Episode 109: Peperomias part one



Episode 109


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Jane: Hello and welcome to episode 109 of On The Ledge Podcast, teaching you how to take care of your house plants since February 2017. I am your host Jane Perrone and this week we are entering the wonderful world of peperomias, and I'm answering a question about a heart leaf fern.


Jane: As regular listeners will know, On The Ledge podcast does get about a bit and this weekend I shall be at Lullingstone Castle in Kent, that's the 21st and 22nd of September 2019, for the British Cactus and Succulent Society gathering known as Cactus World Live. I'm going to be doing a live recording at 1.30pm on the Saturday and an Audience with Jane Perrone, that would be me, at 2.00pm on Sunday 22nd, so do come along if you possibly can, there's going to be loads of other talks, demonstrations and the chance to buy lots of lovely cacti and succulents.

In more thrilling On The Ledge news, I recently did an interview for the BBC Radio 4 Extra show podcast radio hour which is a show about podcasts surprisingly enough. They're doing a special on planty podcasts, so no wonder they spoke to me and you can hear it today at 9.00pm BST on BBC Radio 4 Extra but also, not surprisingly, as a podcast and I'll put a link to that in my show notes. I haven't heard it myself yet and I can't really remember what I said but I'm sure it was all very, very intelligent and cogent so do tune in or download the podcast.

Welcome if you just happened to have listened to the podcast radio app and decided that On The Ledge was for you, great to have you here, pull up a chair and enjoy the show. Apologies in advance for the drain on your bank account as you start to acquire new house plants, yes it's a real phenomenon, it does happen. I suspect after today's show you will be spending your money on peperomias, because that's what we're focusing on today. This large and wonderful genus of plants, many of which are grown as house plants.

I recently went to visit Sally Williams who is the national collection holder of peperomia in the United Kingdom, she was kind enough to show me around her extensive collection all situated in her beautiful home in the countryside of the Peak District which is situated roughly between Manchester and Sheffield if you can picture that on a map. I had so much fun talking to Sally and we spent so long discussing these plants that I've actually split the interview into two shows. So this week's show is devoted to part one of our chat and next week will be part two.

If you've not heard of the term national plant collection before, let me explain. In the UK where I'm based, the charity Plant Heritage is trying to make sure that it conserves all the cultivated plants that we grow in the UK, whether that be indoors or outdoors, and the national collection scheme allows individual people or organisations to take charge of a particular group of plants and keep information about those plants for now and for the future for our understanding of them. So most of them are based around a particular genus or you might have a group of daffodils or a group of oak trees or a group of ferns and there's a website called NCCPG.com where you can go and search for national collections and see what's out there. I'll put a link in my show notes. And Sally? Well, she holds the national collection of the genus peperomia and here is Sally explaining how she goes about adding to her collection.

Sally: In the whole genus there's in the region of 1,600 species, I am not attempting to go for anything like that because that species, we haven't even thrown varieties and hybrids and cultivars into that. So I was thinking, here I am in the Peak district, I'm not in a tropical region around the world, I'm not going to go chasing after all of the species, some of them, admittedly, quite often with national plant collections, sometimes some of them are a bit weedy and there might be only plants a national collection holder would love. So, I say that I concentrate on the cultivars but, to do that, you do really get involved in the species as well. I basically collect any peperomia I can get my hands on but I don't worry too much if I haven't got every one of the 1,600.

Jane: You can't be completist when you've got 1,600 species, that's an awful lot.

Sally: That's not including the cultivars.

Jane: Then you've got all of the cultivars and it really is a plant, because of its delights as a house plant, there are a lot of cultivars out there, particularly with certain species.

Jane: But how do you know what's a peperomia in the first place? Well, as Sally explains it's all down to flower shape.

Sally: All plants are classified by their flowers, so all peperomia have got a bract, a single ovary, which produces a single seed and two stamens, so that's a peperomia. Now, more recently, they've been able to back that up with DNA. With them saying they're so different, from tropical regions all around the world and there's so many different habitats, they've developed adaptations to be able to cope with the different habitats, but they are all peperomia. Over time, when they were first found they were often called different names, so peperomia now includes what were a lot of different genera and they've been changed and decided that they are actually peperomia.

Jane: That's amazing, I guess it's a testament to the plant they've adapted to so many different environments, yet they're still peperomia which is one of the things that we love about them. Let's go on. I'm excited to see what else you have to show me.

