Pilea Peperomioides Plant Care at Home (Chinese Money Plant)

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. In this guide, I’m going to share how I care for my Pilea peperomioides at home, including the best soil types, watering frequencies, fertilizing needs, light exposures, and ideal environmental conditions for optimal growth.

Ultimate Guide to Pilea Peperomioides Plant Care

What to Do Before Planting

Before adding a Chinese money plant to your home, ensure you have the proper area for it. Since this plant is small, it doesn’t require a huge space. However, in my experience, 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.

Growth Expectations

Pilea plant on a wooden table
This is my pilea plant – it’s about six months old now.

The UFO plant won’t need much space in your home. I find that they max out at one foot tall and one foot wide.

However, the plant can take on many 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

I find that Chinese money plants do best in small pots that are approximately 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

My Chinese money plants grow best in 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.

Personally, I like to whip up my own soil mix at home, which is a fun and cost-effective project. Here’s my preferred mix, which provides excellent drainage, soil aeration, as well as a solid foundation for plant growth:

  • two parts peat moss
  • one part perlite
  • one part bark fines

Light Preferences

My Pilea peperomioides prefers bright yet indirect light. Avoid direct rays since they can burn the plant’s leaves.

I find that 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.

I also make an effort to turn my plant every few weeks which helps the plant grow straight.

Temperature and Humidity

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. I find that is does just fine at average household temperatures between 60-80ºF.

Chinese money plants don’t like dry conditions, but they don’t require extra humidity. Average household humidity is adequate.

Watering

A pilea plant on a table next to a watering can
I water my pilea thoroughly each cycle, allowing the excess water to disperse before placing the plant back in its decorative pot.

The Chinese money plant requires a medium amount of water. I find that it’s not picky about the water source; tap water, rainwater, and filtered water are all acceptable.

When I do water the plant, I aim to thoroughly moisten the entire soil base. Be sure to get rid of any excess that pools in the tray underneath the pot.

In terms of watering frequencies, a good rule of thumb I follow is to water when the top inch or two of soil is dry to the touch. This usually equated to every 7 to 10 days in spring and summer and every 10 to 14 days in winter.

Fertilizing

Chinese money plants will benefit from regular fertilizing.

I choose a houseplant fertilizer and dilute it to half the recommended strength. Typically, I’ll fertilize my plant every two weeks during spring through early fall and once a month in late fall through winter.

Pruning

In my experience, these are low-maintenance houseplants that don’t require much pruning. Pruning once a year in the late fall or winter is sufficient.

When I do prune, I mainly look for dead or diseased leaves. I use my 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 meet the soil.

Propagating

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.

I find 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.

  1. Remove the offset. Use a sharp knife to cut the offset as close to the soil surface as possible.
  2. 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.
  3. Wait. Place the plant in a bright room and wait until you see roots form. Change the water every few days.
  4. 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

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 Pilea peperomioides, I choose a container that is an inch or two bigger than the current pot. I then remove your plant and dust off any old soil. Then, I place the plant in the new pot and fill it with new potting soil.

Common Problems & How to Treat Them

Pilea leaves with some brown spots
Some discoloration on the leaves is normal and typically changes a little throughout the year.

Root Rot

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.

Leaves Curling

In my experience, 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.

Direct Sunlight

While these plants like bright light, I find that 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.

Low Humidity

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

Inconsistent Watering

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

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.

About Pilea Peperomioides

Pilea plant on a wooden table indoors

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 reaching 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.

Native Range

Pilea peperomioides is native to the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in Southwest China. It grows in forests located near the base of the Himalayas.

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Further reading: Discover the best types of pilea plants to grow at home.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

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.

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