Essential Tips for Growing and Caring for Pilea Peperomioides
Pilea peperomioides, commonly referred to as the Chinese money plant, is a small plant with coin-shaped leaves. Other names for this plant include the UFO plant, friendship plant, or missionary plant. While it’s native to China, this symbolic and beneficial plant can now be found in homes worldwide, including those in colder climates. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about growing and caring for Pilea Peperomioides at home, including potting, planting, watering, routine maintenance, the best soil mix, light conditions, fertilizing, and growth expectations.
Pilea Peperomioides Care – The Essentials:
- Pilea Peperomioides plants do best in a small pot that is 4-inches to 8-inches wide.
- Use a well-draining potting mix with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
- Position in a spot that receives bright, indirect light throughout the day with an ambient temperature of 60-80ºF.
- Water thoroughly when the top 2 includes of soil are dry to the touch.
- Fertilize with half-strength water-soluble feed every three weeks in spring and summer and every six weeks in fall through winter.
About Pilea Peperomioides
Origins, History, and Etymology
The Chinese money plant’s name relates to its Southwest China origins. While the plant grows wild at the foothills of the Himalayas, people know it for its use as a houseplant.
Scottish botanist George Forester was the first European to collect Pilea peperomioides in 1906. However, it wasn’t until later that the plant made it back to Europe.
In 1945 Norwegian missionary Agnar Espegren took cuttings back to Norway. From here, the plant gained popularity and spread throughout Scandinavia via the trade of cuttings and plants. The plant spread across Europe in the 1960s and ‘70s before later making its way to the United States.
The genus name Pilea is from the Latin word pileus meaning felt cap. This refers to the fuzzy calyx which covers the dry fruit called achene. The species name peperomioides refers to the plant’s resemblance to members of the Peperomia genus.
Family, Genus, and Species
- Family: Urticaceae (nettle family)
- Genus: Pilea
- Species: peperomioides
Pilea Peperomioides Botanical Characteristics
The Chinese money plant is small and maxes out at a foot tall and a foot wide. It produces many long petioles from a central stem. Each of these petals is topped with a small, round leaf.
These plants rarely flower indoors, but when they do they produce many small white flowers atop a tall stalk.
Pilea peperomioides is native to the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in Southwest China. It grows in forests located near the base of the Himalayas.
Popular Varieties to Grow as Houseplants
There aren’t distinct varieties of the coin plant, but there are many different Pilea species. Each of these species differs in appearance, and many make good houseplants.
Some other popular Pilea houseplants include:
- Pilea involucrata
- Pilea spruceana
- Pilea libanensis
Toxicity and Pet Friendliness
One of the reasons this plant is so popular is that it’s non-toxic to both dogs and cats. So if you add it to your home, you don’t need to worry about your pets.
Pilea Peperomioides Meaning & Symbolism
With leaves that resemble coins, it’s no surprise that this plant symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Feng shui experts believe that having a Pilea peperomioides plant in your home will bring wealth your way. Some people say that placing a coin in the soil will attract even more wealth.
This plant is also tied to friendship and generosity. As collectors shared plants with friends, this plant’s popularity spread.
Pilea peperomioides, is a popular houseplant that brings good luck and fortune. It’s also the official plant for the Aquarius zodiac sign, as they’re known as generous humanitarians.
How to Grow Pilea Peperomioides at Home
Pilea peperomioides is easy to care for and great for beginners. Here are some key tips regarding caring for this plant.
What to Do Before Planting
Before you add a Chinese money plant to your home, make sure you have the proper area for it. Since this plant is small, it doesn’t require a huge space. However, it does require a bright room.
If you’ve been given an offset, check for roots. If the roots aren’t at least half an inch long, place the plant in a glass of water instead of soil. Plant when the roots reach an appropriate size.
Like with any new plant, check for signs of disease and pests. If you notice these, quarantine the Chinese money plant away from any other plants in your home.
