Radiator plants are available in hundreds of varieties, each with a distinctive display of foliage that is bound to garner some attention and lift the decor of a room.
You may know radiator plants under a different name such as peperomia or baby rubber plant. Either way, you’re bound to have come across these in gardening centers because of their popularity as indoor houseplants.
Because radiator plants are easy to take care of and are relatively adaptable plants, they make excellent houseplants for anyone that enjoys interesting displays of foliage much more than colorful blooms.
In what follows, I’ll go over the growing requirements of radiator plants and familiarize you with the environment needed to grow healthy radiator plants.
Peperomia Fosteri / Radiator Plant Care Tips
I always advise anyone setting up an indoor garden or plant display to familiarize themselves with every aspect of the environment these plants require. The initial correct set up for the plant is just as important as the ongoing maintenance these plants require.
Since there are hundreds of radiator plant varieties, there’s also a huge variety when it comes to size. Typically, trailing radiator plants can grow to 2-3 feet in height, while smaller radiator plant varieties don’t get bigger than 8-12 inches.
It’s good to know ahead how big your peperomia will get, so you’ll know where to position it and what kind of pot to get.
Peperomias require indirect light and they should be kept in a location that gets a fair amount of brightness.
Direct light should be avoided, particularly during hot summer months. Exposure to direct light will often cause scorched leaves.
Where bright indirect light is not achievable (e.g. office buildings), you can supplement the lack of light with artificial lighting.
When there isn’t enough light, radiator plants grow in the direction of light tending to become leggy. You can cut back on these leggy growths and consider finding a more suitable location for your plants.
Time is not the best indicator to when you should water your peperomia plants. What should guide you instead is the dryness level of the soil.
The soil of radiator plants should dry out a bit between waterings (top 1-2 inches of soil). When this happens, you should water thoroughly, let the water drain and discard the excess water from the saucer.
Overwatering is a problem with peperomias as well, so make sure your assessment of the soil is correct whenever you water the plant. If peperomias are overwatered, their roots will begin to rot after a while.
Temperature & Humidity
The temperature range that works well for peperomias is between 65-80 °F. Peperomias enjoy high humidity, but not all varieties are dependent on humidity, especially those with succulent leaves, which can tolerate the dry air that seems to be present in most households.
Depending on the variety of radiator plant, you can increase humidity — if it enjoys high-humidity — with a humidifier, by placing the plant on a tray of pebbles immersed in water, or by moving the plant in the kitchen or bathroom, where humidity levels are higher.
Considering these plants’ aversion to constantly moist soil, a potting medium that drains fast is what you should be aiming for.
The best choice for radiator plants is a potting medium that’s made up of 50% peat moss and 50% perlite. By adding coarse sand to the mix, you can increase the aeration, offering the roots a well-aerated soil that doesn’t promote root rot.
Commercial orchid potting mix works well for radiator plants as well, and even light houseplant mixture with perlite or coarse gravel.
A 20-20-20 fertilizer (equal parts nitrogen, potassium and iron) diluted to half-strength and applied once a month during the growing season will give your radiator plant a boost in healthiness.
But don’t overdo it. Just like you shouldn’t overwater. If you’re using too much fertilizer, there’s a risk of certain nutrients to accumulate and cause toxicity instead.
It’s easy to harm these plants out of an abundance of kindness, so remember — when it comes to radiator plant fertilizing, less is more
Potting & Repotting
Peperomia plants enjoy pots that are a bit on the small side and don’t mind getting a bit root bound. It follows then that repotting is not something that you need to do often with these plants.
You can put off repotting until it’s absolutely necessary and you can see the roots of the plant poking out of the drain holes.
Careful when repotting, most peperomias have sensitive roots that can break or become damaged easily.
Repotting every 2-3 years is usually enough, especially if your goal is to avoid the soil to become compacted.
You shouldn’t oversize the pot when repotting, a slightly bigger pot is usually enough, these plants prefer smaller pots to larger ones.
Peperomia Fosteri / Radiator Plant Propagation
You can propagate peperomia plants by stem cuttings and leaf cuttings depending on the peperomia variety.
For upright radiator plants, you should cut off a piece of stem that still has a leaf or two attached. You should root the cutting in cutting compost. The plant will establish roots in a month or so. Variegated varieties are better propagated by stem cuttings.
For other varieties, propagation by leaf cutting will produce the best result. You should cut off a leaf close to the center of the plant, and leave the stem attached. Before planting in rooting compost, cut the stem at a slope and dip it in rooting hormone.
Generally, radiator plants are slow growing, so you’ll need to arm yourself with patience when propagating.
Different Types of Radiator Plant
There are hundreds of peperomia varieties, but I’ve selected a few that I find interesting or that are popular for their low growing demands:
With features similar to succulent plants, this radiator plant variety has leaves in a folded pattern. It’s a creeping variety that stays small and it’s low maintenance.
Because of its heart-shaped leaves, this variety is also known as the Cupid peperomia plant. The plant grows low and it’s a trailing variety. The edges of leaves are pale yellow or white.
This variety is also known as the Watermelon peperomia because the patterns of its leaves remind of the variegation present on watermelon. The individual petioles that hold the leaves are often reddish.
The plant has an upright growing pattern and features dark green, succulent-like leaves. The plant can reach 2 feet in height and has several cultivars.
There are many more varieties and cultivars within the same variety that you would probably find interesting to add to your collection of houseplants and I encourage you to find the one that best matches your needs.
Peperomia Fosteri / Radiator Plant FAQs
Below you can read some more interesting facts on these plants:
Are Radiator Plants Succulents?
Some peperomia plants have adapted to store water in their leaves and stems and therefore can be categorized as succulents. However, not all peperomias have this capability.
Why are my Radiator Plant’s Leaves Turning Yellow?
When leaves turn yellow on your radiator plant, it can be a sign of a couple of problem areas including excessive sunlight, too much water, sudden change in temperature or change in the location of the plant.
At first, it can be overwhelming to identify the cause, but what I find always helps in these situations is to go back to the basics, i.e. the keeping requirements of the plant.
Examining these one-by-one will soon help you identify the issue and guide you in the right direction.
Is Peperomia Plant Toxic for Pets?
Common peperomia plant varieties are not toxic to pets, so they’re safe to keep around the house.
How Fast do Radiator Plants Grow?
Radiator plants with succulent-like features are relatively slow-growers. You can somewhat speed up their growing process by offering them ideal conditions.
Why are Radiator Plant Leaves Curling?
Some radiator plants have naturally curled leaves, so before you start to worry make sure you exclude this possibility first. For example, the peperomia nivalis has naturally folded leaves.
If the leaves on your radiator plant are not supposed to be curled, the issue is usually caused by a bug infestation (check the underside of the leaf for pests if there are not obvious signs on the surface of the leaves), or it can be caused by fertilization issue (too much or too little fertilizer).
Radiator plants are great for those looking for a low maintenance plant that doesn’t fail to be impressive. Some occasional pruning, rarely repotting and little fertilization can go a long way in keeping this plant healthy.
Even though radiator plants produce blooms, they aren’t as impressive as the foliage, and if you’re more inclined toward keeping a blooming plant in the real sense of the word, peperomias might not be what you’re looking for.
As with all plants, it’s important to correctly gauge the plant’s watering requirements and avoid falling into extremes.