Watermelon peperomia might be my only plant that looks just like a cute summer fruit. As a compact plant that’s easy to care for and fits well in small spaces, it’s equally happy on a desk or windowsill. As a bonus: it happily purifies your air.
It’s a slow-growing plant with a unique visual appearance that doesn’t require as much watering as other house plants. Let’s explore how to take care of Watermelon peperomia, related varieties, and a complete propagation guide.
There are also a few unique issues this plant can have, so we’ll cover those at the end (including how to fix them, of course).
Watermelon Peperomia Care Guide
History, habitat, and characteristics
Watermelon peperomia, or Peperomia argyreia, is an evergreen perennial from the Piperaceae family, one of the biggest tropical plant families in the world—it’s one of over 3,600 species.
Watermelon peperomia used to be called Peperomia sandersii, and you might occasionally still find it referred to this way. This cheery little tropical plant has its share of nicknames, including watermelon begonia, watermelon plant, and even rugby football plant (in the UK, of course!).
Bet you didn’t know that watermelon peperomia looks like and is related to the black peppercorn plant, Piper nigrum. In fact, its scientific name comes from the Greek word peperi, or pepper, and homoios, or resembling. Argyreia means silvery. And there you have it—resembling silvery peppers!
First discovered in the rainforests of South America, watermelon peperomia grows on rotten wood and other substances found on the forest floor in its natural habitat. It’s an unmistakable plant, with fleshy silver and green striped leaves that resemble a watermelon rind sprouting from bright red stems.
While its petioles, or the stalks that join leaves to stems, can grow up to 5 inches long, its glossy leaves can reach lengths of 3.5 inches. The peperomia watermelon plant can grow up to 12 inches tall, although it takes two to five years to get there.
Keep an eye out for a miniature variety, Peperomia verschaffeltii, also known as peperomia dwarf watermelon or mini watermelon, that only reaches a height of six inches!
An added bonus: in the summer, small green silvery inflorescences rise from the plant on flower spikes up to 3 inches long. They aren’t the most showy flowers, but they are a pleasant addition.
Watermelon peperomia grows best in medium to bright indirect sunlight. Native to South America, it grows on the rainforest floor, which means it thrives under cover of other plants. Place watermelon peperomia in a bright room near the light from an east or south facing window, since this is neither too dark nor direct.
Keep your watermelon peperomia plant out of direct sunlight, as this will be too harsh for its delicate leaves and might burn them. If you place it in a room with lower light, it will survive, but its leaves will be noticeably smaller. Your plant as a whole will be leggier when it doesn’t receive enough light.
How do you know when your watermelon peperomia needs water? It’s pretty easy to tell when watermelon peperomia crave water at a glance—they will become flimsy and droop. This is the most reliable way to know when your plant needs moisture.
To make doubly sure, you can perform something called the taco test, which involves folding the leaves. If they bend easily into a taco shape, it’s time to break out the watering can. If they don’t fold and seem firm, hold off on watering for a bit.
If you’re having trouble telling when your plant is drooping, a good rule of thumb is check the soil with a finger and water when the first one or two inches are dry. While this should be about once every 7 to 10 days, the frequency may change in hotter or colder weather according to season and climate.
I personally prefer to water my watermelon peperomia with rainwater, filtered, or bottled spring water, since I’ve found it tends to grow more fully without the chemicals sometimes associated with tap water.
Be careful not to overwater, since these little guys are prone to root rot. Also take care not to get too much excess water on the leaves, as this may cause them to rot.
Temperature and humidity
Watermelon peperomia grows best in USDA Zones 10-12. It likes average indoor humidity to high in the spring and summer months and does best in temperatures preferably between 65 to 85 degrees.
If the temperature in your home gets below 60 degrees at any point during the day, your plant might start looking unhealthy. It will start dropping leaves if the temp dips under 50.
Have a colder house, or not sure how to ensure your plant’s environment stays humid enough? We can help with that! Some tried and true methods for cultivating and maintaining humidity include:
- Putting it on top of a pebble tray along with water
- Misting it every two or three days
- Placing it near other plants so they can share humidity – a process called transpiration (indoor jungle, anyone?)
- Setting it near a humidifier
Keep in mind that Peperomia argyreia don’t like cold drafts, so keep them away from doors or windows that might let in icier air.
Soil and planting
Watermelon peperomias will do wonderfully in a rich, well-draining soil. I suggest a formulation of:
- 33% part coco coir or peat moss
- 33% perlite
- 33% part compost
While peat based soil is a good start, anything that drains quickly enough to prevent rotting roots will work. Feel free to experiment a little bit and add or take away different soil ingredients as you (and your plant) see fit.
When you place your watermelon peperomia plant into a pot, make that the place where all the leaves meet is slightly up out of the dirt so the petioles aren’t covered. Peperomia watermelon love being in terracotta pots, which dry more quickly and help prevent root rot.
Ensuring your pot has a drainage hole will also help avoid the dreaded rotting roots. Watermelon peperomias grow well when root or pot bound, and only need to be repotted around every three years, preferably in the warmer spring months.
As for plant food, your watermelon peperomias don’t require it, but will grow more quickly when fertilized every two to four weeks in the growing season during spring and summer. Use a balanced water-soluble or diluted liquid fertilizer.
Definitely avoid granular or full-strength fertilizers, since these can be too harsh and burn your peperomia. In the winter, hold off on fertilizing at all.
Now that you know how to provide the ideal watermelon peperomia care, let’s talk about easy propagation methods.
