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Wrinkled-Leaf Peperomia

P. caperata (wrinkled-leaved peperomia); P. hederaefolia (ivy peperomia); P. obtusifolia (blunt-leaved peperomia); P. sandersii (watermelon peperomia)

CHARACTERISTICS:  Indoor gardeners who are looking for low-growing foliage plants for coffee tables and window sills will find several excellent possibilities among peperomias. All have unusually thick leaves, grow less than 12 inches tall and send out flower stalks in spring that look like mouse tails.

The most popular of all peperomias are varieties of the wrinkled-leaved peperomia. 'Emerald Ripple' grows 3 to 4 inches tall with a spread of about 5 inches and has leaves that range from 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches across. 'Little Fantasy' is similar in appearance but shorter, 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall. 'Tricolor' grows 3 to 4 inches tall; its leaves are creamy white with a central blotch of milky green and are held by red leaf stems.

The ivy peperomia resembles the wrinkled-leaved peperomia but is taller, usually reaching a height of 6 to 8 inches, and its leaves are larger, 2 to 2 1/2 inches across, and less deeply wrinkled. The leaves are a silvery gray, with dark olive-green "valleys"; the stems are pink.

'Blackie', a well-known variety, has copper-black leaves.

The blunt-leaved peperomia, an extremely easy-to-grow species if it is not overwatered, has smooth dark green roundish leaves about 2 to 3 inches long. It becomes 8 to 10 inches tall, but by then the thick leaves have begun to weigh the stems into a curve.

The variegated blunt-leaved peperomia, P. obtusifolia 'Variegata', has light green leaves irregularly edged with creamy white.

The watermelon peperomia grows 8 to 10 inches tall and has 2- to 4-inch leaves striped like some watermelons.

HOW TO GROW. Peperomias do best in bright indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight; if only artificial light is available, provide at least 400 foot-candles. Night temperatures of 65° to 70° and day temperatures of 75° to 85° are ideal. Be careful not to overwater the plants, especially in winter; let the soil become moderately dry between thorough waterings. Feed established plants at three- to four-month intervals with a standard house-plant fertilizer diluted to half the minimum strength recommended on the label, but wait four to six months before feeding newly purchased or potted plants. Peperomias rarely outgrow their pots, but when they do, repot in very early spring just as new growth starts. For best results use a mixture of 1 part loam, 1 part peat moss or leaf mold and 1 part sharp sand; to each gallon pailful of this mixture add 1 1/2 teaspoons of 20 per cent superphosphate, 1 tablespoon of ground limestone and 2 teaspoons of 5-10-5 fertilizer. Otherwise, use a packaged general-purpose potting soil. Propagate at any season from leaf or stem cuttings or by dividing the crowns of old plants in very early spring. Generally pest free.