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Pilea Peperomioides for Newbies and Whizzes

A plant can instantly spice things up at home. If you want a minimalistic upgrade in your environment, just put a plant in the corner or on the counter. Small touches like these can quickly change the look and feel of your home.

Adding a few pots of new foliage gives plant collectors the same high as any enthusiast. The quest to find fresh greens is always an exciting adventure. When you have your new plants, seeing them grow and produce new buds is as rewarding as can be.

However, you can’t say that you are a plant lover if you don’t have specific plants in your collection. A non-negotiable must-have is the Pilea peperomioides.

About the Pilea Peperomioides

Pilea peperomioides is an Asiatic perennial herb native to Southern China’s Yunnan Province. It is pronounced as “pie-lee-uh pep-per-row-me-oy-dees.” Thanks to Instagram, it is one of today’s most popular houseplants. The tags #pileababy, #pilealovers, and #pileasofinstagram flooded the popular social media platform with pictures of this perennial herb.

One of the reasons why this plant suddenly found a fan base is because of its distinctive foliage which produces pretty and delicate flowers during the spring season.

close-up photo of pilea peperomioides steam and leaves

Origins and the Pileas Family

This outdoor flowering plant was initially found at the base of the Himalayan mountains. It was originally discovered by the Norwegian missionary Agnar Espegren and later on brought to Norway.

Pileas peperomioides belongs to the stinging nettle family, Urticaceae, which is best known for its stinging hairs with histamines. Most plants coming from this unisexual family are considered weedy. However, some Urtica plants can be made into herbal teas to address blood ailments and problems during menstruation.

Pilea peperomioides is more recognizable and easier to say with its common names: UFO plant, lefse plant, Chinese money plant, missionary plant, coin plant, and pancake plant.

Overall Appearance of the Pilea Peperomioides

This beautiful plant is best described as having flat leaves. It was called the Chinese money plant because of its origin and its leaves which are shaped like round coins.

Similar to a lily pad, the Pilea peperomioides’ leaves delicately and daintily sprout from solid stems that bob in the breeze. Every leaf has a characteristic dot that is a lighter shade of green than the rest of the leaf. 

On its own, this plant is striking enough but becomes even more so when it is part of a cluster of Pileas. It also complements other plants beautifully when alongside a bigger display of greens. 

Pilea Peperomioides Care and Maintenance

One attractive feature of this popular houseplant is it is simple and relatively easy to take care of. Finding Pilea peperomioides plants is more challenging.

When it comes to maintenance, this Chinese money plant needs nothing special. However, there are essential must-haves and guidelines to keep your Pilea plants healthy.

pilea money plant in sunlight

Light Needs

Getting the light requirement right for your Pilea jumpstarts its survival. You have to ensure that you get this right. One of the common misconceptions about Pilea peperomioides is that it doesn’t like direct sunlight.

The truth is, this plant shares some characteristics with succulents due to its waxy leaves and thicker stems. These are two indicators that the Pilea is capable of handling medium to strong bright light.

There’s no need to hide your UFO plants from the sun because they love a fair amount of warm sunshine. They are more than capable of tolerating a few hours of direct light. If you are worried about them getting too much sun, make sure to rotate their sunlight exposure regularly. This also helps to preserve their symmetrical looks.

An alternative option is to place your plants in a spot where they can receive bright indirect light. Once a week, get them out for a few hours for some direct sunlight.

Water Requirements

This perennial is a happy plant that doesn’t need too much water. It won’t wither or die from having constant access to a medium supply of water. You can even allow the Pilea peperomioides’ soil to dry out in between watering.

One of the best characteristics of this plant is it’s easy to see when it needs water by the way its leaves start drooping. 

Here are quick tips for watering your Pilea:

  • If your plant’s leaves start drooping but the soil is moist, you overwatered your plant so give it a day or two to dry out. 
  • If your Pilea leaves are still drooping, but the soil is dry, it is an indication that the water it received the last time is not enough.

A good watering schedule would be every one to two weeks to give it enough time to dry and breathe. Note that this plant doesn’t like being drowned and too much water can cause root rot.

Soil Preference

The best kind of soil for the Chinese money plant is rich and well-draining soil. Therefore, an excellent and highly recommended potting mix is coir-based or peat-based. For newbies, it is best to use coir. Here’s why.

Coconut fiber or coir is relatively new as a 100% organic soil alternative. It has excellent water retention which is why it is a staple for hydroponic gardening. This kind of mix also helps prevent fungus gnats.

Peat-Based Soil: More Acidic and Holds More Water

Peat-based soil is also a great option because of its ability to hold more water. However, since it is the more acidic of the two, peat can be used as a soil amendment to improve the quality of your soil. For Pilea peperomioides, it’s best to have a soil pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. In this respect, coir is ideal since it has a pH range of 5.2 to 6.8 compared to peat which has lower pH levels of 3.3 to 4.0.

To support drainage, you can adjust the soil with perlite. You should make sure that the soil moisture where your Pilea is planted is well-adjusted and never waterlogged.

Preferred Humidity and Temperature

Your average household temperature is perfect for the needs of the Chinese money plant. As for humidity levels, steer away from arid conditions and humid areas. You should never put your Pilea near a baseboard or a heating vent. This plant is also not one for kitchens or bathrooms.

The good news is, the pancake plant can deal with freezing temperatures very well, thanks to its hardiness tolerance. It would be a smart idea to expose it to the natural cold during the winter months as this can promote blooming. However, if you are planning to keep it indoors, do not expose it to temperatures below 50°F. This plant thrives best at a temperature of 55°F.

