Peperomia varieties

Peperomia caperata

Peperomias are herbs that often have fleshy to leathery leaves and a developed or suppressed stem. Formerly the genus was said to include approximately 600 species but nowadays, with the trend to divide large species into smaller ones, it is estimated that there are some 1,000 distributed in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Although they are ideal plants for room decoration, the assortment grown as house plants is not as wide as the genus merits. It could be said that almost all Peperomias are suitable for growing indoors. P. caperata greatly resembles the widely cultivated species, P. hederaefolia (syn. P. griseo-argentea hort.). It forms thick clumps of long-stalked leaves; the stalks, tinged faintly pink, are juicy and at the same time stiff; the relatively small blade is 6 cm (2.5 inch) long, ovate with a heart-shaped base and greatly wrinkled along the veins. It is coloured fresh green, changing to olive-green by the veins and even to chocolate-brown towards the stalk. The underside of the leaf is pale green. The leaves of P. hederaefolia are silver and glossy on the upper surface, and greenish-white on the underside. The distinctive feature of P. caperata is its regularity in flowering. However, the upright narrow inflorescences are not very striking. Those who want to grow Peperomias for their flowers should choose P. fraseri with white, fragrant blooms.

A suitable compost is a mixture of leaf mould, frame soil, peat and sand, or a loam and peat substrate, with a pH of about 6. Because it is found chiefly in the undergrowth of trop ical rain forests where it is accustomed to dim light and dampness, it does well indoors in a humid atmosphere, in a kitchen or bathroom, for example. Regular misting also supplies humidity. It will not tolerate direct sunlight; the leaves turn an unattractive yellow. It grows well in hydroponic containers and is extremely decorative in mixed plant arrangements. Propagate by stem cuttings or with leaves (a method that is not very common). Insert them in very sandy compost and, as soon as they make roots, plant them, two or three to a pot. The most suitable time is spring or autumn.

Peperomia obtusifolia

This Peperomia , like most others, is native to tropical America. It has an upright or ascending, completely glabrous stem. The leaves are opposite, elliptic to obovate, and 5-12 cm long, 3-5 cm (1-2 inch) wide. Unlike those of its closest relative P. clusiifolia, they are distinctly stalked. The type has uniformly green leaves, while those of the cultivar ‘Variegata’ have typical yellow-white markings. The cultivar ‘Velli’ has tricoloured leaves. The flowers, arranged in upright spikes, are small and inconspicuous; each has only two stamens and one style.

It can either be grown by itself or in a pot or a bowl with other plants. It may even be grown as an epiphyte; in which case insert the roots in light compost for epiphytes, wrapped in a ball of moss to retain moisture.

Aeschynanthus speciosus

This species is native to Java, Borneo and Malaysia. It is an epiphyte, grown not only for its lovely, large flowers, but also for its foliage. The leaves are opposite, sometimes in groups of three, leathery and glossy on the upper side, and faintly crenate on the margins. The flowers, almost 10 cm (4 in) long, are borne in terminal clusters of 6-12 flowers at the ends of long shoots measuring up to 1 m (39 in). The green calyces are only 8 mm long, but the corollas are striking. They are completely covered with fine hairs and the tube is coloured yellow-orange with a scarlet-red mouth. The stamens and the pistil protrude prominently from the tube. It is a very decorative subject for hanging containers.

It requires adequate light but, like most plants of the tropical rain forests, it does not tolerate direct sunlight. The best growing medium is a mixture of equal parts of peat, frame soil and sand, wrapped in a ball of sphagnum moss to retain moisture. Maintain a temperature of 22°-25°C (72°-77°F). Water regularly and do not allow the compost to dry out. Mist in dry conditions.

Peperomia argyreia (syn. P. arifolia var. argyreia)

This species , native to Brazil, unlike other Peperomias, has shield-like leaves which serve as a ready means of identification. The stem is greatly abbreviated, so the long-stalked leaves grow in the form of a rosette. The red leaf stalks are striking. The leaf blade is broadly ovate, 8-12 cm (3-4 in) long, glabrous on both sides and with broad white bands between the veins on the upper surface. Shield-like leaves, that is, ones where the stalk emerges from the centre of the blade, are quite unusual; other familiar examples are the leaves of the tropical lotus Nelumbo nucifera, and of the nasturtium Tropaeo-lum majus, commonly grown in the garden and in the window-box.

Conditions for successful growth are the same as for the pre ceding Peperomias. It is readily propagated by means of the leaves.

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