It’s no secret that the Watermelon Peperomia is one of our favourite plants here at Fiddle and Thorn. There’s something about the incredible silver striped leaves that are just irresistible. However, they are quite a unique plant in that their leaves are super sturdy and heavy, but they have very thin and often weak stems. This leaves the Watermelon Peperomia quite susceptible to leaves dropping from the plant as soon as something is the slightest bit wrong.
Below we will be going through a detailed look at each of the different factors that might lead your Watermelon Peperomia to lose leaves. It’s important that you take immediate steps if needed to solve the issue and get your plant back to full health before it’s too late.
Overwatering can often cause leaf drop
If your Watermelon Peperomia is losing its leaves from the bottom up, then it may be a problem with the root system as the leaves closest to it are usually the ones affected first. The most common issue is too much water which causes the roots to rot in waterlogged soil. Most houseplants, including the Watermelon Peperomia, absolutely hate sitting in water and once the roots become soft the entire plant will become unstable and your plant can no longer get the nutrients, oxygen or water it needs. This is what causes the leaves to start falling off your plant.
Luckily, with overwatering, it is an easier problem to diagnose than others as the answers are in the potting mix. You have two options to test the moisture in the soil and which you choose depends on how damaged and delicate your plant is. You don’t want to take the plant out of the pot to inspect the leaves if your plant is very delicate as this risks more damage. Instead, we recommend you use a moisture meter first and if the potting mix is waterlogged then you have no other choice but to replace it so your plant can begin to recover.
In future, try to regulate your watering and always check that the top of the soil is dry before giving your Watermelon Peperomia any more water. You need to also water according to the seasons; in the spring and summer (growth period) your Watermelon Peperomia will require water about every 7 days. However, in winter (dormant period) about once a month is enough. Each and every plant is different though so it may take a little while to understand how much water it needs.
Sometimes it may not be your watering schedule that is causing your Watermelon Peperomia to lose its leaves, but the poor draining of the soil and pot also causes root rot. You can very easily increase the amount of drainage in your Watermelon Peperomia by mixing in a small amount of perlite. This not only helps with water flow but it also aerates the soil which helps with getting oxygen to your plant. Oh and check your pot has drainage holes too as these allow excess water to flow out of the pot.
Another good method to avoid waterlogged soil and your plant losing more leaves is to buy some clay or terracotta pots. Although they are slightly more expensive than plastic pots, they have so many benefits. They allow some excess water to evaporate out of the sides, whereas plastic pots keep in every single drop of moisture which can be quite damaging to Watermelon Peperomia plants and cause them to lose leaves. Terracotta pots also look great, so the benefits are worth the little extra cost.
Funnily enough both over- and underwatering can be damaging to your Watermelon Peperomia and cause it to lose leaves. It’s really important you figure out which is the cause as you don’t want to be adjusting your watering schedule in the wrong way as this will only cause more issues for your plant.
To help you figure out if underwatering is causing the leaves on your Watermelon Peperomia to fall off, here are a few things to look out for:
The leaves are dry and crispy
If the leaves that are falling off are very dry, crispy, shrivelled and look dehydrated, then the problem is probably consistent underwatering.
The potting mix feels very dry
An easy way to see if your Watermelon Peperomia is losing leaves due to a lack of water is by taking the plant out of its pot and inspecting the potting mix. If the soil feels very dry to touch, almost like dust or sand, then your Watermelon Peperomia definitely needs more water.
The soil is coming away from the sides of the pot
This is a great method to be able to tell if your Watermelon Peperomia is being underwatered just by looking at it, and it works for all of your houseplants so is a nice little trick to remember. If you notice that the soil has compacted and is actually coming away from the sides of your pot, then it indicates that you need to increase watering and this might be why your Watermelon Peperomia is losing leaves.
Buy a moisture meter
Just like with overwatering above, using a moisture meter will help figure out how dry the potting mix is and if you need to water more to stop your plant from losing any more leaves. It’s something that every plant parent should own.
How do I fix an underwatered Watermelon Peperomia?
Once you have figured out that a consistent lack of water is causing your plant to lose leaves, it’s important that you solve the issue in the right way. You might be inclined to drown your plant in water but this risks causing shock to your plant which can lead to more leaves falling off. To prevent this from happening, we recommend slowly reintroducing water. Give your Watermelon Peperomia a little bit once a day for a week before going back to a more regular watering schedule. This should prevent your Watermelon Peperomia from losing any more leaves.
Too little sunlight
Your Watermelon Peperomia may also be losing some of its leaves due to insufficient light levels. Watermelon Peperomia plants need a bright spot (indirect light only or this can cause a range of other issues). Using a light meter can help you establish the best spot for your Watermelon Peperomia and make sure that it’s getting enough sunshine each day.
A pest infestation
It is good to check the underside of the leaves that have fallen off, as well as the healthy leaves on your Watermelon Peperomia to spot any signs of pests. Signs include small holes in the leaves, white webbing or powder and small yellow or brown dots on the leaves. After making themselves at home on your Watermelon Peperomia, they’ll suck the nutrients from the leaf and cause it to fall off the plant.
If you can confirm that there are pests causing your plant to lose leaves, remove the worst affected areas straight away to curb the growth of the infestation. We would usually recommend giving your plant a shower but Watermelon Peperomia plants have such thin stems compared to the leaves that it could cause more damage. Instead, treat your Watermelon Peperomia with neem oil to fight the infestation.
If it’s only the oldest and lowest leaves on your Watermelon Peperomia that are falling off, then this may be natural ageing. As your plant matures, your plant will drop some of its oldest leaves to focus its energy on growing new healthy and often bigger growth.
This is completely natural so you don’t need to worry that there is something wrong with your plant’s environment or the care that it’s receiving. The one thing you do need to keep an eye on though is the rate of ageing as if the rate of leaves falling off is faster than the rate of new growth, then it suggests something isn’t quite right.
Those are the most common reasons why Watermelon Peperomia plants lose their leaves. It’s important to first establish whether or not it’s natural ageing as if something is wrong, you need to take the steps to fix it immediately as otherwise, it might be too late to bring it back to full health.
To learn more about how to care for your plant, check out our Watermelon Peperomia care guide.
Written by Joanna Turner