The Peperomia caperata is also known as the ripple peperomia and emerald Ripple peperomia. It gets these nicknames because of its color as well as the wrinkled/bumpy texture of its leaves.
As with many other peperomia varieties, the Peperomia caperata is a small plant, growing up to about 8 to 10 inches tall. However, its dark green, heart shaped ripple leaves and purple stem makes it easily noticeable even amongst other houseplants.
And, like other peperomia plants, while it does bloom during the summertime, its flowers are nowhere as attractive as its foliage.
The Peperomia caperata are native to the rainforests of South America. This makes them acclimated to warm and humid conditions which are very similar to that inside the average home. As such, you’ll often see it indoors be it in living rooms or offices. Many people also take advantage of its size by placing it in terrariums.
Peperomia Caperata Plant Care
Peperomia Caperata Light
The peperomia caperata thrives in bright, indirect light favoring partial shade over that of full sun. This is one of the reasons it is mostly grown as a houseplant outside of its native rainforest environment in Brazil.
There, this short plant is covered by larger trees and their big, wide leaves and branches. As such, it is used to dappled sunlight as opposed to exposure to the direct rays of the sun.
Thus, if you live in the U.S. or other country in the Northern Hemisphere, the last place you would want to put this foliage plant is in a south facing window. The only exception to this is if you keep it at least a few feet away from the window itself. Or, use something to block the sun so that only partial light gets to the plant during noon and mid-afternoon when the sun is the harshest.
The other reason this spot can be dangerous is because it will receive the most intense sun once summer comes around. This ppts your peperomia caperata at risk of sunburn which will damage its attractive leaves.
One the other hand, an east facing window is the best because it gets a lot of bright light. And, the morning sun is fairly gentle relative to other times of the day.
With a north facing window, you want to make sure that there isn’t too little light. This is the same if you wish to put in in the middle of a room. While it can tolerate low light conditions, lack of light causes the plant’s growth to slow down or get stunted altogether. It also causes its leaves to lose its beautiful colors.
One of the biggest advantages of the ripple peperomia is that it responds well to artificial lighting. So, if you can’t find a suitable place for natural sunlight, you can opt for fluorescent lights or grow lights. This is something many apartment and condominium dwellers use because of the lack of sun-laden windows in their homes.
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Peperomia Caperata Temperature & Humidity
Peperomia caperata enjoy warm and humid environments. As such, USDA zones 11 and 12 are where they’re best suited. In the rest of the nation, you’ll need to grow them as houseplants. Or, take them inside once the first chill of fall arrives.
This s because the plant doesn’t tolerate cold or frost. Once the temperature drops under 60 degrees Fahrenheit it will begin to experience distress. Anything under 50 degrees will cause damage to your plant’s foliage.
Similarly, it is very susceptible to cool winds and drafts. Thus, keep it away from windows if that side of your home receives strong winds or winter chills. The same is true of open doors, hallways and air conditioners.
Ideally, you want to keep your home’s thermostat between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the plant’s sweet spot.
Additionally, it also likes high humidity. Like temperature, the plant will quickly tell you that it is not getting enough humidity. Air that’s too dry will cause its leaf tips to slightly crisp up. When this happens, it is a sign to take action. Here, there are a few things you can do to add moisture in the air to make your peperomia caperata happy.
- Place it in a terrarium. Due to its small size, the plant can grow in a terrarium. Terrariums are more humid because they “trap” the air in an enclosed or semi-enclosed area. Because plants transpire through their leaves (like people perspire through our skin), the moisture that escapes evaporates in the air. This keeps the “trapped“ air moist.
- Group it together with other small plants. Grouping small container plants makes them amazing to look at. More importantly, as a group, their transpiration causes the air right over them to be more humid.
- Misting is arguably both the easiest and hardest to do. It is the easiest because all you need is a spray bottle filled with room temperature water. Then, mist the leaves and air around the plant. It is the hardest because you have to be diligent, misting a few times a week and in some cases even a few times a day. This, along with the risk of over-misting (which leaves moisture in the leaves) makes it more problematic in the long run.
- Set it on a pebble tray. This is one of the best solutions because you don’t have to manually, do anything once everything is set up. And, it is free. All you need to do is place the plant on top of pebbles over a basin of water. Make sure to keep the pot above the water so it doesn’t get wet. As the water evaporates, it makes the air above and around your plant more moist. Thus increasing humidity.
