Green Culture Singapore
Feature Article for May 2006
Text & Pictures by Wilson Wong
Edited by Lynnette Terh
Online on 21 May 2006



If you are looking for a low maintenance plant to grow at home or in office, the Peperomia is the plant for you.

Peperomia do not demand a huge amount of care. Most species are relatively slow growers and hence they do not outgrow their containers that quickly. That should save you much time from pruning and repotting them.

In addition, they require average humidity and non-variegated species are not light hungry, which make them ideal inhabitants on a bright windowsill. They are also relatively disease-proof and pest-free.

Finally, Peperomia also do not require frequent watering and are not heavy feeders - good for busy and forgetful individuals!

Peperomia are herbaceous plants that originate from South America. They have been reclassified into a family to call their own - Peperomiaceae. Previously, these delightful plants have been grouped under the Piperaceae or pepper family. The name 'Peperomia' is derived from the Greek words 'peperi' and 'homoios', which referred to their resemblence to the true pepper plant. Peperomia produce curious-looking inflorescenes look like tails of the rat.


PEPEROMIA - PLANTS OF MANY HABITS

You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to Peperomia. Depending on the occasion and feel, you can select a plant according to their distinct growth habits.

Some Peperomia are upright plants that sport thick leaves. Others grow as a compact rosette like an African violet. There are a handful of species that are vine-like where their weak stems sprawl over the pots.

New Peperomia species and their cultivars are constantly being introduced into the market, which feature plants with interesting leaf shapes, textures and variegations.

Below is a list of Peperomia species and their cultivars that have been spotted in Singapore nurseries at the time of writing.


The Upright species

This group of Peperomia has waxy, thick, leathery leaves that are borne on rather sturdy stems. Some species from this group will trail a bit with time as the stem elongates. They make very elegant and stately specimens when displayed on their own on top of a table.

Plants that are sold in the nursery may be recently rooted cuttings so do check for a well-developed root system prior purchase!

Peperomia clusiifolia
(Red-edge Peperomia)

This species has rather large spoon-like leaves where the centre is slightly concave. The leaves are dark green in colour and have a characteristic red margin.


Peperomia clusiifolia 'Jellie'

This plant is the variegated version of the Red-edge Peperomia. Similar to its all green counterpart, it spots the same red edge on its leaves except that the leaves now have a cream coloured background with splashes of green on it


Peperomia metallica

This exotic looking species has small, elliptical leaves that are dark red or green in colour, depending on the lighting conditions in which the plant is grown. What's interesting is that there is this wide silver stripe that runs down the middle of each leaf.


Peperomia obtusifolia
(Baby Rubber Plant)

The most common and representative of the species is Baby Rubber Plant, which has thick, dark green, glossy, elliptical-shaped leaves.

There are numerous cultivars of the Baby Rubber Plant and their descriptions are given below.


Peperomia obtusifolia 'Green & Gold'

This species is very similar in appearance to Peperomia obtusifolia 'USA' but has larger leaves that are patterned unevenly in a golden-yellow colour.


Peperomia obtusifolia 'USA'

The variegated cultivar has leaves that are creamy white with a splash of dark green spreading from the mid-rib.


Peperomia peltifolia

The Peperomia has relatively flat leaves that are just plain green in colour. Held on erect stems, the leaves are roundish in shape, which tapers off at the end - looks like a huge tear drop.



Rosette species

The rosette Peperomia are very compact, bushy plants and they are the signature plants that represent the Peperomia genus when you open up a book on houseplants published in the West.

Many species from this group have very interesting leaf shapes and variegations, which make them very suitable to be either displayed alone in a trendy cache pot or they can be grouped together inside a shallow azalea pot to make a group display or dish garden.

Peperomia argyreia
(Watermelon Peperomia)

This plant is commonly known as the Watermelon Peperomia due to the close resemblence of the markings on its leaves to the fruit. Supported on long reddish petioles, the tear drop-shaped leaves are dark green and have silvery-gray stripes that radiate from the center.


Peperomia caperata
(Emerald Ripple Peperomia)

The 'original' Emerald Ripple Peperomia has heart-shaped, dark green leaves with deep creases along the veins, giving the leaf a corrugated appearance. Petioles are red like what's seen in the Watermelon Peperomia.

