2022 sees the introduction of houseplants as a new plant category in the National Garden Bureau’s “Year of” series, with peperomia being chosen as the initial representative of this category. They are a collection of wonderful foliage plants that have been sold as houseplants since the 1930s according to the National Garden Bureau.
Peperomia are members of the family Piperaceae, and as such are distant cousins of the plant that gives us pepper spice, but they are not related to the plants that give us bell and chili peppers. Over 1500 species have been recorded, most of which are found in tropical regions, predominantly in Central and South America.
Here are a few more facts that illustrate the reasons behind their popularity as houseplants.
Their common name is radiator plants, a name coined by horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey. Noting that peperomia-like warmth and light, he felt they would feel right at home on a window sill above a radiator.
Most rarely grow more than a foot tall, meaning they don’t outgrow their space. Whether cascading, trailing, or upright, bushy types, you will not need to tame rampant vining stems or resort to drastic pruning with these plants.
They are quite happy in normal household lighting and humidity. While many come from tropical regions, they can cope with lower humidity and are quite tolerant of the average light levels that all but the brightest of southerly aspects offer. In fact, direct sunlight, even for the more succulent types, is not good for them.
They are undemanding in their care, and if you remember to allow the soil to dry between waterings you will have a healthy plant. Overwatering, where the soil remains constantly wet, is the way to create an unhappy peperomia.
They also have the benefit of being non-toxic to people and animals and are therefore excellent plants for vivariums, and the petite nature of many of them makes them good choices for terrariums too.
With their eye-catching foliage, they look attractive all year round. Their flower spikes are generally insignificant and somewhat uncharitably referred to as “rats’ tails”. However, Peperomia fraseri and P. perciliata are among a handful that offers attractive white, lightly scented flowers, but they are pretty much the exception to the rule.
The versatile and easy-going peperomia is, therefore, a worthy initial choice for the houseplant category, and with many new cultivars being raised, we will be spoiled for choice for plants to enhance our homes!
And finally, if you are wondering what the other 2022 “Year of” plants are, here they are:
Edible: Salad Greens
Flowering Shrub: Lilac