Episode 110: Peperomias part two

Peperomias come in all shapes and habits, from the watermelon peperomia (left) and the raindrop peperomia (right) and the trailing  Peperomia angulata  in the middle. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Peperomias come in all shapes and habits, from the watermelon peperomia (left) and the raindrop peperomia (right) and the trailing Peperomia angulata in the middle. Photograph: Jane Perrone.



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Jane: Hello and welcome to episode 110 of On The Ledge Podcast. I'm Jane Perrone, the person who gets ridiculously excited by new and interesting plants. Yes, I do quite frequently blow my top on this show but in a good way I hope, and this week we're back on the Peperomia trail. I'm airing part two of my interview with Sally Williams, in which we discuss the wonderful world of Peperomias. And I'm answering a question about the Resurrection Plant, wooo! Sounds like something out of the X-Files! We'll find out more about this plant and why it's pretty special a bit later.


Jane: I was at Cactusworld Live at the weekend and had a wonderful time geeking out over all things hot and spiky and chatting to Anne Swithinbank and Tom Hart Dyke and I'll be bringing you that live show as next Friday's episode, so we'll be looking forward to that. And if you're a Patreon subscriber you can hear my Audience with Jane Perrone as a Patreon extra which is available now.

Just a reminder that I'm at the Garden Museum this Sunday, the 29^th^ of September 2019 for the Garden Museum Houseplant Festival, and it looks like it's going to be absolutely packed so I would get there early if you can, particularly if you don't have a pre-booked ticket because it's going to be crowded. I'm looking forward to seeing you there and if you come up to me and say, "I love On The Ledge," I will have some stickers for you so look me up! I'm taking part in a houseplant clinic along with some other houseplant enthusiasts so that should be fun too, and if I can get the recording to work then I will put that out as a podcast episode as well, so that's pretty exciting stuff. And then I think I'm going to go and lie down in a darkened room because I've been so busy flitting hither and thither with On the Ledge recently, and I've got so many episodes stacking up that I need to run, so it's exciting times for On The Ledge.

I also wanted to mention that every fortnight I do an hourlong houseplant chat on Twitter called 'Houseplant Hour.' That happens every other Tuesday, and the next one will be on Tuesday October the 8^th^ at 9 p.m. UK time and I'd love to see you there. It's just a great Twitter chat to talk about houseplants and share your pictures and ask questions, and just generally have a lovely avoidance of bad news hour, which is most welcome I would think you would agree. So, if you're not on Twitter, get yourself an account and join me.


Jane: One of the most exciting things that I've learned from Sally Williams, national collection holder of Peperomia cultivars in the UK, is an amazing propagation technique for Peperomias, which is so simple yet so easy and low maintenance, and it really has changed the way that I propagate a lot of plants. Not just Peperomias but things like Hoyas and some Begonias, it works really well for them too. And I wanted to share this with you as a matter of urgency, because I know it's something that you guys are going to love.

So, I wanted to start off with this clip. In fact, what happened was I went into Sally's beautiful home, and the minute we got in the hallway I noticed an array of these plastic pots, made a beeline for them, and we immediately started recording because I was just so excited. Yes, I know, you've heard this all before, this is me getting over-excited about plants. So here we go, here is Sally and I talking about why hummus pots are absolutely vital for Peperomia propagation. I should say, other clear plastic pots work fine, I just love the idea that you've got to eat a ton of hummus to get your Peperomias propagated.

Jane: Sally, we're in the hallway of your home and the first thing I see is something that's got me very excited, which is your little pots of delight.

Sally: My hummus pots.

Jane: The hummus pots, they're clear plastic pots. This is a wonderful revelation to me, tell me about what these are.

Sally: I found that a lot of Peperomia will propagate really easily in water, but if you do that you have to keep topping up water.

Jane: Yes.

Sally: And also, there's the humidity issues with the little leaf. If you've got them in a hummus pot, you don't ever have to top them up and they've got a naturally high humidity. So, you can basically put your leaves in there, seal them up and forget about them for a few weeks and then when you come back to them there's usually a little plant on there.

Jane: It's so exciting isn't it?

Sally: I have found that when they're in this controlled humidity, when the humidity's higher, they seem to produce shoots much more quickly.

Jane: Yes.

Sally: So, when they're in water, you get lots and lots of water roots, but they might take a while to produce shoots, whereas with the hummus pots it could be within 4 weeks that you're getting shoots.

Jane: It's a really good method, and I particularly like it because I am just one of these people who, you know I'll suddenly go 'Oh gosh that was a nice cutting, it would've been really nice if I'd have kept it topped up with water but it's now dead because I've left it for two days.' So, this is a really good method if you're kind of, if you've got a lot of cuttings, or if you're not always going to be there to keep an eye on the water levels.

Sally: Yeah, absolutely.

