Honoring Peperomias

It is nice when special things are appreciated and given recognition. And guess what? That has happened.

The National Garden Bureau has selected Peperomia to be Houseplant of the Year for 2022. The NGB has honored plants in different categories right along, but the Houseplant category is new. As the world was forced to retreat to safe spots and work from home, houseplants became ever more important… hence the new category.

So, in this new category comes a beautiful honoree: Peperomia, a genus of plants I just love. 

What makes these plants most special, if you ask me, is their interesting foliage. Peperomia caperata Rosso has leaves that look as though they have a silk backing. In rich red, the leaf undersides are a complete contrast to the tops, which are shiny green with darker veining. This, along with their elongated form and tapering, makes the leaves seem so graceful. With the flowers this plant sends up—absolute spikes—it reminds me of a wild designer hat. Now this is a plant with style.

Then there is Peperomia caperata Schumi Red. Its foliage is darkest wine-red, almost purple. Leaves are rounded with ripples and ridges, and densely packed to create an impressive specimen plant. These leaves also hold a nice shine. The two—Peperomia caperata Schumi Red and Peperomia caperata Rosso—make a great team in a display. The overall color of one draws the eye to the accent color of the other. And Peperomia rubella and Peperomia Ruby Cascade round things out further, with their colors working well together and their varying leaf shapes adding visual interest.

I know that my words here make me sound as though I have known this genus for a long time, but not long ago, I was completely unaware of these plants. Probably many other plant-lovers like me, living stateside, were the same. I knew different houseplants. I remember pothos, that familiar and easy foliage plant that would spill over desktops and shelves in the workplace and look pretty great at home on a tabletop. Or jade plants—they were ‘go-to’ houseplants, for sure. But species of Peperomia? I believe they were relatively unknown in my part of the world. 

With time, that has changed. These plants are now on the scene in the U.S., and houseplant lovers are learning that they offer a wide variety of foliage and sometimes unusual flowers, as is the case with the conical spikes of caperata Rosso

Foliage such as that of Peperomia argyreia, Watermelon, with patterning that lets us think we are gazing upon a container brimming with tiny watermelons, brightens any space. And Peperomia prostrata, String of Turtles has tiny green, circular leaves that look just like… well, you guessed it. These are lighthearted plants. These are fun. 

I find myself thinking of the fact that these plants have been termed ‘radiator plants’ due to their love of humidity, their appreciation for drying out between waterings, and their need for bright indirect light. Placing them on a radiator might be taking things to an extreme. Still, this alternate name points me in the right direction in terms of caring for these special gems that do so well indoors.

So… I do not want to start thinking about 2022 too soon. Joyful weeks in 2021 lie ahead. But when I next see some of these special semi-succulent plants, I will think of the well deserved honor that has been bestowed upon them. The National Garden Bureau has chosen well. 

2022—‘Year of the Peperomia’ in the Houseplant category. If you ask me, 2022 is looking pretty good.



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