Peperomia Obtusifolia Care – Growing Baby Rubber Plant

Peperomia Obtusifolia

The peperomia obtusifolia is one of over 1,000 peperomia varieties around. It is known as a beautiful, easy to care for houseplant. And, is the non-variegated sibling of the peperomia obtusifolia variegata.

Besides it botanical name, the plant is also commonly called baby rubber plant. Although, it is not to be confused nor is it related to the rubber tree or plant.

Similarly, the plant is often considered a succulent even if it is not one. That’s because it has succulent-like characteristics including thick, fleshy leaves and stems, both of which store water like succulents do. But, if you leave it to dry or when it gets dehydrated, you’ll see its leaves shrivel and flatten. Thus, it’s a sign you’re not giving it enough water.

The peperomia obtusifolia is a fairly short plant that grows more sideways than it does upward. Often, you won’t find it grow past 12 inches high. But you’ll easily see some reach past 20 inches wide.

This fairly fast growing plant usually grows a lot during the summer. So, you want to supply it with enough water and plant food to sustain that growth. However, as it grows it will start to trail. Thus, you’ll need to prepare to prune it every once in a while.

Since it is native to tropical regions, the plant is well suited for the warm and humid conditions of homes.

Peperomia Obtusifolia Plant Care

Peperomia Obtusifolia Light

The peperomia obtusifolia loves bright, indirect light. This is key if you want it to look full and vibrant. The plant likes and needs a at least moderate/medium light, preferably natural light. This is key for it to keep its lovely dark green color. It likewise grows the fasted when given these conditions.

While it can tolerate low light conditions, do expect the plant to run pale in color and experience slower if not stunted growth depending on how dark the room you put it in.

Similarly, the worst thing you can give it is a lot of direct sunlight. Direct exposure to the sun’s rays for long periods of time will cause its leaves to burn.

It is worth noting that if you own the variegated version of this plant, you’ll want to give it even more bright light with a couple hours of direct sunlight daily. It needs that extra light to keep its colorful patterns vibrant.

As such, the best spots for your peperomia obtusifolia are either an east, west or south facing windows. If you choose the latter two, you’ll want to keep the plant at least 3 to 6 feet away from the window depending on what angle the light of the sun enters it. This will keep it away from the rays at all times of the day.

And, don’t worry if you can’t find a spot near the window. The plant will be perfectly happy in the middle of a room, even if it is 10-12 feet from the window. The key is that the room is bright and gets a lot of bright natural sunlight through the day.

A bright kitchen and bathroom as likewise great spots because the plant enjoys high humidity as you’ll see in the next section.

 

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Peperomia Obtusifolia Temperature

As with other peperomia plants, the peperomia obtusifolia is well suited for indoor conditions. This makes them amazing houseplants. Plus, they are easy to care for. Thus, making them among the most popular home plants around.

That said, they grow best when the temperature is kept within 65 to 75 degrees. This is where most home thermostats stay throughout the year it shouldn’t be much of an issue. However, it is likewise worth noting that you can expand that range a little bit up and down, with the extreme ranges going to 55 degrees downward and up to 85 degrees upward.

Being tropical in nature, your baby rubber plant will tolerated higher temperatures better than it does lower ones. It isn’t frost hardy. So, once you go below 50 degrees, it will start showing signs of distress. If you don’t quickly move it to somewhere toastier, it will start to experience damage.

One other thing to watch out for with this plant is drafts and winds. Anything blowing, be it natural or artificial bothers the peperomia obtusifolia. As such, keep it away from open doors or windows that tend to experience cool drafts. Similarly, don’t put it near heaters or air conditioners.

If you live in USDA zones 10 to 12, you’ll likewise be able to grow your peperomia obtusifolia outdoors all year round. That’s what we do here in Los Angeles. As long as you don’t live up in the hills where the night time temp can drop quite a bit, you’ll be fine.

If you happen to live elsewhere, summer would be the ideal time to bring it outside if you want. Of course, your peperomia obtusifolia will be perfectly happy indoors all the time. But, when the temperature starts nearing 50 degrees at night, it’s a sign to bring them back inside.

Always use night time temperature as a gauge to be conservative. That’s because temperatures tend to drop in the evenings and early mornings. So you want to use the lower ones instead of those in the day time as a gauge.