Jane: And does it work for any Peperomia? Have you found any Peperomia it doesn't work for?\ Sally: Yeah. Peperomia come from such diverse habitats. You have the ones which do live in high humidity situations, and then you have the xerophytic ones, where they have really low humidity, like the very high-altitude ones over 6,000 feet, and they would not like it in high humidity environments. So, I actually do still root some of those in water, even though they're really succulent looking, I usually start them off in water, just until I can see some roots just starting and then get them into gritty compost.

Jane: We'll be hearing a little bit more about those propagation pots in the main interview coming up, but just to say a little bit more about this technique, it's so simple and it works brilliantly. All you need, if you don't happen to eat hummus, is a clear plastic pot with a tight-fitting lid and you can buy those new but really, why not recycle something? I'm sure that you'll have some of these lying around your house or in your fridge, that once you finish the contents, you can empty them out. And I just put about half a centimetre of water at the bottom. If you happen to have fancy distilled water or RO (reverse osmosis) water, whatever, you can use that, but I just use tap water and it does go a bit algae-filled, but that doesn't seem to matter. And I'll just place the leaf into the pot, lay it down - it doesn't really seem to matter if the leaf is particularly covered in water or not, as long as there's a layer of water at the bottom of the pot, that seems to be fine, and the leaf is in contact with it.

So, lay the leaf down, or in the case of - I've done this with Hoya Mathilde - just curl the piece of cutting round the circle around the pot, or lay the leaf in there whichever kind of leaf you've got, and then put the lid on tightly. Don't make any holes in the lid and then just leave it in a bright but not sunny spot and wait. And I just tend to stack these up vertically just to save space, Sally has them laid out in a grid pattern, I'll put a picture in the show notes. Either way, just keep an eye on it. If you don't put the lid on properly you will get some evaporation. If you want to see what happened with my Peperomia Maculosa leaf and that story, do look at my Instagram stories where I posted a little video about it. This just shows how amazing this process is. Certain leaves like Peperomia Maculosa and a lot of the Begonia Rexes and Watermelon Peperomia, Peperomia argyreia, you can cut the leaf up into pieces and it will root at every point where a vein is cut, a major vein is cut. So that's what happened with my Maculosa. I left the lid off accidentally and the section of leaf almost dried out but it's still going strong. So, plants are amazing, and this technique is amazing too. And I've also used it on Begonia arthrosa leaves, that's the beefsteak Begonia, and it worked really well for that too. So, you put the leaf in, you put the lid on and you leave it, and once you've got a good root system going, I would say maybe two or three centimetres long, then as Sally said pot up into gritty compost. You may feel like you need to pop a clear plastic bag over the cutting at first, just to get it used to that transition from the very humid environment of the plastic pot to going into the environment of your room so you can do that. For succulent leaves, it probably won't be that much of an issue and it works absolutely brilliantly. And I'd love to hear how you get on with this particular technique and if it's something you've tried because well, quite frankly, it's changed my life and made Peperomia cuttings a delight.

And now we're off to Sally's plant room, which is the main domain where her Peperomias live. Let's find out what she's got hiding behind the door.

Jane: We've come to the Aladdin's Cave now, it's beautiful, full of wonderful Peperomias and I don't know how many plants are in there, over a hundred I would say.

Sally: There's probably nearer 5...

Jane: Wow, okay. And how long do you spend maintaining this collection? Is it a big task to keep them all going and keep records?

Sally: When I was thinking that I was going to register to have a national plant collection, I thought 'Well, I'm up in the peak district, we get some bad weather. I want to make sure that I can control their environment and that will make things easier.' I didn't realize if you have houseplants, they're totally dependent on you, and so they do take, they're dependent for the light levels, for humidity levels, for water, so... but then they're great fun. So, yes, I do spend a bit of time watering.

Jane: Well, I'm sure! I would be in here, just constantly in here, as you say, looking at your plants and yeah, just pottering. So, tell me about some stand-out plants from this room, there's some lovely ones.

Sally: This bench is Caperatas, through to about here, so there are, we've got, this is a nice one that's very popular, Lunar Red. And similar to that, but just with smaller leaves, so it's still a red-coloured one is Shumi Sierra, Sunset Shumi Red. This is Abricot. This one here, the variegated one, is particularly pretty because when the leaves are a bit mature there, it's variegated cream and white but the young leaves are a lovely shade of pink, so on a bigger plant you have the green and cream speckled leaves on the outside and then the pale pink leaves in the middle. It's a really pretty one.

Jane: That's lovely, beautiful.

Sally: This is Quito, where there's sort of reddy-pumpkin coloured leaves, it's really pretty.

Jane: And are you keeping these, these pots are very lovely, are they all in terracotta?

