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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
R. W. Henley, L. S. Osborne and A. R. Chase
University of Florida, IFAS
Agricultural Research Center Apopka
ARC-A Foliage Plant Research Note RH-1983-H
The genus Peperomia includes over 1000 species of which only a few
are cultivated extensively. Peperomia are small, succulent, herbaceous
plants that are widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics. Growth
habits range from upright forms that tend to be shrubby when young and
sprawl with age to rosette forms and prostrate vines, all with tolerance
to relatively low light levels. Currently, there are over 100 species of
Peperomia cultivated in the United States, although many are in the hands
of collectors. Many interesting forms which are occasionally seen in com-
merce have not been properly named due to lack of taxonomic research on the
genus. The most widely produced species is Peperomia obtusifolia (oval-
leaf peperomia) and its cultivars. A few of the commonly grown types are
Peperomia argyreia (P. sandersii) Watermelon Peperomia is an attractive
rosette type with dark green leaves and silvery-gray zones radiating from
the leaf center. The leaf blades are cupped slightly and supported on long
reddish petioles. Plants are usually propagated from leaf cuttings.
Peperomia caperata, Emerald Ripple Peperomia with its rosette growth
habit has dark green leaves with deep creases along the major veins giving
the leaf a wrinkled appearance. Petioles are reddish and relatively long.
Plants are normally propagated from leaf cuttings.
Peperomia griseoargentea (P. hederifolia), Ivy-Leaf Peperomia has
silvery-green, glossy, nearly-round leaves on long petioles which form a
rosette. Veins are sunken slightly and darker than the rest of the leaf.
Plants are generally propagated from leaf cuttings.
Peperomia clusiifolia, Red-Edge Peperomia is similar in growth habit
and leaf shape to P. obtusifolia except the plants are slightly larger and
the leaves more elongated. The dark green, oval-shaped leaves have a dark
red margin. Plants are usually propagated by stem cuttings.
Peperomia obtusifolia, Oval-Leaf Peperomia is an upright sprawling
plant with dark green, glossy, nearly-oval-shaped leaves. This species
and its cultivars are propagated by stem cuttings.
Professor, Foliage Extension Specialist; Assistant Professor, Entomology
and Associate Professor, Plant Pathology, Agricultural Research Center,
2807 Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703, respectively.
Peperomia obtusifolia 'Marble', Marble Oval-Leaf Peperomia is similar
to the species with the exception of the variably sectored pattern of dark
green, creamy white and grayish green which is common to most leaves.
Peperomia obtusifolia 'Minima', Dwarf Oval-Leaf Peperomia is about one
half the size of the species and alike in other respects.
Peperomia obtusifolia 'Variegata', Variegated Oval-Leaf Peperomia has
leaves with a border of creamy white and a central zone of dark green and
Peperomia scandens, False-Philodendron Peperomia is a nearly prostrate
species with rather stiff thick stems and fleshy, heart-shaped leaves.
Because of its growth habit this species along with the cultivar Variegata
is frequently used in hanging baskets. Plants are usually propagated by
Peperomias are used primarily as small potted plants. Wholesale growers
in Florida produce pots ranging in size from 2.5 to 6 inches in diameter,
with 3-inch pots being the most abundant. Some of the prostrate species are
also grown in hanging baskets usually between 6 and 10 inches in diameter.
The type of container and size selected for a particular species should be
governed by the plant growth habit, size and leaf texture. Those plants
with upright or rosette growth habits are more attractive in pots while
those with prostrate stems are well suited to either hanging baskets or pots.
Peperomias are propagated commercially by cuttage with cuttings usually
harvested from stock grown "in house". As a group, peperomia cuttings are
easy to root. The type of cuttings used depends upon species, type of
variegation pattern in some cultivars, size of finished plant desired and
amount of stock available. Terminal stem cuttings can be used with all
types and permit production of finished plants in the shortest possible time.
Cuttings with one leaf and a short section of stem can be used if stock is
limited or small finished plants are needed. Stem cuttings which have one
or more buds are necessary for propagation of variegated cultivars.
Two terminal stem cuttings with two to four expanded leaves are commonly
stuck per 3-inch pot. Rooting and finishing 3-inch pots requires 3 to 5
weeks depending upon size of cuttings and season. Growth is considerably
faster when temperature and light intensity are not limiting. Three to 4
cuttings are normally used per 4-inch pot.
Potting media used for peperomia propagation and production should
be very well drained and as pathogen-free as possible. Several peat-lite
mixes with coarse particles, such as perlite, styrofoam or bark char are
very satisfactory because they provide the necessary aeration.
Peperomia should be produced in greenhouses rather than shadehouses
because soil moisture must be closely controlled. Light intensity during
mid-day should range between 1500 and 3500 foot-candles with approximately
28 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year, based on a 3-1-2 ratio
fertilizer. Since some of the peperomias are very short-term crops, a
liquid fertilization program is preferred because excessive soluble salts
severely damage plants in retail stores or homes of consumers. Liquid
fertilizer should be administered at least once a week to ensure a slow
rise in fertility during the short production period. This would be
equivalent to 1.5 pounds of a 20 percent nitrogen fertilizer per 1000
square feet per week.
