How to Care for a Peperomia Prostrata

Introduction

Peperomia prostrata is a gorgeous plant that is native to Brazil and has become popular worldwide due to its lovely foliage and hardiness. These plants do not need a huge amount of care and attention, and they look stunning trailing across bookcases or down from windowsills.

They have a variety of other names, such as string of hearts, string of turtles, and magic marmer. They make wonderful plants for any situation where you want trailing foliage, such as in hanging baskets or vertical displays.

So, how do you look after them? These plants are quite delicate and their fronds break easily, so they should be handled with care. They do not like to be kept very wet, and they dislike being in excessive sunlight. However, they are great plants to keep and always look very beautiful.

Indoor vs Outdoor Growing

Peperomia prostrata are quite small plants, and although their tendrils can get long, they are never going to be considered space-hogs, which means almost anyone can grow them indoors. Outdoors, they naturally grow close to the ground, spreading across it, in rainforests.

That means they like plenty of humidity, somewhat limited light, and a good amount of water. They are generally considered unfussy plants that will grow almost anywhere, and they don’t need too much care on the whole. However, it’s still important to know how to look after them and meet all their needs.

Best Location For Your Peperomia Prostrata

These plants would rather not grow in direct sunlight. On the other hand, they will rot quickly if they don’t get enough light. A room that gets plenty of sun is perfect, but you should keep them a couple of feet away from the windowsill in order to minimize the direct light on their leaves.

These plants have not evolved to cope with bright sun and will burn if they are exposed to it. Therefore, choose a room where they will get light, but not sunshine.

Next, take advantage of their tendrils when placing them. These will look much better flowing down a surface than piled up on a dusty shelf. Give them the height to trail, and also save yourself from accidentally crushing the tendrils as you try to walk around this houseplant. While peperomia prostratas may have evolved as a forest floor dweller, they are best hanging when grown at home.

You can even suspend them from a ceiling and enjoy their beautiful strings weaving down from above. Let them twirl freely in the breeze and keep your surfaces free.

Soil For Peperomia Prostrata

These plants like wet soil conditions, but – annoyingly – do not like to stay too wet. Because they are delicate and have thin stems, they are very prone to rotting, so it’s important not to leave them in soaking conditions, or you will soon have no plant at all.

That means you need well-draining soil so that you can water them thoroughly but they will also dry out. Choose a medium that has a good amount of aeration, or use compost mixed with grit and sand.

You can buy potting mediums that are specifically designed for succulents such as the peperomia prostrata, or you can simply make your own at home. Do check that you have maximized drainage, whatever you use. Perlite can be a great addition to pots to make sure that your peperomia prostrata does not end up drowning.

These plants don’t like being repotted, so it’s a good idea to get the potting medium right the first time if possible.

Watering Your Peperomia Prostrata

As mentioned, this plant both likes wet conditions and is vulnerable to rotting, which means that you need to water it carefully. As with any plant, it is difficult to set a specific watering schedule, as conditions will vary enormously from place to place. You may find your plant dries out quickly, or that it stays wet for a long time.

To check if your peperomia prostrata needs watering, press your finger into the surface of the soil. If it is dry for about an inch down, your plant is probably ready for a drink. If the soil is still moist, wait a bit longer before you next water it. It will not mind drying out for a short period of time.

You are likely to find that your plant needs less water in the winter, as the soil will not dry out as quickly. Plants that are in very well draining soil may need to be watered a little more often, but they are less likely to suffer from rotting problems.

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If in doubt, it is better to under-water your peperomia prostrata, rather than giving it too much to drink. A plant that is consistently dry may not grow quite so well, but it isn’t likely to rot the way a wet one will.

Humidity For Your Peperomia Prostrata

As rainforest plants, peperomia prostrata plants do like high humidity levels, and the average home is far drier than they like. While most will survive just fine without you increasing the humidity levels, they prefer humid air and may grow better if you provide it.

To increase the humidity levels, you can use a humidifier if you have one handy. Simply plug it in near your plant and turn it on from time to time, preferably in the morning.

If you don’t have a humidifier, you don’t need to rush out and buy one; you can humidify your plant in other ways. Firstly, a light spray of the leaves or soil early on in the day is a good option. This will give them plenty of time to dry out before temperatures drop in the evening, reducing the chances of them turning moldy or rotting.

Secondly, you can stand your peperomia prostrata in a tray filled with pebbles. Top the tray up with water until the surface of the water is just below the surface of the pebbles. This will mean that your plant is not sitting in water, but that it is surrounded by water which will gently and slowly evaporate.