Sally: Yeah, they're all in terracotta which I've found is better because you get the airflow around the roots. With Peperomia, all Peperomia, are unusual in that they have on the epidermis, the top surface of the leaf, they've got a layer of water-conserving cells so they're not reliant on their roots to bring water up. In fact, they like their roots to be not too wet at all, so they're really happy being misted, so I do, I mist them twice a week.

Jane: Well that's interesting because I would, you know, sort of instinctually I'd say, well, they don't really need misting because they're very succulent but that's interesting because of that characteristic misting obviously works for them well.

Sally: Yes, so they can absorb water.

Jane: I'm going to have to start misting my Peperomias clearly!

Sally: Yeah, absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. They don't like their roots to be totally dried out, but usually just misting them there's a bit of moisture that goes on as well. I probably, I water them maybe about once every month or less.

Jane: And where do you get these lovely brown terracotta pots from? They're gorgeous. Have you got a secret supply?

Sally: No, I should get them wholesale, but I don't at the moment. There are some, they've got them at some garden centres.

Jane: I'm going to the wrong garden centres.

Sally: I can tell you that the Blue Diamond Group has them.

Jane: They're really nice because well I'm moving more and more of my houseplant collection to terracotta and yes, I'm becoming a bit of a terracotta geek. And looking at everyone's terracotta pots, and I have got a lot of very old ones, but they're beautiful. They're really nice.

Sally: Well I was put off before because I didn't feel I wanted terracotta. I just didn't really want it but when I saw these I thought yes, these are the right ones.

Jane: You thought that was right. Well they're lovely. They've got sort of a chocolatey-brown colour. Goes really well with the plants as well.

Sally: It does, yeah. Their leaves stand out.

Jane: Yeah. So, these are your Caperatas.

Sally: These are Caperatas. This is a different species, these are griseoargentea, which looks very like Caperata, but as the name says, they're grey silver leaves, so yeah, they're pretty.

Jane: And on the top row?

Sally: This is, so you've got this big hanging one which is Peperomia nitida variegata, and everyone calls it Peperomia scandens variegata, but it's not the correct name.

Jane: Yes, I think we had a question about this on Facebook and you stepped in and said this is what it is, because it's one of those things that people just get wrong and it's good to get correct.

Sally: And that's the unvariegated form.

Jane: And that's a lovely, I don't think I've ever really seen that, that doesn't seem that widely available unless I'm looking in the wrong places, again perhaps it might be a plant that comes around...

Sally: It's having a moment, yeah!

Jane: It's having a moment.

Sally: Over the last three or four months I've seen some available, I've seen some for sale.

Jane: Okay, interesting. Look out for it.

Sally: These are some pretty ones. These are with very small little leaves in what's called Peperomia nitida variegata, so in groups of three or four, and tiny white flower spikes.

Jane: They are tiny those flower spikes.

Sally: Yeah, so this one's Peperomia hoffmannii. It's quite often sold as Isabelle.

Jane: I've never seen that. That's great.

Sally: But if you look at these ones, I've had these ones for quite a while, and because in this plant room I don't do anything to increase the humidity -- they do get an occasional misting -- but if you just feel those leaves, they've really absorbed moisture. So even though that's not, they might not grow normally in such humid environment, they're ok with it, so they're fine with that.

Jane: And is that, as people call it, the String of Turtles, which is so popular?

Sally: Yeah, Peperomia prostrata.

Jane: And it's got such an amazing pattern to the leaves, which just makes it delightful.

Sally: It is, it's really pretty I think, and that really likes misting. Then they almost look like little jewels then because they have this clear bubble on top from the humid spray. So, a lot of plants, if you're propagating Peperomia, if it's the rosette forming types, and so that would be things like Caperata, the watermelon one the Aygeria, Napoli Nights, Mendoza, Brasilia, the ones that form sort of like a rosette shape, Marmorata, then they propagate very well from leaf cuttings. So, from petal cuttings. If it's a trailing one, then you tend to find the adventitious roots at the nodes, and they are happier being propagated with just a little length of stem. So, you can put that in a hummus pot and that will send out more roots really quickly. With this one, which is Peperomia pecuniafolia, pecuniifolia sorry, this one you would think would need a length of stem because it's a traily type, but Peperomia because they're succulent, you move them or give them a hard stare, a leaf might drop off.

Jane: We've all been there.

Sally: Yeah. And so, I thought when I just shove them in there with some earth, and it takes a lot longer, but you do get there. So, it's a bit like the Hoya's where you see a single leaf growing and you think that's never going to get any further, but then occasionally...

Jane: Occasionally it does! Wow, look at that, that's really great.

Sally: But the amount of time it takes for them to grow compared to a putting a little length of stem in, I recommend that.

Jane: You've got to be patient. I see, yes.\ Sally: So here is some more of the window-leafed ones, Peperomia carmonella, Peperomia nivalis, some more unusual ones, Peperomia astori, Peperomia congesta, kimnachii.

