Peperomia serpens are lovely foliage plants that are native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. They are trailing plants that look great when allowed to grow long as they overflow over the edges of containers and hanging baskets.
The plant features lovely green heart-shaped leaves that are gorgeous when allowed to get long and bushy.
Because of its tropical nature, it is an easy houseplant to care for. It is likewise low maintenance making it a good choice for beginners.
The plant itself is not too big either. It will grow to about 1 to 2 feet in length.
Peperomia Serpens Plant Care
Peperomia serpens is a houseplant that prefers bright, indirect or dappled sunlight. it cannot tolerate direct sunlight which will cause its lovely heart-shaped leaves to burn.
That said, without good lighting its growth will also slow down.
This means that it does best in an east or north facing window with an eastern exposure being your best bet.
That’s because this gives you lots of light in the morning without the strong, intense rays.
On the other hand, a west and south facing windows feature the harshest sun of the day during the afternoons. if you decide to keep the plant in these locations, make sure to protect it by either distancing it from the window by at least 3 to 6 feet or filtering the light using sheer drapes, curtains or some kind of cloth.
Outdoors, it prefers partial shade as it can only take a few hours of direct sunlight daily before its foliage experiences negative effects.
If you don’t have such a spot, you can visit your local nursery and pick up some shade cloth. You can use this to cover the plant to block out some of the sun.
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One of the reasons your Peperomia serpens is easy to care for is that it is well-suited to average room temperature. This is why most houseplants are tropical in nature. Their preferences are very similar to what household conditions are.
Thus, it simplifies the adaptation process.
The ideal temperature for your Peperomia serpens is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with the middle of that being its sweet spot.
You can expand the range a little bit if needed to about 55 degrees to as high as 80 degrees. But, it is not a good idea to drip much lower than the 50s since the plant is not frost hardy. It won’t be able to tolerate freezing conditions.
However, it has less of a problem going over 80 degrees. But, the farther away from the range you go, the less optimal its growth will be.
As such, it is not a good idea to keep the plant outdoors all year long or plant it in the ground if you live under zone 9. It won’t be able to survive through the snowy winter.
When it comes to humidity, your Peperomia serpens enjoys moderate to high humidity. This stems from its native tropical environment.
Ideal humidity for the plant runs between 40% and 50%. This level is where many homes average which makes it easier to care the plant.
However, if you live in a dry climate, it is very likely, that humidity in your home is below this range.
The best way to tell is to use a digital hygrometer. I don’t recommend relying on the weather channel or local news weather for relative humidity in your area since indoor and outdoor humidity are very different.
Instead a hygrometer will tell you exactly what the humidity is in any room in your home.
This way you know if a spot is suitable for your plants or if you need to do something to increase it.
How Often to Water Peperomia Serpens
Like many peperomia species, the Serpens has some succulent-like characteristics. Its ability to store water has its pros and cons.
For one, it makes the plant drought tolerant. This means you can neglect it a bit when it comes to watering. And, it won’t mind if you forget to water it once in a while.
This is another feature that makes it perfect for beginners.
However, it is also this feature that makes watering the most challenging part of caring for the plant.
Since it stores water, you can easily overwater the plant more than other non-succulent-like houseplants.
As such, I highly suggest allowing the soil to dry a bit before watering it. You want to wait for the topsoil to dry about 1 to 2 inches before you water. You can likewise wait a little longer if you want to play it safe.
The important thing is to allow the soil to dry a bit more so that you don’t run the risk of overwatering.
Similarly, make sure that container you use has drainage holes at the bottom. This will allow excess moisture to drip out of the pot.
By checking the soil before each time you water, you’re also able to automatically adjust as the seasons change.
In the summer when it is hot and the plant is actively growing, the soil willy dry faster. And, you’ll automatically water more frequently using this method.
Come winter, the cold weather slows the soil drying process which means you’ll naturally be watering less often.
Soil for Peperomia Serpens
To help reduce the risk of overwatering, it is crucial to use the right kind of soil. in addition to providing nutrients, soil is very important because it affects how much moisture is drained or retained.
As such, it affects how much moisture your plant receives.
Because you Peperomia serpens is both an epiphyte and it is succulent-like, it is very susceptible to too much water.
Its small root system prefers more air than long-standing water. And, it also stores moisture as well.
This means the best potting mix needs to be well-draining.
This kind of soil ensures good drainage as it gets rid of excess water.
A good way to achieve this is to use high quality potting soil and add perlite to it. The perlite will increase drainage.
You can likewise use peat moss or if you want to be more environmentally friendly, you can opt for coco coir (coconut coir)
Your Peperomia serpens only needs light feeding. Thus, like water, the bigger risk of overfertilizing it.
