Peperomia obtusifolia, or baby rubber plant, is an evergreen perennial flowering variety of plants in the Piperaceae family and is indigenous to Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico, the specific label obtusifolia meaning “blunt-leaved”. It is part of a large family of Peperomias, almost 1600 varieties to be exact.
It’s a fast-growing popular plant with cupped dark green fleshy leaves, rarely growing taller than 14 inches and grows in a winding manner, creating the main ornamental value of the plant. It produces insignificant small white-colored flowers in spikes of 5 inches long.
It doesn’t need much care other than enough humidity and sufficient light to sustain the intense color of the leaves. Several different cultivars have been bred, some with variegated leaves.
This plant can also be grown in hydroponic systems, presenting many advantages over growing it in soil. For instance, you won’t face problems with over-and under-watering – this is an advantage for new gardeners, as many struggle to provide plants with suitable amounts of water. Another advantage of hydroponics is that it eliminates the issue of dealing with insects and diseases that are soil-borne.
This plant does well in low or moderate lighting, specifically in direct sunlight, as direct sunlight will discolor and burn its leaves.
It is a very tolerant indoor plant, as far as light is concerned. It can thrive under artificial growth lights, although growth might become leggy under full shade and the leaves become dark green.
Variegated varieties of this plant need more bright light so that colors don’t fade from the leaves.
Water the plant whenever the topsoil dries out. It’s better to be cautious and under-water this plant since its leaves and stems are fleshy and store water. Over-watering must be avoided as it doesn’t tolerate waterlogging. You should water it less frequently in winter. Rainwater or distilled water are better choices rather than tap water to avoid harmful chemicals that might cause damage to the plant.
Water the soil directly without getting water on the foliage of the plant to avoid problems.
While this is a native of rain forests and likes some humidity, it does accept average room humidity levels. It certainly won’t hurt the plant if humidity is high but arid/dry conditions must be avoided. Frequent misting or placing the plant near a humidity tray will help elevate overall humidity levels if levels are too low. Keeping it in close vicinity of other plants will also help boost humidity. This plant benefits from extra humidity to help with fast and healthy growth.
This plant is easy to care for as far temperature is concerned and thrives well in average indoor temperatures between 64-75°F with a minimum temperature of 50°F. It’s important to keep it out of cold or hot drafts.
It prefers a well-draining organically rich potting soil amended with perlite for aeration and is not really picky about soil. One thing that should be done about 1-2 times a year is to give it a good bath to leach excess salts from the soil.
Repotting the plant becomes necessary when it outgrows its pot or when you want to propagate the plant. It is also good to refresh the soil to provide the plant with fresh nutrients.
Repot the plant using small pots as it doesn’t grow very tall.
There are 3 methods to propagate this plant – from stem or leaf cuttings as well as by dividing the plant. Propagation is best done around spring, before the growing season.
Take a 3-4 inch cutting from a healthy mature stem with 2-3 leaves attached, cutting directly under a leaf node. Remove lower leaves of the cutting and let it callus for a day. Root the cutting in fresh soil (you can use rooting hormone to help speed up this process). After this, keep the soil damp until roots form in around 3-5 weeks. Once this happens, you can transplant it to a new pot.
Cuttings can be rooted in water as well and transplanted into the soil later.
It needs to be fed twice monthly from April-October with a cacti/succulent fertilizer or a balanced indoor plant fertilizer. It might not be necessary to feed it in winter but it will tolerate a light feed once a month. Overfeeding the plant will cause damage but underfeeding is not a big issue.
Also, fertilizing a new plant isn’t necessary for the first year after repotting.
Pruning is not necessary as this plant doesn’t grow very high. Cutting offshoot tips will help promote bushy growth and is best done around spring. As the plant gets older, shoots without leaves or flowers should be removed as well as wilted and dead leaves/stems.
While it is generally a resilient plant, it can face problems with aphids or mealybugs. Frequently inspect the leaves and immediately remove any infected leaves. Spraying the plant occasionally with neem oil or insecticidal soap is good to prevent pests.
If many leaves of the plant suddenly die away, this might be due to insufficient light or dry, arid air to make sure the plant gets enough light and regular misting will help alleviate this problem.
As with most indoor plants, over-watering often causes root rot and makes the plant wilt and even die if not caught in time as mentioned above, under-watering is better, particularly with this plant.
Leaves that shrivel along with older leaves dying away are not essentially an indication of bad care in most cases, this naturally happens and is nothing to be worried about. However, the accumulation of salt from fertilizing or from water can also cause this problem leaching the soil of the plant once or twice yearly will remove excess salt.
Droopy or curling leaves could be caused by several issues – over-watering, as well as under-watering, can initiate this along with pest infestation rule out these issues one by one by reviewing your watering schedule and carefully inspecting the foliage, including the undersides of leaves as pests usually make their homes there.