Peperomia, a large genus of semi-succulent epiphytic plants, is appreciated among plant owners for the ornamental foliage and the low maintenance quality with comparatively high adaptability. However, while parenting a peperomia, you need to take care of a few factors and understand few signs of underlying diseases if you want your plant to stick to you from thick to thin.
The most common problems these epiphytes face are brown tips in leaves, browning of the whole leaf, and spots on leaves. If ignored, these problems can lead to severe complications. Brown spots on peperomia or browning the leaf blade can be a way of your plant telling you it’s unhappy with something in the environment. But what causes brown leaves in peperomia and how can you fix the same?
A pest infestation, root rot, environmental stress, and nutrient deficiencies are primary causes of brown leaves and spots on peperomia. Water the plant only when needed, spray some neem oil once a month, and dose with appropriate fertilizer on time to prevent brown leaves in peperomia.
Many factors can work together to bring about such harmful change in Peperomia. To know about it in detail read the article till the end.
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Identifying brown spots in Peperomia
Browning can occur at any part of the peperomia plant, but it primarily affects the leaves. In many instances, the tip of the leaf becomes brown. Brown spots in this plant can take many forms.
The brown spots may appear mushy or crispy and fragile. Few pathogenic diseases cause brown inflamed areas on leaves, or the affected area may appear raised and dried up in appearance.
It is advisable to check both the top and underside of the leaves to detect any early signs of browning.
Causes of brown spots in Peperomia
There can be too many potential causes behind the browning of the Peperomia plant and its leaves. Let’s dive deep into the article to know the causes before taking suitable preventive measures.
Overwatering is the leading cause of rot root in Peperomia. Excess water absorption by the plant causes Oedema, a physiological disorder where the plant body starts retaining excess water inside it causes swelling of body parts.
In the case of plants, excess water intake increases the water pressure inside the plants’ bodies, which in turn ruptures the healthy cells. The dead cells dry up, creating brown spots on leaves and even in other plant parts.
By limiting the frequency of watering, you can prevent your plant from getting into serious trouble.
- Water your plant only when the topsoil layer has dried up.
- Check the moisture content of the soil even if the topsoil is dry, as, in many instances, the upper layer dries up quickly due to exposure to light and warmth, but the inner layer remains moist.
- Use pots with suitable drainage holes.
- Try to use pots made up of porous material like terracotta.
- Use chunky, loose soil mix as it allows free movement of water.
- If the soil mix is too mushy and wet, either change the soil mix or repot the plant
- Avoid watering too much during the winter months.
- Keep your plant in a clean, dry place with proper ventilation that allows fresh air to come in.
Also read: How To Save Overwatered Peperomia?
Using tap water
Peperomias, being native species of water in abundant tropical and subtropical regions, are quite selective about water quality.
Elements like fluoride, arsenic, chlorine found in tap water can cause stress to the plant. The use of such ions enriched tap water causes brown spots on plants.
Fixing the problem:
- Allow the tap water for filtration to get rid of any unwanted ions.
- Opt for rainwater or distilled water to serve the purpose.
Yes! You read it right. Brown spots in peperomia plants can also result from underwatering.
Water is one of the fundamental compounds of plants’ physiological systems. If the water supply is insufficient, it can cause serious harm to plants’ health by decreasing the root pressure (this pressure is responsible for the water and salt absorption by the root system from the soil).
This will cause drooping leaves, stem at the initial stage, and eventually browning of the tips of the leaves.
Fixing the problem:
- After checking the soil’s moisture content manually or with a moisture meter, water your plant thoroughly until the water is dripping out from the drainage holes.
- Be careful about the drying out of the topsoil. Let it dry till about 2-3 inches in depth but don’t allow drying beyond that.
A pest infestation can cause many severe health issues in Peperomia. One common pest that causes brown spots in peperomias is red spider mites.
These harmful arthropods leave sticky webs all over the plant that can be easily detected. They also leave a ‘honeydew’ that they produce and excrete after chewing the parts of the stem and leaves of the plant.
Other pests attack peperomia, such as aphids, scales, fungus gnats, and cause similar harm.
Fixing the problem:
- Wash the web off from your plant regularly, at least once a week.
- You can even wipe down the plant with a wet cloth.
- Go for organic control. You can use the IMP (Integrated Pest Management) process by applying Phytoseiulus persimilis. This helpful mite feeds on these pests without harming the plant.
- Spraying water on the leaves once a week can prevent infestation.
- The above solutions are for dealing with a minor infestation. In case of more severe infestation, you can use chemical supplements like- fatty acids or surfactants compounds.
Exposure to excess light
Light is vital to carry on the physiological and biochemical processes like photosynthesis among plants to suffice their basic energy needs.
However, exposing your peperomia to direct sunlight can cause serious harm to the species. Peperomia thrive well in indirect and diffused light.
Allowing direct sunlight or bright light for an extended period will cause the leaves to burn out, making them brown over time.
Excess light is also harmful to chlorophyll, the photosynthetic pigment, by oxidizing it and denaturing its composition. Lack of chlorophyll will ultimately cause browning and yellowing of leaves.
Excess heat and light result in scorching, and it causes browning of the leaves tips.
To keep away your plant from the harmful effect of excess light, do follow some cautious steps.
- Keep your plant under indirect sunlight.
- Diffused artificial light like fluorescent bulbs can serve the purpose.
Every plant has an optimum temperature range to maintain its bodily functions stably. For Peperomia, the temperature ranges from 50°F to 75°F.