Jane: Just let me jump in here and say do get the show notes for this episode up on your phone or your laptop while you're listening because I'm going to provide lots of links and pictures to the plants that we talk about which will help your enjoyment no end. Right, back to Sally.

Jane: We're now in her lovely farm house kitchen which boasts, not surprisingly, a beautiful array of peperomias.

Sally: Sometimes they're just ones I really want to keep an eye on because they're very special, so there might be new ones to me or something, so I'm just making sure I've got the environment right. The other thing is that it's a south facing window, I haven't got that many south facing windows for the real succulent ones. Then also because in my plant room where I keep most of the collection they're in there and they're just basically by species, by cultivar, and it does mean it's a room full of plants but it doesn't look as wonderful as when you mix up the different leaf shapes, sizes, colours, textures and you can really appreciate the diversity of the genus.

Jane: There's obviously some that I'm: "Oh yes," there's a stray fern in there which we'll just ignore, but that's fine, you don't have to ban all other plants, there's lots of ones that will be very, very familiar to most listeners here, the lovely watermelon peperomia, which is a beautiful specimen. Of course, the raindrop peperomia, polybotrya which is beautiful. But there's some things here that I would not be able to identify as a peperomia. I wouldn't immediately, this one here, fraseri, wouldn't immediately strike me as peperomia-ish. Are these all plants that you've managed to obtain easily? How is getting hold of peperomias in the UK?

Sally: I do a lot of research and I do buy from specialist nurseries and because specialist nurseries know that I'm interested, sometimes lovely people they will contact me and say: "Look, I've got some of these, I haven't got enough to sell, I don't really know what the name is, would you like some?" So I have got some that way but I have been collecting them for years and so it's very cyclical about which ones become available. So, one year there was lots of this one for sale, which is Peperomia blanda, and I wasn't particularly impressed with it, but now I've grown it, I can see the lovely, lovely furry stems, it's become one of my favourites, I haven't seen that for sale for two or three years now.

Jane: Interesting that fashions change. Tell me how this all began for you? You said you've been growing them for many years, what was it about peperomias that made you go all out for them?

Sally: I'm not really a flowers person, not a big flowers person, which is good with peperomias, so I saw a Peperomia caperata, not the cultivar which I've got here which is 'Lillian' with the 'Cristata' inflorescences which is really fasciculated, it was just a straight one with the mouse tail inflorescences and I think it was the combination of the crinkly leaves, the funny flower spike and the tongue twister name that I really liked. I was 12 when I got my first one and then I went through a patch, because I was doing a lot with my garden, I really didn't do much with house plants, and also family. But now the boys have grown up and the last few years I've been able to spend a lot more time with the plants and that was interesting because I started collecting peperomia, I had a few peperomia, and I just had no idea about the diversity when I started collecting them. That, I think, maybe happens for other national park collection holders, the more you find out about them, they become absolutely fascinating.

Jane: You get drawn further and further in, don't you, to the obsession. And they're great house plants on the whole because they're quite easy to grow, that said, people do slip up. For the general species that people are likely to find in their local garden centre, can you offer us any pearls of wisdom while looking after these plants? Where do people go wrong?

Sally: Over-watering really. But also if the compost they're growing in is too compacted, they really like an open compost, their roots really like to have air around them, so quite often, for convenience, nurseries will grow them in pure compost which quickly gets compacted and so peperomia, after a few months, can just suffocate really. Also, if that becomes completely dried out it won't re-wet. So, I use a mix of two parts peat-free general purpose, one-part perlite, one-part orchid bark, for the majority of my peperomias.

Jane: Well they're all looking very, very well on it, I have to say. I'm particularly curious about this little clutch of bell jars in front of us which have got some things, again, that I wouldn't necessarily have identified that one, with the tiniest, tiniest leaves, these trailing or creeping peperomias. They obviously need high humidity but can you tell us a bit more about what these are?

Sally: These ones are, depending on high humidity as you guessed there, the one with the tiny, tiny leaves, this is emarginella they form creeping mats, they're epiphytic this group, some of them are a bit larger, Peperomia serpens, and there's some interesting ones in this group. I don't normally have them right here because I wouldn't be able to use the kitchen.

Jane: I love the fact you've got them on this lazy Susan though, that's the best possible use of a lazy Susan.

Sally: It's a north-facing window, so I turn it one way around every day and so they grow upright instead of going towards the light.

