Peperomia (Piperaceae) is an amazingly vast plant family of leaf shapes and textures! There are dozens of varieties to choose from but here are our favorites:
- String of Turtles (Peperomia prostrata): This creeping plant will form a thick mat and does well in hanging baskets where it will cascade over the sides of the pot, or in a terrarium where it can scale the walls. It gets its name from the turtle shell patterning on each little leaf.
- Watermelon Peperomia (P. argyreia): This small bushy plant with fruity red stems has large leaves that look like a watermelon rind!
- Ruby Cascade (P. ruby cascade): A trailing vine with reddish stems and rounded two-tone leaves. The tops of the leaves are a dark green and the undersides are a beautiful purplish red.
- Parallel Peperomia (P. puteolata): Oval leaves grow in whorls around succulent stems that become trailing if left to grow. The coloring is reminiscent of its cousin, the watermelon peperomia. We love those dark green stripes!
- Ripple Peperomia (P. caperata): There are many color variations of this ripple-leafed plant that range from green to deep shades of purple. Some plants are variegated with swirls of light green, white and pink.
- Taco Plant (P. axillaris): These succulent leaves look like hundreds of tiny tacos growing out of the stem! This plant survives in the shady, jungle understory with its “leaf window.” This part looks like the filling in the “taco.” These translucent windows curve along the top of the leaf and allow sunlight to irradiate the leaf interior.
- Hope Peperomia (P. hope): This hybrid peperomia has a lovely trailing habit, with round leaves emerging in groups of two or three every few inches on the stems. You can trim the growing tips to keep it as an upright, bushier plant.
- Baby Rubber Plant (P. obtusifolia): Its large oval leaves are typically dark green, but can also have marbled white and/or yellow variegation. It has quite thick stems in order to support the upright heavy leaves!
- Happy Bean Peperomia (P. ferreyrae): Another peperomia with “leaf windows,” these leaves resemble long string beans. You may also hear this one called a pincushion peperomia.
- Ruby Glow (P. graveolens): This peperomia has extremely fleshy leaves, and grows in an upright habit. The outer leaf is a lovely ruby red that contrasts with the inner green. The coloring is the same as the Ruby Cascade but the leaf appearance and texture is very different.
Despite the huge difference in appearance, there are commonalities that all peperomias have. This makes it easier to care for a collection! To start, consider the tropical native habitat of the different species. Yes, some of the types look extremely succulent but they should only be considered semi-succulent. They do indeed belong in the tropics. The “trailing” varieties you find in hanging baskets at the nursery are actually mat-forming on the ground in nature. The upright varieties are found as small bushes in the understory of the tropical forests. You’ll rarely find a peperomia that grows taller than 15″ and most are 8-12″.
The trick to care is trying to recreate the habitat they have evolved to thrive in… humid, filtered light (remember, there’s a tree canopy above them), and very well-draining soil. So inside your home you want to put them in medium to bright indirect light. No peperomia likes direct sun. Thriving in humid locations, consider planting in a terrarium or adding a humidity tray to your set-up… especially if you live in a dry state like Colorado! However, humidity does not equal wet soil. You’ll want the top of the soil to dry out between waterings. No soggy feet please. It’s important not to water these plants too much or underwater them. Over-watering can cause rot and under-watering will make them wilt. Is your watermelon peperomia looking a bit wilty? If the top half inch of the soil is moist then it’s definitely overwatered, but if it’s dry then give it a drink.