Baby Rubber Plant, Pepper Face
Peperomia Obtusifolia is a super little indoor plant that’s slow-growing and low maintenance. It creates an interesting contrast to tall, climbing, or trailing plants due to its low growing spread and compact, yet bushy form.
Baby Rubber Face as it is also known, has lush and glossy, cupped green leaves that appear fleshy in a similar way to succulents. Leaves stand proud on non-woody stems to provide that all-important voluptuous shape.
During the Spring, Peperomia Obtusifolia will produce a non-showy display of off-white flower spikes with small white flowers. These grow up to 8cm above the foliage before dying off.
If this plant appeals and you are looking to add one to your houseplant collection then it is worth noting that Peperomia Obtusifolia has a number of other names by which it is also referred. These include Peperomia Green, Baby Rubber Plant, and Pepper Face.
Position Part Sun, Part Shade
Watering Water thoroughly but infrequently
Size 2″ tall, 60″ long Trailing Succulent
Climate Not Cold-hardy, Zone 11a (40° F 4.5° C)
Propagate Stem cuttings, tubers, seeds
Seasonality Evergreen, Winter Dormant
Toxicity None Toxic
Flowers Tubular pink and purple flowers
Peperomia Obtusifolia Care
Peperomia Obtusifolia isn’t particular about getting a front-row seat on the windowsill in a blaze of sunshine. In fact, it prefers somewhere away from direct sunlight and free from draughts, so an office desk or sideboard is a perfect spot for this beauty. It also has other very simple care needs. Here in this article, I’ve captured all the key requirements to keep your Baby Rubber Plant in tip-top condition.
Peperomia Obtusifolia is native to the rainforests of South America where it is accustomed to the dappled shade of the rainforest canopy. It can also be found growing naturally in Florida, Mexico, and The Caribbean.
This plant does well in moderate light conditions and can even tolerate low light for a short time. Be sure to position it away from the glare of direct sunlight though as this can cause leaves to lose their shine and vibrant color.
You also want to keep your Peperomia Obtusifolia away from drafts as this can cause the edges of leaves to turn brown. I keep mine on a shelf in a west-facing room. It’s far enough away from any draft that may come from an open window and also benefits from the warm light and increased humidity of the afternoon sun.
Another great attribute of this plant is its ability to do well without the need for high levels of humidity, unlike many other tropical houseplants. Okay, so it will grow bigger if humidity is around 40-50% but it can still survive even when the air is a little dry.
If you do find that your Peperomia Obtusifolia is growing particularly slowly, you may want to increase the level of humidity a little. You could invest in a humidifier, place pebbles in the drip tray, position it near other humidity-loving plants or, relocate it to a bathroom or kitchen.
I’d advise against misting this plant as a way of increasing humidity. Their succulent-like leaves can become rotten if excess water gets trapped.
Peperomia Obtusifolia is a relatively compact plant and a slow grower. Even when fully grown, this plant will only reach a maximum height and width of 20 to 30cm.
This plant is great if you have space to fill between other plants. It’s also compact enough to have as a desk plant.
Water is stored in the leaves of Peperomia Obtusifolia making it drought resistant. Sure, it needs adequate watering but can also withstand short periods of underwatering too.
I prevent my Peperomia Obtusifolia from being overwatered by only watering when the soil feels dry. And I find the best way to keep track of your plant’s watering needs is to get into the habit of checking the soil rather than watering your plant on a set day each week.
Testing the dryness of the soil is easy, simply place your finger a few inches into the soil. Alternatively, invest in a soil moisture measure if that is your preference.
If the soil is damp or bordering on soggy below the surface, wait a few days before checking the moisture levels again. You want the soil to be dry on the surface and slightly damp when your finger is fully immersed in the soil. Only then is it time to water your plant.
When it’s time to water your Peperomia Obtusifoliaremove it from its decorative pot and place the plastic pot in a sink. Use a watering can to direct water towards the soil of your plant. Keep pouring water until it seeps through the drainage holes freely.
Now, wait for the water to stop running through the drainage holes before returning your plant to the decorative pot. You definitely want to avoid water build-up in the bottom of the decorative pot to avoid your Peperomia Obtusifolia soaking up excess water. One thing’s for sure, Peperomia’s will not tolerate soggy soil.
You’ll probably find that the soil of your Peperomia Obtusifolia remains moist for longer during the winter. This is when the plant is dormant and will need even less watering during this time.
A sure sign of overwatering your Peperomia Obtusifolia is leaves that are turning brown or are dropping off.
To complement a moderated watering frequency, you also need to get the soil conditions right. Peperomia Obtusifolia plants need well-draining soil that is also rich in nutrients. These conditions will help to replicate this plant’s natural habit in the rainforests of South America.
Avoid any soil that retains moisture for any length of time as these plants need air to circulate their roots and will not tolerate damp or soggy conditions.
Buy or make peat-based potting soil that’s been mixed with perlite or charcoal, bark, and composted animal matter. This will ensure good drainage and a boost of nutrients.
