Peperomia is a group of very large genera of pepper plants that inhabit many regions around the world.
They are incredibly diverse and are so varied that they have not only been identified several times, but new species are being discovered all the time.
The little plants fascinate botanists and are beloved by multiple people, but often owners find that despite their best efforts, they cannot get their little plant friends to grow comfortably in their pots or gardens.
Many try their best to keep them from suffering, but often in vain.
It might surprise you to know that the effort they make is directed at the plant, when it should be directed at the potting mix that these plants are put into.
As such, we have created an article today to show you the correct potting mix to place your peperomia in, as well as potential DIY mixes.
Wrong Potting Mix Indicators
If you are using the wrong potting mix for a plant, that plant will probably let you know very quickly that you are doing that.
Although plants have no way to communicate with us in the traditional sense through sound or even the ways that other animals communicate with us, they are perfectly able to show that their surroundings are making them miserable and are even unhappy with the current situation.
As such, here are some key indicators that your peperomia is struggling because of its potting mix:
Dense Or Compact Soil
Soil that is incredibly dense or has been compacted down on top of the plant’s roots will allow less of any substance to flow through it.
This includes less water being able to soak into it, less ability for roots to push through it, and less oxygen able to enter into it that the plant can then make use of.
This can obviously present problems for your plant, with it struggling to gather even the most basic of nutrients, but the real problem is actually from the water itself.
When it eventually trickles through the soil, it will end up pooling in the soil, not draining properly. This can lead to bacteria collecting and causing root-rot within the plant’s root system.
If the soil around your plant is an okay density, then you should be able to take a stick and push it to the bottom of the pot full of soil easily.
If your stick meets substantial resistance or cannot pass through the soil, then the soil is too dense and compacted.
While this can be a side effect of dense or compacted soil, it can be a sign of other things as well.
If the soil around the plant is still wet a couple of weeks after you last watered, or it just doesn’t ever seem to dry out, then you are causing problems for your plant.
When a plant becomes waterlogged, it creates pools of stagnant water and – as mentioned earlier – this creates breeding grounds for bacteria.
This can be caused by compact soil, overwatering, or even just a lack of drainage holes, but the bacteria can cause terrible conditions like root-rot.
To test whether your soil is too wet, stick your finger into it to a depth of at least two inches.
If your finger comes out with soil stuck to it, and you haven’t watered the plant in a while, your water is not draining properly, and you will need to sort it.
Discolored Or Curling Leaves
Leaves are the most obvious indicator that plants can give us that something is wrong with their soil.
If they are drooping or curling, then that is a clear sign that the plant is dehydrated and if the plant is dehydrated, the first place you look for answers is the soil.
There are two possible causes from the soil alone.
The first is that the soil is not retaining enough moisture when it is watered to allow the plants to drink through transpiration and the second is that the roots are experiencing root-rot through waterlogging, which is not allowing them to drink efficiently.
Stunted Growth Or Wilting
If your peperomia is not growing or experiencing wilting, it may have an advanced state of root-rot, which can be caused by using the wrong soil.
In this state, the peperomia won’t produce energy for growth, since it won’t have consumed enough water for photosynthesis.
Without this water, the cells in the leaves and stem will lose the water that allows them to remain rigid (or turgid) and upright.
The plant will begin to fall over as it buckles under its own weight, which is a major concern for all involved.
Plants – as a rule of thumb – should not smell bad. If you are smelling an awful smell coming from your plant, then something is wrong.
If that smell is a sulfur-like smell, then your plant is in an advanced stage of root-rot or there is a mass of bacteria pooling in the soil.
If it is the bacteria, the smell is coming from the combined anaerobic respiration that they are doing.
Pests And Fungi On The Plant
Having soil that is problematic for your plant will weaken it and leave it susceptible to various diseases or conditions, but there is a greater fear.
A sick plant is very much like a wounded or dead animal, and that attracts predators, in this case pests and fungi.
The fungi gnat will make a living in these moist conditions and feed on the weakened root system of the plant, but your biggest concern is fungi.
It will spread rapidly and consume the weakened areas of your plant, quickly sapping its strength and cultivating itself around its body.
Requirements For Peperomia Soil Mixes
From the previous information provided, it is obvious that peperomia will die in the wrong soil conditions and even if you do rescue it from these conditions, it could be adversely affected.
As such, it is important to provide the right conditions and to know what those conditions are:
Aeration Of The Soil
Aeration is the process of circulating air through, mixing it in, or dissolving air into an area that is used by substances or beings.
Aeration is incredibly important to plants and trees because it allows CO2 to be absorbed by the roots and for oxygen to be released into the atmosphere above, thus allowing the plant to breathe properly.
If aeration is poor within the soil of a plant, it does not only affect the plant’s breathing cycle, as the soil has also become condensed.
This means less air, more waterlogging, and a greater congregation of bacteria, fungi, and insects.
There are a couple of ways to help aerate your plant’s soil. The first could be considered the simplest, but also the most drastic.
This is when you remove the peperomia by hand from the soil, and then proceed to break up the soil with your hand or a trowel.
This method also allows you to add helpful additives, like orchid bark chips or perlite, which can break up the soil further.
