Peperomia, the radiator plant, is one of the low-maintenance plants loved for its foliage and compact size, making it ideal for all households. But, when you notice that the leaves are turning black, you cannot be at peace as it is a sign of a severe issue.
Overwatering can be the main reason behind black leaves on your peperomia. Overwatering causes fungal infections like root rot, creates an ideal environment where pests can thrive, and make your peperomia weak and unhealthy. Black leaves are a sign that your plant has been suffering for a while.
Let’s look at all the other factors that can lead to overwatering and how you can fix everything to give a better life to your peperomia.
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Causes of black leaves on peperomia
Overwatering for an extended period will lead to many problems, one of which might be black leaves. Black leaves are not caused in a day or two. It happens due to neglect and lack of care for a long period.
Here are some common causes of black leaves on peperomia.
- Poor drainage system
- Wrong soil mix
- Low light
- Pest infestation
- Temperature and humidity
- Direct sunlight
- Leaf spot disease
Now let’s discuss each in detail.
Overwatering can be a reason for a lack of knowledge or experience. An overwatered peperomia suffers due to sitting in the water for too long.
When you follow a watering schedule blindly or do not understand the plant’s water requirements, you tend to water more. You should never water your peperomia without checking the soil and ensuring that the topsoil has dried up.
Unlike many other tropical plants, peperomia doesn’t require as much water. Its succulent-like leaves are great at retaining moisture. If you are unaware of this, you might give extra water to your peperomia.
When you ignore the initial signs of overwatering, such as yellow and droopy leaves, or unhealthy roots, the leaves start turning black. The roots and stems can also get heavily affected and turn black.
If your peperomia has been overwatered for quite some time, there might be only two ways to save it.
- Repot the plant
Get ready with a pair of sterilized scissors as you need to prune all the damaged parts – roots, stems, and leaves.
Get a new pot that has one or more drainage holes and add a rich, well-draining soil mix and place the plant in it.
Keep the plant in bright indirect light and let it recover. Avoid fertilizing till you notice new growth. You might not want to water the plant immediately as it was overwatered.
- Propagate the plant
Black leaves or black stems are not an early sign. It means that the problem has persisted for a long time.
So, in case you are too late, you might not be able to save your peperomia. But what you can do is take the healthiest cutting from it and propagate it.
You can place the cutting in a clear container filled with water and wait for the roots to develop. It can take a few weeks. Change the water whenever it starts looking dirty or at least once a week. You can even add some fertilizer to the water.
Once the roots are one or two inches long, take the plant out and plant it in the new pot.
Poor drainage system
Without proper drainage, your peperomia will get overwatered even before you realize it. So if your peperomia is overwatered, another reason behind it can be a poor drainage system.
A poor drainage system indicates a pot without drainage holes. A drainage hole helps the excess water flow out of the pot and is extremely important to keep the plant healthy.
Without drainage holes, the soil will hold more water and won’t have a path to let it out of the system. This will make the soil soggy, and the plant will have black leaves if you could not identify the early signs.
Not clearing the drainage tray can also be a problem. If there is a drainage hole already, but you are not clearing the cache tray holding the water, the holes will remain submerged in water, and the soil will remain soggy.
Always get a pot with drainage holes. If the pot doesn’t have one, you can make one by drilling the pot.
But, never keep your peperomia in a pot that has no drainage holes. You must keep a check on the drainage holes to make sure they are not blocked.
You can put some pebbles into the pot before adding the soil and keeping the plant in it.
Don’t neglect the cache tray. Clear it whenever it stores some water so that the plant doesn’t sit on it for too long.
Also read: Why do indoor plants need drainage holes?
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Wrong soil mix
Many hobbyists use regular garden soil for their houseplants which is a big NO! Regular garden soil will be too heavy for most houseplants, including peperomia.
Heavy soil has more retaining properties than draining, so it will retain excess water. This will eventually lead to overwatering, especially if you follow a schedule without checking the soil’s moisture.
If you keep neglecting, you will see black leaves, spots, or the whole plant turning black.
Repot your peperomia into suitable soil that has a balance of drainage and retention.
Understanding the light your plant is getting can be tricky. The idea is to keep yourself in place of your plant and then determine if the plant is getting enough light.
If your peperomia is not getting sufficient light, its leaves will fail to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. This will lead to discoloration of the leaves, turning them black.
Peperomia requires bright indirect light to stay healthy. If you have placed it in a shady corner of the house, bring it near the window.
A window with curtains that can filter the direct sunlight will provide the peperomia’s proper indirect light. The direction will not be an issue as long as the plant receives enough light throughout the day.
If natural light is scarce in your house, you can use grow lights to make up for the absence of enough natural light.
Some common pests that can attack peperomia are scales, aphids, spider mites, thrips, etc.
