Peperomia: Pepper Elder

Though this website depicts only individual species and cultivars, peperomias are such a large group that there was no choice but to depict several, for there are some 600 found in the wild, mostly in South and Central America as well as in Africa and Asia. Almost all are suitable for growing indoors, which makes selecting an assortment rather difficult. Better, perhaps, to take note of the exceptions. Only a single species is grown both for its foliage and for its fragrant, but otherwise nondescript white flowers, namely Peperomia fraseri, more commonly known as P. resedaeflora. Exceptions are also the species with foliage coated with white ‘wool’, which serves as protection, for the plants grow in dry and very sunny or even sunbaked places on rocks, often together with cacti. A representative example of this group is P. incana from Brazil. These species require entirely different conditions from the others and should be grown in full sun in a porous medium consisting of humus, sand and stone rubble.

Most peperomias, however, grow in damp lowland and mountain forests either on moss-covered rocks or as epiphytes on the trunks and branches of trees. Only if grown thus are they of the typical compact habit which is truly lovely. They will grow even on bare cork oak bark without any substrate but will do better and grow faster if inserted in a ball of moss and light soil (just a handful) before being attached to the trunk. Naturally, even plants that are grown thus must be provided with feed — mainly organic fertilizers in liquid form (in concentrations 10 times less than those given in the manufacturer’s instruc-tions) sprayed on the leaves. Peperomias, of course, can also be grown in the more traditional manner, with the roots covered in compost in a demijohn, fishbowl or terrarium.

Propagation is very easy, either by means of cuttings inserted in a mixture of peat and sand, or by means of entire leaves with stalk inserted in the rooting medium.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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