- Humidifier. This is by far the most efficient. But also the most costly. So, it is best used if you have lots of plants. Humidifiers let you precisely set an exact target humidity. From there, it will turn on or off depending on what the natural humidity is.
source: wikimedia commons
Peperomia Caperata Watering
The peperomia caperata has thick, succulent-like leaves. While it isn’t a technically a succulent, it does this this characteristic similar to succulents. This is key when trying to figure out how and when to water your plant.
That’s because its leaves are good at storing water. As such, it can tolerate longer periods of dryness compared to other houseplants.
That said, the peperomia caperata doesn’t like it when you allow the soil to dry completely. Or, if you leave it dry for long periods of time.
So, once the top half of the plant’s soil has dried out, it is time to water again. Here, you want to water deeply. That is, water the soil thoroughly so that the moisture starts to drip from the holes at the bottom of your container. Then, allow any excess water to drain.
The latter is key because peperomia caperata are susceptible to overwatering thanks to their ability to retain more moisture via their leaves. And, if this situation occurs, it can be disastrous for your plant.
Yellow leaves and soggy stems are symptoms that your plant is getting too much water or is sitting too long in water. Once they happen, make sure to scale back of your watering, be it volume and/or frequency.
It will also be a good idea to take the plant out of its pot and check the roots. Overwatering can cause root rot. Which, if it happens, can kill your plant. Thus, doing a thorough check to make sure can be hassle. But, if helps a lot.
Alternatively, you can likewise water from below. This technique is done by placing the pot in a dish with water and allowing the soil to absorb the moisture. With this method, the soil “gets wet” from the bottom gradually going upwards.
While bottom up watering takes a lot more time, it is also more “hands free” as the plant does the work. More importantly, it is harder to overwater because you’re leaving it only for a few minutes. Lastly, there is no risk of getting the leaves wet, which if you water from above can put its leaves at risk of disease (if left wet).
Finally, it is also worth noting that during the spring up to early in the fall, the plant goes through its active/growing season. Thus, during this time, it will need regular watering. But, once wintertime comes make sure to increase the interval between watering because it goes semi-dormant during this time. In addition, the cold weather also slows down evaporation.
Your peperomia caperata’s ideal soil is one that is loose and airy with good drainage. Always remember that the plant stores water in its leaves. As such, you don’t want to let too much moisture stay in the soil for too long a time.
For beginners, the easiest way to achieve this is to either get a succulent mix or a use African violet soil. Both are “pre-made” for you so you don’t have to combine components yourself. Plus, their readily available in nurseries and garden centers.
If you want to add to the mix or experiment, you can use perlite to make the soil light and drain better. Likewise, a peat based mix works well. But, whatever you do, don’t pack too much soil into the container. This makes the soil compact. And it doing so, prevents air and water from penetrating it easily.
Additionally, sol that’s been left in a container for long periods will naturally become compact. When this happens, you have two options.
- Aerate (the easier way). Use chopsticks or hotdog sticks to poke holes into the soil. This is aerating the soil which will break up some of its compactness. The holes also allow water and air to easily pass.
- Repot. Repotting and replacing the soil with fresh potting mix ensures you have light, well-draining soil. But, it also takes more work than aerating with sticks. Because peperomia caperata don’t really need to be repotted (small size, no growth spurts, and most you buy are already mature), it can be a hassle to do.
As mentioned above, the peperomia caperata behaves differently between March to around September and the cooler months of fall and winter.
- During its growing season in the spring, summer and early fall, it is a good idea to apply a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once every month.
- By mid fall and during winter, you don’t need to give it any fertilizer.
Then start the cycle over again when spring arrives.
Like water, peperomia caperata don’t need a lot of fertilizer. So, it is better to err on the side of caution instead of giving it too much. And, like too much water, too much fertilizer is a bad thing because of the salt residue that gets left in the soil. The problem with this is that it also harms the roots causing fertilizer burn.
Pruning Peperomia Caperata
As its size will tell you, the peperomia caperata isn’t going to suddenly grow on you like a teen going on puberty. Thus, pruning is less of an issue with this plant.
But, like other houseplants that don’t require a lot of pruning, you’ll still want to trim it back for a few reasons.
- To get rid of dead, dying, diseased or discolored foliage
- To encourage new growth which produces a fuller, bushier plant.
In either case, you want to make sure that you a sterile cutting tool. You can use a sharp pair or scissors. Don’t use kiddie scissors, use the big one with sharp blades. This ensures you make clean cuts and not bend the stems which only increases the shock on the plant. Alternatively, you can likewise use a knife.
