Peperomia serpens is a plant from the genus of the same name in the family Piperaceae.
The genus includes more than 1000 types of peperomia plants, but only a hundred of them are grown as ornamental houseplants.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek words “peppers” and “homois,” which in translation means “pepper” and “I like,” clearly indicating the likeability of these small but very decorative plants.
Originating in the tropics of America, due to its diversity, manageable size, and simplicity of cultivation, peperomia has quickly become a well-accepted indoor plant worldwide. A special place in the colorful peperomia kingdom belongs to Peperomia serpens or vining peperomia.
What Is Peperomia Serpens
Peperomia serpens is a charming perennial reminiscent of a miniature ivy with laid or hanging shoots. In nature, the vining peperomia grows like an epiphyte, and its stems, sprinkled with pointed heart-shaped leaves, hang freely along with the trees.
The cordate, shiny leaves most often have a pure fresh green color, although there are cultivars with variegated foliage in a combination of green and cream white. The leaves are densely strung on stems that can grow up to 2 feet, so the plant is often grown in hanging baskets.
Peperomia Serpens Care
The easy-to-grow Peperomia serpens is a good choice for beginners since its cultivation does not require any special measures or conditions. In addition, due to its size, this plant can easily fit into almost any space in which it will bring a touch of fresh, vibrant greenery.
Peperomia serpens thrives in well-draining airy but nutritious soil. Water passes through such soil quickly and does not stay in the substrate unnecessarily. Therefore, it is best to add perlite or sand in a 50:50 ratio to the standard potting soil for houseplants, which you can further enrich with a handful of hummus or worm castings to make it more nutritious.
Soil acidity ranges from 5.0 to 6.0.
What Peperomia serpens does not tolerate at all is a soaked, moist substrate. Namely, its thickened, almost succulent leaves have slow transpiration, which means that the plant does not need much watering and can withstand prolonged periods without water.
However, this does not mean that you can leave it for days in the dry substrate. In the warmer part of the year, from spring to autumn, you could water it when the surface of the substrate dries to a depth of 1 or 2 inches.
Roughly, it is usually once every seven days. Yet, the rhythm of watering always depends on all other factors, including the pot and plant’s size.
After watering, wait for the excess water to collect in the tray and remove it immediately. It is always better to water it more often with small amounts of water to reduce the risk of moisture accumulation in the bottom of the pot, which can cause root rot.
In the colder part of the year, it is usually enough to water the plant every 10 or 15 days, especially if you place it in a room with a slightly lower temperature.
Like all other plants from the warm tropics, Peperomia serpens are not resistant to cold and decays as soon as the temperature drops below 15 C. It grows best at a pleasant 68 F throughout the year. It will tolerate if the temperature drops 10 degrees above or below that.
In other words, Peperomia serpens is a plant for the living room or any other room that is equally heated throughout the year and where there are no significant differences between day and night temperatures.
Regardless of the species, all peperomia in nature grow protected from direct sunlight. Like all its relatives from the genus, Peperomia serpens is a plant for a bright but shaded position. You can place it next to the east or west window, but never on the south window sill where the sun at zenith will almost certainly damage its leaves.
The north window is also not an ideal position since there the plant will not have enough light. The result will be a scattered plant with pale thinned leaves on elongated bare stems.
Dry air in the room below 30 percent is not an environment in which Peperomia serpens will feel comfortable. However, unlike some other plants of similar origin, the optimal humidity level for this plant ranges from 40 to 50 percent, which is relatively easy to provide. The simplest way to add humidity is weekly misting the leaves.
If the plant does not grow in a hanging pot, you could place it on a pebble tray. Lastly, you can always use a humidifier that will regulate the humidity level in the room and which is the most practical solution if you have more plants with similar moisture needs.
If you add some hummus, compost, or other organic material to the soil, Peperomia serpens does not need additional fertilizing. If you grow it in a mixture of substrate and perlite, it will benefit from little extra nutrients.
Therefore, fertilize it once a month, with a balanced liquid fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10:10:10, in twice lower concentration than the one indicated on the package.
Feed your Peperomia serpens from the beginning of the growing season in March until the end of October. After that, you should allow the plant to rest and gather strength for the new season.
Under suitable conditions, Peperomia serpens grows relatively quickly, and in one growing season, you can see many new leaves and stems. However, as this is still a small plant, it does not have a large or branched root that would require frequent transplants.
You can transplant young plants every spring if the roots come out of the drainage holes. Until that happens, transplanting is not necessary. What is a must is a pot with holes for draining excess water. In a container that does not have such openings, the plant will perish quickly.
At the bottom of the container, over the drainage opening, be sure to lay a drainage layer of expanded clay or pieces of brick so that it is one-fifth of the total depth of the pot before transplanting your Peperomia serpens.
Mature plants that have grown to their maximum you can leave in the same soil and the pot for two or three seasons. When the plant depletes all nutrients from the soil over time, you can replace it with fresh ones, but you do not have to change the pot.
