A Peperomia for Every Season

The peperomia is a houseplant collector’s dream. Also known as radiator plants (for their love of warm air and tolerance for various climates), the number of peperomia species reaches over a whopping 1 500. They are also close relatives of the plant that produces the kitchen staple (pepper), hence the name peperomia. The many varieties often don’t even look related, adding to their collector’s appeal. They can also tolerate a bit of neglect, making them perfect for the houseplant beginner.

Peperomia angulata

Peperomia angulata is affectionately known as the beetle peperomia. It has a similar appearance to the watermelon peperomia – green leaves with yellow stripes in a similar pattern to a watermelon rind – that accounts for its new-found popularity. The orange-tinted stems add contrast and brightness that makes this variety irresistible to collectors. It remains compact throughout growth, reaching upwards and falling when the stems are heavy – an ideal option for hanging baskets.

Water: Peperomias are excellent at retaining water in their juicy leaves, so they don’t need to be watered too often. Let the top layer of soil dry out completely before watering again – it is better to underwater than overwater.

Peperomia caperata

When you think peperomia, P. caperata is bound to be one of the first thoughts. This is one of the most popular peperomias, with heartshaped, wrinkled leaves and cream or red coloured spikes when the plant is flowering. Unlike some other varieties, it comes in a range of colours, from green to red or purple and even silver. If you’re unsure of which peperomia to choose, the many cultivars of P. caperata won’t let you down.

Peperomia clusiifolia

Another peperomia you may not instantly recognise as part of the family is P. clusiifolia, particularly the ‘Rainbow’ variety often found in South Africa. This plant has oblong leaves with a fascinating colour pattern – a green centre with cream variegation and bright pink edges. ‘Rainbow’ is a funky variety sure to make your houseplant collection stand out.

Peperomia rotundifolia

This variety looks very different to its previous cousins. The delicate P. rotundifolia has small, rounded leaves on trailing stems and stays compact throughout growth. Its small size and humidity requirements are perfect for indoor terrariums, or the trailing stems can be hung over any indoor pot for a dainty feature.

Humidity: Peperomias are tropical plants and grow best in high humidity zones. This is especially important in the summer growing period. Leave in a bathroom for a quick steam from the shower or place on a tray of pebbles with water to increase humidity. Do not leave the plant outside in freezing weather as they cannot survive temperatures below 0°C.

Peperomia ‘Amigo Marcello’

To contrast the rounded leaves of most peperomia types, you can add Peperomia ‘Amigo Marcello’ to your collection. This variety has thick, pointed green leaves growing off red stems. If you use it as a hanging plant the stems will trail down to impressive lengths, or they can be grown as creeping plants. An absolute must-have (if you’re lucky enough to find one!).

Care: Peperomias are great for beginners – they can handle a bit of neglect, and generally have similar care requirements across all varieties.

Peperomia verticillata

This species has small, rounded leaves with a contrasting green and red/purple colour on either side of the leaves. Also called the belly button peperomia, it is one of the more vibrant types and stands out in any room. Although it is a slow grower, as the plant matures it gains a velvety texture on its leaves – like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.

Light: Colour is a vital part of the peperomia’s appeal, and key to that is the right amount of light. Most peperomias need medium to bright indirect sunlight to maintain their vibrancy, although some may survive in lower light areas like bathrooms and bedrooms.

Peperomia argyreia

The incredibly popular watermelon peperomia is sold out everywhere – if you manage to find one, consider yourself lucky! It is named for its resemblance to watermelon rind, with a pale green leaf and bright green stripes. Of all the peperomia varieties, this one definitely turns heads.

Peperomia obtusifolia

Commonly known as the baby rubber plant, this peperomia has thick, vibrant leaves and a stocky appearance. Younger leaves are rounded and grow into an oval shape that gives it its name (‘obtusifolia’ means ‘blunt-leaved’). There are numerous cultivars – like ‘Albomarginata’ or ‘Golden Gate’ – with different variegations and leaf patterns. Thicker stems and juicier leaves hold more water, meaning they can tolerate a bit more neglect than the other varieties.

Peperomia ‘Zorro’

This neat little plant has dark green leaves with a striking red under-surface. Each leaf is elongated and almost spoon-shaped, with prominent ridges along the length, while the flowers are pale green. Plants are round and symmetrical in shape, making them ideal for display in the centre of a low coffee table.

Repotting and propagation: Peperomias are not large plants and enjoy being slightly root-bound, so they don’t need repotting often. If roots start growing from the drainage holes, repot in a container one size up in soil with excellent drainage – similar to orchid mix. Their similarity to succulents means peperomias can be easily propagated from leaf cuttings. Simply cut a leaf from the main plant in spring and plant in a separate pot with good potting soil. Keep the soil moist and roots should form within a few weeks. The wide variety of fascinating shapes and colours make peperomias an absolute must for any houseplant lover. Whether you’re a veteran collector or an indoor plant newbie, you will find what you’re looking for in the peperomia family.

The Gardener