Peperomia - Ruiz & Pavón (1794)
About a thousand species of Peperomias have been described, mainly from South America although a few (17) are found in Africa. Many of these plants are perennial epiphytes growing on rotten logs and they have thick stems and fleshy leaves, some with leaf windows. Most Peperomias have tiny flowers which are packed into a characteristic greenish or brown conical spike like an inverted catkin. A few species have more attractive flowers such as the white, scented clusters of spikes produced by P. fraseri from Ecuador. (upper right)
Many species are non-succulent and a few of these (e.g. P. caperata) are popular house plants. A variety of cultivars of P. caperata (lower right) with attractively-marked foliage are widely available through the horticultural trade, and a variety of compact Peperomias can sometimes be found among selections of plants intended for bottle gardens.
The succulent Peperomia species are not as commonly available as they deserve to be, even from specialist nurseries. This probably reflects their low profile in cactus and succulent society shows and plant sales. They include several species which form tubers. Although these are said to be difficult in cultivation this is also true of many widely grown succulent plants. Peperomia campylotropa is a deciduous tuber-forming plant from the cooler regions of Mexico. After flowering, the aerial growth dies away and the tuber can survive long periods of drought. P. macrorhiza from Peru and P. monticola from Mexico form a large caudex and could be of interest to collectors of caudiciform plants.
Cultivation: Peperomias are best cultivated in a light, well drained compost containing plenty of humus and do well in shallow containers. Coming from tropical rain-forest habitats, they love warm humid conditions and most need a minimum temperature of 50 - 55°F. However, the stems and foliage can be prone to rotting and Peperomias should be watered sparingly from below (especially in winter) using soft water, avoiding wetting the crown of the plant. In warm climates Peperomias can be grown outside as ground cover or as epiphytes on tree trunks, but beware of slugs which enjoy the fleshy foliage.
Apart from a tendecy to rot if over-watered, Peperomias also can suffer from ringspot which is manifested as distorted foliage with chlorotic or necrotic rings on the leaves. This disease may be caused by cucumber mosaic virus and the only treatment is to destroy infected material.
Peperomias may be propagated from leaf or tip cuttings, although the variegated and succulent species grow mainly from tip cuttings.
Peperomia caperata variegata