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If you are a newbie when it comes to indoor gardening, or you just don’t see your green thumb growing (as well as the plants that you already own), don’t worry, there are some types of greenery to help you raise your self-esteem in this area. Today, I’m going to talk about how to care for Watermelon Peperomia.
If you want to know more about what Watermelon Peperomia is, how to water it, feed it, and generally care for it, stick with me.
Without any further ado, let’s begin!
What is Watermelon Peperomia?
Watermelon peperomia is one of those easy to grow plants that will make you believe you can be a horticulturist.
They are one of the two genera of the Piperaceae family, among more than 1000 other varieties.
There are a lot of Peperomia species and cultivars, and they differ very much in appearance. Some can be bushy, creepers, and of upright type.
Peperomias are often called “radiator plants”. People gave them names like that because they seem to like warm places and sunlight.
They enjoy to be placed closed to the heat sources and can survive pretty high temperatures and almost completely dry soil.
This is the reason why you should always wait for the upper part of the soil to go dry before watering your plant. We will discuss the issue in one of the following paragraphs.
But, don’t get fooled by peperomia’s love for heat and sun – they can survive damp conditions as well!
Related: Peperomia Prostrata Care Guide
Origin of Watermelon Peperomia Name
The name of this beautiful plant comes from the Greek ‘peperi’, which translates to ‘pepper’ and ‘homoios’, which, in its core, means ‘resembling’. So they are basically pepper-resembling plants (also, they are related to pepper).
Other common names are creeping buttons, watermelon plant, crocodile tears, rat’s ear, or even dwarf pepper. It is also known as peperomia Argyreia (Latin for ‘silvery/) and watermelon begonia (although it’s not closely related to watermelons nor begonias).
They can grow up to 30 centimeters (there is mini watermelon peperomia that is twice smaller). It’s a slow-growing plant so it’s great for limited spaces.
Its leaves are pretty large and have a fleshy feel to them.
It’s exactly the thick leaves that let them survive in relatively dry soil, as well.
The leaves are shiny, teardrop-shaped. Snaps are delicate, so you should handle them with care since they can easily snap.
With its playful foliage resembling watermelon skin (thus the name watermelon peperomia), it will bring joy to any corner of your home.
Its bushy appearance and non-woody purple stems will brighten up your outdoor garden as well. They require very little care, so can thrive outdoors as well.
Greenish flowers may appear during late summer and early fall.
They are shy, without any smell, and look more like spikes than the actual flowers.
The stems that produce flowers are also pretty small, usually around 5-7,5 cm tall.
Although they are not very attractive, the flowers sure are beneficial to you. Their appearance indicates that the plant is healthy and thriving.
You can place Watermelon peperomia in a planter with other indoor plants because they look very decorative that way.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is that the other plants share the same growing needs as peperomia.
Some of the plants that you can pair up with it are Christmas cactus, peace lily, dracaena.
Not only will these plants survive together, but will help each other thrive as they will feed each other’s roots and encourage flower blooming.
You can keep the pot outside during the hot days, but you will have to bring the pot inside during late autumn and winter.
If you do decide to keep it outside during the hot days, make sure the plant is in a shaded place, out of reach of the direct sunlight. Bring it in as soon as nighttime temperatures fall below 20°C.
Peperomias origin from South America. They can be found in Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela. There are some species (around 17 of them) that thrive in Africa, as well.
Light and Temperature Requirements
Watermelon peperomia originates from tropical and subtropical regions. You should try to reconstruct the natural conditions the plant has in dense Amazon forests, where it thrives in nature.
Since this is a plant that grows on the floor of a rainforest, it is obvious you should keep it away from the direct sunlight and make the soil very humid.
They live in mossy, well-drained soils.
Your peperomia will be happy in a well-lighted area, near a window, but without the direct sunlight.
A north-facing window would be the perfect spot.
Watermelon peperomia needs a solid 6 hours of light a day.
If all of your windowsills are under the direct sunlight, place some translucent curtains to prevent the burning of your plant.
Also, peperomia’s come in different leaf colors and shades. Therefore, keep in mind that the green-leaved ones need more protection from the sunlight.
