The bushy growth and deep green thick, oversized leaves of Peperomia obtusifolia have ensured its place as a favorite houseplant for decades. Peperomia obtusifolia, also known as the Baby Rubber Plant or Pepper Face Plant, is a charming and easy-going houseplant. With succulent-like leaves and a fuss-free nature, Peperomia obtusifolia is a standout for beginner and long-time plant parents.
Peperomia Obtusifolia Origin and History
Baby Rubber Plants are native to South America, Mexico, and Florida, growing in high humidity forests. Even though it is accustomed to tropical environments, the Rubber Plant is highly adaptable.
The Peperomia Rubber Plant is unrelated to the actual rubber plant, which produces rubber, Havea brasiliense. Instead, the common name is likely to reference the thick waxy leaves. The Baby Rubber Plant is also different from the common houseplant with a similar name, Ficus elastica, or the Rubber Tree. Common names can get quite troublesome, sometimes!
Distinguishing characteristics of the Baby Rubber Plant include its plump, succulent-like leaves with a waxy finish, tall, erect stems, and a deep, dark, green color. It averages 10-16 inches tall as a houseplant and grows outwards more than upwards. Rubber Plant leaves are broad, oval, and slightly cupped or indented. ‘Obtusifolia‘ translates to blunt-leaved. Sometimes the stems have a tinge of pink or burgundy, but not always.
There are some exceptional Peperomia obtusifolia cultivars with highly variegated leaves. Cream, yellow, white, or burgundy marbled foliage is quite impressive. The ‘Alba’ cultivar features creamy ivory-colored new growth, slowly transitioning to all green. ‘Hummel White Cloud’ leaves are grayish-green in the center with silvery white edges. ‘Greengold’ foliage is dark green in the center with cream to golden yellow edges.
There is often confusion between Peperomia obtusifolia and Peperomia magnoliifolia, which leads to mislabeling at plant stores. At one point, it was thought these two might be the same species, but they are not. P. magnoliifolia leaves are described as fleshy, while P.obtusifolia foliage is waxier. This is a difficult distinction to make, as you can imagine, so there will continue to be incorrect labeling.
Baby Rubber Plant Care
In this section you’ll learn crucial Peperomia obtusifolia care tips including soil conditions, watering frequency, fertilizing, and more.
Baby Rubber Plants grow 10-14” tall, rarely reaching over a foot in the home environment (in the wild, they will grow up to 2′). The stems are erect and branch outwards, creating a rounded, bushy, and full appearance. It grows fast, and the stems get heavy, causing them to topple over. As it matures, Peperomia obtusifolia foliage begins cascading and will overflow over the sides of the container.
Due to its spreading nature, the Baby Rubber Plant is exceptionally well suited for hanging baskets or planters where it can pour over the sides. It can be draped around trellises and along walls or shelves if you want to encourage a leggier, more meandering growth.
Baby Rubber Plant growth may get unruly if left unchecked. It doesn’t grow out of control; it just grows unevenly. This is usually due to inconsistent sunlight, watering, or rotating the houseplant to ensure even expansion. To keep a nice, rounded habit, turn it regularly and prune it as needed to keep the growth even.
Bright, indirect sunlight is best for the Baby Rubber Plant. It thrives in partial shade where it can get some early morning sunlight and then cover later on. This houseplant does well in office spaces, dorms, and homes where there isn’t a lot of natural sunlight.
Avoid direct sunlight as this causes leaf discoloration. If you have a variegated Peperomia obtusifolia, it needs just a bit more sunlight to bring out the variegation.
Watering Peperomia obtusifolia isn’t complicated. It prefers evenly moist soil that isn’t soggy and hates drying out completely. The leaves hold quite a bit of moisture, making them considerably drought-tolerant.
The ideal watering schedule is once a week or so, but you should always check the soil every time before adding water. Stick your finger in the top two inches of soil – if it is dry, water. If it is still damp, wait a few more days. Checking beforehand eliminates the chances of overwatering or underwatering your beloved houseplant.
During the winter, reduce watering as the plant is resting.
Temperature & Humidity
Since Baby Rubber Plants are from the tropics, they like high temperatures and humidity. For the healthiest growth environment, keep the humidity high, and your Baby Rubber Plant will thrive.
High humidity can be challenging to maintain in a home. Many plant owners purchase small humidifiers to increase the moisture. This is a pricey option, especially if you only have a few houseplants that need such high humidity. Another option is a DIY humidity tray.
Fill a tray with pebbles and place the plant on top of it. Pour water into the tray; as the water evaporates, the humidity increases around it. Another great option is to keep it in the bathroom, where it will frequently benefit from shower steam.
If you live in an arid climate, misting the leaves every other day will help increase the moisture and humidity. Always mist in the morning, so the water has time to evaporate and so the leaves don’t stay wet overnight.
The Baby Rubber Plant needs a room temperature above 60F. Avoid placing your Peperomia obtusifolia near heat registers or air conditioner vents. These will dry out your plant and hurt its growth.
Plant Baby Rubber Plants in a well-draining houseplant potting mix. It is essential the soil not retain excessive moisture as that may cause the roots to rot. Including a chunky addendum in the soil will help a lot – perlite and coco coir are excellent at increasing drainage capabilities.
Choose a container with drainage holes; this is an essential thing. Water must be able to drain out, so the soil doesn’t get waterlogged.
Add a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Dilute the fertilizer to half strength, and add it to the soil, being sure not to let it touch the leaves. Stop fertilizing in winter, when the plant is resting.
