If you own peperomia, then you’ve got one of the hardiest and most easy-going houseplants. But this tough plant can sometimes be susceptible to some issues that make it look sulky and sorry for itself. This article will explain the potential causes of your peperomia dying and how to fix them.
Watering issues, both underwatering and overwatering, are the leading cause of peperomia dying. The plant will look unhappy and die when it’s unable to absorb nutrients and water. Don’t rule out other issues like disease, pest infestation, and improper growth conditions.
Although water issues are likely to kill your peperomia, the situation can be easily rectified if you detect it early and take action promptly. Don’t worry – I’ll also show you how.
How to Know If Your Peperomia Is Dying
Chances are, you picked up a peperomia plant because of its low maintenance and colorful appeal. Thinking it’s problem-proof, tell-tale signs that your peperomia’s health is declining may easily escape your notice.
That said, here are the most common symptoms that you should watch out for when your peperomia is facing terminal decline:
- If the leaves are scorched, browned on the edges, and crisping, the odds are you’ve let the soil dry out completely. If this goes for long, the leaves will go limp, start drooping, and perhaps fall off. This is the most common problem among forgetful houseplant parents.
- As is mostly the case, the leaves will wilt, go soft, and become floppy. This is a sign that you’ve overwatered your peperomia. You may also be staring at a serious case of root rot. In either case, your peperomia will soon die if you don’t execute a fast, fully-fledged rescue mission.
- Other telling signs of dying due to overwatering include overly wet, soggy, or waterlogged soil. If root rot disease has found a home in your plant, there’ll be a boggy or rooting smell wafting from the potting soil. When things are all good and dandy, you’ll get an earthy musk emanating from the soil.
- Roots will bear the biggest brunt of overwatering. Otherwise white and firm, you’ll find sad-looking roots that appear black and feel mushy to the touch. Keep reading, as I’ll discuss how to fix a peperomia affected by root rot.
- Leaf browning is another sign that should worry you. If there’s fungal or bacterial disease ravaging your plant, you may notice black or brown spots that may be ringed with yellow circles. Likewise, brown leaf tips & edges are not good news about your peperomia’s health.
- Stunted or deformed growth: if your peperomia isn’t putting out new growth or failing to thrive, you may be dealing with a disease or pest infestation. Sap-sucking insects like mealybugs and scales will manifest as scabs on the foliage, then drain the life out of your plant.
- Leaf yellowing: One of the earliest signs of a possibly fatal problem for your peperomia is usually yellowed leaves. This can happen because of overwatering, critical light shortage, nutrient deficiency, root rot, disease infection, and other ills that may kill your plant.
- A moldy cover on the surface of the potting mix is another tell-tale sign of overwatering or too little light. The mold or mildew growth may be harmless, but there’s usually a more serious underlying issue. Think root rot, waterlogged soil, etc.
The vast majority of the symptoms present themselves on the foliage. If you’re keen enough, you should be able to spot most of the signs without having to dig up your plant. If you’re lucky, you can detect and nick the issue before the damage is done to the roots.
Watering issues are, without a doubt, the major causes of decline and possibly death for peperomia. You must ensure that the soil is consistently moist but not too wet or too dry.
However, if you aren’t used to caring for peperomia, you may easily confuse the symptoms and signs of underwatering and overwatering.
Signs of Underwatering
The first manifestations of an underwatered peperomia will show up on the foliage. The leaves will curl up; turn grey to light brown, and crisp up. They’ll definitely feel dry and look dusty from the excessively dry soil.
The affected peperomia leaves will curl, begin drooping, and may eventually fall off. If you don’t act swiftly, your peperomia may soon be stripped naked without leaves. This is actually how most neglected peperomias die.
The leaves will feel even more brittle, more browned on the leaf edges/tips, and crispier if the humidity is also too low. Too much direct sunlight and hot air drafts will also aggravate the underwater situation.
How to Revive an Underwatered Peperomia
Push your finger into the potting mix. If it feels dry more than 3 inches below the surface, you’ve let your plant dehydrate for a long time. The best move is to give your plant a good soaking.
Place your plant in standing room temperature water in a basin, sink, or bathtub. The soil will soak water up through the drainage holes.
Let this continue for about 45 minutes. Once the soil is soaked with moisture, remove and allow excess water to seep away thoroughly. Make sure to empty the saucer every couple of hours.
Unfortunately, if you have neglected the soil to the point of losing its ability to hold moisture, the only viable measure is to repot your peperomia.
Use light yet well-draining & rich potting mix. You can mix in some sand, perlite, or even gravel to prevent compacting.
