Baby rubber plant. Pepper face. These are all names for the hugely popular houseplant Peperomia Obtusifolia.
With the correct care, the succulent-like plant can reach the ripe old age of ten years or more. Doting on a “pepper face” isn’t difficult at all.
As long as its basic needs are satisfied, this tropical beauty will remain happy and healthy.
Table of Contents
Origins and Appearance
Peperomia Obtusifolia is native to South America’s rainforests and has a bushy appearance. The stems are thick and can grow almost 12 inches (30 cm) tall. The leaves are glossy, fleshy, and green in color. However, some baby rubber plants have leaves that are marbled or “variegated” with yellow and white streaks.
Temperature and Humidity
Peperomia Obtusifolia thrives in indirect sunlight but it can benefit from a short spell of direct sun in the morning. The plant won’t be happy in complete shade or cold areas and needs temperatures that are ideally in the range of 65°F to 75°F. Indeed, when subjected to persistent cold drafts, Peperomia Obtusifolia will often drop its leaves.
Having evolved in a rainforest, it should come as no surprise that a baby rubber plant loves high humidity. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep it in the bathroom where hot showers can spoil the plant with moist air.
At the very least, Peperomia Obtusifolia requires about fifty percent relative humidity to stay healthy. Brown leaves are a sign that the air is too dry.
Watering and Feeding
Water can make or break Peperomia Obtusifolia. The plant has a small root system that can dry out quickly or, when the soil is too soggy, rot instead. The fleshy leaves also store water, so overwatering can severely damage it as well.
Seasonal needs also come into play. A baby rubber tree needs frequent watering – but only lightly so – during the warmer months (let’s say throughout summer and spring), reduced watering during the fall and being sparingly moistened during winter. Overall, the general rule is to wait until the soil’s surface is completely dry before reaching for the watering can.
Peperomia Obtusifolia can be fertilized during spring and summer. The best fertilizer to give is a liquid and organic brand that won’t burn the plant. For the best results, it’s always a good idea to follow the product’s directions but the plant can generally be given a diluted solution every two weeks.
No fertilizer should be given during winter as this is the time when the plant knuckles down and slows its growth for a rest period.
Soil and Repotting
Peperomia Obtusifolia is a hardy plant capable of weathering most soil types. However, it has one weakness related to soil conditions and that is root rot. The latter occurs when the soil doesn’t drain well and the roots remain moist for long periods of time.
The best earth for baby rubber plants is a potting mix with good drainage. African violet potting mix is ideal as it contains moss and peat, and it drains well.
Soil graded as slightly acidic, slightly alkaline or with neutral pH is also a good choice.
A “pepper face” bush can live for years in its original pot. But sometimes, a bigger container (or a better looking one) is required to give the plant a healthier or more beautiful environment. There are no special worries when it comes to the actual repotting. If the plant is removed from the old pot with care and gently installed in the new, it will continue growing as if nothing has ever happened.
Unlike some other plants that need heavy seasonal pruning to flourish, Peperomia Obtusifolia needs minimal maintenance. That being said, the plant does well when shoots are removed that are old, damaged or without leaves. Also, owners who desire a more bushy plant often pinch back the branches.
Pests and Diseases
One reason why Peperomia Obtusifolia makes a great houseplant for beginners is the fact that good health is a trademark of this species. But when a baby rubber plant has a sick day, it’s usually very easy to spot the reason why.
Perhaps due to its water-rich leaves, Peperomia Obtusifolia has a habit of attracting sucking pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, and spider mites. Yellow leaf discoloration is a dead giveaway of their presence but most of these bugs can also be seen with the naked eye. A good insecticidal soap will take care of these unwelcome visitors.
Common Diseases and Problems
Overwatering can cause leaf blisters, scabs under the leaves, leaf loss, root and stem rot, and destructive fungi. Underwatering can lead to wilting leaves and stems.
A lot of shrivelled and dry leaves suggests that too much fertilizer is being used while leaf tips often turn brown when temperatures are too cold.
Peperomia ring spot is an incurable virus that causes rings to appear on larger leaves and distortion among young leaves. It spreads through infected soil so using a sterile potting mix is essential to avoid contamination between plants.
Another pathogen is Botrytis, a grey mold that interferes with photosynthesis. While not a fatal condition, it requires treatment with a copper-based fungicide to prevent the mold from jumping to other plants.
Yes, Peperomia Obtusifolia is ideal as a hanging houseplant. Their shallow root system and cascading foliage make them hardy and attractive, two of the top traits for a hanging plant.
Baby rubber plants propagate readily from stem tip cuttings or leaf cuttings. Cuttings are taken in spring and root in well-draining soil consisting of peat moss, sand, and perlite.
When leaves lose their yellow or white streaks, the culprit is usually too much sunlight. Moving the plant to a location with sufficient but indirect light should help.
According to the ASPCA, the baby rubber plant is non-toxic to cats and dogs.