The Peperomia Santorini, a cultivar within the Peperomia genus, set in a Berg's Venus Nordic Grey terracotta pot.
Taking that step from newcomer to novice collector within the ever expanding world of indoor plants can be quite a daunting task. With hundreds of different genera out there, all with vastly different visual characteristics and care requirements it’s easy to see why that transition doesn’t always come easily to those of us who found ourselves gaining an interest in houseplants out of the blue. Well we think we may have found a rather large genus of houseplants that may just make the progression that little bit easier: Peperomias.
One of 2 large genera within the Piperaceae, or Pepper, family of plants, Peperomias account for over 1500 members of this family, a family which alone contains over 3000 species. These plants are native to any tropical or subtropical regions of the world but the majority of Peperomias originate in Central America and northern South America. Typically, Peperomia dwell along the forest floor, shading themselves from harsh direct sunlight by homing themselves at the bases, or on fallen branches, of the taller trees above them.
A Collectible Classic
With over 1500 species there is exceptional variety within the Peperomia genus of houseplants, which is one of the many advantages of collecting these plants. They come in a variety of forms, including both upright and trailing, an endless number of colours, from glossy greens to deep Maroons and everything in between, and all sorts of jaw dropping patterns and variegations, such as the almost surreal markings of the Peperomia argyreia, or Watermelon Plant. However despite the abundance in variety there are several characteristics that the vast majority of Peperomias share.
Most Peperomias are considered to be succulent-like houseplants. They have fleshy leaves that are capable of storing water for use during periods of drought. These leaves are generally attached at their underside to long, often slender, petioles (stems) that connect to a central origin.
Typically, they are relatively slow growing and tend to stay quite compact. Most Peperomias won’t grow much bigger than 30-40cm in height and spread. This compact form makes them the perfect size to sit on desks in office spaces, on window sills, side tables or bookshelves with little-to-no risk of them ever outgrowing their homes.
"Most Peperomias won't grow much bigger than 30-40cm in height and spread. This compact form makes them the perfect size to sit on desks in office space, on shelves or sidetables."
During the summer months Peperomias can produce small flowers. However, for the majority of people the flowers are not a major selling point. In most cases they are understated. The flowers are very tiny and sit closely together on slim spires emanating from the plant and are typically a pale white or yellow in colour with no scent.
The sheer variety that exists with this genera of plants is enough to draw the attention of any collector. But if this wasn’t enough to convince you of these plants’ worthiness either as a starting point for, or within your collection then maybe their ‘less is more’ care requirements will draw you in.
The Peperomia Argyreia, or Watermelon Peperomia, set in a Berg's Simona Rosa terracotta pot.
Caring for your Peperomias
While it is always important to investigate the specific requirements of each species of plants you own and tailor the care specifically to that species of houseplant, when it comes to Peperomias several requirements tend to stay consistent throughout.
Being forest floor dwellers, Peperomias tend to prefer moderate light. Spaces that tend to be bright but that don’t receive direct sunlight are typically best. They can survive in low-light conditions also. However, if the space is quite shaded it’s very important to ensure you don’t overwater these plants as the reduced light will mean they are using less water for growth.
As mentioned before, Peperomias are considered to be succulent-like houseplants making them very tolerant of drought conditions. It’s often easy to tell when your Peperomia is in need of water. Visually, their stems will begin to droop and their leaves will appear softer and more malleable. The’ bend test’ is also a popular method of checking watering; gently try to fold a leaf in half. If it folds without resistance and without snapping then it may be time to give your Peperomia a top up.
Ideally, a somewhat humid environment is best for Peperomias. Rooms like bathrooms or kitchens tend to be great environments for them. Alternatively, adding lava rocks to a pot dish underneath these places is beneficial.
Their humid origins make them a great option for terrariums. Petite versions of popular Peperomia such as the Santorini and Obtusifolia tend to thrive within the glass enclosures.
Sporadic fertilizing during the growing season will help support your Peperomia's new growth. Roughly once every fortnight tends to be plenty. A standard liquid feed that you mix with water or a seaweed fertilizer that can be misted on to the plant's foliage are both suitable options.
If the exceptional variety and beginner-friendly care wasn't enough, propagating Peperomias is exceedingly easy. There are two main ways to propagate this genus of plants:
1) Stem Cuttings:
Cut a stem with 2-3 leaves attached below the bottom leaves with a clean secatures. Place the stem either in a small pot of free draining indoor plant compost or in water to root.
2) Leaf Cuttings:
Cut the leaf where the petiole (stem) meets the base of the leaf. Cut the leaves in half and place the cut side down into some free draining indoor plant compost. Keep the compost moist but not sodden until the cutting roots.
Child & Pet Friendly
Peperomias are a wonderful plant to grow in homes with children and pets as they are non-toxic. They are a wonderful option for getting children involved in the world of botany, allowing them to experiment with propagation.
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Clay: The Contemporary Botany Company
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Words by: Clay: The Contemporary Botany Company