There are a few ways you can propagate peperomia caperata at home. These include:
- Stem cuttings
- Leaf cuttings
Propagating Peperomia Caperata by Division
This takes the most work (initially), but is the fastest and has the best success rate. That’s because you’re taking a section of the plant with a grown stem. Thus, you don’t need for it to root.
To propagate by division,
- Gently take the plant out of the container
- Dust away any excess soil or dirt form the root ball
- Untangle the roots that are twisted and bunched together
- Pick a stem and follow it down to its roots. You can separate one or more sections. Although, because of the size of the plant, you’re more limited with the Peperomia Caperata compared to other plants.
- Separate one or more sections and place each of them in their own container filled halfway with potting mix
- Once positioned to stand upright, fill the remainder of the pot with soil
- Water the plant thoroughly
Propagating Peperomia Caperata by Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings are easier to do. But, you’ll need to wait longer because unlike division, the stem will still need to root. Here, you have two options, start via water propagation or go directly into soil.
While water propagation takes an extra step, it also increases the chances of success. Plus, it allows the plant to root faster.
Going directly to sol means you don’t need to transfer it from water to a pot. But, it also takes longer for the peperomia to root, with less chance of success as well. The biggest benefit is that roots that grow right in the soil is stronger than those that started in water.
Propagating Peperomia Caperata by Leaf Cuttings
Like stem cuttings, leaf cuttings are very easy to do. All you need is get a healthy leaf, cut it half, then place in into soil. This does take longer to root. But, it is also less work in the beginning.
As with stem cuttings, allow the leaves’ ends to dry out before planting them.
Always remember, propagating houseplants is always trial and error, especially when you’re starting out. And, don’t expect all the cuttings you propagate to be successful. As such, it is a good idea to do more than just one stem or leaf.
Transplanting & Repotting
As with pruning , you don’t have to do a lot of repotting with this plant. For one, it does not grow a lot (one reason for its small size). Also, the plant enjoys being pot bound.
So, as long as the plant hasn’t outgrown its container. And, roots haven’t started peeking out the holes of the pot, you’re okay.
However, when either happens, it’s a sign that it is time tom repot. When you do, make sure that you only go one size bigger. Don’t just sizes because the excess space can hurt your plant.
A lot of extra pot space, be it on the sides or underneath the plant (for deeper pots), means more soil. More soil means more moisture when you water. Thus, it takes longer for all the soil dry.
As a result, your small plant’s roots will be sitting it water for longer periods of time. This puts it at risk of root rot.
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the ripple peperomia is not toxic to both cats and dogs. It is likewise safe for humans.
Thus, you don’t need to take extra steps to keep it away from young children or pets, except for the overly curious ones. While safe to ingest, chomping on leaves and stem which are odd in shape can get stuck in their digestive tract. This can get stuck causing them to vomit it out, which has happened to one of my dogs.
Pests and Diseases
As with other peperomia plants, the ripple peperomia is fairly resilient to pests and disease. This means that as long as you keep it healthy, you won’t need to worry about having either problem.
However, overwatering, lack of light and wrong temperature conditions can weaken your plant. Of these issues, it is usually watering that causes most problems for houseplants.
Remember too much water not only causes root rot, it also increases the risk of disease and pests. For example, if you water your plant, make sure that you don’t get its leaves all wet. Ideally, you want to water the soil instead of over the plant.
Wet leaves, if not dried quickly, results in fungal disease which destroys the crowning glory of your peperomia caperata.
Additionally, because the plant likes humid conditions, you want to be extra careful with moisture. High humidity means there’s a lot of “stored” moisture in the air. Thus, the “wetter” environment can increase the risk of ringspot, which are circular (ring-like) spots on foliage.
When this happens, quickly trim away the affected leaves. Then adjust moisture and move the plant to where there is good air circulation. Moving air helps excess water on leaves dry faster. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this disease, so catching it early and hoping it doesn’t spread while adjusting conditions is all you can do.
If it keeps spreading, you likely end up having to throw away your plant.
Other common pests that peperomias can experience include mealybugs, whiteflies, spider mites and scale.
Ringspot, a virus that marks the leaves of peperomia plants, and other houseplants, with unsightly round marks, may develop because of the high humidity this plant likes. Since there is no good treatment for ring spot disease, damaged leaves and even the entire infected plant may have to be thrown out. Keep the leaves of a peperomia plant dry and provide good air circulation to prevent ring spot disease. Over watering causes root rot.