It likes low, medium to bright spaces away from the direct sunlight.
Don’t forget your peperomia near the cold window during winter – it will most probably freeze.
Also, try to lower the air conditioning drafts around the pot during the winter.
The minimal temperature peperomia can survive at is °10 C. The preferred temperature rate is between 18 and 24 °C.
Try to avoid sudden temperature changes as well. In general, no plant likes sudden changes in any aspect – cold or hot water, temperature changes, a radical soil change, etc.
If you buy them during the winter, make sure to keep the plant warm on your way to your home.
Best Location to Grow Watermelon Peperomia
Ideal in-door locations for growing are bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. It is a lovely plant to have at your office at work or any other working space since it’s not demanding. Don’t forget about the positive effects greenery has on our eyes and brain while working or studying. It helps the brain relax and refresh.
The offices will be nice places for your peperomia to live since they can survive under fluorescent lighting as well.
In theory, peperomia can survive even in low-light conditions.
In reality, it is possible, but it will take a lot of effort. And at some point, the stems will probably start to become leggy.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can sure try to make peperomia tolerate these conditions.
Peperomias are ones of the few plants that will forgive you if you forget to water them, so they are great for busy, working people.
Always wait for the upper few inches of the soil to completely dry out, and then water the plant thoroughly. Also, you should wait until the water is fully drained out.
Make sure to check if the soil is dry approximately every ten days.
Related: 11 Best Soil Meters
They have asymmetrical succulent type leaves that hold water. Just as a reminder, succulent plants are cacti, aloe vera, dracaena, and other species with thickened, fleshy parts that can retain water for long periods.
Although the plant likes humidity (which is obvious, being a tropical plant), it is important to leave the upper layer of the soil nearly dry before adding some more water to it, as the stems tend to rot in soggy soil.
During the winter, the plant needs less water, but don’t forget that household heating dries out the air in the room. So you should count that in when deciding when to water your plant.
Best Water Temperature
Also, try to use water on a room temperature since cold water can cause a shock to the roots.
The best way to water your plant is to either mist it or put the whole pot in a ball filled with water and let the roots soak themselves.
If the temperatures rise above 23 °C, feel free to lessen the time between the waterings since these temperatures are above the ones in the plant’s natural living conditions.
Try to mist the plant as often as you can – weekly during the hot months, and a little less during the cold months.
Mist more often if you have planted it in a pot without drainage holes (which we do not recommend in any case since every plant should be able to lose the extra water and let the roots breathe).
The roots must get enough oxygen.
Namely, watermelon peperomia likes little and often watering.
If placed around other indoor plants can greatly help to sustain the humidity.
Never leave the plant standing in water (good drainage is the key).
Since the air tends to get dry during summertime, you can avoid its effects on your plant by putting the pot on a tray filled with wet pebbles.
Since Watermelon Peperomias are pretty small, they don’t need too much fertilizer.
If you have decided to use it anyway, you should flush it out between feedings. That way, the extra minerals won’t get stuck in the soil, disturbing the balance of the soil that way, and causing many other potential problems to the plant.
No matter its size, the plant may require some nutrition, especially from April to September.
You can use standard houseplant food, but it is best if you use liquid and water-based fertilizers.
You should try to fertilize it once a year, and use mostly light and natural water-soluble fertilizer.
Keep in mind that peperomia is a light feeder, so do not over-fertilize it! If you feed it a lot of nutrients, it may cause it to grow too much.
When it comes to repotting, watermelon peperomia can live in very, very small spaces, so repot it only when it is obviously necessary.
Usually, it takes about three years before you have to re-pot peperomia .
The plant likes a potting mixture, that is mostly based on peat. It contains a soil that is partially mixed with already decomposed sphagnum moss, which is harvested from the peat bogs.
The best mixture is 2-parts peat and 1-part perlite.
Here are some tips on how to pot with peat.
Anyway, some gardeners suggest any normal, high-quality soil, saying it will grow, as it is a low-maintenance plant.
If you want to secure good drainage, add a handful of sand into your soil mixture.