There are numerous new cultivars of the Emerald Ripple Peperomia in the market now. They include the following:


The red-leaved Emerald Ripple Peperomia

Peperomia caperata 'Alesi'

Peperomia caperata 'Mika'

Peperomia caperata 'Schumi' (shown left)

Peperomia caperata 'Schumi Red'

These cultivars have dark red leaves, in varying shades, akin to the colour seen in some red wines. The main differences between these cultivars are size of the leaves and compactness of the plants. If all these cultivars are put together, it is difficult for anyone to tell them apart.


The variegated Emerald Ripple Peperomia

Peperomia caperata 'Orange Lady'

Peperomia caperata 'Pink Lady' (shown left)

Peperomia caperata 'Suzanne'

Peperomia caperata 'White Lady'

These cultivars have irregular splashes green, pink and white on their leaves. Totally unpredictable and crazy with regards to how the variegation of the next leaf will look. These plants need to be grown in good light to prevent the rapid loss of variegation.


Peperomia griseoargentea
(Ivy-Leaf Peperomia)

The heart-shaped leaves of the Ivy-Leaf Peperomia are pewter-like but glossy. The veins are sunken slightly only, unlike the deeply corrugated version seen in the Emerald Ripple Peperomia.



Trailing species

The Peperomia species in this group have either succulent or wiry stems. Young plants that have just been struck from cuttings hold their stems erect. With time, the stems will prostrate as the vines get longer. Plants from this group are very often used in hanging baskets or planted along the sides of large planters to soften the edges.

Peperomia roundifolia
(Creeping Buttons)

As the common name suggests, the leaves of this species are round in shape, very much alike to buttons on our clothes. The leaves are small and green, giving it a dainty and graceful look when grown in a hanging basket.


Peperomia scandens
(Cupid Peperomia)

The varigated version of the Cupid Peperomia (P. scandens variegata) is the one that is commonly grown here. A plant with rather succulent stems and thick, heart-shaped leaves that have a splash of green against a cream coloured background.



CULTURE

Light

Plants require bright sunlight and a good position for all Peperomias is one that receives filtered sunlight. Peperomia do not like direct sunlight as their leaf colours will be bleached.

As usual, the all-green varieties are more tolerant of shade. The upright species are often grown on the office desk where light is severely lacking and growth often stagnates due to the lack of light.

All variegated Peperomia cultivars are not forgiving when light requirements are concerned. They will quickly revert to all green when there is insufficient light.

Water

Never overwater Peperomia. Allow the potting mix to dry out before the next watering. The plant should never be allowed to have wet feet, especially the rosette species which are very prone to crown rot. Some people have resorted to watering plants by standing the pot in a saucer of water. This prevents water from getting trapped within the crown of plants.

Due to these reasons, Peperomia are not exactly suitable for outdoor growing in the tropics due to the liability to rot under perpetually wet conditions during the rainy monsoon season.

Feeding

Fertilize monthly with a soluble balanced fertilizer. Slow-release fertilisers can be used too.

Potting

Grow plants in a porous mix that has good drainage, for example, 2 parts of sifted burnt earth and 1 part of organic material like cocopeat, compost or top soil.

Peperomia like to be pot bound and hence transplant them only when roots are peeking out of the drainage holes beneath the pot. Do not overpot the plant and choose a new pot that will allow about 2 cm between the rim of the pot and the root ball.

Propagation

Upright and trailiing species

Plants from this group can be easily propagated from stem-cuttings. Take tip cuttings and stick them into a well-drain mix. Stems can be allowed to root in a glass of water. Cuttings will usually take root in about a fortnight's time.

Rosette species

Rosette species are most commonly propagated via leaf cuttings but very crowded clumps can also be divided.

To propagate rosette Peperomias via leaf cuttings, take a leaf with a little bit of stem attached to it. Coat the leaf stalk with a small amount of rooting hormone and them stick this end into some moist potting mixture. Cover with a plastic bag to conserve moisture but do air the set-up occasionally if excessive moisture builds up and this will prevent rotting. New plants will start from the base of the leaves.





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