Peperomia obtusifolia is also known by adorable names such as “pepper face” and “baby rubber plant.” Whatever you decide to call it, know that you are about to adopt one of the most popular houseplants of all time!
Are you also tired of annuals that keel over every year? Not this one. With the right care, your latest addition can live for a decade or more. The good news is that pampering a “pepper face” isn’t rocket science. This plant will thrive for as long as you consider its most basic needs.
Origins and Appearance
Peperomia obtusifolia is native to the Caribbean, South American rainforests, and southern Florida. The first thing you might notice about the plant’s appearance is that it looks bushy, in a succulent kind of way. Peperomia obtusifolia is indeed succulent-like because the plant uses its leaves like tiny reservoirs to store water. Besides the cute spoon-shaped leaves with their glossy surface, you can also recognize the plant by its thick stems and overall height of nearly 30 centimeters (12 inches).
Do you want to add something extra special to your plant collection? Then Peperomia obtusifolia Variegata might scratch that itch! This is the same plant, but instead of the normal dark green leaves, the variegated variety has beautiful shades of olive green, dark green, and creamy white borders.
Keep the Temperature Toasty
The Perfect Temperature Conditions
Peperomia obtusifolia loves bright, indirect sunlight. That being said, there’s no harm in exposing this plant to direct sunlight in the morning for a short time. On the flip side, Peperomia obtusifolia will quickly sadden (or sicken) when kept in dark shade or cold places. Avoid placing the pot in areas where there are nippy drafts, as this will cause Peperomia obtusifolia to shed its leaves. The best temperature range falls between 18 °C (65 °F) and 23 °C (75 °F).
The Right Humidity
As a rainforest native, baby rubber plants thrive in high humidity. This makes them popular bathroom decor. Besides adding a touch of green to an often colourless space, it makes caring for their humidity needs as simple as taking a hot shower. If you want to keep your Peperomia obtusifolia in another room, make sure to provide at least 50 percent relative humidity. Otherwise, the dry air will turn those lovely leaves brown.
Watering and Feeding
Very Specific Water Needs
Caring for Peperomia obtusifolia’s temperature needs is as simple as placing it on a semi-sunny window sill in your bathroom and then forgetting about it. Regrettably, plant parents need to stay on top of several things when it comes to the plant’s water needs or risk severe damage.
The reason why Peperomia obtusifolia needs a knowledgeable hand when it comes to the watering can include its fleshy leaves that already store a lot of water and a tiny root system that can dry out quickly (when under-watered) or rot just as fast (when over-watered).
What can complicate things even further, at least in the beginning, is the plant’s changing seasonal needs. But once you know what to do, it’s not that daunting! During summer and spring, when the weather is warmer, you can water frequently but only lightly so. Reduce the number of times you water Peperomia obtusifolia when autumn arrives and moisten sparingly during winter.
When uncertain, follow the golden rule – only water your plant when the soil’s surface feels dry down to a depth of one or two centimeters.
Feed During the Warmer Months
Only feed Peperomia obtusifolia during spring and summer. Choose a fertilizer that’s organic, non-toxic, and unable to burn your plants. A good option is fish emulsion. Always follow the directions of any fertilizer you buy, but in general, when you use fish emulsion, a diluted solution given every two or three weeks is more than adequate.
Soil and Repotting
Peperomia obtusifolia can live in most soil types. However, it’s best to choose a well-draining medium because this plant is prone to root rot. This deadly condition is mostly caused by soil that stays wet due to poor drainage. Need a suggestion? Grab a bag of African violet potting mix! Any soil that is marked as slightly alkaline, slightly acidic, or comes with a neutral pH is also suitable for your baby rubber plant.
Easy to Repot
Besides the fact that this plant can hunker down in the same pot for years, it’s also not sensitive to being repotted. There are no special concerns and if you carefully dislodge the plant from its old pot and gently settle it in a bigger pot filled with more soil, then it will happily continue to grow.
Some plants need seasonal pruning to flourish. Peperomia obtusifolia isn’t one of them. But that doesn’t mean that you can throw those garden scissors out the window! Your plant will stay healthier when you remove shoots that have no leaves or show signs of being dead or damaged. Pinching back the branches can also encourage the plant to develop a more bushy appearance.
Pests and Diseases
Peperomia obtusifolia is known for robust health, so you should have minimal problems. But like all plants, it can fall prey to bugs and other problems.
Sucking pests like mealybugs, whiteflies, or spider mites – are attracted to Peperomia obtusifolia, perhaps because of its succulent-like leaves that are filled with water. You can spot the presence of these critters with the naked eye.
- Mealybugs - cottony residue, wax, black mould, honeydew, presence of ants feeding on the honeydew.
- Whiteflies - white gnats, sticky or yellow leaves, and black mould.
- Spider mites - spots, yellowing leaves, dusty or gritty leaves, and webbing.
Solution: A high-quality, organic insecticidal soap.
Common Diseases and Problems
Underwatering leads to wilting, while too much water can cause symptoms such as leaf loss, root and stem rot, fungal attacks, leaf blisters, or scabs that appear on the underside of leaves. When leaves begin to shrivel or turn dry after you’ve fed your plant, it could mean that you used too much of a harmful fertilizer.
Solution: Tweak your water schedule to follow the suggestions given earlier in the article and only use an organic, non-burning fertilizer.
Peperomia ring spot is a virus known for distorting young leaves and causing rings to appear on older leaves. This incurable condition spreads through infected soil.
Solution: Infected plants must be discarded, along with their soil and containers. When repotting your Peperomia, only use a sterile potting mix to avoid contamination.
Botrytis is a grey mould that essentially prevents your plant from photosynthesizing properly. The good news is that this is not a hopeless condition like Peperomia ring spot. The most obvious sign is the appearance of a fuzzy, grey mould on your plant’s leaves or even the soil.
Solution: A copper-based fungicide will treat the mould and stop it from spreading to your other plants.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2023 Jana Louise Smit