Jane: I've got a lazy Susan in the back of my cupboard somewhere, I'm getting it out and putting plants on it when I get home.

Sally: So these ones here look as if they're virtually the same plant, difficult to tell between them, and theoretically you might not be able to tell between them. One is Peperomia bangroana and the other one is Peperomia rotundifolia. So one, bangroana, that grows in Africa, and the other one is an American, central South American, plant, and the only way you can tell between them is the flower spike, the length of flower spike and the length of the peduncle supporting the flower spike is different and the comparisons between the two is different and so that's why they're given different species. That highlights one of the problems with identifying them when you've bought them in cultivation. If you don't know which country they've originally come from, you can be struggling to find out exactly which species it is and you're waiting for them to flower, so it can take a while.

Jane: But these, I can imagine, would be lovely as a little bit of a green terrarium, green layer.

Sally: With other things, yes, but because, as a plant collection, I have to keep them isolated.

Jane: You've got to keep yours isolated, I can see how they work really well for that. I have to say I now know why I killed my Peperomia bangroana, because I didn't realise it needed that much humidity, so that's why I destroyed that. That's the thing, isn't it, again, knowing where the plant is from is so useful in identifying what you need to do and how you need to look after it.

Sally: This one comes from Sierra Leone, and it was found near the River Bagroo, but whoever wrote down the name wrote down bangroana, so because that was the name it was first described as, it's got to stay.

Jane: It's got to stay like that? I guess that's what happens, human error creeps in and we get these unusual names. Your knowledge must be growing all the time, are you still acquiring new plants for your collection?

Sally: Yes, it's lovely because nurseries then highlight a plant and that might be available for a year or so, or sometimes a collector will have produced enough of a difficult to grow plant that they have some to sell, but also researching into them, I spend a lot of time researching them, and that changes things as well. Names change. Classifications change. So there's always a lot to be doing with them, there's so many different leads to be looking into.

Jane: I'm sure, do you ever walk into a garden centre, minding your own business, going in for something completely different and suddenly come across some cultivar that you've not seen before and get terribly excited?

Sally: Yes, usually I know that they're around because I review the breeders, there's a few breeders on the continent who grow peperomia, so usually I know that they've developed something and that it's going to be available, but it's when I can get hold of it. So, it does happen and it's very exciting.

Jane: I'm sure you would be jumping up and down with joy when you find something like that and try not to look too overexcited so they charge you double because you think: "I must have this plant." Do they ever turn up in unexpected places? I've occasionally been to a jumble sale, or you're walking past and somebody's having a church plant sale and you go in and suddenly there's this incredible plant, I don't know whether that's happened to you, but that's another exciting moment.

Sally: Because, quite often, nurseries will produce a pack of foliage plants, then they can turn up in the oddest places, I've got one plant which I've never seen for sale anywhere else that I got in the local Morrisons, it was a foliage plant, and I was walking past and I thought: "What?" That's a Peperomia trinervula.

Jane: The trouble is, that makes you not ignore any plant tray that you ever see because you're always looking for those treasures aren't you? That is a peril, but it's a treasure hunt, isn't it, partly? And I guess that's the delight of concentrating on a single genus, that you can do that.

Sally: Yes.


Jane: More peperomia chat straight after this ad break.

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Jane: With a great burst of excitement about house plants, have you seen excitement grow about your own collection, have you had more people getting in touch?

Sally: Possibly, it's difficult to say I think because of the nature of the genus, they're a very ancient genus, very primitive, anybody who knows about plants have a "Oh yes, peperomia," because they're unusual, they're not monocotyledons, they're not eudicots, they're not dicotyledons, they're in the Magnoliid clade which is very primitive and that is possibly one of the reasons for the great diversity because they've been evolving for so long. I think there's always been a bit of interest in them but I think more people are getting interested.

Jane: The plants that have, the poster plants, the watermelon peperomia, which is all over Instagram, but not everyone grows it as well as yours looks. Do you have any particular secrets to making those watermelon peperomias grow well? My problem, I'm just going to get you to solve my problems right now, is when I do cuttings and maybe this will not happen with your technique, which we've already discussed, is distorted leaves on young growth. Where the edges of the leaves will be cut and I don't think I've done any damage, but they come up distorted.

Sally: I certainly have them coming up crinkly but then they tend to flatten out.

