This year is the year of the peperomia, a tropical houseplant. Actually, it is an “old-fashioned” houseplant, one that has been around for many years. What is new are the many types available now, each uniquely different. In fact, there is such variation in foliage color and structure, if there wasn’t a label on the container, you might not know it is a peperomia. There are only two things each plant has in common: thick, fleshy leaves and flowers that look like rat tails. Grown for its foliage, peperomia is relatively easy to grow, a great houseplant for beginners.
Its exalted status as the houseplant of the year comes from the The National Garden Bureau (NGB). Each year the NGB selects one annual, one perennial, one bulb, one edible, and one shrub to be the star of their “year of…” show. This year, they added the houseplant category and peperomia is the first to come down the runway.
Peperomia (Peperomia spp.) is a member of the Piperaceae family (the pepper family). Native to tropical America, these houseplants are grown for their foliage, not their flowers. If they do flower, the inflorescence is thin and long like a rat tail. The fruit is a berry that eventually dries to reveal pepper-like seeds.
These are relatively small, table-top plants requiring low to medium light. They are slow growing, preferring to be root bound. Because of their fleshy leaves, the soil should be on the dry side. After purchasing the plant, repot in a clay pot with drainage holes. Use orchid bark potting mix which allows for greater air circulation and dryness for the roots.
Water when the top of the soil feels dry. Water around the base of the plant until the water runs through the drainage holes. The exception is two succulent types of peperomias: P. incana and P. obtusifolia. For these, water when the soil really is dry until the water runs through the drainage holes. Because peperomias prefer dry soil, these plants are perfect for people who either forget to water or travel often.
Because there is such a wide variety, there is sure to be one that pleases everyone. Foliage color varies from green, green-gray, purple/red, silver, and variegated. Shape and size also vary; some are upright, some are bushy, and some have trailing vines.
Peperomias are easy to find at independent garden centers in the houseplant section, houseplant stores, or online houseplant stores. This is a perfect Valentine’s Day gift — they will last longer than a bouquet of roses and won’t add calories!