Peperomia Production Guide

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CFREC-Apopka Foliage Plant Research Note RH-91-25

R.W. Henley, L.S. Osborne and A.R. Chase
University of Florida, IFAS
Central Florida Research and Education Center - Apopka
2807 Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703-8504


The genus Peperomia includes over 1000 species of which only a few are cultivated extensively. Peperomia are small, succulent, herbaceous plants that are widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics. Growth habits range from upright forms that tend to be shrubby when young and sprawl with age to rosette forms and prostrate vines, all with tolerance to relatively low light levels. Currently, there are over 100 species of Peperomia cultivated in the United States, although many are in the hands of collectors. Many interesting forms which are occasionally seen in commerce have not been properly named due to lack of taxonomic research on the genus. The most widely produced species is Peperomia obtusifolia (oval-leaf peperomia) and its cultivars. A few of the commonly grown types are described below.

Peperomia argyreia (P. sandersii), Watermelon Peperomia is an attractive rosette type with dark green leaves and silvery-gray zones radiating from the leaf center. The leaf blades are cupped slightly and supported on long reddish petioles. Plants are usually propagated from leaf cuttings.

Peperomia caperata, Emerald Ripple Peperomia with its rosette growth habit has dark green leaves with deep creases along with major veins giving the leaf a wrinkled appearance. Petioles are reddish and relatively long. Plants are normally propagated from leaf cuttings.

Peperomia griseoargentea (P. hederifolia), Ivy-Leaf Peperomia has silvery-green, glossy, nearly- round leaves on long petioles which form a rosette. Veins are sunken slightly and darker than the rest of the leaf. Plants are generally propagated from leaf cuttings.

Peperomia clusiifolia, Red-Edge Peperomia is similar in growth habit and leaf shape to P. obtusifolia except the plants are slightly larger and the leaves more elongated. The dark green, oval-shaped leaves have a dark red margin. Plants are usually propagated by stem cuttings.

Peperomia obtusifolia, Oval-Leaf Peperomia is an upright sprawling plant with dark green, glossy, nearly-oval-shaped leaves. This species and its cultivars are propagated by stem cuttings.

Peperomia obtusifolia `Marble', Marble Oval-Leaf Peperomia is similar to the species with the exception of the variably sectored pattern of dark green, creamy white and grayish green which is common to most leaves.

Peperomia obtusifolia `Minima', Dwarf Oval-Leaf Peperomia is about one half the size of the species and alike in other respects.

Peperomia obtusifolia `Variegata', Variegated Oval-Leaf Peperomia has leaves with a border of creamy white and a central zone of dark green and grayish green.

Peperomia scandens, False-Philodendron Peperomia is a nearly prostrate species with rather stiff thick stems and fleshy, heart-shaped leaves. Because of its growth habit this species along with the cultivar Variegata is frequently used in hanging baskets. Plants are usually propagated by stem cuttings.

Peperomias are used primarily as small potted plants. Wholesale growers in Florida produce pots ranging in size from 2.5 to 6 inches in diameter, with 3-inch pots being the most abundant. Some of the prostrate species are also grown in hanging baskets usually between 6 and 10 inches in diameter. The type of container and size selected for a particular species should be governed by the plant growth habit, size and leaf texture. Those plants with upright or rosette growth habits are more attractive in pots while those with prostrate stems are well suited to either hanging baskets or pots.

Peperomias are propagated commercially by cuttage with cuttings usually harvested from stock grown "in house". As a group, peperomia cuttings are easy to root. The type of cuttings used depends upon species, type of variegation pattern in some cultivars, size of finished plant desired and amount of stock available. Terminal stem cuttings can be used with all types and permit production of finished plants in the shortest possible time. Cuttings with one leaf and a short section of stem can be used if stock is limited or small finished plants are needed. Stem cuttings which have one or more buds are necessary for propagation of variegated cultivars.

Two terminal stem cuttings with two to four expanded leaves are commonly stuck per 3-inch pot. Rooting and finishing 3-inch pots requires 3 to 5 weeks depending upon size of cuttings and season. Growth is considerably faster when temperature and light intensity are not limiting. Three to 4 cuttings are normally used per 4-inch pot.