Peperomia Obtusifolia Humidity

Besides warm temperature, its tropical nature also makes it want humid environments. This s key because in addition to being adapted to this environment, they also have small root systems.

The latter means that to make up for the “weaker” water absorption capability of their roots, their leaves help collect water from the air. So, keeping the surrounding air humid ensures that there is moisture for it to absorb.

Thus, if you live in dry areas like the desert. Or, during wintertime when the air gets dry, it’s a good idea to wet the leaves lightly or mist your plant. You can likewise take advantage of the rain and put your plant outside for a few hours when it pours.

This helps keep its leaves clean while giving it a good “drink”. Keep in mind though, this works well in dry conditions where the leaves will quickly dry off. If you live somewhere cooler, you’ll want to make sure the water doesn’t stay on the leaves for too long when you do this. Keeping their foliage wet for long periods of time make them susceptible to fungal disease.

Alternatively, you can likewise use a pebble tray, which is something I love to do. Setting the plant on top of a dish with water and pebbles allows the water to increase humidity around the plant when the water evaporates. Just make sure the pebbles are high enough to keep the pot away from the water.

peperomia obtusifolia

source: wikimedia commons

 

Peperomia Obtusifolia Watering

When it comes to watering the peperomia obtusifolia, the biggest things to remember are:

  • Its succulent-like leaves store water
  • Its root system is small relative to the plant

Together, this means that the plant is able to go on without water longer than many other houseplants do (except succulents). More importantly, it isn’t a fan of too much water.

Also, keep in mind that the baby rubber plant goes through two different phases during the year. In the spring and summer, it experiences fast growth. Then, slows down considerably in the fall and winter.

Altogether, this means that you want to water regularly (around once a week) during the summer to give it enough hydration to support its growth phase. And, when it is less active, give it a lot less water (once every 2-3 weeks) because it doesn’t use up water as much. Plus, during winter, the cold weather means it takes much longer for wet soil to dry.

Do use the frequencies above as a guide. The number of days can move up or down depending on where you live (hot or cool), how big the pot is, how big your plant is, what kind of soil you use and many other factors.

As such, it is a better idea to test the soil each time before you water. Ideally, you want to top 2 inches of soil to dry before watering. Always err on the side of less water because this plant is epiphytic. Thus, its smaller root system is more susceptible to overwater and thus, root rot.

 

Soil

As far as soil goes, rich, well draining soil that’s light and airy are best for your peperomia obtusifolia. Again, this is in part due to its epiphytic nature. As such, it likes a lot of air. And, it doesn’t like wet feet.

This means you want to choose soil that easily allows air to circulate and water to drain. Also, when you pot or repot your baby rubber plant, don’t pack the soil in too densely. If you do, even light, airy soil becomes compact.

This is something I’ve noticed beginners do thinking more soil is better. Or, that packing the soil firmer keeps gives the plant more stable footing.

If you find yourself in this situation, grab a pair of chopsticks or hotdog sticks. Then poke holes into the soil. This aerates the soil and breaks it up a bit. The holes also allow for better penetration of air, water and fertilizer.

If you want to create your own potting mix, a good recipe would be to use 2 parts peat to 1 part perlite. The perlite helps keep the soil light and allows water to drain well. Peat allows it retain moisture long enough to let the plant absorb both water and nutrients.

 

Fertilizing

Speaking of fertilizer, your peperomia obtusifolia isn’t big on it either. Don’t get me wrong, fertilizer helps it grow healthy and strong. And, in the spring and summer months (its growing season), you want to apply a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer once a month (diluted to 50% strength).

This will be enough to sustain very fast growth. Additionally, don’t forget to dilute it. Otherwise, too much fertilizer residue can “burn” the roots. Keeping it at high concentrations is akin to providing it with higher dosages, which like water, is worse that lack of it.

When the first chill of fall arrives, it’s a sign to stop feeding your peperomia obtusifolia. Skip winter as well before starting over again next spring.

 

Peperomia Obtusifolia Pruning

If you take proper care of your baby rubber plant, you’ll soon realize it likes to grow. And, grow fast it will, especially during the spring and summertime. Thus, pruning is a must.

