January 28, 2012

1 - Leggy peperomia house plants can be cut back to become more bushy and to make cuttings for starting new plants.

Q. :

My peperomia plant has pretty leaves at the top of the stems and at the bottom of the stems. The leaves in the middle have fallen and revealed bare stems. Can I do something to make it look better? Can I cut the stems back?

- Suzanna D.


A. :

Some peperomia plants develop stems and others produce rosette plants (all the leaves come from a short, compressed stem). Yours is apparently a stem-producing type. You can trim these stems back to a short distance above the healthy lower leaves. This will allow the plant to develop from lower stems and reduce the bare appearance.
The stems you cut can be rooted to form new plants as well. Since the peperomia is a succulent plant, you should allow the cut stem to dry for a day or two before planting it in potting soil. Insert the base of the stem into moist potting soil. You can sometimes enhance rooting by putting the pot, potting soil, and new stem cutting into a plastic bag to serve as a greenhouse and keep the plant from drying before new roots can form. Roots will form most quickly if the new plant is kept in a warm environment. However, do not put the plant in direct sunlight where it will dry to quickly. This is especially true if you have it in a plastic bag greenhouse. In direct sunlight, it will get too hot inside the bag.
Another fun way to root cuttings (of peperomia and many other houseplants) is to put the cutting into a re-sealable plastic bag on a bed of moist sphagnum moss.
When you do this, you can check periodically to watch roots form and, when the roots are large enough, you can take the cutting from the bag and put it into a pot of potting soil. If you take some of the sphagnum moss clinging to the new roots along with the roots, you will minimize root damage. the sphagnum moss will not cause a problem in the potting soil. Little tricks like this are fun and sometimes essential for curious gardeners who cannot resist pulling the cuttings out of the soil to see if they have formed roots.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!