If peperomia gets infested with pests, they will suck all the nutrients out of the plant, making it weak and leading to discoloration. Due to this, you will notice black leaves on your peperomia.
Here are the steps with which you can eliminate the pesky pests:
- Give the plant a good rinse to get rid of as many bugs as possible.
- Handpick the visible bugs.
- Use an organic way to treat the pests. Dilute neem oil and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray this solution all over the peperomia and continue this for two weeks.
- If the pests still don’t go away, you can opt for a pesticide available in the market but make sure to read the instructions carefully before use.
Temperature and humidity
The temperature and humidity can play essential roles in affecting the health of your peperomia.
Black leaves may be a sign that the peperomia is not happy with the temperature or humidity levels that it is placed in.
Temperature or humidity fluctuations can stress the plant and make it weak and vulnerable to other problems such as pests and diseases.
Peperomias come from tropical regions exposed to warm temperatures but prefer average room temperatures as houseplants.
Peperomias can tolerate minor fluctuations, but you should keep them away from hot or cold drafts and extreme conditions.
Try to keep the peperomia between 65-80°F temperatures and not let the humidity levels drop below 40-50%.
You can place the peperomia near a fireplace to manipulate cold temperatures during winter but keep a safe distance to avoid leaf burn.
You can use a pebble tray, group the plants, or use a humidifier to increase the humidity if it gets too low.
Most houseplants are sensitive to direct sunlight, including peperomia. If you place the peperomia in front of the window without any curtains or blinds to filter the light, your peperomia might be getting direct sunlight.
Direct sunlight scorches the leaves, due to which they get discolored and become brown and black.
Placing peperomia outdoors can also be the reason for it getting direct sunlight.
- Do not place the peperomia near a window with no filter and is receiving direct sunlight.
- If you are placing your peperomia outdoors, place it under any shade so that it stays protected from the harsh direct sunlight.
- If your peperomia has scorched leaves, prune those and bring the plant to an area that will get indirect sunlight.
Peperomia are light feeders and do not require too much fertilization. But if you don’t know that and feed it like the other houseplants, it will get overfertilized.
Fertilizing during the winter can also lead to overfertilization. This is when the peperomia rests. If it is fertilized well during the growing season, it will survive the winter without fertilizers.
Fertilizers can have a build-up on the soil and damage the roots. This will affect the whole plant, including the leaves. The leaves will turn brown or black due to this.
Use a well-balanced fertilizer and dilute it to half-strength before adding it to the peperomia plant. This will help to avoid overfertilization.
If you have an over-fertilized peperomia, this is what you should do:
- Stop fertilizing.
- Water the soil well and allow the excess fertilizer to leach out.
- Let the plant recover.
Leaf spot diseases
Leaf spot diseases cause black spots on the peperomia leaves. Three kinds of leaf spot diseases can affect your peperomia plant.
Cercospora leaf spot: You will notice black bumps in the bottom parts of the leaves. Use fungicides that contain thiophanatemethyl or chlorothalonil. You can spray the fungicide on the undersides of the leaves.
Rhizoctonia leaf spot: These black spots on the leaves will be mushy and irregularly shaped. You can prune the infected leaves and destroy them.
Phyllosticta leaf spot: You will notice black and dry spots on the leaves. These start from the margins and spread across the leaves. Pruning and destroying the leaves are required.
How to prevent black leaves on peperomia?
With the correct understanding and care, you can prevent black leaves or spots on your peperomia. Check these points that will help you understand the requirements of your peperomia.
- Provide bright and indirect light to your peperomias. They neither prefer direct sunlight nor low light. Placing it near a window with curtains to filter out the direct sunlight would be ideal.
- Peperomia doesn’t require as much water as most other houseplants. Water only after ensuring that the topsoil has dried out.
- Use balanced soil that retains and drains water evenly. A well-balanced mix of peat moss and perlite should work well for your peperomia.
- Do not overfertilize. Peperomias are light feeders that require to be fed with less fertilizer. You can dilute the fertilizer to reduce its strength to half and apply it every month during the growing season. Stop fertilizing in winter.
- Protect your peperomia from frost, hot and cold drafts. Try to maintain ideal temperature and humidity levels for your peperomia.
- Spray neem oil solution every month to prevent pests from attacking. This will also prevent fungal infections.
Should I cut off black leaves on peperomia?
Yes. It is best to remove the black and dying leaves as these will not become healthy again and are just a burden on the plant. Cutting these leaves will help the healthy leaves receive more nutrients.
Do black leaves indicate my peperomia is dying?
No. Although black leaves can indicate something severe, it doesn’t mean your peperomia will die. You need to identify the issue and fix it. Take proper care of the plant to prevent the return of black spots and leaves.
Ref: University of Florida, Sage Journal, University of Vermont, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Rutgers, The University of Arkansas, Britannica, Wikipedia, Peperomia Diseases, NC State University.