The biggest sin you can commit as an owner of peperomia is to give it too much water. The soil will inevitably become waterlogged and kill off the roots.
Unable to properly absorb nutrients, oxygen, and water, your peperomia will become grossly unhealthy and die.
Signs of Overwatered Peperomia
Initially, you’ll see yellowing of leaves, wilting, and soft stalks/leaves. The pot will definitely be heavier, and the soil will be soggy, possibly giving off a boggy smell. The leaves may also droop, go limp, and drop.
An overwatered peperomia is a haven for diseases and pests. These will manifest in the form of root, stem, and stalk rot. Any rotting smell diffusing from these areas should tick you off.
Mold and mildew growing on the soil surface also indicate overwatering. This is especially true if your plant is in low-light conditions. If you find blackened, soft, or slimy roots when you unpot your plant, root rot has already presented itself.
How to Save an Overwatered Peperomia
First things first, ensure your plant isn’t standing on a saucer with run-off water. Don’t forget to check if the pot has enough drainage holes. If not, get one with more holes or simply drill some.
Most gardeners throw away overwatered peperomias that have already been affected by root rot. However, if you’re able to identify the issue early, you can still revive your peperomia.
In case the overwatering issue isn’t bad, you can simply stop watering it and let the soil dry out. Your peperomia should bounce back after this happens.
If the case of overwatering is too advanced, you’ll probably find that root rot has established itself. You must take prompt and elaborate action to resurge your plant.
- First, tip it out of the container to see the extent of root rot damage.
- Scrape off as much soil from the root ball as possible.
- Next up, take a clean pair of scissors or shears and trim away the diseased or dead roots. You should only be left with firm and healthy roots, which are typically white and bouncy to the touch.
- You must let the root ball dry out a bit by placing it on a kitchen paper towel or a sheet magazine.
- Once it’s reasonably dry, treat the root ball with fungicide, and consider repotting with fresh soil. Add in some hydrogen peroxide and make sure the mix is free-draining. A few chunks of shredded bark, perlite, and sand may help boost drainage and prevent the soil from compacting.
The new potting mix is likely going to be moist, so don’t be in a hurry to reach for the watering can.
Wait until you see signs of new growth and when the top 2-3 inches of soil has dried out before watering again.
 Stem and Root Rot
Peperomia is a typically hardy and trouble-free houseplant. But overwatering can make it malnourished, weak, and unable to fend off a bunch of stem and root rot diseases.
The most common is Phytophthora rot that’s caused by several soilborne fungi. In younger peperomias, the symptoms start on the blades of the leaves that are touching the soil.
This black rot will eventually girdle the stems and kill your plant. In older peperomias, Phytophthora rot starts with leaves and stems at the soil level. They will turn black, and the lower leaves will wilt, become floppy, and droop. Your peperomia will become stunted, then slowly wither, wilt, and collapse.
Pythium mainly affects cuttings, but younger and older peperomias can also be inflicted. Black or dark brown water-soaked blisters will show up on affected leaves and stems.
The roots may also start rotting. Your peperomia will wilt and wither before dying. Root rot is another rampant infliction that results from overwatering.
Because most of the damage happens below the soil line, the best shot is to watch out for signs on the leaves. They will be yellowed, wilted, and drooping.
Rotting stalks and smelly soil are other surefire indications of root rot. Some, if not most of the roots, will be mushy, soft, and blackened or rusty.
How to Revive Peperomia from Root Rot and Stem Rot
Stop watering pronto, isolate your houseplant, and destroy affected plant matter. Use alcohol-treated scissors, shearers, or prunes to trim away and discard any affected leaves, roots, and stems.
If the rotting has advanced well beyond redemption, just throw it away. Propagation may be your best bet here.
If some of the foliage and roots are still healthy, you’re in luck. It’s repotting time!
- First, unpot your peperomia and snip away diseased, dead, or otherwise unhealthy roots. Make sure to sterilize the cutting tool after each snip.
- Treat the rest of the healthy roots using a quality fungicide. Don’t forget to wash away all of the old soil and let the root ball dry out a bit before doing that.
- It’s best to use both a fresh potting mix and a new container. See to it that you steam-sterilize everything, from the pot to the sand that you’ll mix in.
- Repot your peperomia and provide proper growing conditions. Avoid watering until a few inches of topsoil are dry. Preferably wait until new growth emerges.