Jane: And what is it about these particular ones that you love? Are these some of your favourites, these, just because they're unusual and rare?

Sally: Maybe because they're unusual and rare. Maybe because although they're succulents, they're really not fussy at all, so they're quite happy to grow. They put up with higher humidity and what happens is, as I mentioned before, when they, to conserve water when it's times of drought, the leaves fold up. So, if they're in higher humidity conditions the leaves can open out, so I've got a few here because it's quite humid in this room just because there's so many plants where the leaves are opening out. Then another sub-group of Peperomia are really exciting which are called the geophytic ones.

Jane: Oh, I was going to ask you about that little one because it seems a bit of an outlier there. That looks amazing.

Sally: Yes, so these have got a caudex, so they're caudicaries, they've got an underground organ, and the leaves grow directly out of that, and they're also deciduous, so they die down over the winter.

Jane: Yeah, that's fascinating.

Sally: So, they're really pretty with sort of an umbrella shaped leaf about a centimetre across.

Jane: I love an umbrella leaf, yes. Any plant with an umbrella leaf is a winner for me.

We'll be hearing more from Sally about her Peperomia collection after a little bit of Q and A. And this one comes from Steve this week, who got in touch to ask about the resurrection plant, aka the Rose of Jericho, aka Selaginella lepidophylla. I say the Latin name because, well, you know I love saying Latin names, but also because Rose of Jericho and the Resurrection Plant can refer to a few different species. But this is a plant that you may have seen online. It's one of those things that tend to show up on social media as a time-lapse of this brown desiccated ball that slowly over the course of about 24 hours opens up like a flower and gradually turns green when exposed to water. And this is the wonderful thing about this particular plant, this member of the Spike Moss family. If conditions are very dry, it curls up into a ball, and then when water is back again it will then revive itself and that's a reaction of growing in desert conditions where obviously water is sometimes in short supply.

This is a really fascinating plant and one that is sold as a bit of a horticultural novelty I guess, a bit like sea monkeys or those grow-your-own crystal kits. But looking online anecdotally I can see that a lot of people buy these plants and end up disappointed. Sometimes they buy this brown lump and put it water and absolutely nothing happens; it doesn't revive, it is dead because ultimately this plant will do this seemingly magic trick, but eventually if denied water for too long, it will die. Some people are disappointed that the plant doesn't actually do what it's advertised as doing, other people then struggle to keep it alive once they've done this transformation. You can plant it in a pot and make sure it's in some gritty compost obviously, it's from a desert environment. Lots of people report that they just can't keep this plant happy over the long term.

So, Steve got in touch to say that he had put in an order for this plant but then got a bit concerned because he was hearing anecdotes about Selaginella lepidophylla being taken from the wild and being sold in an unsustainable way. This plant comes from Central America, Mexico, places like that, and I didn't know the answer to this one, so I sought out some expert advice. Jeff Benca is a horticulturist and a palaeobotanist, who pioneers the conservation and interpretation of ancient plants. In other words, exactly the person I needed to chat to on this issue. Jeff told me,

"The plants are wild collected and so far they are rarely grown successfully. I do not encourage purchasing S. lepidophylla because the wild harvest that is taking place is not going to be sustainable in the future. Most plants offered for sale are long dead, even though they appear green when hydrating."

For another take on the matter, I had a quick chat with James Wong who you'll be very familiar with if you're a regular listener to the show, the UK based ethnobotanist and houseplant lover. And he said that he doesn't think anyone in the E.U. at least is growing this plant. But he did point out that the species is listed under the conservation status 'not threatened' which means that it isn't currently under any threat of extinction, although of course if wild collection goes on, that could put the species at threat in the future. What he does say is that if wild harvesting is being done in a sustainable way, and he does point out that it's a big 'if', "this may not only be environmentally benign but could have benefits such as giving local people an incentive to protect these habitats." And he describes the whole debate as a complex one. So, what I would say is ask questions of your supplier. Wherever you are in the world, and wherever your plants are coming from -- and this applies to any plant that you grow -- ask questions of your supplier. Where's the plant material come from that you're purchasing? Are these plants wild-collected or have they been raised in a nursery environment? These are the kinds of questions that will force suppliers to be transparent about what they're doing and also allow you to make more informed choices about your plants.

Personally, the resurrection plant for me is not one I would be going out and buying. I think it's kind of a horticultural one-hit wonder if I can put it that way. In other words, you're buying this plant for this dramatic process which, if Jeff's right, then a lot of the plants won't be actually doing this, you'll be disappointed, and then it's very hard to maintain on an ongoing basis and keep the plant happy. And it's something that may have travelled thousands and thousands of miles, all for the sake of, well, a bit of a splurge of excitement when you know you could watch a time-lapse video on YouTube instead and perhaps save yourself the money and the time. But do bear in mind, this species isn't under threat at the moment, so there is an argument to say that this really isn't a problem for this plant and there are plenty of other houseplants that are very endangered in the world, which we should be perhaps more concerned about. It's an interesting one, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And if you've got any knowledge or expertise in this area or know of anybody raising these plants without taking them from the wild I'd love to hear from you. Do drop me a line at . And do check the show notes for links to time lapses and further information about the Resurrection plant.

