Ideal Light Exposure for Pilea Peperomioides Plants to Thrive

Pilea peperomioides (aka Chinese Money Plants) thrive in bright indirect sunlight, and will tolerate locations with lower light levels. I find the best spots for these plants are either east or west-facing aspects, though they’ll do great near a south-facing window as well if protected by partially drawn blinds or a sheer curtain. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about Pilea peperomioides light requirements, including the best types and amount of light exposure for these plants to thrive.

Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant) Light Requirements

Native Light Conditions Pilea peperomioides Receive

Pilea peperomiodes are native to regions of southwestern China, including the Himalayan foothills. Here, the plant grows in damp, moderate temperatures, in rocky areas of the forest floor, where it enjoys dappled light and shade.

Direct sunlight rarely penetrates the forest canopy for long periods. This mix of light and shade can be replicated indoors by sites that receive bright indirect or filtered light. 

Signs Your Pilea is Receiving too Much Light

How do you know if your Pilea peperomioides are getting too much light? When plants are grown in spots with high or intense light exposure, the foliage may turn pale and light in color.

In addition, look for yellow, pale spots on the leaves, especially around the margins, and leaf loss. This is a sign of leaf scorch.

Plants may grow slowly if exposed to too much light. Over time, the plant’s growth may be stunted. Help the plant recover by moving it to a spot with indirect, filtered, or low light exposure.

Signs Your Pilea isn’t Receiving Enough Light

While Pilea peperomioides can survive in low light conditions, they still need to receive enough light. If your plant’s foliage appears pale, leggy, or elongated, it may need more light.

In my experience, other signs of underexposure include small foliage. A healthy Chinese money plant has large, round foliage. When the plant doesn’t receive enough light, leaf size may be stunted.

Finally, leaves that cup or curl upward may indicate low light. If you notice any of these signs, find a different spot for your plant.

The Best Light Exposure for Pilea peperomioides Indoors

Deep green round leaves of a Pilea peperomioides plant growing indoors

When growing a Pilea peperomioides indoors, I find the best method is to try and mimic the conditions in its natural habitat. That includes bright indirect light or filtered light.

In my experience, placing these plants near an east-facing window or within a few feet of a west- or south-facing window is ideal. Just be sure the light doesn’t directly hit the plant’s foliage. Partially drawn blinds or sheer curtains work great in these instances to defuse the strong direct sunlight.

Pilea peperomioides can tolerate low light conditions, such as those found in a darker corner or near a north-facing window. Just be on the lookout for indications that the plant isn’t receiving enough light.

I like to rotate my Pilea peperomioides every few weeks as well. This helps to ensure balanced growth.

The Role of Light in Plant Health and Growth

All plants need light — but do you know why light is so essential to plant growth and health? Along with nutrients, air, and moisture, light is key to various essential plant processes and functions. Photosynthesis is one of the most important.

In this process, plants use light to obtain nutrients from water and air by collecting light through special cells called chloroplasts. Each cell contains chlorophyll, a green pigment that causes plant foliage to look, well, green. More importantly, chlorophyll lets plants absorb energy.

When light strikes the surface of a leaf, it activates proteins called “light-harvesting complexes.” These proteins pass energy to one another, transporting and distributing the energy through the plant. As it moves, the energy sets off chemical reactions that split water particles into oxygen and carbon dioxide. Plants use carbon dioxide and release the oxygen back into the air.

Along with carbon dioxide, photosynthesis also provides plants with energy in the form of glucose. Plants need this sugar to grow and thrive.

What happens when plants don’t get enough light? First, they grow slowly. Over time, if they don’t get adequate sunlight, plants will die.

What about the opposite scenario: too much light? Overexposure to sunlight means that plants scorch, dry out and perish.

Each type of plant has an optimal light exposure needed for its best growth. Not all light must be direct, either. Many houseplants thrive in light that bounces off nearby surfaces; artificial grow lights are also effective for some houseplants.

Common Light Terminology for Indoor Plants

A young pilea plant in a circular plant pot near a bright window indoors

Categories of light exposure include:

  • Bright direct light, in which light shines directly onto the plant. With a few exceptions (mostly succulents or cacti), most houseplants find bright, direct light too intense. Bright direct light is usually found in south- or south-west-facing windows.
  • Most houseplants prefer bright indirect light. This kind of light comes from a window that’s nearby but doesn’t directly hit the plant’s foliage. It’s often found in east-facing or near a west- or south-facing windows.
  • Filtered light is similar to, but slightly lower than, bright indirect light. It’s direct light that shines through something sheer, like a curtain.
  • Low light is usually found in darker corners or by north-facing windows.

Knowing which type of light exposure is in potential plant spots is key to successful plant growth. 

Here’s how to test light levels:

At noon, stand in the place where you’re thinking of putting your plant. Hold your hand up and look for its shadow.

You may have low light levels if the shadow is faint with undefined margins. Light levels are probably high if the shadow is easy to see with defined margins.

This method isn’t the most precise. Other tests offer more conclusive results. For instance, use an app on your smartphone, like Lux Light Meter Pro or Light Meter, to measure light levels. Amounts of light are often known as “foot candles” or FC.

Light meters also measure FC in particular spots. When taking a reading, be sure to tilt the meter toward the source of light and not at the plant.

Pilea peperomioides Light Requirements FAQs:

Can Pilea peperomioides live in low light? 

Pilea peperomioides can live in low light, such as that found in a corner far from a window or near a north-facing window. However, look for signs that the plant needs more light, such as slow leggy growth, small pale foliage, or leaves that cup or curl upward.

Can Pilea peperomioides take full sun? 

Pilea peperomioides cannot take full sun or bright direct light. In their native habitat, they live in dappled light on the floor level of the forest canopy, where direct sunlight rarely hits their foliage.

What kind of light conditions do Pilea peperomioides need? 

Pilea peperomioides grow best in bright indirect light, such as that found in an east-facing window or several feet away from a west- or south-facing window. Plants may also thrive in filtered light, such as that found by south- or west-facing windows that are covered by a sheer curtain.

Will Pilea peperomioides live happily indoors? 

Pilea peperomioides thrive indoors when provided with the right conditions. This includes bright indirect light, rich and well-draining potting soil, a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, water when the top inch of soil is dry, and regular feeding with diluted fertilizer.

How do you know if your Pilea peperomioides is getting enough light? 

A healthy Pilea peperomioides has shiny leaves devoid of pale spots that don’t cup or curl. Stems are full, and the plant looks “filled out,” rather than leggy and sparse.

The Final Word

The Pilea peperomioides or Chinese money plant is a lovely addition to any room. Provided with the proper environmental conditions, the plants are low-maintenance. This includes light exposure; to keep your Pilea peperomioides happy, provide it with bright indirect or filtered light, and avoid spots that receive intense bright light.

Further reading: Where to position Pilea peperomioides plants in the home for optimal care and feng shui benefits.

Contributing Editor | | Full Bio

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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