Pilea Peperomioides, Chinese Money Plant, Friendship plant, or just Pilea. This precious plant has quite a few nicknames, and even though the Pilea Peperomioides is hardly a mysterious plant, it’s been the talk of the town (around the world) more or less since 2015 when it started to gain popularity.
Over the past few years, I have received thousands of questions about Pilea Peperomioides, and I’ve also experimented with and propagated hundreds of them.
If you’ve followed me on Instagram (@sproutandharvest) you will without a doubt have seen quite a few Pilea posts from me. From tiny cuttings to single leaves and plants more than 1 meters tall and super bushy.
There’s almost nothing I haven’t seen or tried with the Pilea.
In this plant care guide for Pilea Peperomioides, I’ll do my best to share all the tips and knowledge I’ve gathered over the years. My goal is for you to learn how to keep the plant happy, healthy, and green all year round – and if you end up in this article because of issues you might be having with the plant, then I hope I can help you sort it out.
Ready to learn? Then stay tuned, and use the index below to jump directly to any section in this guide that’s most relevant for you.
How do you take care of Pilea Peperomioides?
First of all, I have to say that Pilea Peperomioides is one of the most sturdy plants I’ve ever had, and as long as you don’t overwater it’s difficult to kill. With that being said, many of the questions I’ve received on email and Instagram come from frustrated plant owners who do not share that opinion.
So below you will find my best maintenance advice for Pilea Peperomioides, based on +5 years of experience and experiments.
Pilea can be placed in any direction
With any new plant, it can be tricky to find the right location for it. How much light is enough, and when is it too much? I have successfully had Pilea Plants in windows facing every direction, more or less, so from my experience, it can grow almost anywhere.
North-facing windows get no direct sun, and this won’t bother Pilea Peperomioides, but it might react during winter if you – like me – live in the cold north where we barely get any sun from November until April.
You will notice that the plant will stretch in the direction of the light, and if you do not make sure to turn the pot now and then, you won’t achieve a tall, straight stem as some might aspire to.
Avoid direct sun and heaters
A Pilea Peperomioides faced with too much direct sun or a placement close to a heater might start to get brown and dry spots on the leaves. These spots do not disappear over time and will stay until the leaf eventually falls off. When the season changes from Autumn to Winter and people start to turn on the heaters, combined with dry air inside and less sunlight you might see the Pilea acting out such as losing leaves. This is most likely just the plant acclimatizing to the sudden change.
If your Pilea Peperomioides is in a south-facing window (which means lots of sunlight), you might want to consider moving it during summer, just to be sure it doesn’t get too much direct sunlight.
How often do you water Pilea Peperomioides?
Too much water will kill a Pilea fast – as with any other plant.
When I first got a Pilea Peperomioides I firmly believed it should be slightly moist all the time, but now I advise everyone to let it dry out between watering. You can see and feel when a Pilea needs water – pinch a leaf slightly if it’s soft and without much elasticity it needs water. How much water it needs and how often you need to water will depend on the climate. I typically water my Pileas biweekly, and when I do I let them soak for a while until I feel the pot is significantly heavier than before (from the water it has absorbed).
If you find it difficult to evaluate when to water the plant, I will recommend you to purchase a small soil moisture meter – they come in many different shapes and sizes and can be bought online.
However, you decide to water your plant, make sure to not leave the plant soaking in water afterward! The roots will lack air and rot, and your plant will die.
What to do if you’ve overwatered?
Giving too much water is rarely a catastrophe as long as the water can run out of the pot. But if you did give it way too much water and want to do something about it, you can place the plant (if it’s a pot with holes in the bottom) on top of a newspaper stack. The newspapers will absorb moisture from the soil through the holes.
If you’ve given your Pilea Peperomioides too much fertilizer then you have a more critical issue. In this case, I would recommend you to remove all the soil and replace it with new, dry soil. Too much fertilizer can and probably will damage if not kill your plant.
What type of soil should be used?
I’ve often gotten the question “what type of soil do you use?” when I post a photo of a thriving Pilea on Instagram. I have no sneaky trick here, as I use regular potting soil that can be bought in a garden center or supermarket. Regular potting soil will have all the nutrition the plant will need for at least a year, but if you are growing cuttings you might want to use potting soil without any added nutrients as it can do more damage than good while they are trying to grow a strong root system.
The Pilea Peperomioides can flower
When I first saw a blurry image of what looked like a Pilea Peperomioides with flowers, it was almost like seeing a ghost. I thought when I had grown and cared for so many of them, I would have seen flowers if it was something this plant got. But that wasn’t the case, as I discovered when I saw when in real life on a plant market in Copenhagen.
The Pilea Peperomioides can get flowers and they will produce what might look like seeds, but they are not. I’ve tested it, and so have many others. You cannot grow Pilea Peperomioides from seed – so stay away from buying them online, it’s not real.
The flowers are not the reason you get a Pilea, as what you see in the photo above is all they will ever be. So think of them as more of an interesting add-on than anything else. When they’re “done” they will simply fall off. I have yet to find a good explanation of why some flowers and others do not? (We have speculated in both male and female plants, age, maturity, and climate).
It can grow outside
If you have done a bit of research on where the Pilea Peperomioides was originally found, you won’t be surprised by the fact that it can grow outside. In my family we have experimented with keeping Pileas in pots outside all summer, taking them inside before the frost. We’ve also had a cutting put directly into soil sometime during spring, and while it had many rough months due to weather, it’s not looking good and will spend winter inside.
So if you have the option you can place your Pilea Peperomioides outside and let it have some fresh air and sun.
How to make a Pilea Peperomioides grow faster
I’ve had many people reach out and either express their frustration about their Pilea seemingly not growing or wanting to know the secret of how mine seem to grow much.