It’s a good idea to change the potting soil of your Peperomia Obtusifolia annually, ideally in Spring in order to provide a boost of nutrients at the start of the growing season.
How to fertilize Peperomia Obtusifolia
Using a half-strength 13-13-13 balanced fertilizer for a cultivated Peperomia Obtusifolia can provide an added and beneficial boost of nutrients that will encourage new growth and add goodness to the potting mix if it becomes depleted.
Stick to feeding your Peperomia Obtusifolia just twice during the growing season. Once in the spring and again in early to mid-summer. This plant has a small root system that can easily be damaged by over-fertilizing.
There’s no need to fertilize a Peperomia during the winter when it won’t grow much, if at all.
Peperomia Obtusifolia is a slow grower and in any case, this plant always looks its best with a lush green display of bushy foliage so there really is no need to go heavy with the pruning knife.
You will really only need to prune it from time to time if you feel that some of the stems are overgrowing and the plant itself loses its bushy appearance.
If you notice any spindly, wayward stems or damaged, yellow or dead foliage, you can simply pinch them out just above the leaf node. Go easy and allow foliage to develop is my advice.
Try to keep re-potting your Peperomia Obtusifolia to a minimum. It’s a slow grower after all.
If you do notice your Peperomia getting a little too big for its pot or roots beginning to appear from drainage holes then increase the pot size very slightly.
Always try to repot when you know your plant is actively growing and ideally in Spring. This is when your Peperomia has just begun growing and is in its prime.
How to Propagate Peperomia Obtusifolia
Propagation of Peperomia Obtusifolia is relatively straightforward and highly successful either from a stem cutting or leaf cutting.
I like to use a stem cutting that is 5-6cm long and has at least one leaf attached. Have a thorough inspection of the stems before choosing one to use. You want to make sure the cutting is healthy and free from any damage or discoloration.
To propagate your stem cutting in water use either a propagation station or jar. Fill it with water and place your cutting inside. Remember to change the water frequently. You’ll need to position it in a bright, warm spot but not in direct sunlight.
Dip the stem cutting into some good quality rooting hormone. I have been using RootBoost Rooting Hormone Powder recently.
I’m really impressed with how fast roots have started to form in just a matter of a few weeks.
I also have plenty leftover to keep me propagating happily for some time to come.
My tip here is that the cut end of the stem cutting needs to be dry or have ‘calloused off’. This will take just a couple of days if you leave it in a bright spot on a piece of kitchen paper.
Once it’s been dipped in the rooting hormone, place it into a small pot of well-draining and moist potting mix. Keep the soil slightly moist at all times.
As with the water method, place in a bright spot that is warm and draught-free. You could place the pot in a plastic bag to increase the humidity. I like to take it out of the plastic bag for a couple of hours each day to make sure that sir is allowed to circulate around the pot and the cutting.
Whatever method you choose, be patient. It can take between 6-8 weeks for the beginning of new roots and shoots to appear. Once they do appear, you can transfer your cutting into a slightly larger pot with some well-draining potting mix. Only water when the soil is almost completely dry.
Common problems with Peperomia Obtusifolia
Peperomia Obtusifolia has a good reputation for being relatively trouble-free with the exception of the occasional visit from unwanted pests or being over-zealous with the watering can. Here are a few pointers to look out for to keep your Peperomia as problem-free as possible.
Overwatering A Peperomia Obtusifolia
The biggest problem for Peperomia Obtusifolia is its susceptibility to being overwatered. If you notice wilting or dropping leaves ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my watering schedule for this plant? Am I watering too often by not allowing the soil to dry sufficiently before watering again?
- What type of soil is my Peperomia Obtusifolia planted in? Is it sufficiently well-draining or does it remain soggy for prolonged periods of time?
- Is my Peperomia Obtusifolia planted in a pot or container with good-sized drainage holes?
- Am I allowing my plant to sit in water for too long?
- Am I allowing excess water to run off before replacing it in its ornamental planter?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes then the chances are you are overwatering your Peperomia Obtusifolia. The best thing you can do is hold off watering your plant until the soil is almost completely dry.
Mealybugs and Spider mites
Peperomia Obtusifolia plants are fairly resilient to pests however, they may still get an occasional visit from unwelcome bugs and pests such as spider mites or mealybugs.
Whilst unsightly and inconvenient they are unlikely to be detrimental to the health of your plant provided they are treated promptly.
To rid your plant of pests you first need to blast all affected areas with a reasonably powerful faucet of water. Do this in the sink, shower, or with a hose to dislodge the spider mites and their webbing. Take care not to get too much water into the soil when the water runs off.
After rinsing with water, use a spray bottle or a clean dry cloth to apply a solution of neem oil and water to your plant. Carefully wipe the solution all over the plant paying particular attention to the underside of leaves and at stem junctions.
Repeat the water treatment daily and the neem oil treatment every 5-7 days or until all signs of the infestation have been removed.