How to Care for Peperomia Obtusifolia

Peperomia Obtusifolia is an attractive low maintenance plant. Popular for its thick, glossy green leaves, this fast growing specimen, also known as the Baby Rubber Plant, is an ideal houseplant.

Happy in a pot on a windowsill or table, forming part of a living wall or even in a terrarium, these compact specimens are ideal for any home. The plant’s easy going nature also means that both experienced gardeners and novices can enjoy caring for the plant. This guide to caring for Peperomia Obtusifolia is packed full of useful tips and advice enabling you to get the most out of your plant.

What is Peperomia Obtusifolia?

One of the most distinctive types of peperomia, despite the name Baby Rubber plant, Peperomia Obtusifolia is not related to the full sized rubber plant (Ficus Elastica). Instead it is part of the large peperomia genus. The name Obtusifolia means blunt leaf and refers to the plant’s distinctive spoon-shaped foliage.

1 Peperomia Obtusifolia
The Baby Rubber Plant is popular for its thick, glossy foliage.  

Grown primarily for its foliage, Peperomia Obtusifolia, as we have already noted, is part of the Peperomia plant family. While the plant’s glossy foliage is the main attraction, they can, in some circumstances, set flowers. Considered largely insignificant, when blooms do emerge they are usually white or green in color and not very showy. Instead it is the spoon-shaped succulent-like leaves that provide the main attraction.

Typically a small, compact specimen, Peperomia Obtusifolia plants rarely exceed 14 inches in height. The plants can grow quickly if placed in a position filled with lots of natural, bright light. In shadier spots growth is slower.

When mature, most Baby Rubber plants fit nicely in a 12 inch sized pot. Keeping the plant in a slightly smaller pot helps to restrict the growth as does pruning regularly. If not pruned, over time the plants develop an attractive trailing habit.

As it grows, the Baby Rubber plant develops epiphytic roots. In the wild these roots cling to surfaces such as trees allowing the plants to grow in a range of environments.

Different Types of Variegated Peperomia Obtusifolia

There are a range of different Peperomia Obtusifolia cultivars. As well as sharing similar care and positional needs, all are suitable for growing indoors as houseplants.

Variegated types require slightly more light than plain cultivars. This helps to enhance the patterns on their foliage. If placed in too dark a position the colorful leaves of variegated cultivars gradually turn green.

Gold Tip is one of the most  attractive variegated types. Compact and reliable, its marbled leaves turn gold towards their tip.

Alba is another attractive, variegated cultivar. The young leaves are tinged with cream and red patterns. This coloring fades as the plant and its foliage matures.

One of the smallest Peperomia Obtusifolia cultivars is Minima. This small, reliable cultivar which reliably produces masses of dense green foliage.

2 Variegated Peperomia Obtusifolia cultivars
Variegated cultivars are particularly attractive. DSCN1510.JPG by Steven Brown CC 2.0

Where to Place Your Peperomia Obtusifolia

A perennial herbaceous specimen, the Baby Rubber plant is native to the tropical rainforests of South America. This means that the plants thrive in humid, indirect light positions. Typically grown as a houseplant, the Baby Rubber plant is considered hardy in USDA Planting Zones 10 to 12.

Many people like to place their houseplants outside during the warmest, summer months. Whilst the Baby Rubber plant does enjoy some fresh summer air, be careful where you place the plant. Do not place your Peperomia Obtusifolia in full sun. This can scorch or damage the leaves. A partial shade position is far better for the plants.

It is particularly important that you protect the plants from the direct effects of the afternoon sun. During this part of the day the sun is at its most intense and can easily burn or scorch the foliage of sensitive plants. A window blind is an easy way to shade more sensitive specimens.

Non-variegated types prefer slightly less light than variegated cultivars. The patterns of variegated cultivars are often at their best if the plants are allowed to bask in the early morning sun.

Temperature and Humidity

The Baby Rubber plant thrives in humid conditions. On the windowsill of a steamy bathroom is an ideal position.

If you struggle to maintain humidity levels around your plants naturally a Humidi-Grow Humidity Tray can be used. Just remember to top up the water levels regularly.

The temperature surrounding the plants  should range between 65 and 74 ℉. Do not allow the temperature to regularly fall below 50 ℉. Prolonged exposure to colder temperatures can stunt growth and stress the plant. Keep your Peperomia Obtusifolia away from any draughts, heating or air conditioning units.

