Peperomia plants are very popular houseplants because of their reputation for being low-maintenance. They are very hardy, can tolerate a bit of drought, and do well indoors.
If peperomia leaves are wrinkled, however, that means there is an environmental factor causing this change. The plant is stressed and you need to identify the cause as soon as possible in order to treat the plant properly. The faster you identify the problem, the faster the peperomia’s recovery will be.
The most common causes of wrinkled peperomia leaves are too much water or root rot, not enough water, not enough light, repotting stress, temperature problems and insufficient nutrients.
In this article, we will discuss the different causes of wrinkled peperomia leaves and how to remedy each.
Why are my peperomia’s leaves wrinkled?
Too much water, or root rot
One of the biggest mistakes a peperomia owner can make is to overwater the plant. Overwatering can happen if you give the plant too much water each time you water it, or if you water it more frequently than it needs. It can also be that the soil in the pot is too dense or compact, or the pot you are using does not have drainage holes at the bottom. All of these circumstances cause the roots of the peperomia to stand in waterlogged soil. The roots will drown because they cannot dry out for long enough to absorb oxygen. The dead roots will then become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens, such as fungi and bacteria. The roots will start to rot, and the rot will spread to the rest of the plant at an accelerated pace because of the presence of the pathogens. As the rot reaches the stems and leaves, they will become brown, wrinkled, soft and mushy.
The compromised roots will be unable to perform their main function of absorbing water and nutrients from the soil to keep the plant alive, so the entire plant will soon succumb to root rot.
Save your overwatered plant from root rot by immediately holding off from watering it. Remove it from the pot and wash as much of the old, contaminated soil from the roots as you can. Be gentle when washing the roots, because they will be fragile. Inspect the roots closely and remove all the brown and black rotten roots using a sharp, sterilized knife or pruning shears. Spray the remaining healthy roots with fungicide and let them air-dry for a few hours. When the roots have dried, replant the peperomia in a pot with drainage holes, using well-draining potting soil.
Not enough water
Although peperomias can tolerate a little drought, that does not mean you can just neglect to water them. If the plant does not get enough water, it could dry out from lack of moisture and its leaves will become wrinkled.
You will know the plant is underwatered if the leaves are turning yellow or brown, and are wrinkled and drooping. The soil in the pot will often be bone dry when you touch it. There may be cracks in the soil, or the edges of the soil might be pulling away from the pot because all of the moisture is gone.
Save your underwatered peperomia by soaking the pot in a basin with four inches of lukewarm water. Let the plant soak for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the water has reached the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the soil is too compact, loosen it up with your hands or with a spade. Compact soil will not be as easily permeated by water as loose soil will be. After soaking, take the pot from the basin and let any excess water drain out before replacing the plant in its usual spot.
To avoid underwatering, you should know when to water your plant. There is no set schedule that you can follow blindly; rather, the best and easiest way of knowing is to stick your finger into the soil in the pot. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two more days before checking it again.
When watering the plant, make sure you soak all of the soil in the pot. You will know this is done when the excess water starts to flow from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Remember to adjust your watering frequency according to the climate where you live, the season of the year, and the current weather conditions. If you live in a cold place, and it is winter with lots of rainfall, you do not need to water your peperomia as much as someone who lives in a warmer climate, during the summer with little to no rainfall.
If the humidity in your home is a little low, keep the plant in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room because these are the places that have the most humidity. You can also mist the plant once in a while, or place the pot on top of a pebble tray filled with water. When the water in the tray evaporates, the plant’s leaves and soil will be moistened. You could also just buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity around the plant.
Another reason your plant’s leaves may be wrinkled is if it is not getting enough light. This plant likes bright, indirect light, just like it gets in its natural habitat.
If the plant does not get enough light, its leaves will droop, wrinkle and curl because it is unable to properly photosynthesize. It will also tend to become leggy, due to its desperation to reach the closest source of light.
Fix this problem by simply moving the plant to a spot where it can get a lot of bright, indirect light. Place it near a north- or east-facing window, but if the only window available is one that lets in harsh light, place a sheer curtain over the window to diffuse the light. Also avoid placing the plant in a place where it only gets direct light, because this can lead to sun damage that will be detrimental.
In the winter, when light is scarce, use a grow light to support your plant.
Repotting can be a stressful experience for the plant, so do not be surprised if the leaves start to wrinkle a few days afterward. This is because the roots have undergone something traumatic and will need some time to adjust to the new soil.
Repot the plant only when absolutely necessary, and only when the plant is 100 percent healthy. Delay repotting for plants that are not completely healthy, because the repotting will only add to the stress of an already compromised plant.
The leaves on the peperomia will also become wrinkled if the plant is exposed to cold temperatures.
If you keep the plant outdoors, bring it inside during the colder months of fall and winter so that it is not exposed to frost.
While indoors, keep the plant away from air conditioners or windows and doors that may allow cold drafts to pass through cracks and directly hit the plant. The cold air will dry out the plant’s leaves very quickly.
Also refrain from placing the plant under heating vents or next to radiators and furnaces, because the warm drafts and increased temperatures will also dry its leaves and cause them to wrinkle.
A lack of nutrients from the soil can cause the plant’s leaves to wrinkle. A plant needs certain nutrients and minerals to stay healthy, so although the peperomia is not a heavy feeder, you might need to fertilize it, especially if the soil has become depleted. Use a fertilizer that is designed specifically for houseplants and apply it in the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.
Be careful that you do not overfeed the plant because this can lead to soil toxicity. This is when there is a buildup of minerals in the soil due to too much fertilizer. You can flush out the excess fertilizer by letting plenty of water flow through the soil until it starts flowing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Overfeeding can also cause wrinkling of the plant’s leaves.
Wrinkled peperomia leaves are an indication of stress due to one or more environmental factors. The stressor can be too much water or root rot, not enough water, not enough light, repotting stress, temperature issues, or insufficient nutrients. The best way to approach the treatment of the plant is to correctly identify the cause of the problem. The faster the problem is dealt with, the faster the plant can recover.
Image: istockphoto.com / Jamaludin Yusup