I recommend only applying fertilizer during its growing season which are spring and summer. Stop feeding once summer ends and wait until next spring to begin the next cycle.
I like to use a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month during the warm months. You can use a 10-10-10 formulation which works really well.
Pruning is another reason why your Peperomia serpens is low maintenance. It only needs to be pruned on occasion. A lot of which depends on the shape, density and look you’re going for.
Since this is a trailing plant, its stems will get long. And, over time, it will vine its way outside of the pot.
This makes gorgeous in hanging baskets of it you allow it to overflow out of containers and sprawl around.
However, as it gets longer, the plant can get untidy as the vines will crisscross and look more tangled. This is where you can trim it to keep it looking neat.
Similarly, feel free to do so when it gets to bushy or long for your liking.
Like other houseplants, remove any unhealthy stems and leaves as well.
Peperomia Serpens Propagation
The best way to propagate Peperomia serpens is via stem or leaf cuttings. Bot methods work although I’ve found stem cuttings to be easier especially if you don’t like dealing with small leaves.
The main difference between the two is that stem cutting makes use of stems while leaf cutting makes use of leaves.
Because you’re growing from stems, they are quicker to root. So, the process takes less time. Stem cuttings also let you start in water.
In contrast, leaves take longer to root because the roots will grow from the petiole instead of the stem. Also, leaves don’t do well in water as they’ll rot.
Here’s how to propagate Peperomia serpens through stem cuttings.
- Start by choosing a healthy stem or stems (if you want to grow more than one new plant or are just learning how to propagate). Note that not all stem cuttings are successful. So, making one or two for backup is a good idea.
- You want to choose a stem with at least 2 or 3 healthy leaves.
- Use a sterile pair of scissors or pruning shears to cut each stem just below a leaf node. The leaf nodes are where the roots will grow out of. So make sure you’ve got at least one for each stem.
- Remove the lower leaves.
- You can now choose between growing the stem cutting in water or soil. The former takes an extra step. But, it allows the plant to root about a week earlier than if you start in soil.
If you decide to start in water,
- Place the stem cutting cut side down into the water. Make sure all leaves that may get submerged are removed as they can rot over the course of a few weeks in water.
- Leave the jar under bright, indirect sunlight.
- In about 14 to 20 days, you should see the cutting root.
- Wait until the roots get to over an inch long. Then, you can move it to a pot with fresh soil.
If you decide to start in soil,
- Prepare a small pot and fill it with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
- Take the stems like you would in the steps listed above.
- After cutting the stem/s, allow them to dry for a few hours.
- Dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder.
- Then, plant the stem cutting into the soil.
- Water the soil until moist.
- Leave the pot under bright indirect light.
It will take 3 to 4 weeks for the cuttings to root in soil.
How to Repot Peperomia Serpens
The Peperomia serpens is a fairly small plant with matching small root system. Its epiphytic nature means its roots never really evolved over time to become strong because the plant does not rely on it to burrow into the ground to get water and nutrients.
This means you don’t need to repot often. in fact, it will be years before you need to do so with a mature plant.
On the other hand, young juveniles will need more repotting as they’re growing quickly. To encourage this growth, its is a good idea to move them as they outgrow their containers.
Only repot when the plant needs more space. The easiest way to tell is to check the bottom drainage holes. If you see roots coming out it means that plant is searching for more room beyond its current container.
When transplanting choosing a pot that is only one size bigger, nothing more. This will reduce the risk of overwatering.
While you’re at it, also change the soil with fresh potting mix.
Peperomia are not toxic to humans or animals. And, the Serpens is included in this.
Thus, it is safe to keep it around the house or in containers within the reach of kids and pets. However, you still do want to take precautions as they can ingest the leaves and stems which are not meant to be eaten, albeit not poisonous.
Pests and Diseases
One final reason why the Peperomia serpens is easy to care for (and thus, perfect for beginners) is that it is quite resistant to pests and diseases.
This means with proper care, you likely will never experience any of these problems during the lifetime of the plant.
However, stress, improper watering and lack of care can lead to different kinds of problems.
Pests will take advantage of these situations, especially mealybugs, fungus gnats and mites. These are all problematic because they’ll weaken your plant by sucking it sap. Thus, robbing your plant of nutrients until it deteriorates or dies.
Besides proper care, regular inspection is the only way to avoid or limit pests. The latter will allow you to quickly treat them once you spot the critters or any damage they’ve done.
Diseases are another potentially big problem. Root rot, leaft spot and Pythium are the most common issues the plant faces.
These all stem from too much water, and moisture that does not drain or dry quickly enough. As such, proper watering is crucial for keeping the plant healthy.