Potting media used for peperomia propagation and production should be very well drained and as pathogen-free as possible. Several peat-lite mixes with coarse particles, such as perlite, styrofoam or bark char are very satisfactory because they provide the necessary aeration.

Peperomia should be produced in greenhouses rather than shadehouses because soil moisture must be closely controlled. Light intensity during mid-day should range between 1500 and 3500 foot-candles with approximately 2.3 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet per month, based on a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer. Since some of the peperomias are very short-term crops, a liquid fertilization program is preferred because excessive soluble salts severely damage plants in retail stores or homes of consumers. Liquid fertilizer should be administered at least once a week to ensure a slow rise in fertility during the short production period.


1) Low root oxygen level

Symptoms -
Roots of peperomia are very sensitive to water-logged soils which inhibit gas exchange within container media and limits the root oxygen levels. Plants under low root oxygen stress grow slowly and occasionally have a wilted appearance. Frequently, plants grown with excessive soil moisture are vulnerable to certain root rot fungi.

Control -
Use only potting media with physical characteristics which provide good aeration. Avoid use of barriers in containers or under containers which restrict water drainage. Apply water only as it becomes limiting to plant growth.

2) Nutrient deficiencies

Symptoms -
Nitrogen and potassium are the most frequently observed nutrient deficiencies of peperomias. The lower leaves become generally chlorotic, a condition which is not reversible in its advanced stages.

Control -
Provide adequate fertilizer to both stock and plants grown for sale.

3) High soluble salts

Symptoms -
Peperomia roots are very fine and easily damaged by excessive salinity in the root zone. Roots frequently die back by the time foliage symptoms are observed. Plants appear to be under moisture stress and defoliation usually proceeds from older leaves to younger leaves. As one looks over the top of a peperomia crop damaged by high salinity, there is usually a noticeably uneven pattern of growth.

Control -
Do not exceed recommended fertilizer levels unless considerable water is applied between fertilizer applications. If high soluble salts are detected in peperomia soils, leach to bring the salts within an acceptable range.

Reference Pest Control Guides Here


Peperomias are subject to a variety of diseases caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses. The most common disease found on this group of plants is caused by Pythium spp. and Phytophthora spp. Root and stem rots caused by these fungi are very serious on Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars. Only one disease has been described as due to a virus-like pathogen. Virus ring spot has been found on P. obtusifolia cultivars but does not appear to be a serious concern for the foliage industry today. Many of the stem and root diseases of this plant can be avoided through use of pathogen-free potting medium and pots. Several leaf spots are also found on cultivars of peperomias including the most common, Cercospora leaf spot. Each of the most common diseases of peperomias are described below.

Reference Pest Control Guides Here


1) Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora sp.)

Symptoms -
Cercospora leaf spot is typified by tan to black raised areas found on leaf undersides. The areas appear similar to a condition called edema and are swollen and irregularly shaped. It is very difficult to isolate the causal organism from these spots and frequently the two conditions are confused. P. obtusifolia cultivars are especially susceptible to Cercospora leaf spot.

Control -
Spray the undersides of the leaves where the spores are located.

2) Phyllosticta leaf spot (Phyllosticta sp.)

Symptoms -
Phyllosticta leaf spot occurs on the watermelon peperomia. Leaf spots are dark brown to black and dryish. The lesions have concentric rings of light and dark tissue and are commonly found on the leaf margins spreading across the entire leaf.

Control -
Remove and destroy infected leaves. Keep the plant foliage dry.

3) Rhizoctonia leaf spot (Rhizoctonia sp.)

Symptoms -
Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars are susceptible to Rhizoctonia sp. which causes a mushy, dark-brown to black leaf spot. The lesions are elliptical to irregularly shaped and concentric rings of high and low tissue can be detected in the lesions. The lesions form on leaves anywhere on the plant. Under warm conditions, the web-like mycelium of the pathogen can be seen covering the affected plants.

Control -
Remove and destroy severely infected plants or areas in the stock bed.