MAJOR PHYSIOLOGICAL PROBLEMS
1) Low root oxygen level
Symptoms Roots of peperomia are very sensitive to water-logged soils
which inhibit gas exchange within container media and limits the
root oxygen levels. Plants under low root oxygen stress grow slowly
and occasionally have a wilted appearance. Frequently, plants grown
with excessive soil moisture are vulnerable to certain root rot fungi.
Control Use only potting media with physical characteristics which
provide good aeration. Avoid use of barriers in containers or under
containers which restrict water drainage. Apply water only as it
becomes limiting to plant growth.
2) Nutrient deficiencies
Symptoms Nitrogen and potassium are the most frequently observed
nutrient deficiencies of peperomias. The lower leaves become
generally chlorotic, a condition which is not reversible in its
Control Provide adequate fertilizer to both stock and plants grown
3) High soluble salts
Symptoms Peperomia roots are very fine and easily damaged by excessive
salinity in the root zone. Roots frequently die back by the time
foliage symptoms are observed. Plants appear to be under moisture
stress and defoliation usually proceeds from older leaves to younger
leaves. As one looks over the top of a peperomia crop damaged by
high salinity, there is usually a noticeably uneven pattern of growth.
Control Do not exceed recommended fertilizer levels unless considerable
water is applied between fertilizer applications. If high soluble
salts are detected in peperomia soils, leach to bring the salts
within an acceptable range.
Peperomias are subject to a variety of diseases caused by fungi, bacteria
and viruses. The most common disease found on this group of plants is caused
by Pythium spp. and Phytophthora spp. Root and stem rots caused by these
fungi are very serious on Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars. Only one
disease has been described as due to a virus-like pathogen. Virus ring
spot has been found on P. obtusifolia cultivars but does not appear to
be a serious concern for the foliage industry today. Many of the stem
and root diseases of this plant can be avoided through use of pathogen-
free potting medium and pots. Several leaf spots are also found on
cultivars of peperomias including the most common, Cercospora leaf spot.
Each of the most common diseases of peperomias are described below.
MAJOR FUNGAL PATHOGENS
1) Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora sp.)
Symptoms Cercospora leaf spot is typified by tan to black raised
areas found on leaf undersides. The areas appear similar to a
condition called edema and are swollen and irregularly shaped.
It is very difficult to isolate the causal organism from these
spots and frequently the two conditions are confused. P. obtu-
sifolia cultivars are especially susceptible to Cercospora leaf
Control Benlate is labeled for use on peperomias and can control
this leaf spot disease. Spray the undersides of the leaves
where the spores are located.
2) Phyllosticta leaf spot (Phyllosticta sp.)
Symptoms Phyllosticta leaf spot occurs on the watermelon peperomia.
Leaf spots are dark brown to black and dryish. The lesions have
concentric rings of light and dark tissue and are commonly found
on the leaf margins spreading across the entire leaf.
Control Remove and destroy infected leaves. Keep the plant foliage
dry and treat with benomyl or mancozeb according to labeled
3) Rhizoctonia leaf spot (Rhizoctonia sp.)
Symptoms Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars are susceptible to
Rhizoctonia sp. which causes a mushy, dark-brown to black leaf
spot. The lesions are elliptical to irregularly shaped and
concentric rings of high and low tissue can be detected in the
lesions. The lesions form on leaves anywhere on the plant. Under
warm conditions, the web-like mycelium of the pathogen can be seen
covering the affected plants.
Control Remove and destroy severely infected plants or areas in
the stock bed. Treat the bed with benomyl being sure to thoroughly
saturate the potting medium as well as cover the tops of the plants.
4) Phytophthora and Pythium stem and root rot (Phytophthora parasitica
or Pythium splendens and many other species)
Symptoms Plants rot at the soil line and show a mushy black lesion
which can extend upwards into the leaves of the plants. Roots of
infected plants are blackened and mushy and their outer cortex can
be easily removed from the inner core.
Control Always use new pots and potting medium and grow plants on
raised benches to avoid infestation from the native soil. Subdue
and several formulations of Truban are effective in controlling
these diseases and are labeled for peperomias.
5) Sclerotium stem rot (also called Southern Blight Sclerotium rolfsii)
Symptoms Stem rot caused by this pathogen is characterized by a brown
mushy area at the soil line of the cutting. Plants which are in
the rooting phase as well as established plants are frequently lost
to this disease. The brown fruiting bodies of the pathogen are
commonly found in the rotted area. These structures are tan to
dark brown and are round and the size of mustard seeds. Masses of
white cottony mycelial growth are also found.
Control Although Terraclor is not labeled for use on peperomias,
it is the only effective chemical control for southern blight.
Alternatively, cuttings should be inspected carefully for symptoms
of this disease and discarded if they are infected. Always use
new potting medium and pots and watch plants carefully for the
symptoms of stem rot.
1) Ring spot (Peperomia ring spot virus)
Symptoms Infected plants show a variety of symptoms including ring
spots (rings of light or dark pigmentation), leaf distortion and
stunting for the green variety of P. obtusifolia. The virus appears
as necrotic lesions (brown areas) on the variegated cultivars and
infected leaves generally fall off the plant.
