Plants for the Vivarium 
Text by Ken Uy  
Family: Piperaceae
 Genus: Peperomia
 P. caperata
     Peperomias are relatives of the plants that the spice black peppers come from. Most of them have rather succulent leaves, and their tiny flowers are held in long and pointed spikes. They all may have similar flower spikes, but their leaves and growth habits are wonderfully diverse in form. Most peperomias come from South America, and many of them grow as epiphytes. 

     The peperomias with plain green leaves are quite tolerant of shady conditions, but the ones with reddish or variegated leaves need bright light to maintain their colors. Even though they have succulent leaves, they still prefer high humidity. Temperatures should not drop below around 55°F  (12.8°C), and the plants prefer it a bit warmer to grow well. The warmer they are kept, the more humidity they'll need. Leaf drop in warm conditions mean that the plants either need more humidity or are being overwatered. 
     Watering is the tricky part with peperomias. Even though they like humid conditions, their roots aren't adapted to being wet all the time. In tropical vivariums, where evaporation can be limited, peperomias should be planted in very free-draining substrates or even grown epiphytically. They do not require much fertilizing; in fact too much fertilizing will result in soft floppy growth that is prone to rot. 
     Peperomias can be propagated by taking tip cuttings, which are easily rooted in barely moist substrates. Some types can also be propagated using leaf cuttings, but this method is a little slower. . 

     Some species of Peperomia that  may be available are: 

  • P. argyreia (also known as P. sandersii or Watermelon Peperomia) This peperomia has large, thick, smooth, round green leaves with silvery stripes radiating from where the petiole is attached. It grows in a rosette. 
  • P. caperata also grows in a rosette, but its leaves are heavily corrugated. 'Emerald Ripple' is a common variety. 'Little Fantasy' is a dwarf form. 
  • P. griseoargentea resembles P. caperata but the leaves aren't as corrugated, and they have a metallic silvery look to them. The veins are darker.
  • P. magnoliifolia has rather large leaves. The variety 'Variegata' has yellow splotches on the leaves, and reddish stems.
  • P. obtusifolia (baby rubber plant) looks like a miniature ficus tree. The leaves tend to be glossy and rounded, with reddish edges. There are several variegated forms as well as dwarf varieties. 
  • P. puteolata has leaves that grow in whorls like propeller blades along its rather long thin reddish stem. The light colored veins run almost parallel to each other down the length of the leaves. 
  • P. rotundifolia is a small trailing type with small round leaves on thin delicate stems. 
  • P. scandens looks remarkably like a small philodendron. It has a vining habit and heart-shaped leaves. 

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 Copyright © 1999 by Kenneth K. Uy. All rights reserved.