4) Phytophthora and Pythium stem and root rot - (Phytophthora parasitica or Pythium splendens and many other species)

Symptoms -
Plants rot at the soil line and show a mushy black lesion which can extend upwards into the leaves of the plants. Roots of infected plants are blackened and mushy and their outer cortex can be easily removed from the inner core.

Control -
Always use new pots and potting medium and grow plants on raised benches to avoid infestation from the native soil.

5) Sclerotium stem rot (also called Southern Blight - Sclerotium rolfsii)

Symptoms -
Stem rot caused by this pathogen is characterized by a brown mushy area at the soil line of the cutting. Plants which are in the rotting phase as well as established plants are frequently lost to this disease. The brown fruiting bodies of the pathogen are commonly found in the rotted area. These structures are tan to dark brown and are round and the size of mustard seeds. Masses of white cottony mycelial growth are also found.

Control -
Cuttings should be inspected carefully for symptoms of this disease and discarded if they are infected. Always use new potting medium and pots and watch plants carefully for the symptoms of stem rot.

Reference Pest Control Guides Here


1) Ring spot (Peperomia ring spot virus)

Symptoms -
Infected plants show a variety of symptoms including ring spots (rings of light or dark pigmentation), leaf distortion and stunting for the green variety of P. obtusifolia. The virus appears as necrotic lesions (brown areas) on the variegated cultivars and infected leaves generally fall off the plant.

Control -
Collect and destroy all peperomias with these symptoms since no chemicals can control a virus disease. Be careful not to transmit the virus by using contaminated cutting tools - clean in between plants if this virus disease is suspected.

Reference Pest Control Guides Here


The major arthropod pests of Peperomia include caterpillars, fungus gnats, root mealybugs, mites, scales, and thrips. Mealybug, mite, and scale infestations typically result from bringing infested plant material into the greenhouse. Moths, fungus gnats and thrips have the ability to fly and thus invade the greenhouse from weeds and other infested plants outside. In the control section for each pest a few of the many registered and effective pesticides will be listed. For a complete listing please consult the references at the end of this report.

1) Caterpillars (worms)

Symptoms -
Infestations are easy to detect because worms, their excrement and the damage they cause, are usually quite visible to the unaided eye. Damage appears as holes in the center or along the edges of leaves. Damage by worms is often confused with slug or snail damage. The only way to determine which pest is involved is to find a specimen. Old damage can be distinguished from new by the calloused appearance of the older damaged areas (worms are usually gone by this time).

Control -

2) Fungus gnats

Symptoms -
Fungus gnats are small black flies (1/8 inch long) and are frequently observed running around the soil surface or on leaves and are often confused for Shore flies (see later section). The adults have long bead-like antennae and their legs hang down as they fly. These insects are very weak fliers and appear to "flit" around randomly. The larvae are small legless "worms" with black heads and clear bodies that inhabit the soil. The larvae spin webs on the soil surface which resemble spider webs. Damage is caused by larvae feeding on roots, root hairs, leaves in contact with the soil and lower stem tissues. Feeding damage may predispose plants to disease and they are often found in close association with diseased plants or cuttings. Adults do not cause any direct damage, but are responsible for many consumer complaints to growers. Adults emerge and fly around in retail shops, homes, or offices and are therefore a nuisance. For further information please consult Extension Entomology Report #74 (Management of fungus gnats in greenhouse ornamentals).

Control -
Reduce the amount of water applied to each pot where possible. Avoid algae growth where possible.

3) Mealybugs

Symptoms -
Mealybugs appear as white, cottony masses in leaf axils, on the lower surfaces of leaves and on the roots. Honeydew and sooty mold are often present and infested plants become stunted, and with severe infestations, plant parts begin to die.

Control -
Systemic materials are preferred. Control of root mealybugs is accomplished with soil drenches with an insecticide. When pesticides are applied to the soil, care must be taken to assure that the pots have good drainage and that no saucers are attached, or phytotoxicity may result.

