Pilea Peperomioides Care Guide

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I love a good Pilea Peperomiodes (though I’m gonna get real sick of typing it out). They’re such a great combination of weird-looking, but still aesthetically pleasing.

They’re not at the Pothos level of common…ness, but they’re super easy to get hold of an very cheap.*

I love.

*Although it was only a few years ago that they were prohibitively expensive. As in, hundreds and hundreds of pounds. Wild. $75 for an unrooted cutting in TWO THOUSAND AND NINETEEN.

The name Pilea Peperomiodes was given to it because it looks a bit peperomia-y but it’s actually part of the nettle family, Urticacae (genus, er, Pilea).

It’s also known as a Chinese money plant, and is actually from China – an accurate common name for once.

It has other common names:

  • UFO plant (?)
  • Pancake Plant (makes sense)
  • Missionary plant (??)
  • Friendship plant
  • Pass along plant

These last two are a tribute to the fact that you don’t need to buy these – you just need a dealer. They have pups readily, and they’re really easy to propagate this way.

Are Pilea Peperomiodes easy to care for?

They can be incredibly frustrating to care for. They’re technically not difficult, but they’re also quite sensitive to their surroundings. I don’t recommend moving them if they’re growing well.

They’re easy in terms of requirements. They don’t have any specific requirements in terms of humidity or care, and they overwinter like a champ.

But also, they throw hissy fits for no good reason and drop leaves out of the blue.

How much light does Pilea Peperomioides need?

They don’t like low or medium light, but they do really well in bright indirect light.

They also do well in bright light (mine is in a south-facing window) BUT they definitely need to be acclimated because they’re sensitive to big changes in conditions. Too much light can result in red leaves and slow growth, and even leaf drop.

That being said, the closest thing I have to a life hack is to stick your Pilea Peperomiodes near grow lights. I put mine about a foot away from my Mars Hydro T1000 and it went wild. I’d struggled with it for YEARS. It was…fine, but a bit sad and sparse. A couple of months under the grow lights and she was like a different plant.

I don’t have my lights on at the mo, so she’s in the window, but the growth has continued (though slower).

This is here pre-grow lights. She’s…ok, but I got a lot of leaf drop and no growth. The petioles were really long.

Pilea Peperomiodes

This is her now:

Imagine how good she’d look in the growing season! This is just after winter. The petioles are sometimes long, sometimes short, so I’m hoping she’ll look a bit fuller soon.

Do Pilea Peperomioides like high humidity?

They don’t really care. they have pretty thick leaves which would suggest that high humidity isn’t a necessity, HOWEVER if you have super dry air (as in, lower than 40%) you may find that the leaves a little more brittle and break easily.

How often should I water Pilea Peperomioides?

I actually keep my Pilea in a self-watering pot, and she does pretty well in it. I don’t keep it topped up (because I didn’t put in a water level marker for reasons that I’m sure made sense at the time), rather I wait until the soil is dry and then water it thoroughly.

Pilea Peperomiodes are fairly drought tolerant and aren’t particularly sensitive to root rot so they’re a great plant for people that are struggling to get to grips with watering. They’re pretty forgiving all round.

What temperature should I keep my Pilea Peperomioides at?

Pilea Peperomiodes are fairly cold tolerant – you might get a bit of leaf drop in winter and you won’t get growth, but you also don’t get that winter ennui that can affect plants like Calathea.

Ideally, they like to be kept at the 18-24oC range (65-75oF) but they can definitely tolerate as low as 12oC (54oF).

What type of soil does my Pilea Peperomioides need?

I keep mine in a fairly chunky aroid mix, and it seems pretty happy in that. I usually recommend people stick with whatever soil suits them best – if you tend to underwater, go for a dense, coir-heavy mix.

Overwaterers need something chunky. Chunky is usually best for the plant, but regularly drying out a lot won’t do it any favours so find something that works for you.

What type of pot does my Pilea Peperomioides need?

Mine really likes the self-watering pot BUT it will need to dry out from time to time. I actually hate the pot it’s in (review here) but they’re proving to be really good for both my Pilea Peperomiodes and my peace lily, both of which are thriving and have stunning roots.

I have kept a Pilea Peperomiodes in terracotta and it did fine in it but remember that terracotta dries out really quickly so you’ll need to keep a close eye on it, especially in summer.

Is Pilea Peperomioides toxic to humans/dogs/cats/rabbits?

No, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it. Dogs and cats can’t distinguish between toxic and non-toxic so an outright ban on all plants is usually best. A rabbit would decimate this in five minutes. To the soil. And then dig in the soil and eat the roots.

And yes, I am still bitter about the loss of an ENTIRE Calathea medallion in a frighteningly short space of time.

Do Pilea Peperomioides flower?

Yes, but mine never has. They look a bit like a Croton or snake plant bloom – fine but nothing exciting. They’re unlikely to bloom indoors, but a cold spell before spring can make them do so.

How to propagate Pilea Peperomioides

You can take stem cuttings and propagate them in water. A lot of people like to do this when the stem is bare BUT I prefer to just let the babies grow up and fill in the space around the bare stem. Over time you get a really interesting, full plant, and you can always remove the babies that don’t add to the shape.

When it comes to separating the babies, I just dig into the soil and find the root that attaches to the mother plant.

  • Cut it with (clean) scissors.
  • Remove the baby, trying to keep as many roots intact as you can.
  • Put it into a pot that’s about the same size as the root ball or slightly bigger with some fresh soil.
  • Congratulations, you have a healthy baby Pilea Peperomiodes

How do I know if my Pilea Peperomioides is happy?

Happy Pilea grow and grow and grow. Even moderately unhappy Pilea still grow a bit. They also throw out a tonne of babies.

Pilea Peperomioides problems

Pilea Peperomioides turning red

This is heat stress. Plants turn red to help protect them from UV damage. It’s not always a bad thing – the plant will get used to it. If your plant is otherwise healthy, leave it be. If not, move it away from the window a bit.

New growth also has a reddish tinge:

Leaves turning brown

Pilea have a bit of self-sacrificial streak, and sometimes they just drop leaves for no real reason. Sometimes the leaves are a bit small and weak, and they come out sad and brown and then go mouldy and die.

This actually happened more the more my plant was growing. As though the plant thought it could be more discerning about which leaves it kept and which it didn’t.

if you have a lot of browning, check for root rot, or even dry soil, but I’ve found that Pilea Peperomiodes are one of those plants that are more prone to brown leaves that other plants. If it’s still growing fine, don’t worry about it.

Leaves turning yellow

We’d normally say root rot, but that tends to manifest as shrivelled, rotted leaves and general droopy sadness in Pilea Peperomiodes. Yellowing is more likely to be happening because the lifecycle of the leaf is over.

Interestingly, Pilea tend to do this at random. In general, the older, lower leaves go first, but it’s not as hard and fast as a rule as it is for other plants.

Leaves drooping

This could be root rot, so check the roots if you’re worried BUT Pilea Peperomiodes have naturally long petioles, and big leaves, so there is a certain amount of inevitable drooping. If your plant is still growing, there’s likely nothing wrong with them.

It could actually be a survival mechanism – plants don’t like to get wet, so by having slightly downturned leaves, the water can run off. It also means they don’t collect dust as easily.

Not growing

I had this problem for YEARS and the only thing that stopped it was putting it near a grow light. It’s no longer under the grow light and grows quickly, so I think it just kickstarted something.

White dots on the back of leaves

This is just something that Pilea Peperomiodes do. I’ve never seen another plant do this so consistently across every specimen. It’s just mineral deposits from the water – you can brush them off when you’re dusting them.

You could use distilled water (as long as you’re using a fertiliser that contains all the macro and micro nutrients).

How to make my Pilea Peperomioides fuller

Once the stem is bare, it’s highly unlikely that the leaves will grow back. They actually won’t grow back, but I like to say ‘highly unlikely’ just in case.

As I said, I like to let the babies grow so that they eventually fill in the gap left by the bare stem. Once a Pilea gets going you’ll be pruning plantlets back rather than worrying about gaps.

Another option is to chop the stem and put the base in water and root it, then plant it back in soil once those roots are long enough (I generally rate until the roots have grown tributaries).

What to do with a Pilea Peperomioides with a bare stem

Leave it! They look cool – like Dr. Seuss tree! Over time babies will cover the stem.

How to fertilise Pilea Peperomiodes

They’re not particularly voracious eaters, so I recommend using a house plant fertiliser (5-5-5, 10-10-10 or a hydroponic one you can use in soil if you’re watering with filtered water) every six weeks. Covers the bases, and you won’t overfertilise.

Final thoughts

These are really rewarding to grow but they can be very frustrating when they refuse to grow BUT the grow light hack really works.

Please leave me a comment if you know why they’re called missionary plants. I need to know.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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