How to Manage a Chinese Money Plant Dropping Leaves at Home

Your Pilea peperomioides — commonly known as the Chinese money plant or UFO plant — brings a cheerful aesthetic, symbolic value, and plenty of benefits to any room with its round foliage that gently bobs atop arched stems. But what does it mean when these coin-shaped leaves drop? While some leaf drop is simply inevitable over time, losing many leaves at once may be cause for concern. Read on to learn more about why your Pilea peperomioides plant might be dropping leaves and when you need to take steps to solve this issue.


Pilea peperomioides Dropping Leaves – The Essentials

Common causes of P. peperomioides leaf drop include overwatering, low temperatures, environmental shock, low humidity, pests, lack of light, or because the plant is rootbound and needs a larger pot. Correcting these issues will often solve the problem. Older leaves may also naturally drop.


Common Reasons Your Pilea peperomioides Leaves are Dropping

Common Reasons Your Pilea peperomioides Leaves are Dropping

There are many reasons a P. peperomioides plant may lose its leaves. Of course, there may be multiple causes of leaf drop. Try to rule out these common culprits first.

1) Overwatering and Saturated Soil Base

As with many houseplants, Chinese money plants do not like wet feet. When plants stand in water for too long, their roots actually suffocate. This situation is often due to overwatering, combined with poor drainage.

When soil is excessively wet for long periods of time, the roots cannot absorb air and nutrients. They effectively suffocate and drown. Over time, the roots grow mushy and can catch a fungus that causes root rot. Leaves start to wilt and yellow and eventually drop if the problem isn’t corrected.

Avoid leaf drop due to saturated soil. Only water your P. peperomioides when the top two inches of soil feel dry to the touch. Ensure that the plant is potted with a rich and well-draining soil mix and that the planting container can drain easily. Be sure not to set the plant in a tray that can fill with water.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, you may need to repot your Chinese money plant. Remove the saturated soil, as it may contain the root rot fungus. Clip back any rotten or dead roots and repot in a well-draining soil mix. Use a container with plenty of drainage holes.

2) Overly Dry Conditions

Overly Dry Conditions

While overwatering is a common leaf drop culprit, underwatering can cause issues, too. Because you should only water your P. peperomioides when the top two inches of soil feel dry, it can be easy to let a plant go too long without watering.

If the conditions get too dry, the soil around the roots will compact, making it harder for roots to absorb moisture. Over time, the foliage will start to discolor and wither. Eventually, the leaves may drop.

You can soil moisture in several ways. Insert your finger into the soil and feel how far down it feels dry; if it’s more than a couple of inches, it’s time to water. You can pick up the plant pot. If it feels light. It’s probably time for water. You can also use a tensiometer to measure soil moisture.

Add water if you believe your plant is too dry and causing leaf drop. Set the plant on a waterproof surface, such as in a sink or tub. Gently pour water around the plant until the excess runs out through the bottom of the pot. Repeat several times until the soil feels moist to the touch all the way through.

3) Temperature Issues

While P. peperomioides is a relatively tolerant plant, it has a preferred temperature range. An ambient temperature between 60 and 85 degrees F is ideal for the Chinese money plant.

Plant health may suffer when placed in a site that’s consistently too cold or too hot. In particular, a site that’s cold or drafty — such as next to a door, window, or air conditioning unit — may create cold spots that harm plants. Over time, this could result in leaf damage or drop. Avoid sites where temperatures regularly go below 50 degrees F.

Similarly, temperatures above 80 degrees F can harm plants, leading to foliage drop. Keep Chinese money plants away from a west– and south-facing windows, and never place them on or near heat registers or vents.

To keep the plant from experiencing further harm, move it to a spot where the temperature will stay between 60 and 80 degrees F most of the time. Keep it away from drafts, vents, and A/C units, and don’t leave plants outside overnight on cold nights or outside on hot days.

4) Humidity Issues

Humidity Issues

P. peperomioides prefers a slightly humid environment, ideally ranging from 50 to 75 percent. The plant grows on the forest floor, surrounded by rich soil and relatively humid air in its natural habitat.