Jane: Yes, I've had one or two when they've come out with raggedy edges and I'm thinking: "What have I done?" But I wonder whether your technique that I've now started to adopt with the pots whether there's any damage that happens while they're... I don't know, how I'm doing it, but that's interesting to know that that's not a problem that's well known. It's probably my strange ways.

Sally: I've not come across it yet.

Jane: Well, that's good to know.

Sally: With the peperomias, we have these high humidity ones, over there, these are the very low, the high altitude ones.

Jane: Name us a species that we might have heard of?

Sally: Peperomia dolabriformis, this is one of the areas where there's a lot of hybrids around and people might not know what a good dolabriformis looks like. This is dolabriformis var. lombardia which gives you the idea, it's got very, very thin leaves and they've got a definite cleaver shape with only a tiny line on the top, that's called the window.

Jane: That is a window as other succulent plants have?

Sally: Yes, if you imagine that the leaf is flat and then to conserve water, the two sides fold up, so that there's only a really thin strip of the top surface, the adaxial surface, left. That is what is the fenestrate group, which is the window group of peporomias, what they have as a means of conserving water. This one is a very, very rare one, it's a brown purple leafed form, I've got lots of the green leaf form. Another one you might have seen around is asperula which is green. Now, asperula means rough and most of the ones around are not particularly rough, so they're possibly a hybrid. This is a more akin to the first description of an asperula where it's purple brown and the outsides of the leaves are rough.

Jane: Yes, that is rougher isn't it?

Sally: This is a recent one which I've only had for a few months which I was so excited about.

Jane: Yes, that's curious.

Sally: Yes, Peperomia hutchisonii, very, very textured, like toad skin, a tiny window on the top.

Jane: If you can grow succulents, are these similar? Other succulent plants like crassulas or senecios, is it similar care, do you need lots of light? Mean on the water?

Sally: Yes, virtually no watering over the winter and I keep them on a south facing windowsill as well.

Jane: Peperomia 'happy bean' cultivar, is that related at all to those because that seems to be similar?

Sally: Yes, that is a fenestrate type with the window.

Jane: Yes, that's probably the one we might recognise, that is quite widely available and I guess people are surprised there is this subsection of very succulent ones but it's worth knowing that isn't it? It's such an effect, it's so disappointing if you overwater these and end up with a mush.

Sally: One of my favourites is columella which was available quite widely for a bit this year, that again, you can see it's got its little window on it, but I think people got it, saw 'peperomia', thought high humidity, give it a bit of water and I think a lot rotted away, which is sad. They're really a nice plant.

Jane: Of course the caperata, is an old favourite that's been around for forever, I'm always going on about Dr Hessayon House Plant Expert and that features there. It's a plant that went out of popularity for a long time, I think people went off it, but people are totally getting back into it now. You've got this fasciated flower that you mentioned earlier, are you seeing interesting new cultivars coming through?

Sally: Yes, there's some lovely ones, there was a new one brought out this year, called Quito, with a lovely orangey red colouring.

Jane: Do any of these cope with deeper shade? Are there any peperomias that can cope with deeper, or mostly, apart from these fenestrated ones, the old story of bright indirect light. What's the light situation with most of them?

Sally: I would say obtusifolia is pretty tough, you could have that in quite a shady spot, so yes there are a few. A lot of them have, a lot of peperomia as I've mentioned have different adaptations to different habitats and one of the adaptations they have to low light conditions is a red colouring on the undersurface of the leaf like this one, Eden Rosso hybrid. If you have it in too strong light, that red colouring can fade, that is something, if its got red underneath its leaf it will be able to cope with a deeper shade levels. It's thought that the anthocyanin in those cells, they're directly below the chlorophyll and contain the photosynthetic cells and it's thought that its backscatter from light that helps it absorb light in low light conditions, so that's another indicator that one will, or any of those, will probably be able to put up with low light conditions as well.

Jane: I have to say is that incana there?

Sally: Yes, it is.

Jane: My incana which I got from a lovely listener called June, it's really not getting much light at all and it hasn't grown a lot but it's absolutely fine, it seems to be very, very tough which is why we love them and they will adapt to different conditions, which is fantastic. I just love the sheer variety of different kinds of leaves they have. Looking at your wonderful raindrop peperomia that leaf, I don't know how wide that leaf is, it's a good 12-15cm across, it's just so lovely and dramatic, how can you not love that leaf, it's beautiful. It's a wonderful genus and I'm very excited by the plants.