3 Peperomia Obtusifolia in natural light
Baby rubber plants thrive in natural light. Peperomia Obtusifolia by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC 2.0 

How to Pot and Repot a Baby Rubber Plant

Unlike some more fast growing houseplants, Peperomia Obtusifolia does not require annual repotting. Instead repot every 4 or 5 years or when the plant shows signs of outgrowing its home.

Signs that the plant is becoming too big for its pot include roots emerging from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot and growth slowing or ceasing.

You may also decide to repot the plant soon after purchase to ensure that it is sitting in the right type of potting medium.

Do not transplant your Peperomia Obtusifolia into too large a pot. This can shock the plant, stunting growth or causing it to shed some leaves. Instead, gradually increase the pot size. For example, a Baby Rubber plant growing in a 6 inch pot can safely be transplanted into an 8 inch pot.

Your new pot should have sme drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to escape. It also shouldn’t be too deep. Peperomia Obtusifolia plants struggle if their roots are buried too deeply in the potting medium.

You can use pots made from any material however I find a terracotta pot works best because it encourages excess water to quickly drain from around the plant. Using a pot made from material that promotes excess water drainage helps to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged.

To repot, carefully remove your Baby Rubber plant from its old pot and brush away any remaining potting medium from around the root system. This helps to get rid of pests such as fungus gnats that like to lay their eggs in the soil. You can also wash the excess soil away with a gentle stream of water from a tap. Be careful, you don’t want to damage the root system.

Place a layer of moist, fresh potting medium at the bottom of the new pot and position your Baby Rubber plant on top. Holding the plant upright with one hand, continue to fill the pot with fresh potting medium with the other, gently firming it down to remove any air pockets as you do so.

Allow the plant to settle in the pot for a few days before watering.

What Potting Medium Should I Use?

You can use any form of potting medium as long as it is light and well draining. Allowing the plants to sit in wet soil, or develop wet feet, can lead to serious issues such as root rot developing. If you are using an ordinary potting mix, work sand or compost in before planting to aerate the soil and improve drainage.

Apart from a requirement for the potting medium to be well draining the plants aren’t too fussy. Combining 2 parts peat or sphagnum moss with 1 part sand or perlite makes a fantastic potting mix for your Baby Rubber plant.

How to Care for Peperomia Obtusifolia

In a favorable position these are largely low maintenance, easy to care for plants.

4 Easy to care for Peperomia Obtusifolia
When placed in a favorable position these are easy to care for plants. Peperomia Obtusifolia by James St. John / CC 2.0

When to Water

Peperomia Obtusifolia is a succulent-like epiphytic plant. This means that it is able to store excess water in its fleshy leaves, stems and roots. Being able to store water means that the plants can tolerate short periods of drought. This ability to store water also  means that it is better to underwater rather than over water the plants.

Baby rubber plants  do not like to sit in standing water. If this is allowed to continue for a prolonged period the plants may develop root rot.

Knowing how often to water your houseplants can be difficult. Aim to water the soil around the plants moderately during the growing season. In general, this means no more than once every 7 to 14 days.

Exactly how often you water the plant depends on the surrounding conditions. Plants sitting in warm, sunny spots require more frequent watering than those in slightly cooler or darker positions.

If you are unsure, allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings.

During the winter months when the plants are not actively growing they require less water. Reduce the frequency with which you water to once every 2 to 3 weeks. Again exactly how often you need to water your Baby Rubber plant changes for every person and largely depends on the conditions around your plant.

While the plants can tolerate a short period of drought, do not cease watering for too long. A prolonged period without watering can harm or stress the plant.

When to Fertilize

A light application of worm compost mixed with homemade compost can be applied in the spring. A layer no more than a quarter of an inch thick is perfect.

You can also apply an appropriate fertilizer, such as a natural fertilizer for houseplants,  in late spring, mid-summer and at the end of summer. In areas that enjoy long growing seasons these regular doses of fertilizer are particularly appreciated. An all-purpose liquid fertilizer diluted to half its strength is  fine.

Do not over fertilize your Peperomia Obtusifolia. An epiphytic plant, these are not heavy feeding specimens.

Too much fertilizer can cause salt to build up in the soil. Allowing salt to build up in the soil can burn the roots of the plant, causing brown spots to form on the leaves. You should also avoid fertilizing when the plant is stressed, over or under watered and when dormant in the winter.

How to Prune Peperomia Obtusifolia

Healthy Peperomia Obtusifolia plants have a fast growth habit. This means that you may have to prune the plants regularly to stop the tall stems becoming top heavy and falling out of the pot.

Pruning also encourages the plants to develop a compact bushy shape.