Pruning isn’t necessary except to contain growth or for cosmetic reasons. Bushier growth can be cultivated through gentle trimming if it gets leggy. If you want to keep it to a specific size, you’ll need to prune it regularly, too.
Peperomia obtusifolia doesn’t need repotting very often. The main reason to repot is to refresh the potting soil, which gets drained of nutrients over time. Or if the roots are coming out the bottom of the pot.
Repot to the same vessel if you want to keep the plant the same size. Move it to a pot one size larger each time to encourage more growth. Don’t put it in a huge container as this facilitates overwatering and soggy soil, leading to root rot.
Anytime you repot, do so with care. Baby Rubber Plant root systems are shallow and delicate and easily disrupted.
The Baby Rubber Plant is not toxic to people or animals. Yet, another reason this houseplant is a shining star.
Peperomia Obtusifolia Propagation
Peperomia obtusifolia is relatively easy to propagate. The best propagation methods are through stem and leaf cuttings, and they can be propagated through division. It is best to propagate in the spring when the Baby Rubber Plant is at its strongest.
Propagation through stem cutting
- Sterilize a pair of scissors or pruning shears.
- Choose a stem with at least one node. The node is the joint where the leaf meets the stem.
- A stem with several healthy leaves is an excellent indication that it is healthy.
- Using the sterilized scissors, cut the stem below the node.
- Remove any excess leaves below the node, but leave 2-3 healthy ones above it. They will rot if left on.
- Put the cutting in a jar of lukewarm water (if it is too hot or cold, it may shock the cutting).
- Make sure the node is fully immersed in water.
- Place the jar in a sunny location with lots of indirect sunlight or artificial light.
- Change the water every 3-5 days.
- It may take 3-6 weeks for the cutting to develop roots.
- When the roots are an inch long, remove them from the water and plant them in a high-quality potting soil mix.
Propagation through leaf cuttings
- Use sterilized scissors to cut a few healthy leaves off, ensuring some of the stem is attached.
- Prepare a small pot with high-quality potting soil and moisten it thoroughly.
- Carefully stick the stem in the soil and gently pat around it to secure the stem in place.
- Put a plastic bag around the pot to increase humidity. Leave one bottom side open, though, for airflow.
- Place the pot in a location with bright, indirect light and warm temperatures.
- Check daily and mist the soil as needed to keep it moist.
- In 1-2 weeks, you’ll see the new root and stem growth.
- Remove the plastic bag and let the plant grow.
- If you are going to repot it, be gentle. The stems are very shallow and, therefore, fragile.
Pests & Disease
The Baby Rubber Plant is a hardy, fuss-free houseplant most of the time, but it may suffer from pests occasionally.
Spider Mites, Whiteflies, Aphids, and Thrips
All these bugs are small and sneaky. They are difficult to see until they become a real problem. The best treatment is prevention; inspect your plant’s leaves regularly, especially underneath the foliage.
If you notice leaves developing brown spots, yellowing, or struggling, you’ve likely got the beginning of an infestation. These tiny pests eat or suck the juices out of leaves and stems. Thankfully, they are simple to treat.
Apply a neem oil preparation to all the foliage and repeat every 5-7 days until all the pests are gone. To make a neem oil treatment, mix 2 teaspoons neem oil and 1 teaspoon dish soap in a quart spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and shake well. Another good alternative for treating any of these pests is insecticidal soap.
Consistently overwatered soil leads to root rot. Roots become so saturated that they can’t breathe, and they end up drowning. This is why well-draining soil and a container with drainage holes are essential. And, why adding a chunkier medium, like perlite or coco coir, to the soil helps so much – it creates air pockets.
Peperomia Ring Spot
This disease causes round brown markings on Peperomia foliage. Peperomia ring spot is caused by a virus, and unfortunately, if your plant has this disease, it needs to be disposed of. It is believed Peperomia ring spot disease is transmitted by insects, which is another reason to inspect the plants regularly.
The ring spots start small and translucent, then enlarge outward, creating concentric lines ranging from opaque to dark brown. It will grow to cover the whole leaf, eventually. Peperomia ring spot disease will also cause stunted growth and twisted or curled leaves.
Common Questions about Keeping Peperomia Obtusifolia
Here are a few of the most common questions that we get about keeping Peperomia obtusifolia:
Why are there tiny blisters on the leaves of my Baby Rubber Plant?
When the Baby Rubber Plant receives too much water, it stores the excess in the leaves. This causes small blisters on the thick leaves. To prevent this from happening, reduce the watering and only water when the top two inches of soil are dry. Also, ensure the soil is draining properly and that the pot is never left in standing water.
What is causing my Baby Rubber Plant’s leaves to turn brown at the tips?
Cold temperatures and low humidity will cause leaves to turn brown. As the temperatures and humidity decrease, the worse the damage becomes. A plant can completely defoliate if left in the cold too long. If you notice brown leaf tips, increase the humidity and room temperature.
Why is my Baby Rubber Plant wilting and drooping?
Wilting or drooping is caused by insufficient moisture. Check the soil and water it thoroughly.
Will my Peperomia obtusifolia flower?
It might. Baby Rubber Plants don’t always flower in the home environment. Peperomia obtusifolia flowers are subdued, small and white, or light green. The flowers are unlike any other; they look like tightly curled leaves or long light-green string beans.
Peperomia obtusifolia is one of the dream plants of houseplant owners, beautiful and fuss-free with a fast and easy growth habit. The rich coloring and delightful foliage, variegated or deep green, add charm and character to whatever space the Baby Rubber Plant inhabits.