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Pests, Diseases, and More: Overcome Peperomia Problems for a Thriving Houseplant

Pests, Diseases, and More: Overcome Peperomia Problems for a Thriving Houseplant

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We’ve all fallen into the trap of buying that cute coin-leaf plant in the “Hard To Kill” section of a nursery at some point in our plant-growing journey. So if you can’t seem to keep your peperomia fresh and vibrant, don’t worry. You’re not alone, and it may not even be your fault.

To many people’s surprise, peperomia is an entire genus of plants with over 1,700 species and counting! This means that general care tips for peperomia are often hit-or-miss, and they’re unfortunately more miss than hit most of the time.

So how do you figure out what’s wrong with your peperomia? And how do you troubleshoot the most common peperomia problems and diseases?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions and give you the broad strokes of how to care for any kind of peperomia, as well as when you need to provide it with more specific care.

A Note About Peperomias

Before we dive in, there are some key things about this genus. These points can help you understand the natural conditions in which peperomias grow and see how these conditions may differ in your home.

To start, peperomias are a pantropical plant that is naturally found above and below the equator, mainly in the rainforests of central or south America and Asia. This means that the majority of its species evolved in filtered sunlight with humid conditions and occasional heavy rain.

Some species of the peperomia genus are pretty hard to kill indeed, and these are usually the ones more succulent in nature. As a succulent, they hold more water inside them, so they’re more resistant to issues like underwatering and low humidity.

On the flip side, some species are so demanding that they require their own glass box. They need high humidity, a balanced temperature, and consistently moist soil, among other factors.

All of this is to say that you won’t fully understand what’s wrong with your plant until you know which species it is.

Knowing the species of your peperomia will help you understand its specific needs. Once you find and maintain the water, sunlight, and soil drainage rates that work for your peperomia, your plant will effortlessly thrive.

Most Common Peperomia Problems

Each of the following problems can be caused by multiple factors, especially since one problem in the plant’s system can leak, quite literally, into other problems.

For example, you could have the perfect watering routine for your peperomia but not enough lighting. Inadequate lighting keeps the plant from efficiently processing the water it gets.

Consequently, some water can linger in the soil for too long, causing issues that are typically associated with overwatering, not low-lighting.

Yep, plants are tricky like that! So when looking at the list below, understand that while these are the main causes behind them, a big enough problem such as root rot can cause basically any or all of the following.

Discolored/Yellowing Leaves

This can be one of the least severe issues you’ll face with most plants. Leafy plants, such as peperomia, shed older leaves to make room for new growth. So don’t panic if the lowermost leaves of your plant start wilting and falling off.

Old leaves will yellow and die, and you can help the plant’s growth by regularly removing them. It only becomes a problem if this happens to a large percentage of the leaves, new growths, or the whole plant.

You may also see that the whole plant is losing color, getting more grayish, translucent, and tender or mushy.

The most common causes of discolored or yellowing leaves are getting excessive light or improper watering.

If your plant is exposed to direct sunlight, its leaves are likely getting scorched by the heat. Make sure to add some distance or a filter between your plant and direct sunlight, like a see-through curtain.

As for watering, you may be underwatering or soaking the soil with too much water. Peperomias don’t do well in either case. Try adding less water, or consider repotting the plant in soil with better drainage.

You may also be watering too often. This is where it’s important to know the specific needs of your peperomia species. A general rule of thumb, though, is to wait until the topsoil is almost completely dry, while the deeper level of the soil is moist.

Finally, this discoloration could happen due to nitrogen deficiency. This is an easy fix because all you need to do is fertilize your plant with a highly diluted basic fertilizer (such as NPK) once a season or every other month at most.

Curling Leaves

Another problem you may find in your peperomia is curling leaves. Most people may not even realize that this is an issue since the plant looks healthy overall. So congrats if you caught that! You’re a proper plant parent.

Peperomias curl their leaves inwards when they’re dehydrated in order to keep their moisture inside.

So the main culprits behind this issue are underwatering, high temperatures, or low humidity.

Your plant may be finding the weather in front of your window a little too sunny or the air too dry. You can fix the first issue pretty easily. All you need is to put it further away from windows or other sources of heat.

As for the low humidity, one way to fix that is by placing the plant over a tray full of pebbles and water. If you have a humidifier, it may also be a good idea to turn it on near your plant regularly.

Finally, rehydrating your plant can be as simple as watering it more often. You may also place the pot in a tray full of water for 30 minutes, so the soil can soak up the amount of water it needs.

Slow/Stunted Growth

Peperomias are slow growers, which is actually what makes them great house plants. However, if you go for weeks or months without a single new leaf, there’s something wrong with your plant.

This may not seem like a major problem, but because leaves wilt and fall off as they grow older, you may end up with naked stems. Having few leaves means that your plant isn’t doing enough photosynthesis so it could eventually waste away.

Stunted growth is usually caused by insufficient sunlight or a lack of nutrients in the soil.

Thankfully, this issue is probably the easiest to fix. Just place your plant near a window with filtered sunlight or under a grow light and see how it does. If nothing changes, feed your plant a highly diluted basic plant food.

Make sure not to overdo it with the fertilizer, though. Peperomias have a very small appetite, and overfertilization can cause its own set of issues, including curling or discolored leaves.

Blackening Leaves

Last but not least, leaves all over the plant going black is probably one of our least favorite problems to deal with. Nine times out of ten, black leaves will mean root rot and that’s not easy to recover from. Root rot happens when your plant has too much water in its pot.

This could happen due to overwatering, over-fertilizing, using soil that doesn’t drain well enough, a pot with no drainage holes, etc.

Peperomia Diseases and Pests

As with most tropical plants, peperomias can hold their ground against common pests and fungi. Still, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be infected.

1 – Fungus Gnats

These tiny critters look a lot like fruit flies and start by infecting the soil, so you may not see any damage at first. They eat any fungi in your plants’ soil and if they make this pot their home, their larvae will feed on the plant itself.

Getting those means that you’re probably overwatering your plant or that it’s not drying well. You can also fix this by adding a layer of sand mixed with half a teaspoon or less of cinnamon and some potting mix to the top of your pot.

2 – Mealybugs

If you’ve been around plants in any capacity, you’ve probably seen those white spots of mold before, and these are often caused by mealybugs. The only solution is to spray your plant with the correct insecticide or by spraying neem oil on the plant.

3 – Spider Mites

As you can tell from the name, these mites are actually arachnids that make webs like spiders, and that’s often how you’ll notice them.

Since they’re extremely small, it’s likely that you’ll only see them when they’ve spread all over the plant and started building their webs. They could also cause tiny spots of discoloration on the leaves.

You can treat these with insecticide or neem oil as well.

Final Thoughts

There’s no blanket care guide for all peperomia. You’ll eventually need to know the exact species you have and understand their specific humidity, water, and sunlight needs.

Out of the 1,700 species under the Peperomia genus, some will thrive in the kitchen or even a well-lit bathroom. Other species, however, can’t be further than a couple of meters away from a sunny window.

The silver lining is once you know what your peperomia needs, keeping it alive is a real piece of cake.

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