The Peperomia pellucida is known by many common names including:
- Pepper elder
- Shining bush plant
- Vietnamese crab claw
- Man to Man
- Rat ear
- Silver bush
The plant is also a close relative of the Peperomia maculosa.
And as beautiful as it looks, it is better know for its benefits and uses (which I’ll go into detail below).
Naturally occurring in the forests and cliffs of tropical Asia, North and South America, the Peperomia pellucida features lovely green, broad heart-shaped succulent-like leaves that have a smooth, shiny texture. When crushed, the produce a mustard-like aroma.
It can grow to between 6 and 18 inches tall making it perfect as a houseplant.
Peperomia Pellucida Benefits & Uses
The Peperomia pellucida is best known for its medicinal purposes. It is likewise edible and sometimes included in salads, teas and other foods especially in Southeast Asian nations like Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The plant is valued for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. As such it is used to treat conditions like fatigue, headaches, gout, joint pain, acne, abdominal pain and colic.
Peperomia Pellucida Plant Care
The Peperomia Pellucida is found in shaded habitats in tropical and subtropical Asia and parts of the Americas. Therefore, it prefers to moderate light indoors. Outdoors it thrives in semi shade and will tolerate full shade as well.
Because you don’t get as much light indoors as outside, the plant will likewise do well in bright light as long as it is indirect or filtered. Keep it away from direct sun or very strong light.
If your home does not get a lot of natural light, you can use fluorescent lighting as well which will keep the plant healthy and happy.
Thus, as far as position goes, an east, west or north facing window will work. You can likewise keep it towards the southern direction provided that you place the plant away from the sun’s rays or protect it by filtering the light. You can use curtains, blinds or even a shade cloth to do this.
Because it is accustomed to tropical and subtropical conditions, the plant is better suited to moderate to warm environments. It also has no problem with very hot locations but will need better hydration since the soil will dry out faster given this conditions.
This makes its ideal temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, it will not have any issues tolerating temperatures up to the high 90s.
But it is not used to the cold. And it does not encounter any snow, frost or freezing temperatures in its native habitat.
Therefore, it has very low tolerance for this.
As such, it is a good idea to keep it away from temperatures below 50 degrees.
If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 12, you can keep the plant outdoors all year round. In fact, the plant has been naturalized in areas like Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Hawaii and Louisiana.
But in colder regions, it is better to keep it as an indoor plant. However, you can take let it stay outside during the summertime when the weather is warmer.
The Peperomia Pellucida enjoys humid environments as it is used to damp habitats. Thus, it prefers humidity above 60% and won’t have any issues with 90% humidity either.
It is worth noting that the plant does have a succulent-like stem, which allows it to store moisture. Thus, it can tolerate slightly lower humidity without any harm.
That said, you still want to be mindful of dry air.
Try to keep humidity at 40% or higher.
If you home’s humidity consistently stays in the 30s or even 20s, it is a good idea to mist the plant or get a humidifier.
You can likewise group it with other plants or place it on a pebble tray to increase humidity. However, the boost and consistency won’t be as high or precise as that of a humidifier.
How Often to Water Peperomia Pellucida
If you been to Florida, Texas and other Southern coastal regions where the weather is warm, you’ll may have seen the Peperomia Pellucida growing in woodland areas or near lakesides even when not cared for.
It is a fairly hardy plant that can survive as long as it gets a few things, including:
- Warm weather
- Humid surroundings
- Moist soil
- Dappled shade
So when it comes to watering you do want to try to keep the soil consistently moist especially during the warmer months. When humidity it high, you don’t have to water as much.
That said, it is a good idea to let it stay drier during the winter months.
Keep in mind that in its native habitat, the plant gets sunshine all year round because winters are mild with no snow. Therefore, you need to adjust (and scale back) if you live outside of USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 12.
The colder weather will cause soil to take longer to dry. Therefore, reducing water during the wintertime prevents overwatering, diseases and pests from coming around.
This means the best way to water the plant is to do so infrequently but deeply. And you want to wait until at least the top 2 inches of soil is dry before adding more water.
Peperomia Pellucida Potting Soil
The plant thrives when soil is kept consistently moist. In its natural habitat, the soil will sometimes be on the wetter side as well.
However, like other peperomia, it has a small root system which means that overdoing the water, especially if there isn’t enough light and the weather is not warm (tropical or subtropical-like) can put it at risk of overwatering.
Therefore, the best soil for the Peperomia Pellucida is something well-draining and allows good aeriation. It is not too fussy about soil pH doing well between 5.6 to 8.5 (acidic to alkaline).