Keeping your peperomia in a hot atmosphere can put temperature stress over the plant resulting in brown spots on leaves and stems.
On the flip side, too much cold climate is also harmful to the plant. Chilling wind and freezing climate cause browning of the plant.
Fixing the problem:
To give your plant a comfy atmosphere to thrive, do the following.
- Don’t place your plant near a radiator.
- Try to keep away your plant from direct exposure to wind
- If you are living in a freezing zone, use a proper insulation system for your plant.
- In cold climates, group your plants.
Like light and temperature, humidity plays a significant role in a plant’s growth. For peperomia, a slight change in humidity level does not put much stress on the plant. But excessive deviation from the standard range left an effect on the plant.
Peperomias prefer areas with 40-50% humidity. Excessive lowering of relative humidity of the atmosphere increases the rate of transpiration in plants. This leads to drooping of leaves and stem, even browning due to inadequate water levels in the plant body.
A significant drop in humidity causes pale, wilting, defoliated leaves.
Fixing humidity issue:
- The humidity needs will depend on the thickness of the leaves of your peperomia. The thicker the leaves, the lower the humidity requirement as thick leaves can retain water.
- You can install a humidifier to maintain constant humidity around your plant during the dry season.
- Group all your plants. By doing so, you are allowing them to enhance the relative humidity of the surrounding air as plants expel our excess water in the form of water vapors through tiny holes in their leaves called Stomata.
- During the dry season, you can mist the plant.
Peperomia plants generally have very little need for fertilizers. While applying fertilizers, even a minimum quantity can be a lot to the species.
Henceforth applying an excess of such chemical manure stresses the plant by altering the soil composition, making it toxic. The result of it is reflected on the leaves, making them pale, dry, and brown.
Fixing the problem:
- Don’t use fertilizers during the winter months.
- Always use a diluted solution of the fertilizer mix.
- Apply a balanced NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) solution during the summer and spring season as this is the growing period.
- Iron is another vital nutrient for peperomia. Use a 20:20:20 ratio Nitrogen, Potassium, and Iron supplements.
You need to understand that peperomias are epiphytes. For its proper growth, you need to apply a soil mix that can mimic the wild’s natural condition.
Peperomia thrives well in slightly acidic, loose, chunky soil.
Most of the plant keepers ignore the proper need for soil and use any random soil mix. Too much heavy and clayey soil retains water which is harmful to the plant. The roots will suffer for this, and that will get reflected on the leaves.
By adopting a few strategies, you can avoid soil-related problems.
Fixing the problem:
- While using regular potting soil as the planting medium, lighten it by adding sand and bushy components.
- To make the soil mix aerated and porous, add small gravels.
- Don’t add too much manure, as it will alter the natural composition of the soil.
- You can even use vermiculite and peat moss to lighten the soil.
- One of the best options for planting peperomia is using the orchid potting medium.
Many infectious diseases affect the leaves of peperomia. Being pathogen-borne in nature, these disorders can quickly spread to other plants.
Some early signs can be traced to identify these pathogenic infestations. The sooner you identify the sick plant, the faster you can figure out the remedies against it.
Most of the leaf spot diseases are fungal infections in nature. Like:
- Cercospora leaf spot: Raised black or brown spots are seen at the undersurface of the leaf.
- Phyllosticta leaf spot: The whole leaf gets affected by black or brown rings. Small holes in the leaf can be seen. The leaves become discolored and porous.
- Rhizoctonia leaf spot: Leaf or the stems become mushy, black and brown spots are also seen.
- A virus named Peperomia ringspot virus is also responsible for the browning of leaves.
Fixing the problem:
After identifying the sick plant, the first step is to isolate it from the others to prevent further spread. After that, take other remedies:
- Discard the infected leaves with the help of forceps or scissors.
- Sterilize every piece of equipment that is being used before and after the process.
- Keep the leaves dry as much as possible.
- Spread neem oil on the underside of the foliage
- If the plant is severely infected, you need to destroy the entire plant.
Treating peperomia diseases:
- To treat Cercospora leaf spot disease, immediate pruning of the affected part is needed. Fungicides like chlorothalonil, myclobutanil can be used.
- Fungicides can not treat Phyllosticta leaf spots caused by an asexual fungus Phyllosticta minima. Pruning, clipping, trimming are advised to the affected area.
- Fungicides mostly have an instant effect and thus must be reapplied at an interval to stop further spreading pathogens to the newly formed leaves.
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How to prevent brown spots on peperomia leaves?
There is a list of factors that can cause the browning of peperomia leaves. Although these species are easygoing, they suffer comparatively in a significant manner from this disorder.
Limiting some factors and providing some basic needs can easily keep your peperomia from browning disorders.
- Keep your plant away from direct sunlight. Instead, keep them under indirect sun rays. If that is not possible, go for diffused artificial light.
- Try to maintain a constant temperature between 55-75°F or 18-25°C.
- Keep your plant dust-free to prevent pest infestation.
- Cut off or prune infected leaves or those which appear yellow or brown as soon as possible.
- Use filtered or distilled water that is free of chloride or fluoride ions.
- Use a porous healthy soil mix.
- Always water your plant after checking the moisture content and the topsoil layer dryness.
A quick tip: While keeping a check on all the fundamental factors, keep an eye on your plants’ regular growth. Although peperomia plants are slow growers, any abnormality can hinder their growth. To keep your plant healthy, you must keep an eye out even after undertaking the strategies.
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.