to protect your plant is spraying it with neem oil every other week or so.
You Can Easily Propagate Peperomias
Pruning Peperomias is a wonderful opportunity to propagate the plant. Additionally, if you do the propagation at the beginning of the spring, you’d get a better chance of healthy growth for the cuttings.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Use clean scissors or garden pruners to cult leggy stems with an attached leaf. Make sure you have enough length in the cutting for repotting.
- Fill up some small containers, a bit more than halfway, with orchid potting mix.
- Make a small hole in the soil and delicately place the cutting.
- Spray some water on the soil, then cover the cutting with a plastic bag.
- Place the cuttings in a bright spot that receives plenty of indirect sunlight.
- The plant would extend healthy roots in a few weeks. Keep watering it regularly.
- When a couple of leaves start appearing and the roots become strong enough, you can move the plant to a larger pot.
The lush beautiful tropical Pepromias are gorgeous indoor plants that would make any corner in your house look prettier.
Being indoor plants, some people assume that they prefer more shade than light. However, that’s not too accurate.
Peperomias favor bright spots near windows, in the shaded parts of balconies, or even on a porch. All these spots are great, as long as the plants are placed away from direct sunlight.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.