Peperomia Obtusifolia 101: A Beginner's Guide To The Low-Maintenance Plant
The Peperomia Obtusifolia (Baby Rubber Plant) has thick, deep green leaves and an upright stem. The Obtusifolia is one of the most popular species of the Peperomia genus, known for its resilience and relatively easy care. Here's what you need to know about this hardy houseplant.
- Sunlight needs: Bright, indirect light
- When to water: Every 1 to 2 weeks, or when the soil is dry to the touch
- Pros: Resilient, easy to propagate
- Cons: Easy to overwater
- Where to put them: Next to a window that doesn't get too much direct sun (they can sunburn!)
- Pet friendly? Yes
- Size: Can grow up to 10 to 12 inches tall
The Peperomia Obtusifolia is originally from the humid forests of South America. It's primarily a houseplant but can survive outdoors in conditions that are warm but not too bright.
It has thick, succulent-like green (and sometimes cream-colored) leaves that absorb and store water reserves in case of drought.
Interestingly enough, in the wild, Peperomias can grow on other plants. "Peperomia plants take up their nutrients from the air, rain, and debris around them, so they don't actually need to be planted in soil," explains Danae Horst, founder of Folia Collective and author of Houseplants for All.
In a home setting, this means the Peperomia can make for a great mounted plant.
Other types of the Peperomia plant.
There are over 1,000 species of the Peperomia plant, and each one looks slightly different. The consistent trait for all varieties of the Peperomia is that they are semi-succulent, meaning they store some water in their fleshy leaves.
Horst adds that the Peperomia plant is a collector's plant, meaning that many people enjoy collecting multiple types of it. Here are a few other popular varieties:
- Watermelon: Prized for its red stem and round leaves that resemble the stripes on a watermelon. Horst says this species is trending right now and can be a little harder to find.
- Caperata: This unique plant is known for its heart-shaped leaves that are rippled-looking with lots of texture. It comes in an array of colors, from emerald green to purple to peach.
- Prostrata: This plant, sometimes called the "String of Turtles," is known for its teeny-tiny leaves (they can be smaller than a dime!) that create a pretty cascading effect.
Peperomia Obtusifolia plant care:
The Peperomia Obtusifolia likes to dry out between waterings, so Horst recommends waiting until its soil is dried out two-thirds of the way down into the pot before watering.
You can stick your fingers in the soil to gauge if your plant needs water, or look at its leaves. "You'll know [it needs water] because the leaves will look a little limp; a little less upright than they did before. If you touch them, they won't feel quite as firm," she says.
The moisture level of the soil will change throughout the year due to temperature and light conditions, but you'll likely have to water it every 1 to 2 weeks. Overwatering is more common than underwatering with this plant.
The Peperomia Obtusifolia needs bright, indirect light. The indirect piece is important! If this plant is exposed to too much direct light, its leaves can start to develop a sunburn or "cook," meaning the water in them overheats and causes the plant to get mushy.
To avoid giving your plant too much light, Horst says to imagine that it has eyes: It shouldn't be able to see the sun.
If your Peperomia Obtusifolia is getting too little light, on the other hand, you'll likely notice that its new growth produces very small leaves. It also might start to get "leggy," meaning its leaves don't fill out its stem.
"Not enough light can cause root problems," Horst says. "The amount of light and amount of water are linked, so if you are watering the way you should be but your plant is in low light, the soil is staying wet too long. It's all about the balance."
Well-draining soil is best for this plant. An all-purpose potting mix for container plants should work great. Horst notes that you can also add some chunkier elements like orchid bark and coco coir chips to help with aeration if you'd like.
The Peperomia plant does best in temperatures above 50 degrees. Horst notes that if you live in a climate that gets cold in winter, it's important to not have them too close to the window during that season. They won't appreciate the draft.
"[Peperomia] is considered nontoxic according to the ASPCA," Horst says, so if your pet eats a little bit of this plant, it shouldn't cause any major issues. However, if your pet eats too much of any plant (even the nontoxic ones!), it can still give them digestive troubles, so it's always good to keep an eye out.
- Overwatering: The biggest mistake Horst sees people make with this plant is watering too frequently. "Peperomia plants have a very shallow root system, which means that their roots are really fine, and they don't go down very deep," Horst says. "If the soil is too wet for a little too long, the roots can die much more quickly." Again, make sure your plant's soil is dry to the touch before watering.
- Too little light: If your plant isn't getting enough light, it will start to get leggy. After a couple of months, you might notice its leaves begin to flop over because its stem is much longer and cannot support the weight of the leaf. If this happens, move your plant closer to a window or to an area that gets more light.
How to propagate:
Horst says that the Peperomia can be propagated a few different ways, including leaf-cutting and division methods, but the easiest method is water propagation. Here's the step-by-step process she follows:
- Take a cutting where a couple of the plant's leaves branch off from its main stem. Make sure that your cutting has a node, as that's where the new growth will sprout from.
- Put the cutting in a cup of water, making sure no leaves are sitting in the water. You'll want to keep the water clean, which means changing it about once a week. (Note: If your cutting is in a clear glass, algae can float in quite quickly. The algae will start to compete with the plant for oxygen, nutrients, and water, so keep an eye on the water!)
- Let it sit in a bright spot that doesn't get direct sun. Within a few weeks, a little baby plant will grow from that cutting. Once you notice new roots have formed, pull your cutting out of the water.
- Transfer the baby stem with roots to well-draining soil, and enjoy watching your new Peperomia grow!
How to repot:
If you see your plant's roots emerging from its pot's drainage hole, it has outgrown its home and needs to be moved to a larger pot.
When repotting your Peperomia in a larger pot, Horst stresses the importance of choosing the right size pot and the right time. Your new pot shouldn't be more than 2 inches larger in diameter than your old one. This will help with moisture balance and ensure that your plant's roots aren't surrounded by too much wet soil.
"You want to repot your plant in the middle of its watering cycle [...] so not when it's totally soggy or totally dry," she adds.
Here's your step-by-step repotting guide:
- Gently lift your plant out of its current pot. Loosen any soil around the plant, and make sure it's not compacted. Then tease the roots a bit and free the ends of them. Peperomia roots are quite fine, so be gentle, as they can break easily.
- Prepare your new pot by placing a few inches of soil at the bottom. Add the root ball of your plant and add some soil to the top and the sides. With Peperomia, it's key that the soil is pressed firmly into place. You don't want any pockets where there's no soil!
- Even the soil out on the top, and give your plant 4 to 5 days before you water it. (As the plant looks for water, it sends its root system out, which means its roots will acclimate to the new soil quicker.)
The bottom line.
The Peperomia Obtusifolia (Baby Rubber Plant) is a popular plant that makes for a pretty addition to the home or a wonderful gift for a fellow plant lover. It's relatively low-maintenance, but just be sure to keep an eye on its light and water to ensure your Peperomia is poised for healthy growth.
Carly Quellman is a creative storyteller and movement enthusiast. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Sacramento State University after studying architectural design at University of Technology, Sydney. Carly has worked with many top publications and brands including Quoted Magazine, NBC, and Yelp.
When Carly's not covering sustainability topics, she spends her time tackling social impact issues regarding the environment & its inhabitants, practicing self-reflection (on and off the mat), and reading memoirs from Black authors. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.