4) Mites (Broad and cyclamen mites and Tarsonemus confusus)

Symptoms -
Mites are very small and go unnoticed until plants become severely damaged. Broad mites cause foliar necrosis of the vegetative shoot apex. Initial symptoms of injury are new leaves cupped downward, puckered, stunted, with serrated margins. Foliage expanding from cyclamen and T. confusus mite infested vegetative buds is curled, twisted, brittle, and in the case of Peperomia obtusifolia `Variegata' the affected foliage is almost entirely yellow.

Control -
The critical point in any control program is thorough coverage with the pesticide. The best control program is to minimize introduction of mites into the growing area on infested plant material.

8) Scales (Aglaonema and proteus scales)

Symptoms -
Infested plants become weakened or stunted and begin to die. Scales can be found feeding on leaves, petioles, or stems. They are usually distinct from the plant material on which they are feeding. Their shape (round to oval), size (pinpoint to 2 mm long), and color (light to dark brown) are quite variable and many scales are hard to distinguish from the plant material on which they are feeding.

Control -
See Mealybugs

9) Shore flies

Symptoms -
Shore flies small black flies (1/8 inch long) and are frequently observed sitting on the tips of leaves or on the soil surface feeding on algae. The adults have very short antennae. These insects very strong fliers and exhibit directed flight (straight between 2 points). The larvae inhabit the soil and are small legless "worms" with clear bodies and no obvious heads. No known damage is caused by larvae. This insect is believed to feed only on algae. Adults do not cause any direct damage, but may be responsible for spreading plant pathogens, reducing value by defecating on the leaves (small black to green spots) and for many consumer complaints to growers. Adults emerge and fly around in retail shops, homes, or offices and are therefore a nuisance.

Control -
Reduce the amount of water applied to each pot where possible. Avoid algae growth on walkways, benches, and cooling pads. Chemicals are not believed to be very effective in the control of this pest.

11) Thrips

Symptoms -
Thrips are small (less than 1/20), thin insects. Adult thrips can be identified by a long fringe of hair around the margins of both pairs of wings. Color varies between species with western and other flower thrips being yellow to light brown and banded greenhouse thrips and a few other thrips that feed mainly on leaves being dark brown to black. Feeding takes place with rasping type mouth parts. Infested leaves become curled or distorted, with silver-gray scars or calloused areas where feeding has occurred. Thrips can transmit the tomato spotted wilt virus to many different ornamentals. Any unusual symptoms should be investigated.

Control -
Reference Pest Control Guides Here

Pesticides should be applied according to label directions.

Regardless of the pesticide or mixture of pesticides used, it is
strongly recommended that the effects be evaluated on a few
plants, under your particular conditions before treating all plants.

Mention of a commercial or proprietary product in this paper
does not constitute a recommendation by the authors,
nor does it imply registration under FIFRA as amended.


1. Bailey, L.H. Hortorum staff. 1976. Hortus Third. MacMillan Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY. 1290 pp.

2. Chase, A.R. 1990. Phytotoxicity of bactericides and fungicides on some ornamentals. Nursery Digest 24(5):11.

3. Chase, A.R., T.J. Armstrong and L.S. Osborne. 1981. Why should you test pesticides on your plants? ARC-Apopka Research Report RH-81-6.

4. Price, J., D.E. Short and L.S. Osborne. 1989. Management of fungus gnats in greenhouse ornamentals. Extension Entomology Report #74.

5. Reisch, Lisa. 1991. Florida Foliage Locator 1991-92. Florida Foliage Association, Apopka, FL. 152 pp.

6. Short. D.E., L.S. Osborne and R.W. Henley. 1984. Phytotoxicity of insecticides and miticides to foliage and woody ornamental plants. Extension Entomology Report #57.

7. Short, D.E., L.S. Osborne and R.W. Henley. 1991. 1991-1992 Insect and related arthropod management guide for commercial foliage plants in Florida. Extension Entomology Report #52. 13 pp.

8. Simone, G.W. and A.R. Chase. 1989. Disease control pesticides for foliage production (Revision #4). Plant Protection Pointer. Extension Plant Pathology Report #30. [also in Foliage Digest 12(9)1-8].