Jane: I know, I know, you've now got even more plants on your wishlist than you had before, do go and check out the show notes at JanePerrone.com for lots of information and tips on peperomias and also details of Sally's national collection. If you were wondering about the propagation technique we were talking about in that interview then that will be covered in part two next week along with our trip into Sally's plant room. Yes, we haven't even got to her main collection yet. We'll also be answering some of your peperomia questions, so do look out for that episode next Friday. You'll just need to subscribe to On the Ledge on your pod app of choice to make that an automatic addition to your listening pleasure.

That's what WRQ95 in Japan did and they left a lovely review on Apple podcast for me, telling me that On The Ledge is the "perfect plant podcast for the busy Tokyo commute to work". How exciting to think of people listening to On The Ledge in Japan! That's just awesome.

In another part of the world, Carolina got in touch to comment on the Oxalis Triangularis episode. Carolina is from Colombia in South America with the Instagram account soy.plantastica and she reminded something I forgot to mention in that Oxalis show, which is that, like the other members of this genus, it's a nitrogen-fixing plant, so it's used as a companion plant for urban agriculture. What's a nitrogen fixing plant? Well, these plants have special nodules attached to the roots, which contain special bacteria that help to draw nitrogen out of the air and turn it into nitrogen that plants can actually use for growth. It's a pretty awesome adaptation that some plants have and oxalis is one of them. So that's something else to conjure with when you're looking at your beautiful purple false leaf shamrock. Carolina also suggests using Oxalis Triangluaris as ground cover for taller house plants which is a brilliant idea. If you had a really tall strelitzia or a palm, this would look great around the bottom of the pot. Underplanting like that has lots of benefits for both plants, so do give that a try and thank you Carolina for getting in touch.

Thanks this week to Cat, Christopher and Frankie, who've all become patreons of On The Ledge this week. It's a great way to support the show and if you pledge $5 a month or more, you get extra content too. Find out how to do that in the show notes at JanePerrone.com


Jane: Now it's time for Question of the Week. Erin from Sydney Australia got in touch with a question about her heart leaf fern some time ago. Thankfully she sent me a reminder about this question, which is why I'm picking it up now, so apologies, Erin, it's taken a while to get back to you. She says that this fern has been going down hill fast and she says that nobody seems to know the answer. So this all started at the beginning of winter in Sydney where her house doesn't usually drop below about 15C overnight, she says, and the fern is in a brightly lit bathroom and it's usually kept moist, even possibly a little bit wet, and she doesn't know what to do to revive her to make this fern beautiful and happy again. Erin has sent a photograph and compared to some of the photographs of ferns I get sent, I have to be honest Erin, it doesn't look too bad. Yes, there is some browning to the edges of the leaves with some yellow bits and I can see some leaves looking a bit miserable, but I can also see that there are leaves in the centre that are nice and dark green and firm and don't seem to be too distressed.

So what can you do with your heart leaf fern? So this is most likely Hemionitis arifolia, the heart leaf fern, which is a smallish fern with leather leaves, it's a very attractive plant and it does love to stay moist at all times, so far, so good. So I think in the bathroom is a good setting for it where humidity is quite high and it sounds like Erin's giving it lots of moisture. I don't know how long you've had this plant Erin, but the other obvious thing to do with any fern that's in a bit of distress like this is to pop it under some glass, this could be a big bell jar, it could be sticking it in some kind of terrarium or fish tank, anything that you can provide that provides a buffer between the outside world and the plant itself, that performs two functions. It locks in humidity in the air around the plant and also, it provides a buffer against changing temperatures. Given that you're talking about winter when this problem first started, it may be that the temperature is fluctuating day and night, if you've turned the heating off, and the plant may not be too happy with that. Some plants like a change of temperature from day to night but others like things to be kept more steady.

I think in the case of this fern, providing that buffer of the glass around the plant, would probably help to settle it down a bit and because this is quite a diddy little fern, it's easy enough to find something to put it in. It's not like it's a huge boston fern which you couldn't possibly contain under glass unless you've got a very large fish tank, so stick some glass over this and see what happens would be my advice. I'd also maybe try looking at the potting mix that it's in, if you haven't repotted it since you've got it, and making sure it's quite an open, airy mix. Roots of ferns like to be well aerated and there can be a problem that that just gets completely solid and mass around the roots and the roots can't breathe properly which can manifest itself in unhappy leaves, so I'd take the plant out of its pot and investigate what's going on.