Control Collect and destroy all peperomias with these symptoms since
no chemicals can control a virus disease. Be careful not to transmit
the virus by using contaminated cutting tools clean in between plants
if this virus disease is suspected.
PHYTOTOXICITY OF FUNGICIDES ON PEPEROMIAS
Banrot 40 WP Ornalin 50 WP
Benlate 50 WP Subdue 2 E
Chipco 26019 Truban 5 G
Daconil 75 WP Truban 25 EC
Daconil 4.17 F Truban 30 WP
Pesticides were tested at recommended
rates and intervals.
MAJOR INSECT AND MITE PESTS
The major arthropod pests of Peperomia include caterpillars, fungus
gnats, root mealybugs, mites, scales, and thrips. Mealybug, mite, and
scale infestations typically result from bringing infested plant material
into the greenhouse. Moths, fungus gnats and thrips have the ability to
fly and thus invade the greenhouse from weeds and other infested plants
outside. In the control section for each pest a few of the many registered
and effective pesticides will be listed. For a complete listing please
consult the references at the end of this report.
1) Caterpillars (worms)
Symptoms Infestations are easy to detect because worms, their excre-
ment, and the damage they cause are usually quite visible to the
unaided eye. Damage appears as holes in the center or notches
along the edges of leaves. Old damage can be distinguished from
new by the calloused appearance of the older damaged areas (worms
are usually not present by this time).
Control Lannate, Orthene, Dursban, and Dipel effectively control
various worm species.
2) Fungus Gnats
Symptoms Small black flies are observed on the soil surface or on
leaves. The larvae are small legless "worms" that inhabit the
soil. The larvae spin webs on the soil surface which resemble
spider webs. Damage is caused by larvae feeding on roots, root
hairs, and lower stem tissues. Feeding damage may predispose
plants to disease.
Control Reduce the amount of water applied to each pot where possible.
Soil drenches, soil-surface sprays or application of granules
effectively control the larvae, but most of the materials registered
for this use cause phytotoxicity to Peperomia spp.
Symptoms Mealybugs appear as white, cottony masses in leaf axils,
on the lower leaf surfaces of leaves and on the roots. Honeydew
and sooty mold are often present and infested plants become
stunted, and with severe infestations, plant parts begin to die.
Control Systemic materials are preferred. Examples of chemicals
which have systemic activity are Metasystox-R and Orthene. Bendio-
carb, Dursban and Enstar 5E appear to be as effective as some of
the systemic materials.
4) Mites (Broad and cyclamen mites and Tarsonemus confusus)
Symptoms Mites are very small and go unnoticed until plants become
severely damaged. Broad mites cause foliar necrosis of the
vegetative shoot apex. Initial symptoms of injury are new leaves
cupped downward, puckered, stunted, with serrated margins. Foliage
expanding from cyclamen and T. confusus mite infested vegetative
buds is curled, twisted, brittle, and in the case of Peperomia
obtusifolia 'Variegata' the affected foliage is almost entirely
Control Broad and cyclamen mites can be controlled with Kelthane,
Pentac or Vendex. The critical point in any control program is
thorough coverage with the pesticide. The best control program
is to minimize introduction of mites into the growing area on
infested plant material. The only chemical that controls T.
confusus is Temik.
5) Scales (Aglaonema and proteus scales)
Symptoms Infested plants become weakened or stunted and begin to
die. Scales can be found feeding on leaves, petioles, or stems.
Their shape, size, and color are variable and many are difficult
to distinguish from the plant material on which they are feeding.
Control See Mealybugs
Symptoms Infested leaves become curled or distorted with silvery-gray
scars or calloused areas where feeding has occurred.
Control Many materials are registered and effective in controlling
PHYTOTOXICITY OF INSECTICIDES AND MITICIDES ON PEPEROMIA
Bacillus thuringiensis Diazinon EC (questionable)
Dursban EC Plictran WP
Dylox LS Dimethoate EC
Enstar 5E Omite WP
Kelthane EC Permethrin
Malathion EC Vydate L
Pesticides were tested at recommended rates and intervals.
1. Chase, A. R. 1983. Phytotoxicity of some fungicides used on
tropical foliage plants. ARC-Apopka Research Report, RH-83-2.
2. Short, D. E. 1978. Phytotoxicity of insecticides and miticides
to foliage and woody ornamental plants. Extension Entomology
3. Short, D. E., L. S. Osborne, and R. W. Henley. 1982. 1982-83
Insect and related arthropod management guide for commercial
foliage and woody plants in Florida. Extension Entomology Report
4. Simone, G. W. 1982. Disease control pesticides for foliage pro-
duction 1982. Extension Plant Pathology Report #30.
Mention of a commercial or proprietary product or of a pesticide in this
paper does not constitute a recommendation by the authors, nor does it
imply registration under FIFRA as amended. Pesticides should be applied
according to label directions. Those pesticides listed in the control
sections for each disorder but not listed in the phytotoxicity charts
safety at the University of Florida. HAVE NOT been tested for plant
safety at the University of Florida.