(source: University of Illinois)
 Peperomia Leaves Turning Yellow
Leaf yellowing is commonly caused by overwatering, often coupled with low light. If lower leaves are yellowed, that’s an overwatering problem. General yellowing may also be a sign of nutrient deficiency, usually a lack of nitrogen.
Yellowed central leaves indicated too much moisture settling on the foliage. Low-light conditions and poor air circulation usually exacerbate this. Perhaps you prefer overhead irrigation and let water splash on the leaves.
How to Revive Peperomia with Yellow Leaves
You must prune away yellowed or any dying foliage. This will encourage your plant to produce more robust and lush leaves.
Ensure ample air circulation and avoid watering from above. Water early in the morning. Make sure your plant is in a brightly lit but sheltered area.
 Peperomias Drooping, Wilting, and Dying
Drooping of peperomia leaves is often due to a variety of causes, ranging from underwatering to low humidity. However, general drooping followed by withering and dying is often caused by a deadly fungal disease called Verticillium wilt.
Stem and stalk dieback is common with Verticillium wilt. The leaves will curl up, turn yellow or red, and wilt before browning and falling off.
How to Revive Drooping Peperomias
In most advanced cases, you may not be able to rescue your peperomia. That’s because Verticillium wilt is a fast-spreading and incurable fungal disease.
So, isolate your affected plant immediately. If spotted early, remove and discard affected parts of the plant without delay.
 Low Humidity
If leaf tips and edges turn brown and feel crispy and dry, your peperomia may lack enough humidity. Your plant needs air moisture to keep the leaves supple.
This may be due to a combination of too much light, underwatering, and low humidity. So, move your peperomia away from direct sunlight. Water-soak to ensure the soil is consistently moist but not wet.
Set up a humidity tray with pebbles or use a humidifier to create a humid environment. Your peperomia may also appreciate regular misting during hot and dry weather.
 Pest Infestations
Though very resistant to pests, peperomia may be infected by a few insects. These include the usual suspects, notably sap suckers like whiteflies, spider mites, scales, and mealybugs. This usually happens when your peperomia is overwatered or unhealthy.
The pests will suck the sap out of the leaves, draining them of nutrients, moisture, and vitality. Some pests may also create conducive conditions for diseases. The leaves usually develop brown spots, wilt, and possibly drop.
Must put in place treatment measures as soon as pests appear. Spray weekly using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or other horticultural oils. Wipe down the leaves regularly using alcohol-dipped cotton swabs.
 Incorrect Soil pH
When the soil pH is off, this affects the availability of essential nutrients in the soil. When the soil pH levels are too basic or too acidic, your peperomia’s ability to absorb nutrients and minerals is hampered.
For example, incorrect pH leads to poor iron absorption. As such, your peperomia will have yellowed leaf veins.
I must emphasize that peperomia can tolerate slightly alkaline to neutral and acidic soil pH levels. However, it’ll be happiest when the pH hovers around 6.0-6.6.
You’re better off having a soil pH testing kit handy. Use lime or sulfur/aluminum sulfate to correct soil pH down or up accordingly. (source: University of Florida)
 Not Enough Sunlight
If your peperomia suffers from a critical light shortage, this will result in leaf yellowing, discoloration, and potentially leaf drop.
The leaves will also be fewer and look weak, followed by stunted growth and drooping. Low light conditions also aggravate symptoms of overwatering, stem rot, and root rot.
Simply relocate your peperomia to a proper spot that receives enough medium to bright, indirect natural light. Filtered or diffused light will also do your plant good as long as it’s bright.
 Peperomias Dying in Cold Temperatures
Peperomias abhor cold, and in fact, will respond aggressively by shedding leaves if hit by frost or cold draft. Browning of leaf tips and edges is a tell-tale sign of cold drafts.
Any temperatures that dip below 50°F(10°C) could spell doom for your peperomia. This can be exacerbated by frostbite and dry air.
Your peperomia will become unhappy and may die if you expose it to temp below 50°F(10°C). For best growth, make sure ambient temp stays in the range of 65-75°F(18-24°C). Get it out of drafty areas like near uninsulated doors, windows, and cooling vents.
How Not to Kill Your Peperomia?
- Ensure a consistent watering schedule – Irrigate when you feel 2-3 inches of soil is dry. Don’t let the soil dry out completely or overwater it.
- Provide ample humidity – Use a water humidity tray, humidifier, or resort to misting.
- Place it in a bright spot with indirect, filtered, or diffused natural light. Avoid direct sunlight.
- Isolate sick plants — and treat any pests and diseases promptly
- Use light yet rich, well-drained potting mix with some sand, vermiculite, or perlite.