It’s always wonderful to see plants flourish in your home or your home’s surroundings.
It gives the sense that everything is going right in the natural world, even if those plants are ones that don’t natively live in the area.
This is especially true when you have a plant in your home that has to adjust to a completely different climate, like the peperomia.
However, a terrible feeling when it comes to these little guys is that you have screwed up, and now they are struggling.
An even worse feeling is not being aware of how to fix this problem.
This is exactly what some owners of peperomia experience regularly when they begin to see the leaves of these little plants curl up.
All they can ask themselves is how this happened and how they can possibly fix this?
Well, in this article, we seek to answer those questions and give you a rundown on what you can do to help your little plant friends.
Leaf Curling: Why It Happens
There are several possibilities that leaf curling can happen, and almost all of them are in response to stresses placed upon the plant itself.
While most stresses that the plant experiences it is able to deal with effectively, sometimes they can just be too much.
This is usually when one stress is continuous over a long period of time – say if there is a drought and the plant has no way of getting water – or because multiple stresses are happening at once.
As such, it is important to not only seek out the stresses, but find out which one is most affecting your plant.
If you do not, you are providing solutions to a problem that your plant is not suffering from and may be adding to the problems that it has.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the problems that cause your peperomia’s leaves to curl:
This is probably the most common cause of peperomia’s leaf curling and the easiest to fix.
Underwatering is surprisingly common amongst those that keep plants, and a plant like peperomia probably experiences it more than other plants do.
This is because peperomia has thick and broad leaves and stems that retain water very well, and they are not an overly large plant.
As such, these plants don’t need as much watering as larger plants in your collection – like a fern would.
This means that many people put them on a different watering schedule than other plants, with peperomias being watered typically once every two weeks.
This has a rather unfortunate effect though, in the sense that sometimes peperomia gets forgotten about and so the watering of them stops.
As with every plant, if the plant does not get enough water, problems start to arise for it.
In the case of peperomia, the leaves will start to curl to reduce the surface area that water can escape through and to reduce the amount of water the plant needs to maintain its shape.
If you want to know whether underwatering is the problem that is affecting your peperomia, then there are a couple of things you can do that both have to do with testing the soil itself.
The first is the finger test. This is where you stick a finger at least 2 inches down into the soil of the pot of the peperomia or in the soil around the peperomia in the garden.
If your finger comes out clean and almost completely free of dirt, then the soil is too dry.
You can also do the exact same thing with a chopstick or thin wooden stick, if you don’t want to get your finger dirty.
Alternatively, if you are willing to fork out the cash, then the other option is to buy a soil probe.
You can stick this in the soil and get an accurate reading of how moist the soil is. If the soil is below 3, then you need to water the soil.
What To Do If Your Peperomia Is Under Watered
Fixing an underwatering situation is actually surprisingly easy, and it requires not much from you.
All you have to do is give your peperomia an extra long and sustained soak in fresh water. Get the container that your peperomia is in and soak the soil until the water appears moist and expands.
If you are unsure whether you may be overwatering it, then stop and water for a couple of minutes.
If the water disappears into the soil without pooling, but doesn’t retain moisture at the top, then keep watering it until it does.
The other option is to place the pot of your peperomia into a container filled with water for 30 minutes before taking it out.
This is a method for the most extreme of under-watered plants, ones that are struggling immensely with the stress of underwatering.
Once you take it out, make sure that the water drains from holes and monitor it for another 30 minutes.
If everything goes well, you should see your plant recover within a day. If your plant doesn’t recover, then it might be the soil causing the issue, and you will need to change it.
Overwatering can also cause the leaves of a peperomia to curl, and is in fact a much more serious cause for concern than the underwatering of the plant.
If your plant is experiencing overwatering, this means that water is allowed to pool within the pot or area that your plant is in.
If this happens, then the water can become stagnant or become a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi.
The water can erode the roots and make it vulnerable to attacks by these bacteria or fungi, which in turn can cause root-rot.
Roots are the way that plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
Without them, the plant will become malnourished and dehydrated, which in turn will lead to curling leaves, as the plant starts to sacrifice parts of itself to survive.
Overwatering has slightly different signs to underwatering. With overwatering, the leaves will curl and begin to develop brown tips.
As this progresses, the leaves will begin to turn soft – instead of rigid – limp and will even start to become a yellow color.
Once you notice these signs, test the soil and see if it is pooling water or if it dries out after a certain period of time.
If the soil does not dry after a week or two, then you need to take action.
You may also want to check the roots of the plant, as root rot is very distinctive. If some or all of the roots are black in color or mushy in texture, then the plant has root rot.
Finally, you may notice a foul smell coming off the plant.
What To Do If Your Plant Is Overwatered
As soon as you feel that your plant is being overwatered, then you need to stop watering it immediately. Any more water could add to the already serious damage that could be affecting your plant.
You should then monitor your plant and only water your plant again when the top two inches of soil have become dry.
Once it has become dry, consider creating a better drainage system – maybe add more holes to the bottom of the pot – or create spaces around the roots so overwatering does not affect them as much.
You can do this by pushing a stick or chopstick into the soil and literally creating holes in the soil.
If the roots of your plant have become black and mushy, then drastic action is needed.
