7 Common Reasons Why Peperomia Leaves Fade

Whether you own a hardy succulent like a cactus or a high-maintenance bonsai, there’s nothing as heartbreaking as seeing your houseplants lose color. Although peperomia plants are largely manageable succulents that make beautiful houseplants, they’re not immune to the dark forces that steal colors from plants. So, what causes the bright foliage of your peperomia to become pale, and can you do anything about it?

The most common reasons why peperomia leaves fade are:

  1. Insufficient and excessive sunlight
  2. Inadequate watering practices
  3. Poor planter and soil drainage
  4. Root and leaf diseases
  5. Pests
  6. Low and inconsistent ambient humidity
  7. Extreme temperatures

Plants are alive and respond to stimuli, environmental factors, and diseases, just like every living thing on earth. Faded leaves are usually early or mild symptoms of something wrong, and I decided to write this article to let you know some common reasons your peperomia might be the way it is. Let’s get started.

1. Insufficient and Excessive Sunlight

All plants need sunlight to perform photosynthesis and make their food—a process necessary to create energy for the plant’s life processes. However, just as you need the right kind of food and the right amount of calories to lead a healthy life, peperomia plants also need balanced sunlight to thrive.

Insufficient sunlight will cause most plants to fade, yellow, and become brown, as the plant won’t be able to photosynthesize. However, giving your peperomia too much sunlight can do more harm than good. Excessive sunlight usually dries out the plant, stripping the leaves of their moisture and leaving the peperomia pale.

How to Fix

If you notice they’re starting to pale, observe whether your plant is receiving too much or too little sunlight. Medium light, like that from the early morning or late afternoon sun, will be best. Remember to keep the plants away from the harsh midday sun as it can seriously hurt them.

You can place your plant about 5 feet (1.5 m) away from a lightly curtained eastern or western window. Avoid southern windows because there’ll be too much sunlight than your peperomias would like.

Give your pot a quarter or a half turn every time you water your plant to ensure all leaves receive enough light and remain vibrant.

2. Inadequate Watering Practices

Watering is usually the most challenging practice when you have a garden or a houseplant—and with good reason. Different plants need specific soil moisture levels to thrive, and overwatering or underwatering them could cause serious complications. 

For peperomia plants, starving the plant of water could cause it to lose most of its moisture, drying out the plant and causing the leaves to fade. The symptoms typically worsen as the plant loses more water, but you can easily save it if you water it afterward.

However, overwatering the plant can also cause it to fade. Overwatering peperomia plants can result in water imbalance, usually seen as faded, yellow, and brown leaves.

It’s easier to overwater than underwater succulents like peperomia and the risk of overwatering is often more dangerous to the plant’s thin, fibrous roots. Once root rot sets in, it’ll be challenging to treat and you might have to dispose of your plant.

How to Fix

Peperomias have shallow roots and are typically grown in small indoor pots with well-draining soil. As a result, the soil dries out relatively quickly. I recommend you water the plants once every 5-7 days or when the soil’s upper 2 inches (5 cm) is dry enough.

For peperomias with more succulent leaves or those grown in larger pots, it can take longer before they’ll need water. Typically, you must wait until the upper half of the pot is dry before watering again.

Remember to use only clean, room-temperature water for peperomia plants as low-quality water can affect absorption and cause faded leaves.

3. Poor Planter and Soil Drainage

As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to overwater peperomia plants if you aren’t being careful. And while having an excellent watering routine will help prevent faded leaves, there’s still some risk if you’re using unsuitable planters or inappropriate soil.

Planters without drainage holes will cause water to accumulate in your soil, resulting in water imbalances you’ll typically see in overwatered peperomia. Fortunately, you can solve and prevent this problem by using a planter with drainage holes.

However, getting a planter with holes is only one piece of the puzzle. You’ll still notice faded leaves if you’re using unsuitable soil. Ensure you use well-draining soil so the water does not accumulate around the roots of the plants.

How to Fix

You can use a standard succulent mix for your peperomia or mix a bit of perlite with the soil to improve drainage. You should measure the soil moisture content closely so you don’t wait until the plants’ leaves fade before acting.

I recommend using a soil moisture meter for measuring soil water content. Many are very accurate and work without batteries, so you don’t need to worry about keeping it charged.

Check your soil about 2 days before the usual watering schedule. If the reading shows 2 or 3, it’s time to water your plant again.

4. Root and Leaf Diseases

Diseases are normal in all living things, but since they don’t move around, plants are more at risk of getting sick. They have to deal with environmental conditions, pests, and vectors. 

Several root and leaf diseases can cause faded leaves in peperomia plants.

Root rot—which affects the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients efficiently—can result in sickly shoots, pale leaves, and damaged roots. You might need to examine the roots of your peperomia if you notice these symptoms.

