Also known as radiator plants, Peperomia is small in stature and relatively simple in appearance. At the same time, variegated varieties are extremely hard to pass up, even for an established houseplant collection.
Peperomia flowers are strange-looking and not very attractive. That’s fine, according to the University of Wisconsin, since these plants are almost exclusively grown for their foliage.
Without their leaves, Peperomia plants have little to offer. So any sign of foliar stress or damage is a really sorry sight. In this article, I’m going to teach you how to diagnose and treat common causes of Peperomia leaves curling.
Why Does Peperomia Leave Curl?
Plants obviously cannot talk or otherwise communicate in a way that we understand. Since a houseplant can’t tell us when something is wrong with its growing conditions, we have to rely on visual clues to identify and treat any problems that occur.
Curling leaves are one example of a visual clue and can say a lot about a plant’s current health and happiness. In many cases, curling Peperomia leaves are caused by moisture problems.
Plant leaves are constantly participating in transpiration. Transpiration is the natural loss of moisture through the leaves and other plant tissues. While this is a normal function of plant biology, problems arise when moisture is lost through the leaves faster than it can be replaced.
Other potential causes of Peperomia leaves curling include excess sun exposure, damage from chemicals found in tap water, fertilizer burn, and malnutrition.
Reasons Your Peperomia Leaves Are Curling
All Peperomia varieties can be susceptible to leaf curl and there are a number of reasons for this. It’s one of the most common symptoms that appear when something is wrong with the plant’s health or growing environment.
While the good news is that most cases of curling leaves are easily treatable, the tricky part is diagnosing the root cause. If you don’t know exactly what’s causing your Peperomia to curl up, you can’t effectively treat it without potentially making the situation worse.
Here’s a detailed overview of the most likely reasons for curling Peperomia leaves, including diagnosis tips and the steps I recommend taking to fix them.
Peperomia plants are adept at retaining moisture between waterings — so much so that many people mistake them for succulents. If you leave a Peperomia for too long without water, however, the first place visible symptoms are likely to appear is in the leaves.
An underwatered Peperomia may develop leaves that curl or droop toward the ground. You might also notice that the leaves are dry to the touch or have brown margins.
Treating this issue is simple as long as you catch it early on. Just slowly water the soil until it is evenly saturated and then return to a regular watering routine going forward.
If the plant remains dehydrated for an extended period, permanent damage may occur. So try to avoid underwatering your Peperomia in the first place.
Symptoms of over- and underwatering are very similar because they both deprive the plants of moisture and other key resources just in different ways. Many cases of overwatering are mistaken for too little moisture, which only exacerbates the real problem.
It’s best to check your Peperomia’s soil rather than diagnosing based on the leaves alone. Whether or not the soil is bone dry or soggy will quickly tell you whether over- or underwatering is to blame.
Acute overwatering can be treated by letting the soil drain completely before returning the Peperomia to its normal location. The leaves may curl a bit but should bounce back relatively soon.
Chronic overwatering is a different story. Continuously watering your Peperomia too often can damage the plant and trigger diseases like root rot. I recommend only watering these houseplants when the top couple of inches of soil are dry.
Poor drainage will trigger the same health problems as overwatering. Many Peperomia owners fall victim to this issue despite following a good watering routine overall.
Drainage is impacted by soil quality and the type of container used. A good potting soil for Peperomia is one that contains organic matter plus ingredients like coco coir, sand, and perlite. Soil designed for orchids is also recommended.
All Peperomia containers should have ample drainage holes in the bottom. Do not keep the container in a collection saucer that will hold standing water.
Too Little Sun
Placing a Peperomia somewhere that doesn’t receive much light will sometimes cause curling leaves. You’ll probably notice symptoms like leggy growth or small, stunted leaves as well.
This is an easy problem to fix but be careful not to overcorrect. These plants prefer indirect light and need time to adjust to sunnier conditions, especially when previously grown in dim lighting.
Exposure to extremely dry air can essentially suck the moisture out of a plant’s leaves. Peperomia is adapted to tropical locations with high humidity levels, so even average household conditions are dry in comparison.
The best fix is to relocate your Peperomia to a part of the home with greater humidity — e.g., a bathroom. Or you can set up a humidifier or pebble tray to boost the air quality around the plant.
Peperomia responds well to balanced fertilizer applied consistently during the growing season. As with any potted plant, however, it’s very easy to overfeed or allow chemical salts to build up in the soil.
In addition to curling leaves, a clear sign of fertilizer buildup is a visible white crust present on the soil’s surface. This can usually be treated by flushing the soil with clean water or repotting it with new soil altogether.
To prevent overfeeding in general, measure all fertilizer applications carefully. I recommend using liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength with water to protect the roots from fertilizer burn even further.
While there are a handful of nutritional deficiencies that may cause misshapen leaves, calcium is the most likely culprit. Peperomia plants that lack calcium tend to put out weak stems and leaves that hang downward. Pre-existing growth is generally unaffected.
Once you’re sure that a calcium deficiency is to blame, the most effective treatment is the use of a calcium-containing fertilizer. If your Peperomia is otherwise well-fertilized, I recommend applying a calcium supplement free of other nutrients.
Peperomia prefer average household temperatures. They cannot tolerate extreme heat or temperatures below 50°F. Both of these conditions can shock the plant and trigger symptoms like curling leaves.
As a general rule, keep all houseplants away from radiators, heat vents, drafty windows, and other extreme temperature sources. I frequently see cases of heat stress overlap with excess sun exposure, so be careful when relocating your Peperomia anywhere that potentially receives more light than it’s used to.
Poor Water Quality
I’ve personally never found Peperomia to be too sensitive to water quality. But I also know some gardeners who swear by only using distilled water on these houseplants.
Tap water commonly contains chemicals like chlorine and fluoride that are harmless to people but stressful on plants. If you’ve ruled out all other potential causes of the curling leaves, it definitely doesn’t hurt to try a different water source. Bottled or collected rainwater is ideal.
FAQ Peperomia Curling Leaves
Why Are My Peperomia Leaves Curling?
The most common causes of curling Peperomia leaves include improper watering, light quality, and temperature. If your Peperomia develops curled leaves, it could be experiencing one or a combination of these likely problems.
The University of Wisconsin – Peperomia Care and Plant profile
Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.