That said, when it comes to your peperomia obtusifolia, it isn’t the only reason to prune. Here’s a list of why and when.

  • To limit its size and control its shape. This is for aesthetics. Pruning lets you trim it back when it spreads out too far. Often it is the width you’ll be watching out for. Although, the stems are also prone to grow upwards causing the pot to become imbalances and topple. So, do watch out for that.
  • Make it fuller. Regular pruning helps make the plant bushier and fuller. That’s because trimming it back helps encourage new growth. This makes it look more visually appealing.
  • Get rid of dead, old, diseased, discolored foliage. These are eye sores. So, you want to prune them when they happen. More importantly, letting them keep growing causes your plant to expend energy and resources trying to revive or recover them. By trimming them back, you save it the effort and allow it to focus on fresh, new growth instead.

 

Peperomia Obtusifolia Propagation

The easiest way to propagate your peperomia obtusifolia plant is by stem or leaf cuttings. And, the best time to do so is during the springtime.

Here’s how to propagate peperomia obtusifolia from stem cuttings.

  • Pick a stem that you want to use. Ideally you want a stem with at least 2 to 3 leaves.
  • Let the stem end dry. This will be somewhat moist because of the sap. I will allow this to dry and callous first.
  • Once the stem end has dried, dip that end in rooting hormone. This helps speed up the rooting process.
  • Place the stem cutting into a small pot with soil. You can use high quality organic potting mix or a combination of peat moss and perlite.
  • Do note that you can propagate in water as well then move it into a pot after it roots. Rooting it in water offers higher chances of success. Plus, you can see how the root is growing through the water.
  • Cover the new plant with a plastic bag to increase humidity.
  • Then place the plant somewhere it gets bright sunlight and temperature that’s between 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water thoroughly. And, do water on a regular basis to keep the soil moist.
  • After a short while, the plant will start to grow roots.

Similarly, you can grown peperomia obtusifolia from leaf cuttings. Here, you’ll be using the leaf instead of the stem. But, the process is the same.

However, it is worth noting that if your plant is a peperomia obtusifolia variegata, which has variegated leaves instead of solid, dark green ones, it will lose its foliage variegation when propagated via leaf cuttings.

 

Peperomia Obtusifolia Transplanting & Repotting

Because of its small root system, your peperomia obtusifolia will not outgrow its pot any time soon. In fact, you’ll only need to do so once every 4-6 years. Although, the top side of the plant grows fairly fast (especially during summertime), the roots don’t do so proportionally.

The only exception to this is if you have a young plant. Young peperomia plants will need to be moved as they grow. In part, it is because they get bigger faster. But, also because they do better when you increase pot size in smaller increments (2 inches at a time).

Again, this has to do with their relatively small root system. Thus, a large or deep pot means a lot of soil in relation to the plant. As such, when you water, there will be a lot of excess moisture. And, the soil will take a long time to dry. This leaves your plant with wet feet, and running the risk of root rot.

However, do take the time the change the top soil once a year, preferably early in the spring. This gives it fresh potting mix on a regular basis.

 

Toxicity

Peperomia obtusifolia is not toxic to humans or animals. So, if your pets happen to ingest it, there is no risk of poison or toxicity.

However, from what I’ve seen my dogs do, when they go out into the garden or parks, eating plants’ leaves or stems can cause them to throw up because the little particles get caught or stuck in their throat or digestive tract. Sometimes, the dirt causes them to have loose bowel also.

While temporary (they feel better after they throw up or poop wet), it’s very visible that those moments cause them distress.

 

Pests and Diseases

A healthy peperomia obtusifolia plant is pest and disease resistant. In fact, mine has never experiences any problems yet. And, hopefully it won’t.

As such, it is important to give it the right amount of light, water and humidity. I also believe that giving it a “shower” (in the sink or outside in the rain) helps keep the pests away. But, as always, make sure to let its leaves dry. Otherwise, you run the risk of another problem, diseases.

That said, there are a few common pests that bug peperomia plants. These include spider mites and mealy bugs.

This is why it is important always give your plant a thorough inspection. Once you see pests, take quick action because they infest nearby plants as well. So, it’s a good idea to separate the affected plant/s and treat them with insecticidal soap as soon as possible.

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