Ecologists and environmentalists don’t like peat-based mixtures, and suggest making your own compost, or buying some of the alternative, non-peat mixtures.
Related: Best Potting Soil For Indoor Plants
The top layer of the soil in the pot can (and should) be replaced every spring.
When repotting, carefully remove the plant from the soil, then gently shake it to remove excess soil.
Check the roots’ condition – see how healthy and fresh-looking they are.
If the soil is too wet, try to shake off the damp parts as much as you can.
Choosing the Proper Pot
When you are repotting, always use only a size bigger pot than the previous one.
This is a general rule for all plants, and the explanation is pretty simple – if you use a too big container, the plant’s roots will spread and grow, but the upper parts will stagnate.
In addition to that, peperomias actually like containers that are a bit small for the size of the plant.
When repotting, make sure you use new soil (but well-prepared earlier), so it provides beneficial nutrients.
Repotting makes drainage better and it will revive your plant if you have over-watered it.
You can buy the plant, propagate from existing leaves, or try to grow it from seeds (if you succeed the last one, you may consider yourself an experienced gardener).
Since these are shallow-root plants, propagating them should not be too hard.
Actually, watermelon peperomia is great for the newbies when it comes to propagating plants.
It is such an easy job!
All you have to do is pluck a healthy leaf near the bottom of the stem and place it in a water container in a sunny position.
The roots will start to appear in 6-8 weeks.
Wait until the roots have grown about 3-4 cm long and then plant them in soil.
Some growers don’t recommend using any rooting hormone when propagating peperomia, as it will suffocate the stem and kill the leaf.
On the other hand, there are others that recommend just the opposite – plucking a leaf, dipping it into rooting powder, and leaving it in the compost.
You can also plant the leaves in the moistened soil, and pack the whole pot in a bag made of plastic, while also making sure that 25% of the top remains open.
This way, you are recreating greenhouse conditions for your plant. Leave the bag in a sunny area, but away from the direct sunlight.
A bathroom window or a south window would be perfect.
Check the soil every few days and see whether it needs watering. Don’t get tricked by the humidity in the bag itself – the bag will fog up with moisture, but it doesn’t mean that soil is moisturized as well.
The roots will appear in four to six weeks.
Before propagating, always check whether your plant is healthy and without pests.
Tip Cutting Technique
You can also use a technique known as ‘tip cutting’ – cut one of the upper tips of the plant, remove the leaves that are on the bottom side of the parent plant and then simply put it in moist soil.
The roots will develop in a couple of days.
The size of the container or the pot depends on whether you are planting a standard or dwarf watermelon peperomia.
If you are going for the regular one, take a 10-15 cm container and leave the plant in it for at least a year.
If you want dwarf peperomia, 7-10 cm in height pot should be enough.
Propagation from Stem Cuttings
Propagate from stem cuttings – cut them just below the third pair of the leaves (counting from the top).
During the root transfer to the soil, make sure it stays moist and warm.
Since watermelon peperomia is bushy, it is easier to propagate them by taking some leaf cuttings, instead.
What you should do is gently twitch the leaf with the stem and then carefully slash the stem diagonally, so it is half-open.
Make a small hole in the soil and position the cutting. Use your hands to gently pressure the soil that is located around the cutting it. After that, simply water the plant.
As well as in the previous case, it is important to maintain a good warmth and moist of your new plant, until it develops a new offspring.
Once you succeed in propagating them, you can use them as gifts to your friends and family.
All peperomia species love pruning, so you should do it for the first time when it reaches approximately 40 cm in height, and continue every once in a while.
Use a sharp knife or scissors.
Repeat the pruning every two months throughout the year, removing the dry, damaged leaves, stems, and flowers (if there are any).
But hey, don’t overdo – excessive pruning can lead to permanent plant damage. People purely do it to prevent overgrowing and control the shape of the plant.
Pruning the plant makes it grow even more leaves, as it liberates the plant from the rotten leaves, giving more space and oxygen to the healthy ones.
Besides keeping your plants healthy, it will also help watermelon peperomia sustain that bushy ornamental look.