The UFO plant won’t need much space in your home. It maxes out at one foot tall and one foot wide.
However, the plant can take on many different forms including lean and lanky or full. It will take a couple of years to end up with a dense plant.
To achieve a voluminous plant, avoid removing the offshoots (aka pups) that form along the base of the plant. As these grow, they will form the appearance of a denser plant.
How to Plant Pilea Peperomioides
The Chinese money plant does best in a small pot that is 4-inches to 8-inches wide. A larger pot is not necessary. The pot should have drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.
Once you have your pot, fill it halfway with potting soil and place your plant. Cover the roots until the soil is even with the base of the plant’s stem.
The Best Soil Mix for Pilea Peperomioides
These plants prefer a well-draining potting mix that’s rich in organic matter. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0.
Many potting mixes labeled for houseplants will work well. Look for a mix that contains organic material such as peat moss or coco coir.
If you’d like to make your own mix, combine the following:
- two parts peat moss
- one part perlite
- one part bark fines
For more, see our comprehensive guide to the best soil for Pilia peperomioides.
Pilea Peperomioides Light Preferences
Pilea peperomioides prefer bright yet indirect light. Avoid direct rays since they can burn the plant’s leaves.
A great spot for this houseplant is a few feet away from a south-facing window. Alternatively, you can place it in the middle of a brightly lit room.
Turning your plant every few weeks can help the plant grow straight. However, changing the plant’s location can also slow the plant’s growth.
Temperature & Humidity Considerations for Pilea Peperomioides
Unlike many houseplants, Pilea peperomioides isn’t native to the tropics. Rather, it comes from temperate forests.
This means that it can handle colder temperatures without much damage. It does well at normal household temperatures between 60-80ºF.
If you want to encourage flowering, expose your plant to 50ºF for a week in the winter.
Chinese money plants don’t like dry conditions, but they don’t require extra humidity. Average household humidity is adequate.
Pilea Peperomioides Care
When and How to Water Pilea Peperomioides
The Chinese money plant requires a medium amount of water. It’s not picky about the water source; tap water, rainwater, and filtered water are all acceptable.
Water your plant until the soil is thoroughly moist. Make sure excess water escapes through drainage holes.
Wait to water again until the top inch or two of soil is dry. A good rule of thumb is to water every one to three weeks.
The time of year and environment will both affect the frequency you’ll need to water.
You will need to water more often in the summer than you will in the winter. You will also need to water more with hotter temperatures and lower humidity.
Fertilizing Pilea Peperomioides
Chinese money plants will benefit from regular fertilizing.
Choose a houseplant fertilizer and dilute it to half the recommended strength. Fertilize your plant every two weeks during spring through early fall and once a month in late fall through winter.
Pruning Pilea Peperomioides
These are low-maintenance houseplants that don’t require much pruning. Pruning once a year in the late fall or winter is sufficient.
When you prune, look for dead or diseased leaves. Use your fingers to pinch off these leaves at the base of their petiole (leaf stalk).
If you want to keep your plant looking sleek, you can also prune away pups that form at the base of the mother plant. Use a pair of sharp shears or a knife to remove the baby plants where the stems meets the soil.
When and How to Propagate Pilea Peperomioides
One reason these plants quickly spread throughout the world is that they’re easy to propagate! If you have a Pilea peperomioides plant at home, it won’t be long before you can share a new plant with a friend.
This plant is so easy to propagate that it’s earned the name the friendship plant.
The simplest and most common way to propagate is via pups. Pups are baby plants that form at the base of the mother plant. People also refer to them as offsets.
If you don’t see any offsets at the base of your plant, just wait. They will eventually appear.
To propagate via offsets, follow these steps.
- Remove the offset. Use a sharp knife to cut the offset as close to the soil surface as possible.
- Place in water. Place the offset in water so only the base of the plant is covered. Avoid covering the leaves or petioles as this can lead to rot.