Cut off these roots and treat them, before repotting the whole plant into brand new potting soil, that is better aerated and better draining than the last one.
Peperomia is a fairly forgiving and easy plant, even in low humidity climates. However, it is still best to keep them in a high humidity area, as that is what their native home is most like.
The humidity level that these plants thrive at is around 50%, which is much higher than most places on earth.
If the humidity in your house or garden falls below 40%, then the peperomia is going to start losing moisture through its leaves pretty quickly through the process of transpiration.
While the plant can survive like this, the roots will begin having to take up more moisture to counter this.
In this environment, the leaves may begin to curl to reduce the surface area of the plant to stop as much moisture being lost in this fashion.
Unfortunately, the indicators for low humidity tend to be similar to the indicators for underwatering. The leaves curl and begin to droop with the obvious sign of dehydration.
If it is a persistent problem, the leaf tips will turn brown and begin to feel crispy.
One way to check is to water the plant more and see if it is still suffering. If the peperomia is still struggling after you have increased how much you water it, humidity is probably the problem.
The only accurate way to check is through purchasing a hygrometer. You can use this to accurately evaluate the humidity in the room.
What To Do If Your Plant Is Suffering From Low Humidity
Getting water vapor into the air around the plant is the only way to get more humidity into the room and to keep your plant healthy.
This can be achieved by doing various different things.
The first is through misting, which is where you fill a spray bottle with water and spray your peperomia on each of the leaves and stem.
You can also place pebble trays with water in them. The pebbles stop the water evaporating quickly, creating a misting effect around the plants.
The best way by far to make sure your plant has the right humidity is to get a humidifier that can constantly maintain an accurate and perfect humidity around your plants without over saturating them.
Heat And Heat Stress
Peperomia is a plant that likes a stable temperature of between 15 and 27 degrees Celsius, or 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also a plant that does best when it is not in direct sunlight, but the area it is in is still bright.
If the temperature rises over 32 degrees Celsius, then the moisture from the soil will begin to evaporate much more rapidly and your plant may begin to suffer.
At this temperature, you will need to water your plant more often to stop its degradation.
As before, plants suffering from heat stress present the same symptoms as plants that are under watered. The plants will droop, and the leaves will curl.
If left in long term heat stress inducing conditions, then the leaves will turn brown, dry, and brittle.
What To Do If Your Plant Is Suffering From Heat Stress
If any of the signs are presenting, and your plant is outside, immediately bring your peperomia indoors and put it in a place that is shaded and away from direct sunlight.
It is important to put the plant in a place that is cooler than where it was.
This can be a room in the center of the house or a place where you can hang curtains that make the room cooler and keep sunlight away.
Once this is done, water your plant thoroughly, making sure that water is also on the leaves and stem.
Do this until the top 2 inches of soil is soaked, then put a substance on top of the soil that will prevent quick evaporation – like coconut coir.
If you are also using fertilizer, then you should stop this for the time being.
Fertilizer can use salts which will dehydrate the plant further, but they can also cause the leaves and stems to outgrow the root system, as it tries to recover, adding further pressure to the plant.
Too Much Fertilization
Fertilizing plants does help them, if they are not already under stress.
However, a lot of fertilizers contain minerals and particularly salts that can accumulate in the pot and put further pressure on the plant themselves.
The salt can cause root damage to the root system, by stopping them from absorbing water from the surrounding soil, which allows water to pool and makes them at risk of root rot and infection.
This in turn will cause the leaves to curl in response to a lack of moisture. After some time, these leaves will then begin to turn brown and dry.
The main sign that a soil has been over fertilized is when you see a white, crusty residue forming on the top layer of soil.
These are the salts left behind by the fertilizer and are a sure sign that the plant is being over fertilized.
Once you see this, inspect the roots of the plant.
If the roots are turning brown, then that is root burn, which is a sign of over fertilization. If you do not sort it, your plant will become stunted before wilting and dying.
What To Do If You’ve Over Fertilized
If you have over fertilized, you need to go a bit scorched earth, unfortunately. First, you need to get the plant out of its pot and get rid of all the soil attached to it.
Flushed the entire plant, roots and all, with clean water. Do this three or four times, before repotting the plant in a new pot with brand new fresh soil and absolutely no fertilizer.
Over the next couple of days, flush the soil with water and allow it to drain, before replacing any soil lost with fresh soil once again.
This should get rid of any remaining salts or fertilizer and allow your plant to flourish as it is.
One of the most stressful times in a plant’s life is when it is going to be repotted into another pot. The transplant shock they get from this can be incredibly stressful and cause their leaves to curl.
Plants are creatures that enjoy stability, and taking them from their home can leave them exposed and vulnerable.
The first sign of this after you have repotted is curling leaves that quickly become yellow and wilt.
What To Do If Your Plant Is Suffering From Transplant Shock
The only thing you can really do is care for it greatly during this time.
Make sure it has good soil, plenty of water and nutrients, the temperature is good, basically give it the optimal care that it needs to survive.
After a few weeks to a month, the plant should get over its shock and begin to be healthy again. However, don’t rush this process, plants need time to recover and without it, they will begin to die.
Leaves curling for a peperomia is a worrying sign, but as long as you know what is causing the problem, there is no reason that you can’t fix it and make your plant extra healthy again.