Common Issues with Watermelon Peperomia
The most common issue with peperomia growers is over-watering, sometimes leading to the plant dying.
If the leaves are looking dull and yellowish, it means you have overwatered it.
Let the soil dry and try not to get any water on the leaves, as it may cause the rottenness at this stage.
Do the same if the leaves are going brown at tips.
If you have over-watered it, and the plant still looks ill, you will have to try to re-pot it.
While doing it, make sure you remove all the extra water (by shaking the roots and throwing off the waterlogged soil) and prune the damaged or/and ill roots.
If the lower leaves seem to be dropping, it means your plant needs watering.
In these cases, it is essential not to mist or water the soil directly, but to place a pot in a bowl filled with water. Then, let the plant soak itself, the steams can become “leggy” and the leaves small and blunt, indicating your plant is not getting enough sunlight.
If the leaves drop, it means that you exposed the plant to too low temperatures or that the soil is completely dried out.
When the leaves look dull it is probably because the plant has sunburns, and you need to relocate it to a less sunny spot
Much like any other plant, peperomias can get diseases or parasites of different kinds – such as fungal infections or mealybugs.
Some fungal diseases such as Pythium can even kill your plant.
Overwatering is often the reason for these diseases to appear (fungi like damp environment).
Faded, wilted leaves, and black-spotted stems are the indicators of this kind of disease.
Since all fungal infections lead to rotten roots, it is for the best to re-pot them as soon as you note any of the signs.
Try to remove as much as possible of the diseased roots and then repot the plant.
Black leaves can be a sign of other infections (Cercospora, Rhizoctonia, Phyllosticta), so it is essential that you remove the pot from the other plants in your household since many of them are contagious.
Remove all the infected foliage and throw it away.
It is important to use sterilized scissors for this type of pruning since the diseases can easily be spread through the equipment.
Sterilize them before and after the process.
If the leaves have turned yellow, relocating the plant will usually help you.
Although they don’t like direct sunlight, they can tolerate it for a short time.
Your peperomia can get pests (although I will underline that peperomias are not prone to pests, being a low-maintenance plant).
Any type of a destructive insect, non-harmful directly to humans is considered a pest.
Signs of pests are atrophied, stunted ground, small black flies, or moldy leaves (the mold usually appears on the lower part of the leaf).
You should reduce the water at once.
If this is not enough to remove them, you should use some of the insecticidal sprays or soaps to remove them.
Also, be aware this kind of infection can be pretty stubborn and persistent, so you have to be as well while treating it.
Benefits of Growing Watermelon Peperomia
And the best news for all mothers and animal lovers out there – watermelon peperomia is not at all toxic to babies, and pets as well. It is also known to be a great air purifier.
Whether you believe it or not, you can eat peperomia as well! It is non-toxic to humans and can be beneficial to your health in multiple ways. Apart from that it also has other uses:
- In a lot of countries, people use Watermelon Peperomia as medicine.
- The entire plant is completely edible and the taste is coriander-like.
- It has anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory qualities.
- You can use it to treat headaches, acne, joint pains, etc.
- Some people use the roots for dressing wounds and treating high fewer.
Throughout its native soil, people use peperomia for different purposes:
- For example, in Brazil, it is considered good luck to get this plant as a gift.
- Brazilians use it to treat different health conditions as well, such as high cholesterol, conjunctivitis, or furuncles.
- In Bolivia, different parts of the plant are used for treating high fever, headache, even impotence.
- In the Philippines, people often use it as arthritis and gout treatment.
You can also use leaves to make tea as well.
Watermelon peperomia is used as a face wash since it helps with complexion problems.
Thorough scientific research has been conducted on the welfares of peperomia. The conclusion is that people use its leaves and even stems for this purpose.
- You can add them to salads with carrot and celery
- It is an excellent addition to beef as well
- Some also cook the leaves
If you feel like researching and trying out new flavors, there are many recipes throughout the internet that include peperomia.
The research continues as new discoveries are being made about this amazing plant.
Before consuming and/or using watermelon peperomia in any other way but decorative, please consult your doctor or local pharmacist, as a heavy dosage of peperomia may cause some other health issues.