- Wait. Place the plant in a bright room and wait until you see roots form. Change the water every few days.
- Repot. After the roots are at least half an inch long, pot up your plant into a small pot filled with an appropriate potting soil.
Repotting Pilea Peperomioides
If you’ve propagated a new plant following the steps above, your plant will eventually outgrow its original pot. When this happens, it’s time to repot.
To repot your Pilea peperomioides, choose a container that is an inch or two bigger than the current pot. Remove your plant and dust off any old soil. Place the plant in the new pot and fill it with new potting soil.
Common Pilea Peperomioides Problems & How to Treat Them
Here are some of the most common problems this place faces.
Root rot is the generic name for several fungi that affect plant roots. These fungi cause roots to become mushy and eventually die. Without roots, plants cannot take up the water and nutrients they need.
Therefore, one sign of root rot is a wilting or discolored plant. Another sign is obviously rotting roots. If you suspect your plant has root rot, you can remove it from the soil to examine its roots.
If your plant does have root rot, trim the infected roots and repot in fresh potting soil.
Overwatering is a major cause of root rot, so make sure you are allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
Pilea Peperomioides Leaves Curling
Curling leaves are typically caused by an environmental problem rather than a pest or disease.
Low light, high temperatures, and extremely low humidity can all lead to curling leaves. Watering too much or not enough can also lead to this problem.
To fix curling leaves, make sure you are providing the proper environment. As a refresher, Pilea peperomioides likes warm temperatures, bright yet indirect light, and moderate humidity.
Leaves Turning Yellow, Brown, or Black
If you notice your plants’ leaves are turning a color besides green, several things could be the cause.
While these plants like bright light, they don’t do well with direct sun rays. If direct sun hits the leaves, it can kill the tissue and lead to discoloration.
Move your plant out of direct sunlight to avoid this problem.
If your air is bone dry, your plant’s leaves may develop yellow or brown leaf edges. This can develop into leaves that are completely yellow or brown or even drop off entirely.
To increase the humidity, mist your plants with water. You can also use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air
While you should let the soil dry out a bit between waterings, you want to avoid a soak and dry method of watering. Letting the soil completely dry out can cause plant stress. This can eventually lead to discolored leaves.
Once the top inch of the soil is dry, it’s time to water again.
Scale insects are sap-sucking pests. They are small and flat with a hard protective shell known as a scale.
As these insects suck plant sap, they drain energy. They can also spread diseases as they feed.
If you have a small amount of scale on your plants, you can remove them by hand. Use a q-tip dipped in soapy water or rubbing alcohol to kill the pests.
If you have a larger infestation, you can spray the pests with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Pilea peperomioides plants don’t require any special tools. All you’ll need is a pot, a watering can, and a sharp pair of shears.
Now that you know how to care for the Chinese money plant, it’s time to add one to your home. Before long, you’ll have offsets to share with your friends.
Pilea Peperomioides FAQ:
Are pilea easy to care for?
Pilea Peperomioides are considered easy-to-care-for houseplants and thrive in most living environments without too much fuss or maintenance.
Where should I put my Chinese money plant?
An ideal location for a Chinese Money Plant would be a few feet away from a south-facing window where the plant can receive bright, indirect light throughout the majority of the day.
How much sun does a pilea need?
Pilea plants thrive in bright conditions but avoid direct sunlight hitting the plant’s leaves as this can cause burning and scorching.
How do I know if my pilea needs water?
As a general rule, when the top 2 inches of soil are completely dry to the touch it’s time to water your pilea. Typically this will occur every 7 to 10 days in spring and summer and around 14 to 21 days in late fall through winter.
What does a Chinese money plant symbolize?
The Chinese money plant symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Feng shui experts believe that having a Pilea peperomioides plant in your home will bring wealth your way. Some people say that placing a coin in the soil will attract even more wealth. This plant is also tied to friendship and generosity. As collectors shared plants with friends, this plant’s popularity spread.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.