You can use a combination of:
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 part perlite
Or, if you have potting soi at home, mix:
- 1 part potting mix
- 1 part perlite
You can use pumice or coarse sand in place of perlite as well. The important thing is to give the soil enough drainage to prevent the plant’s roots from drowning in water.
That’s because indoors, you don’t have the same climate as its natural habitat. Therefore, you want to be a bit more conservative the moisture as it can lead to root rot, bacterial or fungal infections.
Fertilize the plant once every month during the spring and summer using a balanced houseplant fertilizer (15-15-15 or 20-20-20). Dilute the application to half strength to reduce the potency.
Since the plant is not a heavy feeder, you want to keep an eye out for salt buildup in the soil, which can damage its roots.
To do so, avoid fertilizing when the soil is dry. Also, water the plant from the top or flush the soil every so often.
Avoid feeding the plant once late fall arrives as well as the winter.
The Peperomia Pellucida can grow to between 6 to 18 inches tall. It has small leaves that can reach 1 to 2 inches long and populate the plant’s long stems.
While it is a low maintenance plant, it is a fairly fast grower so you should see differences in its length and the amount of foliage within a growing season. This is especially true if you provide it with the right environment including sufficient light, warm temperature, moist soil and humid conditions.
That said, as the Pepper Elder grows, you’ll see its stems get longer.
At times, they can grow in every which way causing the plant to look untidy or messy. You may also encounter a few leggy stems or those that get wayward once in a while.
Prune these to keep the plant looking good. On average, once a year maintenance trimming works really well.
How to Propagate Peperomia Pellucida
You can propagate the Peperomia Pellucida from stem or leaf cuttings. Outdoors, it is also known to self-seed which is why growers will deadhead them. However, it is not a problem if you grow the Pepper Elder as a houseplant.
Propagating Peperomia Pellucida from Leaf Cuttings
- When propagating from leaf cuttings, choose larger leaves from a mature Peperomia Pellucida plant.
- Then bury the leaves in well-draining potting mix.
- Water the soil to keep it moist.
- Then leave the cutting in a warm spot with bright, indirect light.
- It will take a little while for the leaf cutting to develop roots. After that, another few weeks or months before you see new growth.
Propagating Peperomia Pellucida from Stem Cuttings
- Stem cuttings are very similar. But you’ll be taking healthy stems with at least a few leaves on it.
- Plant the cutting in well-draining potting mix so that the stem is buried in the soil.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy or wet.
- You can also propagate the Peperomia Pellucida in water by placing it in a glass jar so the stem is submerged in the liquid. Make sure to remove any leaves the end up in the water as these will eventually rot if you don’t
- Leave the cutting in a warm spot with bright, indirect light.
- It will take about 3 to 4 weeks for the stem cutting to root.
- If you propagated it in water, wait until the roots grow to at least 1 to 2 inches (you can wait longer as well) before potting it up in soil.
How to Repot or Transplant Peperomia Pellucida
While the Peperomia Pellucida is a fast grower, how quickly it actually grows will depend on your home’s living conditions. If you can mimic its natural habitat, you’ll see it grow the fastest.
However, in most cases, it is not always easy to completely replicate outdoor conditions inside our homes.
This means that you won’t need to repot very often. It will take about 2 to 3 years before you need to do so. In part, this is because the Pepper Elder plant has a small root system that is not extensive.
Therefore, it will take a while before the roots need more space.
This also means that you want to gradually go up in pot size (1 size at a time).
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
The Peperomia Pellucida is not toxic to humans and pets. In fact, it is used for medicinal purposes.
That said, I don’t recommend just eating or using the plant’s leaves without understanding its benefits, uses and how to prepare it properly for this purpose.
Problems & Troubleshooting
Spider mites, mealybugs and slugs are your most common enemies. These sucking insects go after the sap of the plant. Therefore, you’ll see them prey on its stems and leaves.
Different pests will target different parts of the plant. Therefore, you want to check thoroughly when inspecting.
Overwatering is the biggest issue the plant faces because of its small root system. Although it can tolerate moisture because it is accustomed to it in its native habitat, it won’t be able to stave off problems if it is consistently overwatered.
That’s because the plant is stuck in a pot where water has nowhere else to go. In the ground outside, there’s a lot of space for water to diffuse and get distributed.
Therefore, if you find that you’ve overwatered the plant, you can let it dry out. There’s no guarantee it will recover because a lot depends on how much damage it sustains.
You can likewise repot the plant in freshy dry potting mix to help it out.