Other plants will slightly increase the humidity levels, so standing your peperomia prostrata near other plants is a good way to take advantage of this.

Do not humidify your peperomia prostrata so much that its leaves are regularly wet or dripping. That is more moisture than the plant can cope with. A light mist that dries off in an hour or two should be perfectly sufficient. If your plant has got too wet, gently dry its leaves and don’t water it for a while.

Fertilizing Your Peperomia Prostrata

You might now be wondering about food for your plant. How much and how often? These plants will benefit from some food, especially in their growing season. This helps them to retain that beautiful patterning on their leaves, and keeps their color good.

Spring is their main growing season, and you can add diluted fertilizer every two weeks at this time. If you would rather, you can also put a slow release fertilizer in the pot at the start of spring, and allow it to feed the plant throughout the season. This is often less work.

In summer, you should slow down considerably on the food; the plant won’t need as much. Apply some about once every month, and that should be sufficient to keep the peperomia prostrata happy.

In fall and winter, you may find that your peperomia prostrata doesn’t need fertilizing, and fertilizing it then can cause problems, rather than helping. Peperomia prostrata plants that are given too much fertilizer are prone to losing leaves.

It is better to fertilize your plant too little than too much – as is the case with most plants. They do not need enormously rich soil, and will suffer from too many nutrients being available. Dilute all fertilizers before using them, and don’t fertilize too often.

Toxicity

Sadly, peperomia prostrata plants are toxic and should not be consumed by people or pets. If you have a peperomia prostrata, it is best to put it well out of reach of both children and animals – and that includes its trailing tendrils.

These plants might look very tempting to a young child, with their pretty, rounded leaves somewhat resembling candies. Equally, many dogs and even cats like to chew on plant leaves, and succulents may prove a popular target because of their chunky leaves.

Keep your peperomia prostrata away from young children and any pets in the house, and teach them to stay away from the plant. If they ingest it, it could lead to vomiting, stomach ache, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Eating large amounts of a peperomia prostrata could have very serious consequences, and medical assistance should be sought immediately if someone has consumed this plant in significant quantities.

Propagation

To take a cutting from a peperomia prostrata, you need to use clean, sharp scissors or a knife. They are reasonably easy to propagate, but many people do struggle to get cuttings to take at first. You should choose a particularly strong and healthy vine with no damage and plenty of growth.

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Cuttings should be at least five or six inches long, and shorter cuttings will often simply die when cut. Take a good length of the plant, and cut it off carefully so as not to damage either the cutting or the plant.

You then have three options.

1) The first method involves burying part of the cutting in soil. To do this, you need to remove the leaves that are the oldest, so those closest to the area you have cut. Prepare a pot with a suitable soil, either purchased or mixed yourself.

Coil the vine up into a circle and set it on top of the soil, and then cover the part which you have removed the leaves from in an inch of a suitable potting medium. Because the stem has been buried, it will start to produce roots. Do not cover the leaves up or they will rot, and the plant won’t be able to photosynthesize.

Mist the soil and foliage once a week, and keep the whole pot in a transparent plastic bag in between misting. The bag should be pierced in a few places and then set in bright but indirect sunlight. Take out any foliage that becomes yellow, and check for root development after a couple of weeks.

Once the roots are established, the bag can be removed and you have a new plant.

2) As an alternative method, you can simply coil the vine (without removing any leaves) into a circle and place it on top of a suitable potting medium.

Leave it there for a full week without watering or disturbing it, and then put the pot in a propagation case (or any glass tank) and mist it once a week. Leave the case unsealed so that the moisture can evaporate.

Remove any rotting or yellowed leaves, and keep it in bright, indirect light until new roots have developed.

3) Finally, the third option involves propagating in water. Insert the end of the stem into a jar of clean water after removing any foliage that will sit below the level of the water. Refresh the water every few days, and wait for roots to develop. This can take a couple of months.

Leaves from these plants can also be propagated, but it is generally better to propagate from a cutting.

Note that cuttings are best taken in March, as this is around the time when the plant is growing most vigorously and the cutting will have the best chance of thriving.

Repotting

You may occasionally want to repot your peperomia prostrata, but this should not be done frequently, as these plants are vulnerable to transplant shock and do not generally need it. They don’t get very big, so they will rarely need more space for their roots.

However, at times you may have to put them in a bigger pot or provide fresh growing medium for them. In these instances, water them a day before to reduce the chance of transplant shock.

