Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia)

Peperomia Sandersii, Watermelon Begonia, Watermelon Peperomia, Watermelon Plant

This stunning little houseplant with foliage that looks just like a watermelon is irresistible. Peperomia argyreia easily earns its common name, the watermelon peperomia, with its dark green and silver striping and oval leaves. It is a bit of a fuzzy houseplant, but with the proper care will thrive and show off its spectacular foliage for all to admire.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Peperomia argyreia, the watermelon peperomia, is a species of flowering plant in the pepper family Piperaceae, native to northern South America, including Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The plant is not closely related to either watermelons or begonias. 

The watermelon peperomia is a relatively slow grower. This little houseplant is bushy and grows 6-12 inches tall, rarely any higher. It will grow about as wide as it is tall, producing a compact yet full display. Even though the plant itself is small, the leaves are large in comparison. They emerge in a rosette-like fashion, creating a dense, grouping appearance. To make an even thicker growth, you can put 2-3 plantlets in one container and let them grow together.

Because the stems are so thin, the connection between them and the leaves is quite fragile. Be extremely careful handling your watermelon peperomia to avoid knocking leaves off.

The Latin specific epithet argyreia means “silvery”.

This decorative plant is valued in cultivation, and in temperate areas is generally grown as a houseplant at a minimum temperature of 10 °C (50 °F), in bright light but not direct sun. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

II. How to Grow and Care

Overall watermelon peperomia are easy to care for and grow as houseplants, especially if you are good at staying on top of watering your plants. If you have a habit of forgetting to water your plants for weeks at a time, this plant might not be for you as peperomia are moisture-loving plants. While they do produce flower spikes in the spring and summer, the blooms are insignificant. Some growers choose to cut the blooms off so that the plant can focus its energy on producing foliage, which produces much more visual interest.

Sunlight

Light is an essential piece of your watermelon peperomia care routine. These plants are generally best grown indoors with bright, indirect light. They are tropical plants that are accustomed to growing underneath lots of foliage, so they do not depend on direct sunlight to survive. Excessive sunlight, even indirectly, can cause the dark green veins on the leaves to fade.

Inadequate light will sadly cause the leaves to lose their watermelon pattern. The best place to put a watermelon peperomia plant is in an east or south facing window. 

Temperature and Humidity

Watermelon peperomia do well in warm, slightly humid conditions. Typical household temperatures and humidity levels are adequate for these tropical plants. Just ensure that your peperomia is kept away from vents or drafty windows that could dry out the air around the plant.

Watering

Water requirements for the watermelon peperomia plant are low, which is why overwatering is the number one problem. You should wait until the top inch of soil dries out before watering the plant thoroughly. This means about once a week, depending on the humidity.

Your watermelon peperomia plant will give signs and let you know if it needs more or less watering. If the leaves start to feel thin or their colors look less vibrant, it’s a sign you need to water more often. The leaves can be somewhat heavy on the ends of the thin stems, leading to the plant to droop when it needs water too.

However, drooping can also be a sign of overwatering. If the stems and leaves start to droop or wilt and the pot feels heavy, you might be watering it too much. (Note: you should always water less during their semi-dormant season in winter). Soil also plays an important role in moisture regulation, so let’s talk about that next.

Soil

Watermelon peperomia do well in most standard potting mixes as long as they are well-draining, but can also hold some moisture. Avoid soil that is formulated for plants that prefer a dryer soil like cacti and succulents as it won’t absorb enough water to sustain the plant. A one to one mixture of peat moss and perlite will also work for watermelon peperomia.

Fertilizing

Watermelon peperomia can benefit from regular fertilization during the growing period. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer every two to four weeks during spring and summer.

Propagation

Watermelon peperomia are very easy to propagate and are sometimes even affectionately referred to as “friendship plants” because of how easy it is to share your plant with a friend. Propagating should ideally be done during the growing season, either in spring or summer. Watermelon peperomia can be propagated two ways: by division and by leaf cuttings.