In a home or office environment, where the air is often conditioned, it’s easy for air to grow very dry. This can lead to dry soil, which can harm leaves and cause drop.

You may increase humidity in several ways:

  • Place the plant near a humidifier
  • Place the plant in a bathroom (near the shower, if possible)
  • Mist the plant regularly
  • Set the plant pot on a tray filled with rocks and water; as the water evaporates, it increases air humidity
  • Place the plant in a group of other houseplants

5) Sunburn or Insufficient Light Exposure

In P. peperomioides’ natural habitat, the plants receive dappled sunlight that filters through a forest canopy. When grown indoors, the plants grow best in bright, indirect light. That usually means in an east-facing window, near a south- or west-facing window, or in a west-facing window that’s covered by a sheer curtain.

When Chinese money plants receive too much direct sunlight for too long, foliage may suffer “sunburn.” This can lead to crispy leaf margins or brown spots and leaf drop.

Inadequate light can also lead to leaf drop. If you notice your plant looking “leggy” and leaves getting pale, move to a spot with adequate light exposure to prevent foliage from dropping.

6) Too Much or Too Little Fertilizer

Too Much or Too Little Fertilizer

The wrong amount of fertilizer may cause leaf damage and drop. Generally, fertilize your Chinese money plant once a month during its growing season, usually spring and summer. Use a 3-2-1 or a balanced fertilizer, diluted to half strength.

If you fertilize too much or don’t dilute the strength, salts can build up in the soil, and leaves can scorch. Too little nutrients can also cause leaf damage; usually, this starts as pale or yellowing leaves. Either issue can lead to leaf drop.

7) Environmental Shock or Stress

If your P. peperomioides’ growing conditions change suddenly, the plant may suffer stress or shock. Common culprits include repotting, temperature fluctuations, changes in light exposure, and fluctuating humidity.

Moving the plant indoors and outdoors is another common cause of shock. Even bringing the plant home from the nursery can cause stress and leaf drop. Mitigate these factors by introducing changes slowly whenever possible and avoiding significant changes in temperature, light, and humidity. If you do need to move the plant, do it incrementally.

8) Age of Plant

No foliage lasts indefinitely, and sometimes leaves simply drop due to age. This is especially common with the lower leaves on a Chinese money plant. Old growth falling off is normal and isn’t a cause for alarm.


Growing Happy, Healthy Pilea peperomioides at Home

Growing Happy, Healthy Pilea peperomioides at Home

When grown in their preferred conditions, Chinese money plants are relatively low-maintenance. This includes:

  • Smaller-sized pots, from four to eight inches wide
  • Rich, well-draining potting mix
  • Slightly acidic pH from 6.0 to 7.0
  • Ambient temperature from 60 to 85 degrees F
  • Between 50 and 75 percent humidity
  • Bright, indirect light

For more, see our in-depth Pilea peperomioides plant care guide


Pilea peperomioides Dropping Leaves FAQs:

Is some leaf drop normal for Pilea peperomioides

Some leaf drop is normal for Chinese money plants, especially lower leaves. As plants and foliage age, do expect to see some leaf drop near the bottom of the plant, where the foliage is older.

Will fallen Pilea peperomioides leaves grow back? 

Unfortunately, fallen leaves will not grow back. However, Pilea peperomioides loves to send up new offspring, creating a fuller look around the base of the plant, and it’s easy to transplant these once they’re large enough.

How long do Pilea peperomioides live for typically?

If grown under optimal conditions — bright indirect light, watering only when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry, fertilizing correctly during the growing season — a Chinese money plant can live for about ten years.


The Final Word

Pilea peperomioides may drop a few lower leaves naturally due to age. But frequent leaf drop may indicate a problem. Common leaf drop culprits include overwatering, poor drainage, temperature fluctuations, low humidity, and inadequate or too-bright light exposure. Look for signs of trouble, such as pale, yellowing, browning, or dropping leaves, in order to keep your Chinese money plant happy and healthy.


Full Bio | + posts

Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.

Author

Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.

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