And do get in touch if you've got a question for On The Ledge, I am always happy to help if I can. And do remember that you can join the Facebook group, Houseplant Fans of On The Ledge. We've got over 1,000 members now, so do come and join us. And if you've got a question, you can always post it there for other members to chat about and hopefully find you an answer because we're a very knowledgeable and friendly bunch. I'll include a link in the show notes if you're not sure where to go to find that.

And now let's head back to Sally's Peperomia room. Sally needs to keep at least three of every cultivar or species that she takes care of for her national collection, so a lot of her plants are just huddled together on her benches, which makes them very happy because it's nice and humid that way, but she's also got other ways of displaying her plants. Here I am asking her about a lovely plant stand showing off a particular group of Peperomias, take a look at the show notes for a picture.

Sally: These are all Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars, yes. So there's the plain non-variegated one, there's the irregular variegated one, where it's just splashes of green and cream, there's the one where they've got creamy gold edges to the leaf, and this I think is the most interesting one, where it's a combination of dark green around the edge, and then a bit of splashing, and then dark green in the middle.

Jane: That's lovely.

Sally: Yeah, so that one's called Peperomia Golden Gate, quite an unusual one. There's also a lime green one, where it's a mint green leaf with little darker green splashes.

Jane: Well I can see why this is a collection that absorbs you very much because they are such a wonderful group of plants. This is making me, as usual, want all the plants. I did say to my husband before I left, "Am I allowed to bring back any plants?" And he said, "Well...okay." It's because I think he knows, I can imagine what your family feel like about your collection, but I think he's kind of accepted that there's always going to be a lot of plants. As long as he can still walk into rooms and out again safely, he's happy.

Sally: I'm allowed any plant I want as long as it's a Peperomia, nothing else.

Jane: Now that's a good way of looking at it. These are gorgeous, I saw these at a Dutch plant show. These are Piccolo banda. That's a beautiful, beautiful leaf.

Sally: They are very pretty, aren't they?

Jane: With the striped and then the dark, dark purple lines, and then the red petiole. They're gorgeous.

Sally: I was wanting just to show you these because this one here is flowering away. It's got, what, how many, six flower spikes, which are branching panicles of other flowers, but you can see what it's done to the base of the plant. It's putting all its energy into these flower spikes. So, it's a good idea when these flower spikes have finished, what will happen is they'll continue branching and producing leaves and the rosette at the bottom will suffer. So, when they've finished flowering, when the flower spikes have died off, cut them right down to the base, so that the plant has a chance to bulk up again and get strong.\ Jane: Can you do a lot of pruning and adaptation to change the look of an individual plant? And I'm just thinking about Polybotrya Raindrop, in that I've seen ones that are quite sort of squat and then some which get very, very tall. Do they take to kind of pinching out bits to be more bushy well?

Sally: Yes, it tends to vary a bit. If you think about Peperomia, they haven't got a great root system. So, they haven't got stores to throw a lot of energy into putting new shoots out if you do prune them. So, I'd say yes certainly prune them, use the pruning's for propagation material in case what you'll end up with isn't that great. But yes, you can certainly do it and it does work. Yes you can definitely improve the appearance of the plant with pruning it, but it's not like a plant which has a great root system which can then bounce back.

Jane: Got you. That's so interesting about the roots because I've never really thought about that before, but that is useful to know when you're thinking about pot size and also how you're treating the plants in terms of misting. That is really, really interesting.

Sally: Well, with the pot size I do a couple of things, I do keep them in quite a small pot, they quite like that, but also, I tend to put two or three, well three maybe, in the same pot. and then you can use a slightly larger pot. And because they're all absorbing the water in the air, they're a bit happier there.

Jane: I think one of the problems with modern houseplant pots is they're very, or cache pots that people then put inner pots into, is a lot of them are very, very small you know, and too small really to be, to work as a pot and therefore you do get this. In fact, I've got one of these, Rosso...

Sally: Eden Rosso, yeah.

Jane: I've got a tiny one in a tiny pot and I just can't keep it at the right level of moisture because it just dries out so quickly. I was thinking to myself the other day, I need to put that as an underplanting under something else -- a bigger Peperomia -- just so that it's able to get the right amount of moisture because it's just sat there, and it hasn't died but it hasn't grown at all so that I guess. I mean have you ever tried that, experimenting with putting different things in the same pot, can that work or, I suppose for you as a national collection holder, that's not what you're allowed to do is it?

