Grow & Care for Peperomia Serpens (Vining Peperomia)

The Peperomia Serpens is also called the vining peperomia. It gets this common name because of its vining stems that will grow up to a foot in length.

The plant is an epiphyte, that features beautiful green heart-shaped leaves growing closely to one another in long stems.

If you look closely, you’ll also notice that it has succulent-like leaves.

By this I mean that the Peperomia Serpens’ leaves are thick and fleshy because they store water to help the plant through periods of dryness.

However, note that the plant is not a succulent. Instead, is has certain features that are like those of succulents. In this case, its fleshy foliage.

It is a native of Central and South America where it is often found on the forest floors as groundcover under the larger plants and trees.

Thus, you can grow it that way in your garden. But it won’t have as much of an effect as it would if you keep it in a pot, terrarium or hanging basket.

This is why most home growers choose one of the latter 3 options to grow their Peperomia Serpens.

Peperomia Serpens Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Peperomia Serpens needs good lighting in order to support itself via photosynthesis. And its growth and leaf color are affected by the amount of illumination it receives.

This makes a well-lit room ideal for the plant since you can place it almost anywhere there.

Its ideal location is somewhere with bright, indirect, filtered or dappled light.

Unfortunately, because it has solid green leaves, there is also such a thing as too much light. All-green leaf plants are not able to tolerate as much light as variegated plants, in part because they don’t need as much exposure.

So, you also want to keep it away very strong light and direct sun. Both of these can burn its leaves.

Outdoors, it needs some kind of shade to protect it from the sun’s rays. This makes a partial shade location ideal for it.

Thus, you can place it under a tree. Or in a terrace, balcony or patio with some kind of covering to shade it from the strong rays of the sun.

 

Temperature

Because the Peperomia Serpens is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, it enjoys warm weather all year round where the sun is out.

It is not used to cold climates. And it will struggle in freezing temperatures, snow and frost.

This means that that if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 12, you can keep it outside the entire year. You can grow it in the ground or keep it in a container outside your home.

But in colder areas, it will be better off as a houseplant with occasional vacations outdoors during the summer.

The plant’s ideal temperature is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not like temperature fluctuations. And will not be able to tolerate conditions under 50 degrees for extended periods of time.

 

Humidity

Again, due to its native habitat, the Peperomia Serpens is fond of humid environments. Its ideal humidity level is between 40% to 70%.

Fortunately, it is both drought and humidity tolerant. This is because of its thick, fleshy leaves that are similar to those of succulents.

Therefore, the plant is able to store water in its foliage to allow it to withstand dry periods and low humidity.

This makes it easier to care for given that most homes have humidity between 30% and 50% depending on the time of year.

As such, unless you live in a desert environment like Nevada or Arizona, humidity should not be a problem as the plant will happily survive without experiencing any harm or ill-effects from the drier air.

If you notice that the plant is struggling, you can mist it from time to time. But, be conservative on spraying the leaves since it is sensitive to too much moisture.

This not only increases its risk of water problems but can also attract fungus gnats.

 

How Often to Water Peperomia Serpens

As mentioned, the Peperomia Serpens is sensitive to too much moisture.

More importantly, water is the one that can cause problem for the plant. And once you get the hang of when and how to water it, its care is very easy.

Because the Peperomia Serpens is an epiphyte with a small root system. And its stores moisture in its leaves, it is quite easy to overwater the plant.

This means it is a good idea to let the soil dry out a bit before watering.

  • If you like being aggressive in watering (or like to water frequently), then try to hold off until the top 2 inches of soil is dry before adding more water.
  • If you’re not in a hurry to water, are often busy or find yourself forgetting to water, then the Peperomia Serpens is perfect for you. You don’t have to stress about being late a few days when you water. Or, worry about any ill-effects. As long as you water when the soil is dry 50% to 75% of the way down, it will be fine.

The most important things to avoid are:

  • Watering too frequently or early – before the top 2 inches of soil dry out. This can lead to overwatering and increase the risk of root rot.
  • Letting the plant (soil) go completely dry for long periods of time – which causes problems due to dehydration.

Also make sure the pot you use has drainage holes to let drained moisture from the soil escape (and not just pool at the bottom of the pot).

 

Peperomia Serpens Potting Soil

The Peperomia Serpens needs well-draining soil that provides sufficient aeration and will hold enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated. It also appreciates soil rich in organic matter.

And to help it grow optimally, keep soil pH between 5.0 and 6.0.

Of all these, the most important is good drainage. This will prevent too much water which can kill the plant.

Here are a few good potting mix options that work well for the Peperomia Serpens.

  • 1 part potting soil with 1 part perlite
  • 1 part peat moss with 1 part perlite
  • 1 part succulent & cactus mix with 1 part coco coir
  • 1 part potting soil with 1 part orchid back

I also like to add a layer of compost (you can use worm castings as well) for topdressing. This will give the plant extra nutrients so you can reduce the amount of fertilizer you need to apply.

 

Fertilizer

Speaking of fertilizer., the Peperomia Serpens is a light feeder. Therefore, the worst thing you can do is overfeed it.

Thus, they key with feeding the plant is to give it what it needs and step back. Avoid the temptation of giving it more food even if it seems like it is growing much faster with more fertilizer.

That’s because commercial fertilizer products transport nutrients to plants in the form of salt. Therefore, when you feed the plant, the salt will eventually be left behind the in the soil.

Unfortunately, plants don’t like salt. And while some plants have better tolerance to it, too much salt buildup in the soil will eventually damage the plant.

So, here are a few guidelines when feeding your Peperomia Serpens.

  • Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer. A 10-10-10 N-P-K formulation works well
  • Only feed the plant during the spring and summer
  • Apply once a month and dilute the application to half strength when you do. (Add more water to dilute it)
  • Don’t feed it during the winter

 

Pruning

The Peperomia Serpens is a vining plant that will grow to 12 inches long. In some cases it can grow more than that and reach 2 feet in length. But it rarely does.

It is likewise a fast grower so if you don’t like waiting for leaves and stems to sprout, this is a good plant for you.

However, because its stems can get long, tangled and sometimes unruly, pruning is needed.

Trimming it will let you remove the longer stems as well as those that make the plant look messy. Although this is less of problem if you hang it in a basket.

That said, pruning is all about shaping the plant as you see fit. So, it is up to you how you do so.

The only thing to keep in mind is to avoid cutting off too much at once. The plant needs leaves for photosynthesis.

Minor pruning works really well and can be done anytime.

 

How to Propagate Peperomia Serpens

Stem and leaf propagation are the two most common methods you can use to grow more Peperomia Serpens from home.

The plant responds well to propagating which makes the entire process easy.

You can use either method depending on which one you’re more comfortable with. Although, I’ve noticed that leaf cuttings take a bit longer.

Peperomia Serpens Stem Propagation

  • You can take a single stem cutting or more than one if you want to grow more new Peperomia Serpens. You can also choose a stem tip or go to the base and get the stem there. If you pick a longer stem, you can cut that one into multiple stem cuttings.
  • Try to choose a stem that’s healthy with at least 2 or 3 leaves. And when cutting, get enough stem below the leaves. This makes it easier to put the stem in water or bury it in potting mix.
  • Next, decide how you want to propagate the stem cutting. You can propagate it in water or in soil.
  • To propagate in water, place the cutting into a glass jar so the stem is submerged at least half an inch or an inch in the water. Remove any leaves that end up in the water. Also, replace the water once a week.
  • To propagate in soil, prepare a small pot with well-draining soil (50% peat moss and 50% perlite). Then plant the cutting into the soil. Keep the soil moist.
  • Place the glass jar or pot in a warm spot with bright, non-direct sun.
  • It takes about 4 weeks for the cuttings to root. With water propagation, you’ll be able to see the roots grow in real-time.
  • Once the roots get to 2 inches or longer, you can move the cutting into soil.

Peperomia Serpens Leaf Propagation

  • Leaf propagation is very similar to stem propagation. The difference is you’ll be using leaves instead of stems.
  • Start by taking a leaf cutting. I like to include part of the stem or petiole although this is not necessary since the Peperomia Serpens roots quite well. If you have larger leaves, you can also divide them lengthwise and use each half as well.
  • Dip the leaf cutting in rooting hormone. With half leaves, cover the edges with rooting hormone.
  • Then plant the cuttings into the soil.
  • You can cover the pot with a plastic bag or even Tupperware to increase humidity. The goal is to trap the moisture (by using the cover). Higher humidity speeds up the growing process.
  • If you do cover the pot, make sure to remove the cover every so often to let fresh air in.
  • It will take about 4 to 6 weeks for the leaves to root and take hold of the soil. During this time, keep the soil moist and leave the plant is a warm spot with bright, indirect light.

 

How to Repot or Transplant Peperomia Serpens

Due to the plant’s small size and non-extensive root system, repotting is a low maintenance task. You won’t need to repot often, especially since the plant does enjoy being slightly pot bound.

However, when the time comes, it is important to repot the plant to allow it to continue growing.

You’ll be able to tell when to repot by check the holes on the bottom of the pot. If roots are coming out of these holes, it is time.

This is a sign that the roots are looking for more space to grow.

 

Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

The Peperomia Serpens is not toxic to humans, cats and dogs. Therefore, you can have peace of mind that it does not pose an poison risk to your children or pets even if they accidentally ingest parts of the plant.

 

Peperomia Serpens Problems & Troubleshooting

Overwatering

Overwatering is something I mention whenever I talk about peperomia plants because I lost a number of them early on to it by watering them like regular houseplants.

The problem?

The Peperomia Serpens is very sensitive to overwatering. This is why I recommend waiting until 50% of the soil is dry before adding more moisture.

If you’re already dealing with an overwatered plant, it is a good idea to check the roots for any damage. Healthy roots are firm and white. Black, brown, mushy, soft or smelly roots mean they’ve rotten.

With rotted roots, it is harder to save the Peperomia Serpens because it does not have a large root system. Thus, you may need to trim off a good part of the leaves to reduce the work the roots need to do so support the plant (as it tries to recover).

If the roots are not rotted, then you can adjust your watering schedule. You can likewise take immediate action by repotting the plant in fresh, well-draining soil.

 

Yellow Leaves

With your Peperomia Serpens, yellow leaves is usually a sign of too much light.

Direct sunlight, exposure to strong light or mid-day sun will cause this.

Fortunately, the fix is easy. Move the plant to a less bright place. Also, prune off the yellow leaves as they will not recover.

 

Drooping and Wilting

Wilting is typically caused by underwatering or overwatering.

Too much water will cause problems for the roots and the plant. And wilting will happen. If not addressed, you’ll start seeing leaves drop as well.

Underwatering can also cause wilting. But it is easier to fix as the plant will quickly recover once you add moisture.

 

Pests and Diseases

Mealybugs, mites and fungus gnats are the most common pests the Peperomia Serpens will experience. They can happen any time but most often when the plant is not in its best condition.

Therefore, stress is never a good thing. And giving it too much or too little of any of the requirements above can increase its risk of pest and disease.

On the other hand, root rot, leaf spot and other infections can likewise affect it roots or foliage. All of these are caused by too much moisture.

And they’re very preventable.

Thus, try to keep the plant on the dry side.  Avoid overwatering the soil and wetting the leaves too much especially later in the day.

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