How to Grow and Care for Peperomia (Radiator Plant)

Potted peperomia plants on wooden shelves

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Hundreds of plants make up the genus Peperomia, also known as radiator plants, and they're some of the easiest, most attractive houseplants you can grow. These low-maintenance species feature a wide variety of textures, leaf and stem colors, and shapes. Thanks to their growth habits, peperomia plants are also especially easy to propagate for more greenery in your home or to give as gifts to family and friends. You'll want to add as many as you can to your collection. 

  • Botanical Name: Peperomia
  • Common Name: Baby rubber plant, pepper elder, radiator plant, shining bush plant, emerald ripper pepper
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Mature Size: 6–12 inches high
  • Sun Exposure: Medium to bright light
  • Soil Type: Well-drained potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.0–6.0
Someone holding watermelon peperomia plant in gray pot

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Plant Care

Keep an eye on your plant's soil moisture when you first bring it home, allowing it to come close to drying out completely before watering again. Keep in mind that your peperomia may dry out faster during the growing season than it does in the winter months. 

While peperomias are relatively vigorous growers on their own, they can benefit from an occasional dose of fertilizer. Feed yours with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength every three to four months. 

As low-growing jungle plants, peperomias love humid conditions similar to their native habitat. These species make excellent bathroom plants that soak up steam from the shower. You can also increase humidity around your peperomia with a humidifier, a plant mister, or by placing its pot atop a tray of pebbles; add water to just below the top of the pebbles and let it evaporate around the pot.

Peperomia plants can be sensitive to temperature changes. Choose a spot to display yours away from drafty areas and heating or cooling vents, which may chill your plant or dry it out. 

Best Growing Conditions for Peperomia

Peperomia plants prefer temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees and bright, indirect light, although they can also grow in low-light conditions. A north-facing or east-facing window works well, or you can position them a few feet from windows on the south or west sides of your home. Some varieties with trailing growth habits are also well-suited to hanging baskets.

In terms of soil, peperomias are very adaptable. Plant them in a well-drained standard houseplant mix. These plants typically do well in porous terracotta planters, which allow moisture to wick away more easily and prevent waterlogged roots. Plastic or glazed ceramic pots work well as long as they offer sufficient drainage.

If your plant's pot isn't draining properly, you might notice signs of overwatering like wilted leaves that appear discolored. On the other hand, an underwatered peperomia can feel crispy to the touch with leaves that are drooping or curling up at the ends.

Types of Peperomia

Common peperomia species include the hardy Peperomia obtusifolia, or baby rubber plant, which comes in variegated types such as 'Golden Gate.' Peperomia clusiifolia 'Rainbow' features elongated pale-green and yellow leaves tinged with pink borders, and the arcing stripes on Peperomia argyreia, or watermelon peperomia, resemble the skin of its namesake fruit.

Others are less common and more sought-after: Wrinkle-leaved peperomias like Peperomia caperata 'Red Ripple' have unique textures, while Peperomia incana, or felted pepperface plant, features velvety, heart-shaped leaves. There are many species with long, trailing stems and tiny leaves, like Peperomia prostrata, also known as string of turtles. 

How to Propagate Peperomia

Peperomias can be propagated easily using stem cuttings. You can grow new plants by rooting cuttings in water or in soil. 

If using the water method, follow the first step below, then simply submerge the lower leaf nodes in a glass or jar of water (and skip the plastic bag). When roots are established and new growth begins to appear, transplant the cutting into soil and care for it as usual. 

To root the cuttings in soil, you'll need a healthy mother plant, a sharp knife or pruners, a small plant pot, a well-draining potting soil mix, a clear plastic bag, and optional rooting hormone powder to speed up the process. 

Step 1: Examine the mother plant and select a healthy stem with at least four leaves. Cut off this stem just below the lowest leaf, then remove the bottom two leaves from the cutting. 

Step 2: Fill the pot to 1 inch below the rim with soil and add water until it's well-moistened. Use a pencil or your finger to make a small hole a few inches deep into the soil. 

Step 3: Dip the bottom end of the cutting in rooting hormone (optional). Plant the cutting in the soil so that the nodes of the lower leaves you removed are below the soil line. Gently pat the soil around the stems to hold the cuttings in place. 

Step 4: Place the plastic bag over the pot to create a humid environment for your cutting, taking care to ensure that the bag isn't touching the plant. 

Step 5: Keep the cuttings in a warm place with bright, indirect light but out of the direct sun. Take off the bag for a few minutes every once in a while to air out the cutting, and keep the soil moist. 

Step 6: When you see new growth appear, remove the bag. After the cutting has several new leaves, you can pot it up and care for the plant as usual. 

Peperomia pepperspot plant in pot

Diana Rebenciuc / Getty Images 

Common Problems With Peperomia

Peperomia plants are known for their easy growth habits, as they're particularly hardy to various conditions. However, your plant is still susceptible to a few problems that are typically related to improper water, sunlight, and temperature. Here's how to diagnose and treat your plant:

Yellowed Leaves

Some types of peperomias are semi-succulent and store water in their leaves and stems. Because of this, overwatering is the biggest pitfall to avoid. When your plant's leaves are beginning to turn yellow and feel oversaturated, it's time to cut back on the watering schedule. Yellowed leaves accompanied by a dry or crispy texture indicate that your plant needs water.

Discolored or Mushy Stems

Also related to your plant's water needs, discolored or mushy stems are a more severe indicator of water pooling in its pot. This is a sign of root rot, and it's important to repot your plant as early as you can. Gently remove it from its container, shaking away excess soil, and inspect the roots. Trim off any affected roots before repotting it in fresh soil and allowing the roots to dry.

Leaf Drop

It's normal for most houseplants to lose a few older leaves as they grow, but if your peperomia has experienced considerable leaf drop, temperature or humidity could be the cause. Along with avoiding drafty areas and heating or cooling vents, it's important to keep your plant in a space with plenty of moisture in the air. Dry conditions can stress this species and lead to dropping leaves.

Placing your humidity-loving plants close together can help increase moisture in the air for all of them. Plants release water through their leaves, which evaporates and creates a more humid microclimate than if they're placed far apart.

Potting and Repotting Peperomia

Since it's prone to problems with overwatering, your peperomia plant will grow best when it's a little rootbound. Once it begins to visibly outgrow its pot—with roots growing at the surface or from the drainage holes—it's time to repot the plant in a container one size larger. This typically happens every two to three years, as peperomia plants are slow and steady growers.

It's best to wait until spring whenever possible. This allows your peperomia plenty of time during the growing season to become established in its new pot before winter dormancy.

FAQs

Are Peperomia Plants Easy to Care For?

Peperomias are known for being especially low-maintenance when provided with the proper light, water, and temperature conditions. These plants thrive when fertilized each season, and they typically only need to be repotted every few years.

Do Peperomias Like Humidity?

Native to the jungle, peperomia plants grow best with plenty of humidity. Group your peperomia together with other humidity-loving plants, run a humidifier or plant mister in the room, or place it atop a humidifying tray to increase moisture in the air.

Is Peperomia an Outdoor Plant?

Some varieties of peperomia are hardier than others, but in general, these plants can survive outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 12. If you live in a colder region, you can take your plant outside for the summer and bring it back indoors when nighttime temperatures drop down to 55 degrees in the fall.