To prune, pinch out the tips of the stems to encourage new growth. Pinching out also helps to prevent the plants becoming leggy.

Remove any dead, damaged or dying foliage as soon as you notice it to help keep the plant healthy.

How to Propagate a Baby Rubber Plant

The Peperomia Obtusifolia plant is easily propagated by taking and rooting either stem tip cuttings or leaf cuttings. You can also divide mature plants to create a number of smaller specimens.

Propagation is best made in the spring or summer months when the plants are actively growing. Before propagating the plant, take the time to clean your tools with a sterilizer or Germisept Alcohol Sanitizer Wipes.

5 Propagate Peperomia Obtusifolia leaves
You can easily propagate new plants. Peperomia Obtusifolia 1 by James St. John / CC 2.0

How to Take and Root Stem Tip Cuttings

Use sharp garden scissors to remove the top of a healthy stem. The removed section should be around 4 inches long.

Your cutting should have a couple of healthy leaves at the top and at least one node. The node is particularly important for successful propagation. It is from these points that roots form.

If the cutting has more than 2 leaves, remove all but the top pair.

Fill a 4 to 6 inch pot with a fresh, soilless potting mix.

Dip the cut end of your cutting in Bonide Rooting Hormone. Embed the cutting in the potting medium, ensuring that the nodes are covered.

After planting, place the cutting in a warm position, close to a bright light. The temperature should be at least 65 ℉. In colder areas, a propagator with heat mat can be used to maintain temperatures around developing seedlings and cuttings.

Keep the potting medium evenly moist.

The emergence of new growth is a sign that roots are also forming. At this point you can transfer the cutting to a larger pot.

After transplanting continue to care for the young plant as you would a larger specimen.

You can also root stem cuttings in a fresh glass of water. Cut the stem from the plant as described above and place a small jar or vase filled with freshwater. Do not allow the foliage to contact the cutting.

Regularly change the water. Stale water lacks oxygen which can suffocate the plant.

As soon as roots emerge, transplant the cutting to a pot.

Peperomia Obtusifolia Leaf Propagation

To propagate by leaf cutting, cut away a healthy, mostly grown leaf and some of the stem from the mother plant.

Plant the cutting in a small pot filled with moist, fresh potting medium. Whilst most of the stem should be below ground, some of it should be above soil level ensuring that the leaf does not contact the soil.

Water and place in a warm, light position. Water regularly and new growth should soon start to form.

Once new growth is visible, care for the cutting as you would a larger plant, transplanting to a larger pot when it outgrows its present container.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjNFwn3bweg 

Dividing a Baby Rubber Plant

Mature specimens can also be propagated by division.

To divide your Peperomia Obtusifolia, carefully remove the plant from its pot. If the plant proves difficult to remove, run a blunt knife around the edge of the pot. This loosens the soil which should help you to more easily remove the plant.

Brush away any remaining potting medium and closely inspect the root system. Take the time to decide where you will divide. Each section should have a healthy amount of root and foliage.

Use a sharp knife to cleanly divide the plant into evenly sized sections. Transplant each individual section into a pot filled with fresh potting medium, potting as you would a larger, mature plant. After planting, care for the divisions as you would a larger plant.

Common Peperomia Obtusifolia Problems

In a favorable position and with the right care, the Baby Rubber plant is an easy going houseplant. With the right care these attractive specimens can live for over a decade.

6 Check Peperomia Obtusifolia leaves for disease
Inspect the plant for early signs of disease. Peperomia Obtusifolia 2 by James St. John / CC 2.0

Changes in the plant’s appearance can indicate a more serious problem. If you notice any changes, being able to diagnose the underlying issue helps you to quickly make amendments before the plant suffers too much.

Yellowing foliage is one of the easiest issues to identify. It is usually a sign of overwatering. Cease watering immediately and allow the soil to completely dry out before watering again.

If the soil is very soggy you may need to repot the plant in fresh, well draining potting soil. If you regularly overwater your plants, a soil moisture sensor is a useful investment.

Leaves falling from the plant can be a sign of underwatering. It can also indicate the plant has been overfertilized or is sitting in too light a position.

The tips of the foliage turning brown usually indicates that the plant is too cold. Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50 ℉ can be damaging to the Peperomia Obtusifolia plant.

The ideal houseplant, Peperomia Obtusifolia is considered non toxic to both humans and animals. An attractive, low maintenance specimen like other varieties of Peperomia, the Baby Rubber plant is both compact and attractive, ideal for providing interest and color to any home.

Peperomia Obtusifolia 2 Peperomia Obtusifolia 1

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