Sally: Yeah, no. I can have them to enjoy but I wouldn't want to do that with something where I'm looking at the plant as part of the collection, but it is something. I think a lot of like the little ones that I keep under glass domes, they would love to be in a terrarium together and all the different leaf shapes and sizes. So I haven't done that but I think that it would work but I have seen people do it where they have put for instance say a Peperomia graveolens, that's one of the window ones that likes very dry situations, and they've put it in with plants which grow in the rainforest; that's not going to work. They need different compost conditions, they need different humidity and growing conditions, so they wouldn't be happy together. But definitely, the ones that like the tough ones and maybe something that likes certain conditions and yeah you can certainly mix that up.

Jane: I hope that's inspired you to think about mixing it up with your Peperomias. Do share some photos with me if you've given that a try. And last but certainly not least, lots of you had questions about Peperomias which were posted in the Facebook group, Houseplant Fans of On The Ledge. Some of them we've already answered in the course of our chat, but I wanted to draw Sally's attention to a few specific questions, and first up was one from Mike who wanted to know how to take care of his Rana Verde. He had written, "This isn't a succulent type and seems fussy, especially regarding watering." Let's see what Sally has to say.

Sally: Yeah Rana Verde, yep, so that one was brought out a couple of years ago. I particularly like that one, its nice green leaves, I did point it out to you upstairs, I've got some big ones. I wonder if Mike has not looked at the compost that it was originally growing in, so I don't know if it was that. To me, it's not one of the terribly fussy ones. One of the things is that if you leave the flower spikes on it can get exhausted, and then it sort of has a bit of a rest, and then lots of new growth will come back, so you can cut off the old flowers and so it can concentrate its energies on the new growth. But I would say the general rules with that one, what I do, is I put it in my quite open general-purpose compost and mist it twice a week and it seems fine. Just another thing generally about Peperomias, to get them to flower, they do like on the whole a period of cold over the winter, so particularly the high-altitude ones. So, if you can get the temperature down somewhere where they're getting a lot of light but the temperature is only about 15 or something like that, then you'll get much more flowers.

Jane: And the next question come from Dejac, I hope I've pronounced that right, apologies if not, but they want to know what Sally's most recommended Peperomia is. What a difficult question.

Sally: I think that ones like Napoli Nights is really pretty. That's got silver leaves and it can just flower and flower and flower so that one is lovely. And it's not terribly fussy about watering, and also closely related to that is another cultivar called Brasilia, and that one is very tough and that has quite big dark green leaves with a red under surface and that one again is very tolerant but it's quite a nice plant flower. The flower spikes on those have got red tips.

Jane: Next question comes from Chris who says, "All the new growth on my Peperomia, about 40 centimetres, was lots of little leaves rather than the more succulent thicker type. It was in a tiny pot but my I've re-potted and decided to loop the new grow around the top of the pot in the hope it'll root and fill in. Will this help and root down?"

Sally: I'm wondering if that's Peperomia Orba. So Peperomia Orba of all of them is more prone to that. If a Peperomia is kept quite warm and with a bit more water than it needs over the winter when it's got insufficient light, it'll produce lots and lots of tiny leaves, and they won't go away, you need to cut them off. So not quite as warm over the winter and a lot less water. Peperomia Orba seems to be particularly prone to that.

Jane: Brittany wanted to know whether Sally had heard of Peperomia Ruby Red Cascade, because when she searches for the names, she can't find anything.

Sally: So that's, I think is, the same as Pepperspot. Now I have seen a comment when somebody said, "I'm growing Ruby Cascade next to Pepperspot and they look quite different," but I don't know if that's cultivation. You know if you're bringing in a plant that's been grown in the ideal conditions that nurseries can do and then bringing it into your home, it might be the under-cultivation situation, they look different, but as far as I can tell it's the same.

Jane: And Erin wants to know whether her Peperomia flowers should be cut off or left on.

Sally: Depends if you like them or not. When they're finished Erin, if you want to grow them from seed, Peperomia seeds are recalcitrant, so like a lot of tropical plants, so that means that you need to sow them fresh. Tiny seeds, they'll dry out. There was, I wanted to show you some seeds which I'd sown about two weeks, actually, of Peperomia Maculosa, and that one particularly easy from seed, and in fact I think of all the Peperomias, it's grown commercially from seed because it's great. So, if you want to do a bit of sowing from seed, hang on to the flowers. What will happen is you'll see the flowers and then as time goes on -- they've got I think a very interesting flowering cycle -- but as time goes on you will see that each individual little dot on the flower spike becomes bigger and darker. And once it's dark, that fruit is probably ripe, and you can sow them. So, for the health of the plant, cut the flower spike off from the rosette forming ones. Don't let it get vertical with lots of leaves above it because then it just won't look attractive, you might like it like that but it's losing the character that you bought it for, whereas before you do that you can consider the seed and just put it in a hummus pot with some compost and within a few weeks it'll be germinated.