Fertilizers and Plant Food Essentials

Giving your Pilea babies food supplements and fertilizers every month can help them become more robust in battling plant diseases while keeping their plant roots, stems, and new leaves healthier.

Plant food should only be given during spring, summer, and early fall. Don’t give it any supplements during the wintertime because the Pilea becomes dormant in the cold.

Use Fertilizers and Supplements in Moderation

If you want to simplify the process, you can use all-purpose fertilizers instead of numerous supplements that each offer specific nutrients and benefits. Remember that all fertilizers should be used in moderation, even time-release fertilizers. Too many supplements delivered at once can cause more harm than good. It can burn your plant’s leaves and may even cause the entire plant to die.

Pilea Peperomioides Rooting and Propagation

Two more nicknames for the Pilea are the friendship plant and the sharing plant. This is because propagating it is almost effortless.

Its offshoots grow in abundance and can sprout directly from the roots or stem nodes of the mother plant where the old leaves were.

Once these offshoots are a few inches tall, you can already separate them from the mother Pilea, but if you are aiming for a fuller appearance, you can leave the offshoots and allow them to grow and blossom.

How To Separate New Plants

If you want to separate new plants, you need to get into the roots of the Pilea’s offshoot. Using a sharp knife or pruning shears, cut the primary roots at least two inches below the plant. You can then transfer the cutting into a potting container with moist soil.

If getting to the primary root is hard, you can submerge the offshoot in a container with water and allow its roots to grow.

In a few weeks, your baby plant will have a working root system of its own that you can care for just as you did with the plant where it originally came from. 

Potting Pilea Peperomioides

A huge bonus for pancake plants is it multiplies quickly. What started as a single pot can become a larger collection. It can easily fill its original planting pot with roots and even offshoots. This new growth is something that plant growers get excited about.

Due to this tendency, it is preferable that you re-pot yearly. The best time to do this is in early spring or even during the summer months. This allows you to refresh your plant’s soil while getting rid of the offshoots. You can also upgrade your plant’s small pot size to accommodate its growing roots and give them more space.

Pilea Peperomioides and Their Pots

Regardless of the pot size that you choose, one thing is non-negotiable: make sure that your plant has proper drainage by having adequate drainage holes.

Pileas are not choosy when it comes to their pots. Most gardeners prefer using terra cotta pots, but these plants can also flourish in ceramic pots and plastic pots. Just remember that using terracotta pots will entail more watering since they absorb water from the soil faster.

Advantages of Pilea Peperomioides

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to get these lovely and hardy plants, consider the following advantages.

  • Needs minimal care and maintenance 
  • Easy and quick propagation 
  • Rapid plant growth under the right conditions 
  • Hardy and versatile

The Different Looks of Pilea Peperomioides

A bonus when taking care of a Pilea is you can get creative with it. Sure, you can leave it alone, but this plant can be cultivated to have different shapes and heights that you can be proud to have had a hand in.

1. Compact and Full

This style will keep your Pilea looking cute even after months and years of being with you. This look is overall bushy and rounder.

You can achieve this look by not removing the offshoots of the mother plant. Instead, allow it to grow and it will naturally have a bulkier appearance.

2. Straight and Upright

As the name implies, this style encourages your pancake plant’s vertical height. You don’t want it bent over, leaning to the left or right, or crooked.

To cultivate this look, you need to diligently rotate your plant by a quarter every week, so it can complete a full circle in a month. By doing so, you ensure that all sides of your plant get equal light and heat. Too much light on one side of your plant and you’ll fail to achieve this look.

For good measure, insert a stake near the center of the plant to support and keep it upright.

3. One Direction

This style features having all the stems and leaves on one side of the plant. Most Pileas have this look, not because of a conscious choice by the owner but because the owner didn’t rotate their potted Pileas.

2 pilea peperomioides plant in brown pots in window

Common Concerns for Pilea Peperomioides

Regardless of where you get your Pilea from — be it plant shops, online, or a friend —  you have to ensure that it is healthy and that its roots are already established. 

Pilea peperomioides is a sturdy plant with a high survival rate, but they are also at risk of developing problems. During its growth cycle, here are some of the common concerns you may encounter with this plant.

Curled Leaves

This is the most typical and eye-catching problem for a Pilea but not at all serious. If the leaves of your plant are curling inwards, it means that it is not being watered correctly.  You might have watered it too much or too little. This is also an indication that it is not receiving enough light.

On the other hand, the leaves curling outwards indicates that your plant is receiving too much light and heat. It’s also possible that you might not be watering it correctly.

Yellowing Leaves

Older leaves naturally turn yellow, but if most of the leaves are rapidly yellowing, then it means that your Pilea is drowning. 

Black and Brown Spots

Pests can cause these blemishes. Generally, the Pilea can resist pests, but aphids can still take a bite of the leaves and leave their mark. Black and brown spots can also be indicative of a fungal disease.

It can also be caused by general and unintentional damage such as being knocked against the wall or getting scraped as it was being rotated. Since it is also an animal-friendly plant, your pets might have been playing with it and unintentionally caused damage.

Final Thoughts

Few plants can beat the Pilea peperomioides’ easy upkeep and hardy nature. You can just set it down outside or near a sunlight-facing window. Coupled with the right amount of water, fertilizer, and TLC, you can enjoy this plant for many years to come. 

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