If you don't want to put it under glass the other thing that you could do is the technique that's known as double-potting, this is where you put your pot into a second larger pot and you can put pebbles or you can put moss which you keep damp in the gap between the two pots and this helps to increase humidity. You can also put water at the bottom of the outer pot if it's waterproof and then put some wicks in the bottom and allow that water to be soaked up by the plant as it needs it, rather than just pouring water in which just sits there around the roots. If you put water into the outer pot, it won't be sitting in the roots but it will be available for the plant to use.

Misting? Yes, misting is a good thing for ferns and won't do any harm but the two techniques I've suggested are a lot less work once they're in place and I just would forget to do the misting as often as I would need to do it, so check those techniques out and see if either of those work for you. I reckon your heart leaf fern has some good life left in it, so I really do hope it recovers. Erin, keep me posted and let me know how it goes.

If you've got a question for On The Ledge, drop me a line and I will do my best to answer. As much detail as you can provide is always useful, pictures, information about where you are and how long you've had your plant is often very handy when answering these questions.


Jane: That's all for On The Ledge podcast this week, I'll be back next Friday with part two of peperomias, do check out my Instagram this week j.l.perrone where I'll be showcasing some of the peperomias that I'm growing, for now have a great week, take care, bye!


Jane: The music you heard in this episode was Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, Rashem Pidity, Pokhara by Samuel Corwin and Overthrown by Josh Woodward. With advertising music from the Heftone Banjo Orchestra with the tracks Whistling Rufus and Dill Pickles all these tracks are licensed under Creative Commons. See my show notes at www.janeperrone.com for details.

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Peperomia caperata ‘Lilian’. Photograph: Jane Perrone

Watermelons, raindrops and turtles … the genus Peperomia contains some of our most popular houseplants: so it’s about time I devoted a couple of episodes to them. I meet Peperomia expert Sally Williams, learn more about this fascinating group of plants, and get lots of care tips. And I also answer a question about a peaky heart leaf fern.

Check through the links below as you listen for more information on the wonderful world of Peperomias…

A Peperomia trifolia rachis up close, taken with a macro lens. Photograph: Sally Williams.

  • Never heard of a National Collection Schemes before? Find out more at nccpg.com.

  • Sally’s Peperomia collection is on the Plant Heritage website here.

  • Sally mentions that the Peperomia genus is part of what’s known by botanists as magnoliid clade: a group of ancient flowering plants that includes magnolias, avocadoes and the order Piperales, of which the Peperomia genus is a part. Here’s a fuller explanation.

    Peperomias mentioned in this episode

  • Peperomias are a really diverse genus and have adapted to live in very different climates. There are some succulent Peperomias that need low humidity and have leaf windows, such as P. dolabriformis from Peru, P. asperula and P. ferryrae (commonly known as happy bean). One of Sally’s favourites in this group is P. columella.

  • Other Peperomias need high humidity, such as P. bangroana, first found in Sierra Leone, which would do well in a terrarium.

  • Other humidity-loving Peperomias include P. emarginella with super-tiny leaves and P. serpens, which has larger leaves. These prefer a north facing window.

  • Sally explains how some Peperomias can look very similar but have different species names, such as P. bangroana and P. rotundifolia.

  • Although most of us will recognise iconic species such as the watermelon Peperomia (P. argyreia) and the raindrop Peperomia (P. polybotrya ‘Raindrop’), but not all species look like these: for instance Peperomia fraseri is sometimes known as the flowering peperomia.

  • The peperomia we mention that has a leaf surface like a toad’s skin is P. hutchisonii (pictured below).

  • Peperomia blanda is a plant that was commonly available a few yers back but now seems less available in the UK.

  • The first Peperomia Sally got her hands on, at the age of 12, was Peperomia caperata. There are new cultivars being launched onto the market all the time, including the recently introduced ‘Quito’. Sally also showed me P. caperata ‘Lilian’ (pictured above) from her current collection, with its fascinating fasciated, lime green flowers.

  • The rare Peperomia Sally found in Morrisons (a UK supermarket) was P. trinervula.

Sally with some of her peperomia collection in her kitchen. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Sally with some of her peperomia collection in her kitchen. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Peperomia caperata 'Luna Red’. Photograph: Jane Perrone

Sally’s Peperomia care tips

  • Peperomias like an open growing medium to get plenty of air around their roots: the growing medium your plants are potted into may end up getting compacted over time, causing the roots to suffocate. Sally grows her Peperomias in two parts peat-free general purpose potting mix, one part orchid bark and one part perlite.