Perlite is especially useful, as it is a lightweight, volcanic rock that stops the soil from becoming too compact.
The other option is to get a thin implement – a chopstick or a sturdy stick will suffice – and poking holes into the soil, careful to avoid the roots.
These holes will eventually be filled by the surrounding soil, but by doing so the soil becomes less compact and more aerated.
Poking these holes in is better than letting the roots sit in non aerated soil.
Peperomia comes from tropical rainy regions, which means it lives in areas with daily cycles of rain that are drained quickly.
As such, peperomia likes soil that drains well – allowing it to absorb all the water it needs – but dries very quickly to prevent waterlogged conditions.
The best way to achieve this is to add perlite, coarse sand, and bark to your potting mix. This is reasonably easy to do, just make sure not to add too much, or you could even buy it premixed.
Another thing to consider is the pot’s drainage holes. These are holes at the bottom of the pot that help with drainage.
With peperomia, it is best to get a pot with at least 3 or 4 drainage holes, as they don’t like to stay wet.
Almost every substance in the world has some kind of PH level, from water to brine to even your own skin. PH levels are the indicator of how acidic, alkaline or neutral a substance is.
The more acidic or alkaline substances will generally dissolve the things around them, so most creatures or plants want things to stay around neutral – PH 7.
For peperomia, they are usually more tolerant than other plants, being able to stand slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soils better – from around PH 6 to PH 7.5. If your soil leans heavily towards the acidic or alkaline, though, the peperomia will greatly struggle.
This struggle will cause the plant to grow slowly, will create breeding grounds for bacteria, or may leech necessary nutrients from the soil that the plants need to survive. Therefore, avoid soils that have a high lime, sodium, calcium, or magnesium level.
Nutrient Content Of The Soil
Nutrients are the cornerstone of life, and a creature that can get more nutrients into its diet will generally be healthier and survive for a longer period than those that don’t.
Plants need nutrients just as much as we or other animals do, as it allows them to fight off diseases, reproduce, germinate, and grow.
While the substances mentioned at the bottom of the PH section will not help the plant, there are some that will.
These include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus for peperomia and the best way to get these nutrients into the plant is through fertilizing the soil.
The rainy environment that peperomia is native to actually has few nutrients deep within the soil, as such, over fertilizing can create a toxic environment for the plant, with mineral buildup being the primary one.
As such, you really only need a little fertilization, basically you should aim for fertilizing the plant only once a month using a ratio of 10-10-10 for a fertilizer consisting of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
Best Soils For Peperomia
There are two ways to get the best kind of soil for peperomia. The first is to buy a ready-made bag and the second is to make your own.
We will start with the first kind:
Best Soil For Peperomia That Is Ready-Made
When mixing your own soil, confidence is always key.
However, for many of us, we are not quite at the point where we can reasonably mix our own soil without our hands shaking a little or the worry in the back of our minds making us doubt our every move.
Luckily, the world has provided us with solutions for this and there are plenty of stores and other great places that will allow you to buy a ready-made soil that is perfect for you.
For peperomia, we would recommend Rio Hamza Trading House and Tropical Potting Soil.
This soil has a great aeration to it, with its drainage and moisture retention being quite good as well.
It can be a little difficult to retain nutrients in it, so adding some peat moss or coconut coirs can aid with this as well.
The other good thing about this brand is that it is fairly well priced and doesn’t break the bank to get.
However, it is a rather small bag and so it would be far cheaper to make the soil mix yourself, than to constantly buy this bag.
But for a first time buy and an emergency soil mix, it is good.
Homemade Peperomia Soil Mix
If you are feeling daring or want to make your own soil mix, then we are here to give you the best way to do that for peperomia.
It is actually very easy and will take only a little time to do, less than an hour – not including getting the ingredients.
The ingredients are as follows:
- Coconut Coir – This is an organic substance from a coconut which provides great drainage and moisture retention.
- Orchid Bark – These are bark chips that are shredded bark. They are tough and coarse, allowing for little pockets in the soil that aerate the soil and help it resist becoming condensed.
- Perlite – A type of volcanic glass that aerates the soil and helps it drain.
- Worm Castings – Basically, worm poop that provides a huge boost in nutrients to the soil and keeps the soil’s PH between 6 and 7.
- Activated Charcoal – A treated type of charcoal that is porous. While it can absorb excess moisture, it is mainly there to stop mold and insects from infesting the area.
You should keep the percentage of ingredients like so:
Coconut coir 25%, Orchid bark chips 25%, Perlite 20%, worm castings 10%, activated charcoal 10%, and potting soil 10%.
There are other ingredients that you can add like peat moss and vermiculite if you are in a pinch, but these are the mainstay of what peperomia likes best.
If you are willing to, you should try to create your own mix as well, especially if your home environment is still affecting the plant’s growth.
Peperomia is not a delicate plant, but it will still struggle to survive without help.
Most of the homes of the world do not have the same environmental or climate factors that are ideal for the tropical peperomia and so you have to create those conditions in the soil for it to survive.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘How Long Are Plants Able To Survive Without Regular Watering?‘.