Well, first of all, the Pilea has a growing season. The growing season will naturally be from spring until the end of summer. You won’t see much growth on a plant during the winter months unless you actively do something about it. And what can you do about it? You can get grow lights. I have experimented quite extensively with Pileas and LED grow lights, and have come to the following conclusions
- A Pilea Peperomioides that grows under growth light will speed up the growth process
- Pilea Peperomioides under growth light tends to produce more babies
So if you want more speed, get some grow lights!
How to propagate a Pilea Peperomioides
Now on to the fun part about having Pileas: propagating!
The Pilea Peperomioides is truly a friendship plant as it’s often called – as it relentlessly produces babies that you can pass on to friends and family. Besides the joy of giving a plant as a gift, it’s also quite a lot of fun to see these Pilea babies grow into different sizes and shapes.
The photo above is a pretty accurate image of what I would call my own Pilea prime time. A few years back when I would have anywhere from 2 to 70 Pileas in my apartment. This was around the time when the plant was quite difficult to find in Copenhagen, and therefore I was providing cuttings from my plant to whoever was interested.
The only way to get a new Pilea is to get an offshoot (what most people online refer to as ‘Pilea babies‘). An offshoot can grow from the roots through the soil or directly on the stem, but these are not the only ways to reproduce it. As mentioned, we have done quite a few experiments with the plant, and from this, I can tell that you can also get a Pilea by.
- Cutting your existing Pilea plant into two pieces. The lower part will start to sprout right below the cut. The top of the plant you can put into the soil and it will continue to grow upwards. It will, however, take some time for it to grow roots, and because of that, it will look quite droopy for a while.
- Cutting a leaf (with a bit of stem) off and putting it into the water waiting for it to root. This is an extremely slow process, and you are not guaranteed that every leaf will produce an offshoot – but it often will root.
- Take the white/slightly pink roots (what I like to call premature Pilea babies) from the soil and plant them. They will grow extremely slow, but they will become plants. If you take a root and chop it into more sections, each part can become a plant.
Some Pilea Peperomioides seem to be extremely productive while others seem more barren. I do not have a magic trick to get a Pilea to produce more babies, besides providing LED grow lights and giving it enough space to grow.
How do you take a cutting from a Pilea Peperomioides?
The first time you have to take a cutting from your plant might be a bit scary, as you don’t want to harm the plant. But don’t worry, as mentioned earlier it’s a sturdy plant, and it will not die — even if you chop it into pieces (trust me, I’ve tried it).
If you’re not sure how to remove a cutting, take a look at the video below where I show how you can successfully remove and pot cuttings grown directly on the stem and from roots. You do not have to be as careful with the cuttings as I am in the video – you don’t even need a knife, but can just break cuttings of with your fingers.
Once you have removed your cuttings you can either put them into soil or water. I typically put them directly in the soil, but you find people online who prefer water.
What you need to know is: A fresh cutting has no root system, so for the first couple of weeks you need to be very careful with handling and watering it. It might look a bit sad for a while and show no signs of growth, but give it time and it will start to grow.
How fast it grows differs. Tiny cuttings will take a long time to reach a normal plant size, while bigger cuttings with more leaves will look sadder at first because they have no roots to soak nutrients for the foliage. It also depends on the season. Typically I would say you can expect anywhere between a couple of weeks to a few months before you see clear growth.
Issues with Pilea Peperomioides
Even though Pileas are so easy to care for, people experience a variety of problems – as with most plants. Below you’ll find my input for some of the most common plant problems with the Pilea. Feel free to drop a comment if you are experiencing something else, not already covered in this guide.
Pale or yellow leaves
It’s not uncommon for a Pilea to lose leaves, especially in the lower part, as the plant grows. Yellow leaves on a Pilea Peperomioides can be an indicator of many things. The leaf will typically start to lose its intense green color, and fade into yellow or with yellow spots and it will eventually fall off on its own. Yellow leaves can mean that:
- The plant is getting too much water
- The plant is not getting enough light (common during winter)
- Pilea babies are growing from the soil and the lower leaves on the main stem will drop off to make space for them
- The plant is simply growing and dropping some of the first foliage
Dry brown spots
Dry brown spots are not unique to the Pilea Peperomioides, but a common issue for many indoor plants. You will typically experience dry brown spots if the plant has gotten too much direct sunlight, or has been placed too close to a heater. If you live in a place where radiators and fireplaces are a thing, then you have to be extra careful with watering and providing your plants some humidity, as these heaters create a dry indoor climate.
I have also seen examples where spilled fertilizer has resulted in black spots on the leaves.
Leaves are soft and the plant looks droopy
The elasticity of Pilea Peperomioides leaves is an extremely good indicator of how the plant is doing. Generally, I will say that if the leaves are soft and droopy, your plant is dry and needs water. But before you jump to that conclusion, remember to feel the soil as it could also be overwatering. I suspect you will know which of the extremes is the cause.
Curling leaves are another common ‘issue’ on a Pilea Peperomioides. It’s not a health issue though, but more appearance as some people prefer the completely flat pancake look. To be honest, I rarely see perfectly flat leaves, unless it’s on a plant just brought home from a plant shop or greenhouse. Typically these places will have more ideal growing conditions (perfect light+water+temperature combination)
I have no explanation as to why the leaves curl, but my best suggestion is that the balance between light, water, and the temperature is off. I typically see this happening during the winter months, and again you never see curling leaves on Pileas bought from garden centers.
But don’t worry, it’s only about beauty and not health!
White spots underneath the leaves
Some people have raised their concerns about the white dots underneath the leaves, and try to scrape them off. Don’t do that and don’t worry, these tiny white dots are supposed to be there!
Got tips or questions about how to grow a Pilea? Don’t be shy and leave a comment below.