  • Sally puts some of her Peperomias on a lazy susan (rotating serving tray) which allows you to easily rotate plants so they get an even amount of light - what an inspired idea!

  • The amount of light will depend on which kind of Peperomia you have: the succulent species with windowed leaves like a south-facing window, whereas types such as P. obtusifolia and P. caperata will be happier with bright indirect light.

  • Many peperomias are incredibly tough and tolerant, and will put up with all kinds of sub-optimal lighting! My P. incana (the felted peperomia), seems to be one of these!

  • The creeping epiphytic Peperomias such as P. bangroana prefer a north-facing windowsill, and any Peperomia with red undersides to its leaves is likely to need shadier conditions.

  • Listen to episode 110 for Peperomia propagation tips.

Peperomia hutchisonii. Photograph: Sally Williams.

Erin’s poorly heartleaf fern.

Erin’s poorly heartleaf fern.


Erin, from Sydney, Australia, got in touch with a question about her heartleaf fern (Hemionitis arifolia), which is going downhill fast. Erin’s house doesn’t tend to drop below 15C and the fern is in a brightly-lit bathroom and usually kept moist to wet. So far, so good! But how to revive?

It didn’t look in bad shape compared with most fern photos that I see; some browning to the leaf edges but the leaves in the centre are a nice dark green. I suggested locking some humidity into the air around the fern by popping it under some glass (a bell jar, terrarium or fish tank). This will also provide a buffer between the outside world and the plant and some protection against changing temperature, which should hopefully settle this small fern down. I also suggested investigating the potting mix, which needs to be an open, airy mix that’s not too solid for the roots.

It’s also worth considering the double pot method of putting the pot into a second larger pot, with damp pebbles, or moss, or wicks in the gap between the pots, and then watering the outer pot. This will be easier than misting, which involves more work and is easily forgotten!



Join me at Lullingstone Castle in Kent in the UK this weekend (September 21 and 22 2019) for Cactusworld Live where I’ll be doing a live recording of On The Ledge at 1.30pm on September 21, featuring Tom Hart Dyke and Anne Swithinbank: there will be a giveaway of OTL merch, too, for one lucky listener, so don’t miss out! I’ll be holding a listener meetup after the podcast recording so come and say hi!

Then on Sunday September 22 come along to ‘An Audience With Jane Perrone’ at 2pm. There’s loads more going on, including a cactus and succulent show, plant sales from top nurseries, demonstrations and talks.

The following weekend I’ll be at the Garden Museum on Sunday September 29 for their Houseplant Festival: I’ll be helping out with the houseplant clinic, and there’s also the chance to take part in workshops and browse an awesome range of stalls from some of my favourite houseplant shops! And don’t miss the plant swap at 11am where I’ll be recording some interviews with swappers for an upcoming episode of the show on this fascinating topic.




If you’re going to miss growing your own food this winter, it’s time to invest in the iHarvestᵀᴹ - a beautiful indoor garden that’s compact enough for the smallest of apartments and condos.  

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Add greenery and fresh food to your life this winter by pre-ordering your iHarvestᵀᴹ  now at IGWorks.com.



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Want to find out how to become a Patreon subscriber? If you have the third of a price of a cup of takeaway coffee to spare once a month, you can support On The Ledge financially. Every patron now has the chance to download an exclusive artwork by listener Nathaniel Oles, as a reward for reaching my goal of 100 patrons.

Just $1 a month helps to pay for all the things that have made the show possible over the last two years: equipment, travel expenses, editing, not to mention my time! For $5 a month, you get access to two extra episodes a month, known as An Extra Leaf.

I’ve recently added a new $10 tier, which gives you membership of the On The Ledge listener advisory board, a new group helping to decide the future direction of the show: you’ll also receive a personal greeting from me in the mail including a limited edition postcard. You can see all the tiers and sign up for Patreon here.

If you like the idea of supporting On The Ledge on a regular basis but don't know what Patreon's all about, check out the FAQ here: if you still have questions, leave a comment or email me - ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com. If you're already supporting others via Patreon, just click here to set up your rewards!

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This week's show featured the tracks Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, Rashem Pidity, Pokhara by Samuel Corwin and Overthrown by Josh Woodward. Ad music tracks are Dill Pickles and Whistling Rufus by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra. All tracks licensed under Creative Commons.

Logo design by Jacqueline Colley.