The easiest way to propagate watermelon peperomia is by stem cutting. However, division or leaf cutting creates more growth and are our more recommended methods, since rooting your cuttings in soil creates the strongest root systems.
To propagate your watermelon peperomia plant by stem cutting:
- Cut healthy leaves off with their stems attached.
- Put stem cuttings in a jar of water until you see white roots, which could take anywhere from six to eight weeks.
- Transplant to soil. And that’s it! (Told you it was easy).
To propagate your watermelon peperomia by division:
- Remove the plant from its pot so you can identify the offshoots and carefully remove their roots from the mother plant (you should be able to do this gently with your fingers). Leave offshoots smaller than an inch long where they are.
- Plant the new offshoot in a separate pot in a well-draining soil mix and water it well. Keep it in perpetually moist soil for the first week or two after planting and ensure it receives medium to bright indirect light.
- Water it on a regular schedule thereafter.
To propagate your watermelon peperomia by leaf cuttings:
- Choose a healthy leaf or leaves to propagate, and cut the stem with two to three inches remaining. (Keep in mind that stems don’t regrow leaves, as with other plants, so once you cut off a leaf, the stem will rot).
- Cut the leaf in half horizontally so that one half still has the stem attached.
- Fill a container with wet potting soil. Bury the cut edge of the top half of the leaf (the one without the stem). Plant the stem of the bottom leaf cutting in the soil.
- Place the container somewhere with medium to bright indirect light and make sure to maintain a moist soil level. To add humidity to leaf cuttings, place a plastic bag over the container. This will also cut down on the amount of watering you’ll have to do to keep the soil moist.
- After two to four weeks, you will see new growth! (If you want to see faster growth, dip a leaf vein in rooting hormone before planting it). Wait a few months and then plant the newbies in their very own pots.
Dusty leaves. When your watermelon peperomia leaves are too dusty, they can’t photosynthesize properly. When you notice too much dust accumulating on your plant, simply dampen a cloth with water and gently wipe it off.
Curling leaves. Your plant’s leaves will curl when it isn’t receiving enough water. Increase the frequency and/or amount of water you’re giving it.
Yellowing leaves. This is a common symptom of overwatering. Makes sure to only water your plant when its leaves look droopy or don’t pass the taco test.
Drooping leaves. This is a tricky issue, as it can result from over OR underwatering. While droopy leaves are typically a result of underwatering, one way to tell if overwatering is the culprit is if you’ve just watered or the pot feels heavy, and the stem and leaves are still drooping.
Brown leaves. Brown leaves on watermelon peperomia have a variety of potential causes, including pests, environmental change or stress, or lack of humidity. Brown leaves could even be the result of overwatering if they are also mushy.
Leaves splitting. Your watermelon peperomia plant is too dry—water it more often and try to increase the humidity in its environment.
Faded leaves. Your watermelon peperomia is getting too much light, which may cause it to lose its distinctive watermelon pattern. Move it to a shadier location or try to give it filtered light by using an opaque piece of fabric as a curtain to block more intense light.
Leggy. Your watermelon peperomia plant is getting too little light. Move it to a location where it gets more sunlight for a greater period of the day, or consider using artificial light.
Diseases and pests
Mold. Watermelon peperomia can be prone to mold. I suggest mixing water and tea tree oil and using it to thoroughly soak the problem areas. The mold will usually beat a hasty retreat after just one treatment.
Fungus gnats and other bugs. Watermelon peperomia suffer from the usual cast of pesty characters, including aphids, scale, mealybugs, and fungus gnats. To get rid of them naturally, mix one tablespoon of liquid castile soap with one gallon of water, pour it into a spray bottle, shake it, and spray all your plant leaves thoroughly. Don’t forget to get the leaf undersides as well.
While peperomias can attract pests, since healthier plants are able to fight off or even prevent insect infestations in the first place, taking care of your plant is essential. Make sure to trim any dead or dying leaves, wipe them down with a damp cloth if they’re dusty, and immediately isolate any plants that do have pests for a week.
Watermelon peperomia are delightful-looking tropical plants that thrive in bright light and in pots with rich soil and proper drainage holes. This plant loves humidity but can be prone to root rot, so make sure to only water when leaves look droopy or after performing the taco test!
Keep it out of direct sunlight and away from drafts, and your watermelon peperomia will provide you with its namesake bushy leaves to propagate for friends and brighten up your living area for years to come.
Is Watermelon peperomia a succulent?
It looks like a succulent and it acts like a succulent, but . . . surprise! It’s not a succulent! In fact, peperomias require more moisture and humidity than succulents do, and they aren’t part of the same family. However, they don’t usually require as much watering as other indoor plants, and the same is true of succulents.
Do Peperomia plants like to be misted?
Peperomia plants don’t just like to be misted—they love it! As with all things, in moderation, however. Especially in the drier winter months, if you mist regularly once every few days, your peperomia will stay humid and happy.
How do I make my Watermelon peperomia bushy?
If your watermelon peperomia is scraggly or you just want it to have a full, bushy appearance, try moving it to a location that gets more sunlight, either for a greater period of the day or simply to a brighter location. Make sure it isn’t in direct light, however. When you start seeing fuller growth, feel free to cut off leggier leaves.
What is the difference between the Watermelon Peperomia and the Peperomia Frost?
While the two indoor plants may appear alike, the Peperomia Frost is a different cultivar with thicker leaves that appear straighter and more upright. The Watermelon Peperomia’s leaves are thinner and tend to trail more.