Jane: And quite a few of you asked about curled leaves on various species and cultivars of Peperomias, and here's what Sally had to say on that subject.

I mean I've heard all kinds of explanations for particularly Peperomia polybotrya leaves, where they're curling or taking an odd shape and it's either that it's too hot or not humid enough.

Sally: Or light levels; too much, too little, yeah.

Jane: Is there any chapter and verse on this? Or is it just so difficult to tell depending on the individual conditions of the plant?

Sally: It is really, it is.

Jane: I guess something you can do is just keep testing slightly different combinations and seeing how your plant reacts.

Sally: Yes. Try different light levels. When they have got curled leaves, you're misting them then you can get water sitting on the leaves and then that can cause marking so it's not great. But I think it is a light level thing, and just try different light levels and watering. If they absorb too much water, if they're in too humid an environment, then the leaves can get really, really thick. And then they will curl over just because of the thickness of the top layer.

Jane: And to finish up, some of you had asked about fertilizing your Peperomias and here's Sally's answer to that, and it's intimately tied up to watering procedures as well.

And just tell me about your watering technique because I'm looking here and I don't see drip trays under here, how do you go about watering all these many, many plants?

Sally: Well they don't get much watering because they mist.

Jane: Right, so you're misting them but not watering them that often?

Sally: I give them an occasional bit of water but it's not enough, they're on a metal tray, you know. It's flat, there isn't that much run-off.

Jane: I guess that makes life easier. As I say, it's interesting. I'm so interested by the misting thing because I don't think I've ever misted a Peperomia, but I've clearly been getting that wrong, so I'm going to start misting.

Sally: With misting the other advantage is, because I use a foliar feed, is that you're not going to get that build-up of mineral salts in the same way that you can do if you're feeding them.

Jane: So, what foliar feed do you use when you're doing that? Is it just general houseplant foliar feed that you put into your water?

Sally: Yes, I do. At a low concentration. There's one called Houseplant Mist but that's quite uneconomical if you have hundreds and hundreds of plants, but you can use their water-on one, which is 'Houseplant Focus', at a lower concentration and that seems to be okay. I keep intending to give them a bit of seaweed boost as well as a treat, but the thought of a strong smell of seaweed in the house is putting me off. I don't need to do that.

Jane: Yeah, I can understand that. And presumably that's just during the growing season and then the easing off?

Sally: Yes. I do look at them and depending on the humidity in the house, because the succulent types, they're quite happy with low humidity. It can be very, very low humidity at a very high altitude, but the others, particularly in centrally heated houses, I might give them a bit of misting but you're not running the risk of root rot if you're misting them.

Jane: Yes, of course. That's a revelation. And what a wonderful collection, and I mean it's a credit to you that they're all looking so healthy and lovely. Do you ever get things wrong and find a plant struggling and cursing yourself because you haven't got things quite right, or are you so experienced that doesn't quite happen anymore?

Sally: I think that there are some plants that I don't find as easy as others, and there's other ones which are really, really easy, but I think I've sort of got it right now. But because I'm getting new plants all the time, some of their requirements surprise me. This one, Peperomia rugosa which I got recently, I think that one comes from Ecuador, this one I was really surprised that it doesn't like it that humid. I had it in my plant room where the humidity can be quite high. It's got big thin leaves with a slight silver area down along the veins. Really big leaves.

Jane: Huge!

Sally: And because they're thin, generally with Peperomia there's a situation where the more succulent, the drier they like it. This is very thin, so I would've thought that it wouldn't like dry conditions, it would like humidity but it doesn't really so, yeah.

Jane: There's always a new challenge. Well it's an amazing collection and thank you very much for sharing it with me, I'm totally overwhelmed with Peperomia joy. It's very exciting, thank you very much.

Sally: It's a pleasure!


Jane: That's all for this week's show. If you didn't catch a plant name, or want a bit of information, do check out the show notes at www.janeperrone.com which I try to make as comprehensive as possible. And in those show notes you'll find details of Sally William's collection which is open to visitors by appointment.

Subscribe to On The Ledge via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Player FM, Stitcher, Overcast, RadioPublic and YouTube.

Missed part one of Peperomias? Click here to listen and check out the full show notes.

Peperomias are centre stage again this week as we hear part two of my chat with 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 the so-called resurrection plant.

General info for this episode

Sally Williams’ Peperomia cuttings rooting in their clear plastic pots. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Sally Williams’ Peperomia cuttings rooting in their clear plastic pots. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Peperomia obtusifolia  cultivars displayed on a plant stand. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars displayed on a plant stand. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

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

  • Sally’s Peperomia collection is on Plant Heritage website, here: you can visit the collection by appointment.