How to propagate watermelon peperomia by division:

  • First, remove the entire plant from the potting container so that you can examine the roots and carefully separate the offshoots.
  • Identify the offshoots that you want to separate from the plant (it is best to leave offshoots that are smaller than one inch in the original pot) and gently tease the roots from the main plant. 
  • Plant the newly separated offshoot in its own pot and water the soil thoroughly. 
  • Place the cutting in a location that receives medium to bright indirect light and keep the soil consistently moist for the first one to two weeks after separation.
  • After a couple of weeks you can resume a regular watering schedule.
  • Unlike leaf/stem propagating with other plants, watermelon peperomia do not branch at the location where the stem is cut, so once you cut a leaf off you are sacrificing that stem permanently. Keep this in mind before getting started.

How to propagate watermelon peperomia with leaf cuttings:

  • Identify the leaves that you want to use and cut the stem so that the separated leaf has two to three inches of stem remaining.
  • Take the separated leaf, and cut the leaf in half—separating the “top” and the “bottom” of the leaf. You will be left with two halves, one that has the stem still attached.
  • Prepare a container with regular potting soil and pre-moisten the soil before planting.
  • Take the top half of the leaf cutting and place it in the soil with the cut edge buried and the top half above the soil. 
  • Next take the bottom half of the cutting and plant the stem in the soil, with the remainder of the leaf above the soil. 
  • Then, place your freshly potted cuttings in a location that receives medium to bright indirect light and keep the soil consistently moist but never waterlogged.
  • After one to two months, you should notice new growth sprouting from the leaves or stems of the cuttings. Allow the new plants to establish for a couple of months before transplanting them to their own containers.

Potting and Repotting

Like other peperomia plants, watermelon peperomia prefers to be slightly potbound, so choose a plant pot that just fits its root ball and avoid repotting too early. You can repot watermelon peperomia in spring every two to three years, and they will benefit from repotting even if you just want to refresh the soil. You can either repot watermelon peperomia in their existing container if the roots still fit, or if the roots are beginning to look quite potbound, size up one pot size.

Pests and Diseases

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

These plants are susceptible to a number of common houseplant pests and diseases. Fungus gnats and sap-sucking pests such as mealybugs, scale, and aphids can all be problems for watermelon peperomia. These peperomia are also sensitive to overwatering and can develop root rot quickly if their watering is mismanaged.

Common Problems 

Problems with watermelon peperomia are usually a result of improper watering or pest damage. Otherwise, watermelon peperomia are relatively problem-free.

Curling Leaves

Curling leaves are usually an indication that your plant is drying out too much, or that the leaves are getting too much direct sunlight.

Drooping Leaves

Drooping leaves can indicate that your plant is thirsty and needs some water. Usually this is quickly fixed with a good watering.

Leaves Turning Brown

There are several reasons that your peperomia’s leaves may be turning brown, including new environmental stress or changes, pest damage, lack of humidity, and overwatering (if they are brown and mushy). Evaluate your plant’s environment and care to determine which might be the cause.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Overwatering is the most common cause of yellowing leaves on a watermelon peperomia. Ensure that you are allowing the soil to dry slightly between watering and that you have proper drainage to avoid overwatering. Pests can also result in yellowing leaves.

III. Uses and Benefits 

This isn’t just a fabulous plant to look at – the Watermelon Peperomia is just perfect for creating a gorgeous focal point on your desk, kitchen island or shelf. Whenever you need a little pick-me-up, spend five minutes pruning and misting your plant to bring some zen and calm to your day.

This beautiful house plant also purifies the air around you. According to NASA research, Peperomias reduce the amount of formaldehyde in the air by 47%. Clean air can help improve concentration and boost productivity, so it’s a good plant to have in your home office.

Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia) Details

Common name Peperomia Sandersii, Watermelon Begonia, Watermelon Peperomia, Watermelon Plant
Botanical name Peperomia argyreia
Plant type Ground Cover
Sunlight Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
Flower color Cream/Tan
Leaf color Green