Your peperomia plant is dying because an environmental factor is causing it stress.
This plant is relatively easy to grow and does not have many requirements for care, but it is still susceptible to problems brought about by improper cultural care or pathogens.
The most common causes of a dying peperomia plant are overwatering, underwatering, insufficient light, diseases, aging, transplant stress, insufficient nutrients, incorrect temperature or humidity, and pests.
In this article, we will discuss the different reasons your peperomia plant may be dying and how to save it.
Why is my peperomia plant dying?
The most likely reason your peperomia is dying is overwatering. When a plant gets too much water in its soil, it can get root and stem rot, its leaves will turn yellow and fall off, and the entire plant will eventually die.
You will know your peperomia has root rot if the base of the stem starts to feel soft and is turning black. In severe cases, even the stem will rot. If the stem is involved, the peperomia is unlikely to recover and survive.
Another condition that can affect your peperomia is black leg. This is when the base of the stem has turned black because of a combination of fungal infection and overwatering. This infection also starts at the roots and moves up the stem. If you fail to catch the black leg in its early stages and continue to overwater it, your plant will die.
Another common sign of overwatering is when the leaves turn brown and fall off. This means necrosis has set in from overwatering, which causes brown patches on the leaves.
Save your overwatered peperomia plant by poking holes in the soil with a thin stick to help the soil dry out faster. Make sure you fill in the holes afterward, to avoid drying out the soil too much after the problem has been fixed. Add sand or perlite into the soil mix to improve drainage and reduce the likelihood of overwatering.
If the plant’s pot does not have drainage holes, transfer it to one that does, to give excess water a way out instead of pooling at the bottom of the pot and waterlogging the soil.
If you check the roots and they have begun to rot, stop watering the plant immediately. Rotted roots are more susceptible to diseases and pests, and the rot will soon move up towards the stem. Remove the rotten roots using sterile scissors before replanting in fresh soil.
If your peperomia starts growing irregularly and one side is becoming leggy or spindly, this usually means that the plant is not getting enough light. The leggy growth is due to the plant growing toward the nearest source of light, as opposed to growing symmetrically. The plant needs light to produce food to survive, so this legginess, or etiolation, is an act of desperation.
You can fix this by transferring the plant to a spot where it can get equal light on all sides. You can also prune away the leggy parts to preserve its aesthetic.
Fungal pathogens present as brown spots on the leaves of your peperomia leaves.
Rhizoctonia leaf spot causes dark brown and black spots, while Phyllosticta leaf spot causes brown rings to appear on the leaves. Cercospora leaf spot causes raised brown areas on the undersides of the leaves.
You can get rid of these diseases by using a copper fungicide foliar spray. Try to refrain from watering the plant from above so that you do not get the leaves wet. Wet foliage encourages the growth of fungal pathogens.
You may be worried if the leaves on your peperomia are falling off, but most of the time there is no need to panic. Often, falling peperomia leaves are simply due to the normal aging pattern of the plant’s foliage. This is most likely the reason if the leaves that are wilting and dropping off are the ones nearest the base of the plant.
There is really no need to intervene in this case; just wait for the leaves to drop off and you can remove the debris from the soil.
If you have recently transferred your peperomia plant from an old pot into a new one, you might notice that the plant starts to droop. This is called transplant stress, which is a reaction of the plant to the trauma of being transplanted. The roots are affected the most, which is why you also need to hold off from watering for at least a week after transplanting. This allows the roots enough time to recover and establish themselves in the new soil.
You can help your plant transition to its new soil and pot by providing the best cultural care for the next couple of days until the plant has fully recovered.
Another reason your peperomia is dying may be a lack of nutrients. Sometimes, plant owners fail to consider nutrients as a part of a plant’s needs, and might think water and sunlight is enough to keep the plant happy. This is understandable, especially if the soil they used for the plant is rich and full of nutrients. However, if the plant is in a pot and has depleted the soil’s nutrients, you may start to see signs of a nutrient deficiency.
Fortunately, this problem is easily fixable. Simply fertilize the plant to provide the nutrients and minerals it needs. Do this once a month during its growing phase in the spring and summer.
Temperature and humidity
Peperomias’ natural habitat is the rainforest of Brazil, which means they like the tropical warmth and humidity of these places. Try to replicate these conditions as best you can when choosing where to position your plant. Bring it indoors during the winter; the heat inside the house should be sufficient. Place it in the kitchen or the bathroom, because these are two of the most humid places in any home.
The most common pests that attack peperomia plants are mealybugs, mites and fungus gnats.
Mealybugs look like white masses on the undersides of the leaves and roots. They usually appear alongside mold, and can stunt the plant’s growth. You can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill them.
Mites are very tiny insects, which makes them difficult to spot in the early stages of an infestation. They may have done plenty of damage by the time the signs of infestation appear. They also stunt the plant’s growth and cause the leaves to necrotize. Pesticidal spray and soap are both effective against these insects.
Fungus gnats look like tiny black flies and are most noticeable on the soil. The larvae of the fungus gnats are what do the actual damage to the plant. They feed on the roots of the peperomia, while the adults do not really do any actual damage.
Make sure you keep the infested plant far away from your other, healthy plants while treating it, to prevent the spread of infestation.
Your peperomia is dying because there is an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress. The first step in saving your dying plant is to correctly identify the cause of the problem.
The most common causes of a dying peperomia plant are overwatering, underwatering, insufficient light, diseases, aging, transplant stress, insufficient nutrients, incorrect temperature and humidity, and pests.
Peperomia plants are quite hardy and resilient, so as long as you provide the plant with its most basic cultural needs, you should have no problem growing it.
Image: istockphoto.com / Muhammad Mukrim Al Mabrur