If you’re looking for a houseplant that’s easy to grow but doesn’t compromise on looks, you’ve found it. Although the baby rubber plant (Peperomia obtusifolia) does produce flowers, the species is mostly grown for its pretty, shiny foliage. And you don’t need to be a houseplant expert to grow this one!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Peperomia obtusifolia care and growing a baby rubber plant in your own home.
|Name(s) (Common, scientific)
|Baby rubber plant, pepper face plant, Peperomia obtusifolia
|Let the top of the soil dry out
Peperomia obtusifolia natural habitat
Baby rubber plants are found in humid forests throughout Southern Florida, Central America, and South America, where they thrive off nutrients taken from tree debris.
Peperomia obtusifolia light and temperature
What’s great about Peperomia obtusifolia care is that these plants are not super demanding when it comes to lighting. They do best in bright to moderate, indirect sunlight. As long as they’re somewhere close to a window, they usually do fine!
Some claim baby rubber plants can do well in low light as well. The problem is that etiolation can occur if you grow yours in a spot that’s too dark: new leaves will be spaced further and further apart, making for a sparse look and ruining the nice bushy appearance of your plant.
Tip: If you can’t find a nice spot by the window, a grow light might help provide your baby rubber plant with that little bit of extra brightness it needs.
Note on Peperomia obtusifolia ‘variegata’ care
There are many cultivars of this houseplant out there, some of which with variegated leaves. Peperomia obtusifolia ‘variegata’ care is pretty much identical to that of a normal green baby rubber plant but you do really need to keep an eye on the lighting. Too much shade can cause the leaves to lose their lovely cream marbling.
If your Peperomia obtusifolia ‘variegata’ is already switching to producing green rather than multicolored foliage due to lack of light, don’t panic. Thankfully, if you switch the plant’s placement and ensure that it gets more sun, it’ll go back to producing variegated leaves.
The ideal temperature for Peperomia obtusifolia care is between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18 to 26 degrees Celsius). As such, the temperature in your home should be just fine for this one! If the temperature drops into the 50s (or low teens), or your house is drafty, your plants won’t do as well.
Baby rubber plants like humidity, with around 40-50% recommended. If your house is on the dry side, you can try putting your plants in a bathroom with a window, where it tends to be more humid. You might even want to run a humidifier, especially if the humidity is on the low side for humans as well.
Peperomia obtusifolia soil and planting
Baby rubber plants love nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. You can easily use general mixes and add a good fistful of bark or perlite to help with the drainage. After all, this plant has succulent-like properties so it won’t appreciate its roots being left in standing water.
If you think the soil is lacking in nutrients, you can add some compost as an organic supplement to bring your Peperomia obtusifolia care to the next level. Worm castings also work well to add some extra richness.
Tip: If you don’t feel like mixing your own soil, opt for premade mixes made for cacti and succulents.
Since these plants have small root systems and don’t tend to grow all that fast, you don’t need to repot them very often. Once a year will usually be more than enough.
If your baby rubber plant does start to become root bound, which you can tell by checking if the roots are coming out the bottom of the pot, then you can go up a pot size or two. Be sure to always choose a planter that has a drainage hole, as you should for all houseplants.
Watering Peperomia obtusifolia
When it comes to watering, these plants aren’t too demanding. You should wait for the top inch or two of soil to dry out before watering, although it’s important not to let it go bone dry either.
One watering a week is a good place to start for baby rubber plants, although there are many factors that will affect the optimal watering frequency. For instance, if the air in your home is on the dry side, your houseplants will get thirstier more quickly.
Just keep in mind that while baby rubber plants like lightly moist soil, it should never be soggy since this can quickly lead to root rot.
Propagating Peperomia obtusifolia
Peperomia obtusifolia is pretty easy to propagate and there are a bunch of ways to do so.
One method of multiplication that works particularly well for Peperomias is leaf propagation. It really doesn’t get much easier than this, since all your have to do is snip off a leaf with some stem on it. Pop this into fresh soil (water works too, but directly into soil is a bit easier here), covering the stem but leaving the entire leaf sticking out, and be patient.
Another propagation method is to take a simple stem cutting. Cut right above a root node and pop the cutting into it in water or moist soil. In both cases, you can help speed up the process by using a rooting hormone and wrapping a bag around any new plants to create a mini greenhouse that can help trap in some humidity.
Propagating always involves a little trial and error, so if one method doesn’t give you the results you want, just try another!
Peperomia obtusifolia fertilizer
As mentioned earlier, baby rubber plants have small root systems, so they’re not heavy root feeders. Once a month or bi-monthly dosing with all-purpose general fertilizer that’s been diluted to half strength is usually all they need.
It’s best to only use the fertilizers during spring and summer and then cut back during fall or winter when the plants aren’t actively putting out new growth.
Buying Peperomia obtusifolia
Since baby rubber plant care is so easy, they can be found in just about any greenhouse or even some grocery stores.
Keep in mind that there’s a bunch of different cultivars of this plant out there, some more common than others. You’ll most frequently see the green version but, as mentioned, there is also Peperomia obtusifolia ‘variegata’ with cream marbling in the leaves.
Tip: Do you love baby rubber plants? You’ll be happy to know the genus Peperomia doesn’t end here. Check out the funky-leaved Peperomia caperata (emerald ripple Peperomia) as well!
Problems with Peperomia obtusifolia
One of the best things about Peperomia obtusifolia care is that these plants don’t tend to have many issues. That being said, you still need to keep an eye out for the usual insect pests, like mealybugs or spider mites.
Thankfully, with rubber plants being so small, getting rid of unwanted visitors is not too much of a challenge. If you do see any pests hanging out on the leaves, you can just bring affected plants to the sink and blast them off under the faucet. That’ll teach ’em!
When it comes to the leaves, you’ll need to watch out for the usual problems. Yellowing, wilting, browning and leaf drop can be caused by both over- and underwatering, so you’ll have to scrutinize your watering habits. If it was overwatering you might have to repot your baby rubber plant and remove any roots affected by rot.
One issue that I had with my baby rubber plant was edema, which fortunately is pretty common in houseplants and more unsightly than anything else. If you’re a bit bad about watering (watering both too late or too early on a regular basis), you can accidentally confuse the roots into taking up more water than they can handle. This can cause baby rubber plant leaves to show scabbing, especially on the underside, as cells burst due to the excess liquid.
Is Peperomia obtusifolia toxic to cats and dogs?
According to the ASPCA, Peperomia obtusifolia is non-toxic, so your pets and children are not at risk if they chew on a leaf or two.
Do keep in mind that ingestion of any plant can cause some vomiting and diarrhea in pets. It also causes sad houseplants. If your furry friends are especially prone to leaf munching you might want to place your baby rubber plant out of their reach!
Tip: Looking to expand your houseplant collection but worried about your feline or canine companions? Have a look at the list of pet safe houseplants (you’ll find the baby rubber plant on there as well!).
Cover photo: © rebekahhelton on Adobe Stock.