Before you repot your plant, make sure you have a pot that is only one size bigger. It’s not a good idea to keep a peperomia prostrata in a large pot, as it can end up getting waterlogged. Shallow containers are usually the best option.

Ensure the container has good drainage, and add perlite to the bottom before the potting medium to further help with this.

Only repot your peperomia prostrata if its current pot is getting too crowded; there is no reason to risk it otherwise. You can add fresh growing medium to the surface of your current pot if you want to boost the nutrients of your plant, but otherwise, leave it alone.

F.A.Q.

As with all plants, sometimes things will go wrong with your peperomia prostrata, so we’re going to look at some common questions associated with these plants, and how you can overcome problems you may encounter.

Why Is It Called The Radiator Plant?

Don’t let the name deceive you; these plants should not be grown on radiators. No plants will thrive on the intense heat that a radiator provides, and they will also find the environment far too dry and the temperatures too irregular.

Do not try to grow your peperomia prostrata on a radiator; it will die. They got the name from the fact that they do like dry, warm places, but they won’t grow on your radiator – unless you never turn it on!

What Pests Do Peperomia Prostrata Plants Suffer From?

Root mealybugs are a common pest species that your peperomia prostrata may occasionally encounter. These burrow in the soil and attack a plant’s roots, and you may notice your plant’s leaves turning yellow or even dropping off if it is under attack.

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You might also see white colonies in the surface of the soil. Root mealybugs can be a pain to deal with. If possible, try and remove them with your hands and see if you can get on top of the infestation that way.

If you can’t, you will have to completely repot your plant in new material and a new pot and hope that it survives. This is not the ideal solution since the plants dislike being repotted, but you have little choice.

Fortunately, many of the other pest species are found on the surface and will be easier to deal with. You might see common ones such as aphids and blackflies. These can be removed by washing the plant (gently) with soapy water.

You should then wipe down surfaces around the plant and put it somewhere reasonably warm to dry out. Pat the leaves dry if necessary. It may take a few treatments to completely clear up the problem.

Spider mites are also common on these plants. They leave webs on the undersides of the leaves and suck sap from the plant’s veins. They can spread fast and serious infestations can kill your plant. Again, they can be got rid of by washing them away, as they are very tiny insects.

There are a few other common pests such as whiteflies, and most can be got rid of by washing the plant or treating it with a natural insecticide such as neem oil.

What Causes Red Leaves?

If you notice your peperomia prostrata is turning slightly red around the leaves, it is likely to be getting too much direct sunlight. The plant will handle a little direct sun for most of the year, but intense or prolonged sunlight will not make it very happy.

You should either relocate your plant so that it is getting less direct sun each day, or move something between it and the window. You could also put up a small, thin curtain to reduce the glare of the sun and decrease its intensity.

As peperomia prostrata plants are small, they should be easy to move to a new location. Do handle the plant very gently while moving it to avoid losing healthy growth; it’s very easy to knock the leaves off.

Remove leaves that have been damaged and turned red so that the plant will focus its energy on producing new, healthy growth instead.

What Causes Yellow Leaves?

Yellow leaves are a good indication that your peperomia prostrata has been over-watered. You should respond quickly or you will soon find your plant has rotted and is beyond rescuing.

Check the soil’s moisture and reduce watering straight away. If the soil is very wet, try placing some kitchen towels under the base to suck the water out of the pot. Do not repot your peperomia prostrata unless absolutely necessary; instead, put it somewhere cool and dry to recover. Keep it away from the sun during this period.

Your plant should recover its lovely green color once the water balance has been restored. If this happens frequently, you are either watering it too often, or there is not enough drainage in the pot. Remember not to water the plant until the potting medium has dried out a bit each time. Peperomia prostrata plants benefit from a short drought between waterings.

Will My Peperomia Prostrata Grow In Low Light?

These plants come from the rainforest floor, so they will tolerate low light reasonably well. They are used to growing under a thick canopy of other plants, and may never see direct sunlight. However, like all plants, they depend on sunlight for growth.

A peperomia prostrata that is grown in very dark conditions will probably not grow well. It is likely to be slow, and its leaves may be pale and small. You might notice the plant is more vulnerable to pests and generally less hardy than a specimen grown in sufficient light.

On the whole, it is best not to grow peperomia prostrata plants in dark spaces. If you want one and you don’t think it will get enough light, consider getting a grow lamp or choosing a different position. Remember, you can suspend them from the ceiling if necessary, so it should be possible to get one close enough to the window for it to grow well.