Since it does not grow large, Peperomia serpens does not need to be pruned to control its size or shape. Standard removal of withered or damaged leaves or bare stems is all you need to do!
Occasionally you can gently deprive some stems to encourage the growth of new shoots, but without drastic cuts, because the plants will need a lot of time to re-develop the leaf mass after that.
Another advantage of this small, ornamental plant is its easy propagation. New specimens of this charming plant you can grow from stem cuttings, dividing an adult plant, or even from single leaves.
– Stem Cuttings
Peperomia serpens gladly propagates from stem cuttings that you can root in water or the substrate. This effortless and efficient process looks like this:
- Choose a healthy stem with a few leaves. The stem should be at least 5 inches long and have one or more nodes.
- With sterilized scissors or a knife, cut the stem below the node at an angle of 45 degrees.
- Remove the leaves from the lower part so that you have only a few leaves left on top.
- You can place the cuttings prepared in this way in a container with clean water so that the leaves do not touch the surface of the water.
- Store the container with the cuttings at a temperature above 65 F. in a place with a lot of indirect light.
- Change the water in the container every other day. After three or four weeks, the cuttings will start to grow the roots.
- When the roots grow at least 1.5 inches, your new Peperomia serpens is ready for transplanting into the soil, where it will continue to grow.
If you choose soil instead of water, stick the cuttings in a 2.5-inch diameter container filled with a combination of peat sand and humus in a 1: 1: 1 ratio.
- Cover the pot with a transparent plastic bag or lid as the cuttings take root faster in a humid environment.
- Keep the soil in the pot moderately moist. You would not allow the soil to dry completely but do not overdo it with watering either.
- Every day remove the plastic cover for an hour or two.
In about four weeks, the cuttings will form a root. When you see new growth, permanently remove the cover because the plant is ready to grow in standard room conditions.
– Leaf Propagation
You can get a new Peperomia serpens from each of its healthy developed leaves.
- Choose a perfectly healthy, undamaged leaf and cut it off with a sharp knife or scissors along with one part of the stalk.
- You can even halve the large leaves in width because the plant will develop even from a part of the leaf.
- If you want to speed up the process, dip the cut part of the leaf or the part with the stalk into the rooting hormone.
- Insert the leaf into the mixture of substrate and sand so that 0.5 inches is in the soil.
- Cover the container with a plastic lid or bag to create the conditions of a mini-greenhouse.
In the next 20 days or a month, the leaf will form roots from which new growth will emerge.
The method is especially suitable if you want to get more plants at one time because you can insert several leaves in the same pot.
If you take care of your Peperomia serpens in a suggested way, you will not face many problems, and the plant will grow and decorate your home for years. In doing so, pay special attention to watering because the wrong water intake is the cause of dramatic disorders of plant metabolism.
Among the problems that can arise due to inadequate care, here are a few of the most characteristic:
Peperomia serpens can start shedding leaves if the room temperature is too low or the plant spends without water a long period, and the soil in the pot hardens and dries completely.
Tips and Edges of Leaves Turning Brown
This change may also be due to low temperature or exposure to drafts.
Rot on Leaves or Shoots
Poorly drained soil or intermittent watering leads to water stagnation around the root system. The plant does not tolerate such conditions, and very quickly, the root begins to rot, which is transferred to its aboveground part.
This disorder is more pronounced in winter when the water evaporates more slowly due to lower temperatures. Therefore, do not water it often in winter. It is always easier to repair the damage caused by a lack than an excess of water.
Yellowing and Wilting of the Leaves
The first signs of excessive watering are yellow, flabby leaves that wither and fall off. When you notice this change, stop watering the plant. Otherwise, rotten necrotic tissue will soon appear on the leaves, which is a reliable sign that the root is in an advanced stage of decay.
Pale, Yellowish Leaves
Insufficient amounts of light usually cause a loss of leaf color intensity, so instead of fresh green color, the leaves take on a sickly pallor, grow less, and are smaller. Move the plant to a more favorable position, but do not suddenly expose it to too much change because the other extreme will be burning on the leaves.
Harmful insects such as mealybugs, thrips, and aphids can attack Peperomia Serpens, especially if the plant spends summer outdoors where the open space increases the risk of infection.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to remove pests using neem oil, disinfectant soaps, or, ultimately, insecticides. However, prevention is the best way to protect the plant. Inspect your vining peperomia from time to time and react to the first signs of infection.
Here’s a summary of what we’ve covered about the proper care for Peperomia serpens.
- Water it moderately, allowing the soil to dry in the meantime.
- Do not expose it to direct sunlight or too deep shade.
- Keep it out of the reach of drafts and cold air in a room whose temperature is between 60 and 75 F all year round.
- Feed it with a mild, diluted balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing season.
- The plant is poisonous, so keep it out of the reach of children or pets.
- It looks great in a hanging basket or at the foot of larger plants and even in a terrarium.
- In addition to its refreshing shiny green leaves color, this plant has something else to offer. It is an excellent air purifier!
Peperomia serpens is a relatively low-maintenance plant. Even if you’re a beginner, you will be able to grow it without any problems.
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