  • Sally’s propagation technique works with most peperomias apart from the really succulent types such as P. columella. Just get a clear plastic pot, put a few mms of water at the bottom and place your leaf or stem ccutting inside, then add the lid and leave in a bright spot. Once rooted, the cuttings can be transferred to gritty compost. Add a clear plastic bag at first if you are worried about wilting.

  • Growing Peperomias in terracotta is helpful for this genus as it allows plenty of air to reach the roots. Sally’s dark brown terracotta pots seem to be sold as ‘basalt’ terracotta online and are available from the Blue Diamond group of garden centres in the UK.

  • Intrigued by geophytic Peperomias? more info on Peperomia.net.

  • As Peperomias don’t have big root systems, they can manage with quite a small pot - or put several Peperomias into the same pot, but make sure they are Peperomias that like the same conditions.

  • many Peperomias benefit from a cooler period over winter if they are to flower at their best.

Some of Sally’s Peperomia cultivars. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Some of Sally’s Peperomia cultivars. Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Peperomias mentioned in this episode

Sally Williams in her Peperomia room. Photograph: Jane Perrone

Sally Williams in her Peperomia room. Photograph: Jane Perrone

Answers to your Peperomia questions

  • Mike’s ‘Rana Verde’ is causing him problems, but Sally suggests checking the potting mix - it may need changing from that supplied by the nursery (see Peperomias part one for potting mix details). Remove the flower spikes to help the plant put its energy into new leaves.

  • If you’re looking for a really great cultivar to start your collection, Sally recommends P. ‘Napoli Nights’.

  • Chris’s problem with tiny leaves: Sally wonders if this is P. orba which is prone to this problem when kept too warm and wet over winter. Cut off the tiny leaves and keep cooler and dryer in winter.

  • Is P. ‘Ruby Cascade’ the same cultivar as P. ‘Pepperspot’? Sally thinks so, but as we’ve explained, it’s hard to tell some cultivars apart.

  • It’s a good idea to remove flower spikes once they’ve finished flowering as they can sap the energy of the plant.

Question of the week

Steve was on the point of buying a Selaginella lepidophylla - aka rose of Jericho - aka resurrection plant - when he started to hear rumours about wild poaching of this plant. So he wanted to know whether it was a plant he should avoid buying.

I got in touch with Jeff Benca, a horticulturist and paleobtoanist, for his view. He said:

The plants are wild collected and so far they are rarely grown successfully. I do not encourage purchasing S. lepidophylla because the wild harvest that is taking place is not going to be sustainable in the future. Most plants offered for sale are long dead, even though they appear green when hydrating.

Resurrection plants are usually bought like this: a desiccated brown ball. Photograph:  Michelle Spaulding  on  Flickr

Resurrection plants are usually bought like this: a desiccated brown ball. Photograph: Michelle Spaulding on Flickr

James Wong wrote an interesting piece about this plant and other members of the spikemoss clan, so I also asked him for his thoughts. He says he’s not aware of anyone growing this plant in the EU, but he does note that it is classed as ‘not threatened’ when it comes to its conservation status. He went on: “So in theory if this wild harvesting is being done in a sustainable way (a big ‘if’), this may not only be environmentally benign but could have benefits such as giving local people an incentive to protect these habitats. A complex one!”

So, if you’re in any doubt about the provenance of your plant, do ask questions of your potential supplier - where are their plants from, how are they raised or collected, and so on. A trustworthy seller should be happy to furnish you with this information.

And if you don’t get satisfactory answers to your questions, perhaps stick to watching a timelapse of the plant ‘blooming’ instead: there’s many online but here’s a couple here and here.

Want to ask me a question? Tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com. The more information you can include, the better - pictures of your plant, details of your location and how long you have had the plant are always useful to help solve your issue!


The Sunday (September 29 2019) I’ll be at the Garden Museum for their Houseplant Festival curated by former OTL guest Alice Vincent. 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.

.This week’s sponsor: IHARVESTᵀᴹ INDOOR GARDEN

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Thanks to the iHarvestᵀᴹ indoor garden for sponsoring On The Ledge this week. if you’ve ever wondered why indoor hydroponic gardens have to be so - well, let’s be frank here - ugly, then it’s time to take a look at the iHarvestᵀᴹ indoor garden.

It’s compact enough to fit in the smallest of living spaces, taking up just 2.5 sq ft of floor space, but it’s also beautiful enough to take centre stage in your home, and it allows you to produce fresh fruit and vegetables all winter long using the clean tech of hydroponics. The good news is that’s great for the environment too, as the iHarvestᵀᴹ uses 90% less water than traditional gardening, and 60% less fertilisers than supermarket fruits and veggies.

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


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This week's show featured the tracks Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops and Quasi Motion by Kevin Macleod. This week’s ad music track is Whistling Rufus by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra. All tracks licensed under Creative Commons.

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