Pilea seeds. A modern-day myth it seems. As people around the world have slowly managed to get their hands on the popular indoor house plant, Pilea Peperomioides, many have encountered fascinating small flowers on their plants and wondered if the flowers would turn into seeds and if so, if you could grow Pilea from seeds.
So what’s the deal, can you grow Pilea Peperomioides from seed or not?
The answer to that question should be simple and straightforward, but in fact, it’s not.
The short answer is: No. We have yet to see any proof of a Pilea Peperomioides grown from seed.
The longer answer is: Maybe, as botanical research could indicate otherwise.
Want to know more? continue reading below.
What does it take to produce seed?
Before diving into the flowers on Pilea Peperomioides, let’s just try and get clear on a bit of flower biology.
For a plant to produce seeds it has to produce flowers, and those flowers have to be pollinated. Some plants are able to do both on their own (bisexual flowers) whereas others (unisexual) are more dependent on help from insects, wind, and so forth. This is also why it’s so crucial that we take good care of our insect population, as they are a vital key in plant biology.
Flowers can be either unisexual or bisexual. A unisexual flower is a flower that only contains female or male reproductive organs, and for these to reproduce they cross-pollinate. The bisexual or full flowers contain both female and male organs, and these will self-pollinate. There are also nonflowering plants, but that’s a different chapter.
The seeds are produced when the pollen of the male flower meets the ovules of the female flower. The ovaries will produce seeds and project them outwards in order for the seeds to be spread and produce new plants.
So far so good.
How do you get a Pilea to flower?
I myself had had a Pilea for around a year before I saw another Pilea with flowers, and I was baffled. From that point on I was hunting flowering Pileas that I could buy, and not long after found one. It had small white/pinkish flowers that were anything but impressive compared to other flowering plants, and once they were done flowering the peduncles simply fell off.
For a long time after that, I tried to wrap my head around why it flowered and how I could get others to do it. The answer wasn’t so clear, and the internet seemed to be an echo chamber of the same stories, with very few (if any?) biology professionals getting involved in the discussions.
Years after I now know, that the secret of getting a Pilea Peperomioides to bloom lies within the temperature. As will be described further down, the Pilea is likely to flower if it has been subjected to colder weather during the winter, as this temperature resembles the natural environment of the plant – which is high up in the mountains of China.
You can get your Pilea to flower by having it in lower temperatures both indoors and outdoors. I’ve previously had three Pilea plants outdoors that all rather magically started flowering the same day in May (in Scandinavia).
What do pilea seeds look like?
The truth is: we don’t know. People around the world are being scammed by online shopping platforms such as eBay, Amazon, Wish, Alibaba, etc. thinking they are buying legit Pilea seeds, and out of those getting nothing or simple weeds. So my best advice to anyone would be to not purchase Pilea seeds online. If a supplier did have real Pilea seeds, that are so sought after, would they sell them for such low prices?
However, the end result of Pilea Peperomioides flowers drying up and falling off looks like below – and yes, I have tried to germinate these without luck. As a non-plant biology professional, my best bid would be that these flowers have been male, and had no female flowers to pollinate, and therefore fell off and turned into nothing.
Biological facts about Pilea Peperomioides
The Pilea has been somewhat of a mystery for many and for a long time and although there still lies somewhat of a mystery within the flowers, we already know a lot. Let’s try to sum up those facts:
It’s a perennial. P. Peperomioides can live for years and continue growth.
It’s rhizomatous, meaning the stem sends out roots and shoots from its nodes below the surface of the soil. The shoot will turn into a new plant connected to the mother plant, also known as Pilea babies and Pilea pups. These can be taken as cuttings and turned into individual plants by growing roots in either soil or water.
It can reproduce by the asexual process called fragmentation. Roots or shoots can be chopped into tiny fragments and survive – as long as there’s a viable node on the stem section cut off, a healthy plant can be grown with time.
The stem of a Pilea Peperomioides can be cut in two and both pieces can survive: the top part of the stem can be put into water or soil for the purpose of growing new roots, and the bottom will start to sprout from the nodes below the cut – as it follows the biological principle of apical growth. This is also a great tip if you have a leggy Pilea.
A single Pilea leaf can be propagated in water or soil, and with time a new shoot will appear from the stem. This works best with the stem cutting technique and not on leaves that accidentally break off. It’s also the slowest technique of propagating a Pilea.
It will flower under the right conditions. Numerous reports and knowledge of the plant’s native surroundings indicate, that a Pilea placed in colder conditions over winter are more likely to flower the following spring.
The botanists from Kew had originally only seen live Pilea specimens with male flowers, and it was therefore believed that the plant was unisexual or dioecious, meaning it has only male or female flowers. It was later discovered, by the same botanists, that Pilea Peperomioides is monoecious – meaning it has both male and female inflorescences on the same plant, but that the female flowers were rarer to see. In a Harvard Herbarious document on the flora of China, it quotes that “Pilea Peperomioides is often dioecious, sometimes monoecious” – but is that possible, to be a bit of both?
The male flowers on Pilea will burst will pollen if touched, and this resembles other Pilea species such as Pilea Muscosa.
Pilea seeds and flowers in summary
If Pilea Peperomioides has both female and male flowers that means it has the ability to reproduce sexually and thereby produce seeds from which a new Pilea can be grown. But in 2021 we have yet to see anyone germinate Pilea seeds.
As of today, the most successful way of propagating Pilea is by artificial and asexual reproduction: cuttings where a portion of the stem containing nodes and internodes is placed in moist soil and allowed to root.
Although a lot of us would be eager to grow Pilea Peperomioides from seeds, mainly for the fun of it, we should perhaps enjoy the fact that the Pilea, in general, is extremely easy to propagate in numerous ways:
4 ways of propagating Pilea Peperomioides
- Take cuttings from root/shoots and transplant them to new pots
- Cut an existing Pilea into two or more pieces (requires nodes on each) and transplant to new pots
- Remove roots/shoots from below the surface and cut into smaller chunks with nodes and transplant them to new pots
- Take a leaf (petiole) with stem cutting and place it in water
Calling all plant biology experts: Have you studied plant biology or do you have knowledge or thoughts on the topic of the mystical Pilea seeds? I would love to get your input for this article. Write a comment below or shoot me an email here.