In the humble beginnings of growing a baby Pilea, it’s hard to imagine that your tiny plant can ever get too big. Yet this is the reality for many Pilea owners who have had their plant for years. In this post, I will cover why height can be a problem and what you can do about it.
When researching Pilea Peperomioides on various forums and platforms you will inevitably stumble upon people who are trying to figure out why on earth their Pilea isn’t growing. It is in fact one of the most common questions I’ve received over the years on my Instagram “How did you get your Pilea so big?”.
Well, since you’ve landed here it’s fair to assume that you do not have a problem with getting your Pilea to grow – in fact, you want it to stop growing!
A tall Pilea is not necessarily something to strive for, except for the fun of it. I’ll tell you why further down in this post.
But first, let me show you one of my former tall Pilea Peperomioides back in 2017. It was around 60 cm (23 inches) tall and 80 cm (31 inches) wide.
Why is my Pilea so tall?
Your Pilea Peperomioides is tall because it has been given good growing conditions – you may even say it’s loving life! It has gotten the right balance of light, temperature, nutrients, and water to give it more than enough resources to grow a lot.
A round of applause for you, you have mastered the Pilea growth hacker course!
Another factor worth mentioning is, that you have given it enough space to grow tall. In my case, I’ve continuously repotted the plant when it needed it.
You may even have been as cheeky as I was by testing grow lights over the winter. It 100% works in terms of getting your Pilea to grow faster as it prolongs the plants growing season, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re experimenting. It simply doesn’t need it – remember that Pilea Peperomioides in the wild grows high up in mountains, and will only flower if exposed to the cold.
What you are experiencing now that you have a tall Pilea is probably things like:
- It’s top-heavy
- It’s unstable and unable to support itself
- It’s leggy and less harmonious to look at
In the photo below you’ll see another one of my older Pileas that has both been staked, is leggy, and top-heavy.
Why is it a problem?
Having a tall Pilea Peperomioides isn’t a problem unless you think it is. A tall plant is not (necessarily) an unhealthy plant, and it will continue to do its thing without your interference.
From my own experience, I reached the point of “my Pilea is too tall” when the following things happened:
- I started liking the way it looked less
- It started to shed a lot of leaves, and Pilea leaves do not grow back
- It became increasingly difficult to find a good placement for it in the flat
- Staking it properly was difficult with a bendy stem and petioles sticking out
I would argue that a tall Pilea mainly becomes a problem for those of us who have decided to grow it upright, instead of letting it lean to one side as it would naturally do because of the light.
A tall Pilea often means a leggy Pilea
As the Pilea grows it will naturally become leggy. But why is it so leggy you may ask?
As I’ve written in many other posts here on Plantfluence, it’s completely natural for any plant to shed older foliage. This is a way of redirecting resources where they are most needed. Yes, you guessed it: in new growth.
When the resources are being fuelled into new growth older leaves will become weak, pale, and eventually fall off. The result can be something like you see above, where the lower half of the Pilea actually doesn’t have any leaves.
It’s also natural for foliage on the lower half of the plant to die when Pilea babies are sprouting up and stealing the show. It’s a matter of space and which sections of the plant are getting sufficient light.
Should I stake it?
If your Pilea is tall and feels unstable, staking it is an option to offer a bit of support. I have done it with several Pileas as you’ve seen in the photos above, but in my opinion, it’s not really a viable solution in the long term.
Should I trim it?
Trimming a Pilea Peperomioides is not common practice, but it can be done.
- Remove shoots from the ground to allow your main stem and lower petioles to get enough light which should minimize leaves falling off (but not avoid it completely)
- Cut the top to allow for new growth underneath the cut which will result in a bushier Pilea, but not a tall one
How do you fix a Pilea that is too tall?
Once your Pilea has reached mega-size and you’ve either given up on staking it or don’t want to, there are a few options left – depending on what outcome you would like.
Here’s what I did:
For me it was simple. I didn’t like the way it was looking – not the shape, the legginess or the fact that it had become unpractical to keep. So I cut off the top of the Pilea.
When I did this the first time I was full of anxiety, not knowing what to expect and if my drastic cut was a death sentence.
Spoiler alert: it is not a death sentence for a Pilea to be cut in two. In fact, you can get two new plants out of it.
Here’s what happens when you cut the top of a Pilea:
New growth will sprout underneath the cut, and it will give you a completely different-looking Pilea after a while.
The top part you cut off can also be prompted to grow roots and become a new plant itself and will continue to grow upwards. Remove 90% of the foliage on the stem and place it in the water allowing it 2-3 weeks to root. After this, you can give it a pot with soil.
Another option is to cut the main stem relatively far down and let offshoots (Pilea babies) grow up and steal the space. This is not a quick fix for a tall Pilea, but more a way to keep the original plant in a new form.
How can you prevent a Pilea from getting too tall and big?
Your primary weapon when it comes to preventing your Pilea from getting too big is controlling the space it’s in.
Simply put: if you do not give the plant a bigger container, it can only grow to a certain size.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t repot it, it just means you can repot and provide fresh soil but keep the same container size or only scaling it up ever so slightly. This may mean you will have to trim the roots as well, but don’t worry – it’s an incredibly sturdy plant and you can even make new tiny Pilea babies out of roots.