There is a wide range of peperomias, all grown for their foliage. They vary in size, shape, and color, but all have fleshy, waxy leaves, and a long, thin, upright “rat’s tail” of a flower spike, bearing tiny, green-white flowers. They are popular plants for terrariums and bottle gardens, although their slightly brittle nature means that they are not easily maneuvered into position.
A peperomia can be found for almost every growing position — trailing, bushy, or upright — and many have attractive, deeply ridged or highly colored leaves. P. caperata is a small plant from Brazil, commonly called emerald-ripple pepper. It has heart-shaped, glossy, emerald-green, deeply rippled leaves, up to 1 ½ in. (3 cm) long. Between the ridges, the leaf looks almost black. The leafstalks are green to dull red and up to 3 in. (7 cm) long.
P.c. ‘Emerald Ripple’ is more compact with smaller leaves. P.c. ‘Little Fantasy’ is a dwarf form. P. glabella is an erect or sprawling species from Central and South America and the West Indies. Also called the radiator plant, it has softly fleshy, glossy, red stems and mid-green, oval, fleshy leaves, on ½ in. (9 mm) red stalks. The thin, green-white flower stalks reach up to 6 in. (15 cm) high.
This is an attractive plant to use as a foil to brighter colors within a mixed arrangement of plants. P. g. ‘Variegata’ has pale green leaves, edged or variegated off-white. P. oblusifolia comes from regions from Mexico to northern South America and the West Indies. Also known as baby rubber plant, American rubber plant, and pepper face, it is stoloniferous, sending up purplish stems and rooting as it spreads.
The rounded, fleshy leaves are deep purple-green, and short, white flower stalks are produced ih the spring and fall. Varieties include: P.o. ‘Alba’ which has cream-colored new growth and stems spotted red; P.o. ‘Albo-marginata’ which has small, gray-green leaves edged cream. P.o. ‘Minima’ which is a dwarf plant with glossy, densely packed leaves, and P.o. ‘Variegata’ which has pointed, pale green leaves with cream markings and scarlet stems.
Size: Height 8—12 in (20—30 cm).
Light: indirect sunlight.
Temperature: Normal room.
Moisture: Keep barely moist at all times.
Feeding: Give half-strength liquid fertilizer once a month from spring through to fall.
Propagation: For P caperata, take leaf cuttings in spring or summer. Use the whole leaf with 1 in. (2.5 cm) of stalk attached, and insert it until the edge of the leaf is in con tact with the soil. For P. glabella and P. oblusifolia, take 5 in. (7 cm) tip cuttings in spring or summer.
Special needs: High humidity is important, but if the pot is standing on a tray of moist pebbles make sure that the plant cannot take up the extra water.