Underwatered Peperomia – Signs and How To Revive

Underwatered Peperomia - Signs and How To Revive

Peperomia plants are also called radiator plants, pepper elder, baby rubber plants, and shining bush. They have thick, fleshy leaves and are native to Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean. There are around 1,000 species of peperomia, and their leaves can be textured, variegated, marbled, heart-shaped, or tiny. These are low-maintenance, slow-growing plants, and like most plants, they are prone to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long. 

Underwatered peperomia – Signs and how to revive 

Signs of an underwatered peperomia 

1. Dry, curling leaves 

The leaves of underwatered peperomias tend to become dry, crispy and curled from lack of water. Keep in mind that these symptoms could also be caused by low humidity or an infestation of pests such as spider mites or aphids. If pests are the culprit, use insecticidal soap or neem oil to eradicate them. 

2. Drooping leaves 

Underwatered plants will have drooping leaves, which, as above, is also due to dehydration. The leaves will wilt and the plant will eventually die if the situation is not remedied. You will need to act quickly so that the plant does not lose all its leaves, as this is how most neglected peperomias die.  

How to revive an underwatered peperomia 

Test the soil by pushing your fingers into it, up to about two or three inches. If the soil is dry to more than three inches below the surface, this is an indication that the plant has been dehydrated for a long time already. You will need to give your plant a thorough soaking to revive it. Put the pot in a sink or basin of room-temperature water and allow the soil to soak up the water for about 45 minutes. Once the soil is completely soaked, remove the plant from the basin and allow the excess water to drain thoroughly from the pot. 

If the soil has been underwatered for a very long time, it may have lost its ability to hold moisture and you will need to repot the plant. Use a well-draining, light and rich potting mix comprised of sand, perlite and gravel. 

Other common problems you may encounter with your peperomia: 

  • Overwatering  
  • Incorrect soil pH 
  • Insufficient sunlight 
  • Pest infestation 

Peperomia plant care

Peperomias are ideal plants for those who are new to gardening and plant-raising. They come in a range of colors and textures, and can tolerate neglect fairly well. They should be planted in pots with sufficient drainage holes, preferably in orchid mix, and placed in bright, indirect light. 

These plants prefer medium to bright light to maintain the color of their foliage. Filtered morning light is acceptable, as is 16 hours per day of artificial light. If they do not receive enough light, they will have fewer leaves, discoloration and leaf drop. Do not place them in full sun, as this could cause sunburn. 

Certain species grow in the wild, and may settle in tree bark. For your plants to survive, use a soil mix that imitates their natural habitat: it should be loose, chunky and acidic. Orchid potting medium is ideal, although regular potting soil is also suitable. Mix it with a handful of peat moss or vermiculite to achieve the right soil balance. 

Peperomias have fleshy leaves that allow them to survive for long periods without water.  Before watering your plants, allow the surface of the soil to dry out. It is better to underwater than overwater these plants since overwatering could lead to root rot and fungus gnat infestation, which is harder to deal with than underwatering. 

Peperomias should not be exposed to temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer a warm environment, especially during the summer months. To increase the humidity around them, place the plants on pebble trays filled with water, or buy a small humidifier to do the job for you. 

When it comes to fertilizing, less is always more. Some species can go without fertilizer entirely. Peperomias are slow-growing epiphytes and usually get their required nutrients from their potting media. 

Conclusion 

Peperomias are popular indoor plants because of their unique foliage and the fact that they are so low-maintenance. They can also clean certain toxins from the air. These plants can go long periods without water, but are still susceptible to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long. The most common signs of underwatered peperomias are drooping, curling and dry leaves. 

To revive your underwatered plants, give them a thorough soak in a basin of water, allow the excess water to drain from the pots, and transfer them to an area where they get bright, indirect light. 

Image: istockphoto.com / Tessa57