If you’re as much of a houseplant-aholic as I am, it’s pretty difficult to navigate social media without bumping into pages plastered with foliage houseplants.
Of all these plants, peperomias and pileas seem to have taken centre stage. Their leaves come in a vast range of colours, shapes and sizes, but their flowers are pretty insignificant.
So what’s all the fuss about, and are they as easy as we’re led to believe?
Although peperomia flowers aren't the main feature, they can look attractive, if somewhat plain. This is P. caperata 'Rosso'.
Pileas and peperomias require very similar conditions and can be grown together.
Bright, filtered or indirect light suits best. A north or east-facing windowsill will also make a suitable home.
Both pileas and peperomias can tolerate lower light levels, depending on the level of variegation in their leaves. The more green there is on the leaves, the more shade they can tolerate. Rotate plants for round, even growth.
A word of warning: despite their succulent appearance, peperomias (and pileas) will not survive direct summer sunlight, so don't place in a south-facing position.
Average house temperatures with a range of 12-21°C (55-70°F) suit pileas and peperomias just fine.
Although they will dislike large fluctuations, peperomias, in particular, will react badly to getting chilled. For happy plants, keep away from heating sources and draughty windowsill/doorways.
Looking to hang a peperomia? The string of turtles (P. prostrata) has delightfully patterned leaves and will happily trail.
Water & humidity:
Watering is where many owners come unstuck. The fleshy leaves rot easily through overwatering, especially in cool conditions.
Once again, although pileas and peperomias may look succulent, only let the top couple of centimetres to dry between waterings (rather than the whole plant as in desert succulents).
Avoid wetting the crown of the plant, but never leave sitting with wet toes if watering from below.
Grouping together or placing over a pebble tray aids humidity levels. Misting may cause residue on the foliage in hard-water areas.
Check out my other article on the subject for more information!
The Chinese money plant (P. peperomioides) has become somewhat ubiquitous due to its urban chic appeal.
Pileas aren’t called friendship plants for nothing. They produce little offsets freely, which can be potted up and given to friends.
Peperomias will also propagate freely through stem and leaf cuttings which can be taken during spring and summer.
Choose healthy plants and, using a sharp knife, take a cutting or leaf. Place in damp compost (you can use rooting powder) before placing in a propagator.
As with any houseplants, overwatering is a common problem, especially when partnered with cold temperatures or draughts.
Raised scabs on the leaves indicate overwatering and cold temperatures often cause leaf drop.
If you think you may have overwatered a plant, here's my guide on how to save it:
The aluminium plant (Pilea cadierei) has pretty silver raised markings on deep green leaves.
Friendship Plants (Pilea spp.)
The first surprising thing to know about pileas is that they're a part of the stinging nettle family! But no need to worry, they’re harmless.
Here are the most commonly encountered species and varieties to look out for (main image P. involucrata 'Moon Valley'):
The wavy watermelon begonia is neither a watermelon nor begonia. It isn't a peperomia, either - despite its namesake - and although very similar to a pilea, it's a separate species, although closely related.
I've included it here as it's often seen together with the others and enjoys the same conditions:
P. argyreia is commonly known as the watermelon begonia, despite being neither! It is, however, a beautiful addition to any home.
Radiator Plants (Peperomia spp.)
Peperomias form a large and relatively diverse genus of small plants in the pepper family.
There is huge variation in the species and varieties available, so they're quite addictive for the houseplant-aholic. The plants listed below are just a small section of those available: