Peperomia Frost, is indigenous to Brazil, growing in the cool undergrowth of the rainforests, and belongs to the Piperaceae plant family native to the Caribbean and Central/South America. It is a popular low-maintenance houseplant and easy to care for. Peperomia is often mistaken to be succulent, but needs extra watering and humidity than succulents.
It is also known as silver frost peperomia and Peperomia caperata ‘Frost’ among gardeners and is characterized by heart-shaped green leaves with a distinctive frost coating and thick, dark veins. It can grow to about 12 inches in height and width, although the average height is around 8 inches, depending on growing conditions.
It naturally tends to grow in mounds and all it needs is to have dead or dying leaves removed as they appear. The white and green flowers are about 2 – 3 inches long and make the entire plant look attractive when the flowers bloom.
Peperomia Frost is an attractive separate houseplant by itself and will look nice in a terrarium in conjunction with other colorful and interesting plants.
The plant thrives on bright, indirect light and is able to endure lower light conditions, although growth will have to be monitored as fewer, smaller leaves will develop as well as making the leaves lose their vibrancy. Direct sunlight should be avoided as it can cause leaf burn or leaf drop.
As a rule, low lighting conditions where a newspaper can be read is satisfactory for the plant to be happy. It has been observed to thrive well in 12-hour lighting cycles under fluorescent lights, giving it an easy-to-care-for reputation.
Allow the water in the pot to completely drain out and let the topsoil dry before watering again and don’t let the plant sit in water. Waterless in winter, only watering when leaves start to appear a bit droopy.
The thick leaves can store water like a succulent. While this lets it tolerate dry periods between watering, it also makes it prone to problems like water-logged roots due to overwatering.
The plant can tolerate typical household humidity, the thick leaves helping out in this regard. It will appreciate higher humidity levels though since its native rainforest habitat usually has humidity over 90%. Ensure that the plant has good ventilation to prevent disease.
The Peperomia Frost prefers reasonably warm environments to grow, ideally between the 65-75°F ranges. Don’t let the temperature drop below 50°F, as the plant will die at the smallest hint of frost.
Similarly, avoid high temperatures as the leaves will become too dry. Keep it away from drafts of heaters and air-conditioners as the plant will become stressed from temperature variations.
It is imperative that its soil should drain well, ideally half of soil/small pumice or perlite mix. Organic manures like vermicast or mulch will help improve moisture retention while providing necessary nourishment. A good-quality soil mix for succulents can also be used successfully.
When repotting the plant, don’t go too far – simply move it into a slightly larger (shallower rather than deeper) pot, when it becomes root-bound. This has to be done rather carefully so as to not break the delicate stems.
Oddly enough, Peperomia likes it better when it has less space because of its relatively small root system and slow growth. As a result, using the same pot for several years is not a problem for the plant. Younger plants, however, have to be repotted more frequently to keep up with their growing roots.
If you do decide not to report the plant frequently, you will have to top off the soil every year to add more nutrients for the plant.
However, if growth appears to be slowing down and the plant itself looking rather dull, then it’s time to report it. Repotting is greatly aided by adding a first layer of gravel/pebbles so that the plant can easily be removed without damage in the future.
This also helps to drain away from the excess water so the plant does not become water-logged. Using terracotta pots will also help with over-watering.
It is easy to propagate the plant from either stem, leaves, or offshoots. Spring/early summer is the best time to do so.
From stem cuttings
Choose a robust stem with at least 1 or 2 leaf nodes and take at least a 4 to 6-inch cutting, letting it be callous for a day. Remove the leaves at the end that will be planted in the soil, insert them into a soil-filled container, and transplant them into larger ones once the roots have been taken.
It can be alternatively be propagated in water, where, the stem will be placed in a water-filled glass or jar and transplanted into the soil once the roots have taken. The rooting process usually takes about a month in soil and faster in water.
This is best done in early summer. Cut off a few healthy leaves along with the stalk or petiole from a healthy stem and let it be callous for a day. Spread the leaves apart in a soil-filled germinating tray, with the stalk pressed firmly underneath the soil, pining the leaves into the soil to make sure the leaf veins are in firm contact with the soil.
The tray should be in an area with enough indirect bright light, keeping the soil moist by misting so that moisture is maintained but the soil is not wet as the leaves will begin to rot. New pants will start sprouting from the base of the leaves in about 28 days or so.
From offshoots or plantlets
The plant grows tiny offshoots around its root base that can be detached when they are bigger. It’s best to allow them to grow and separate them when you’re repotting the plant.
Cut off spindly growth when necessary to help the plant keep a robust, bushy shape. Since the plant is rather small, no more than 12 inches high at best, there’s really no need to worry about pruning to cut it shorter. However, the leaves can overlap in time and growth spreads sideways. You might want to prune it here to control its shape/bushiness.
Other than that, usual maintenance involves removing damaged or discolored stems and leaves.
These plants thrive better when fertilized properly since most potting soils are soil-less. It’s best to stick to an organic feeding route and avoid chemical fertilizers to prevent salt build-up. Simply top up the soil with organic manures – vermicast/vermicompost being the best. It can be fed once a month with vermitea – substitute on watering with the tea.
If it is difficult to obtain or make vermitea, a balanced diluted succulent fertilizer can be fed once a month, except in winter.
Peperomia Frost plants don’t have any issues regarding pests and diseases, although washing and cleaning the plant occasionally and making sure to dry off the leaves. Checking underneath leaves after washing the plant makes it easy to spot problems or pests. Cut off the affected leaf immediately.
Pests that attack the plant include whiteflies, mealybugs, and spider mites. Use a natural insecticide like neem oil to treat/remove pests.
Avoid overwatering since root rot and leaf spot can affect the plant. These can be avoided by keeping to your watering schedule. The topsoil should be dry before the next watering.
Fading dull leaves is usually due to low lighting conditions. Move the pot to a brighter and better place. Leaves falling off unexpectedly is usually due to either the plant has been exposed to cold drafts or root rot. You can try and save the plant by salvaging healthy stems and repotting them in fresh soil.
Brown spots indicate a fungal infection attacking the plant due to the leaves getting wet and not drying out properly. This happens when you water the plant from the top. Cut off infected leaves and make sure leaves are dry.
Leaf burn is due to too much exposure to direct sun or chemicals in the water. Always let tap water stand for a while, preferably 24 hours, for chemicals to evaporate.
Yellow leaves are an indication of nutrient deficiency. Feed the plant with a diluted balanced fertilizer for a couple of weeks.