There are also leaf diseases like leaf spots. Leaf spots look the same in all the plants they affect, causing brown, black, or yellow spots in their victims. However, many peperomia plants typically start out looking pale before they even start developing spots.

The most common leaf spot diseases in peperomia plants that can cause faded leaves are caused by fungi under the following genera: Rhizoctonia, Cercospora, and Phyllosticta.

Remember that faded peperomia leaves might also indicate aging, so there’s no need to panic if your plant is quite old. 

How to Fix

Once you confirm root rot, you’ll need to perform the following steps:

  1. Loosen the soil around the pot and gently slide the plant out, catching it with a gloved hand.
  2. Carefully remove the soil around the roots and inspect for signs of rot.
  3. Trim the damaged or decayed roots using sterile shears.
  4. Cut damaged leaves. You should prune even healthier-looking leaves to match the amount of roots you remove but limit the volume to 30% of the plant.
  5. Rinse the roots with running filtered water.
  6. Let the plant dry for 15-30 minutes in a room with good air circulation.
  7. Repot in a fresh, sterile potting mix with excellent drainage and water deeply.

Isolate your plant from other houseplants and wait until the potting mix dries halfway down the pot before watering again. If you maintain a good watering routine for 4-6 weeks, you should see your plant growing new and vibrant leaves.

On the other hand, if your plant is showing signs of fungal infection on the leaves, you must follow the steps below:

Isolate the Infected Plant(s)

First, you’ll want to isolate the plant from other houseplants. Check your other houseplants as well for symptoms because the limited indoor space can cause fungal spores to spread quickly among neighboring plants. You can treat all visibly infected plants in the same place.

Prune Damaged & Discolored Leaves

Prune the damaged and discolored leaves right away. Use sterile shears and wipe them clean with rubbing alcohol before moving from one leaf or stem to the next.

Dispose of the Infected Material

Next, collect the plant waste and dispose of it. Check your local laws regarding the proper disposal of infected plant waste. Some cities recommend burning plant waste. Your city may also have a designated dump site or burial area for infected waste.

Use a Fungicide

Finally, spray your plant with homemade or commercial fungicides. I prefer homemade neem oil spray made with 1 tbsp of neem oil, 1 tbsp of liquid soap, and 0.26 gal (1 liter) of distilled water.

Spraying your infected plants at night once a week for 3-4 weeks should help treat the infection. Spraying them once every 2 weeks afterward should prevent reinfestation.

It’s also safe to use on other houseplants that don’t show symptoms yet.

5. Pests

Peperomia plants are pretty, but they’re also pretty juicy. It’s no wonder many insects and animals seek the plant for its nutrients. And while you can easily take care of them with a pesticide, some pests are pretty tenacious.

Aphids, mites, fungus gnats, scales, caterpillars, and thrips are a few of the pests that can damage the shoots and roots of your peperomia plant. The damage in itself could result in faded leaves, but some pests also cause diseases that could start as faded leaves and result in the death of your plant.

How to Fix

I recommend you use a pesticide to keep your peperomia pest-free. I also suggest using one that is effective against numerous plant pests, including aphids, without harming your plant. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you want it to work effectively.

The neem oil spray I shared above also doubles as a pest treatment and repellent. It works against common plant pests like the ones affecting your peperomia.

6. Low and Inconsistent Ambient Humidity

Like soil moisture content, low humidity levels can also affect the vitality of your peperomia plants. It’s also pretty common to end up with faded leaves if you don’t maintain suitable humidity for your plant.

Peperomia plants need average levels of humidity to survive. Levels between 30% to 50% will ensure the leaves do not dry out. Humidity outside these levels can cause peperomia plants to fade, yellow, lose leaves, or even become dormant.

How to Fix

You can use a humidifier to maintain the humidity levels around your plant. Fortunately, it’s easy to maintain the appropriate humidity levels your peperomia plant needs. After all, it’s the recommended humidity level in most homes because it’s safe for humans.

However, if you’re leaving home for a while with the humidifier off, you can move your peperomia to the kitchen. If you keep the refrigerator going, it can raise the humidity in the room.

You can also place your pot on a pebble tray with enough water to raise the local humidity around your plant.

7. Extreme Temperatures

Peperomia plants are sensitive to temperature changes. And while it might seem like it can brave even desert-like temperatures, the plants prefer indoor temperatures.

Deviations from the optimal 65 to 75 °F (18 to 24 °C) range will result in faded or yellow leaves, dormancy, or death. That’s why these plants are easier to keep indoors.

How to Fix

I recommend you keep a thermometer around the plant to keep track of the temperature and prevent faded leaves. Keep your plant away from areas where temperatures fluctuate greatly during the day, such as drafty windows and vents.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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