Caring for pilea
Pilea peperomioides is one of the most popular of all indoor plants - not just in Australia, but around the world. With its round, saucer-like leaves on long stalks, this cute little plant looks as if it landed in the living room from outer space. Those round, lilypad-like leaves also give it a common name of Chinese money plant. Here are some important tips on how to keep your plant healthy.
Light and temperature
This plant grows best in bright light but out of direct sun, which could burn the foliage. Low light can lead to poor growth, yellowing leaves or leaf drop.
It is important to keep this plant out of hot or cold draughts from the heater or air-conditioner which can cause distress. Plants should also be moved slightly away from windows when night temperatures fall, as they are sensitive to cold. An alternative is to insulate your plant by placing a piece of bubble wrap between it and the cold glass.
Pot and potting mix
Grow pilea in a well-drained potting mix (select one formulated for indoor plants) in a pot with good drainage holes in its base. We recommend Supersoil Professional Indoor, Balcony and Hanging Basket Mix for best results.
Getting watering right is critical. Rather than relying on a regular watering regime, you should regularly feel the potting mix to gauge how wet or dry it is before watering. Only water as the potting mix begins to dry out, but before it becomes completely dry. This may mean watering once or twice a week, but frequency will vary depending on the size of the plant in relation to the pot, temperature and light levels indoors, and the season. Expect to water more frequently in summer and less frequently in winter. For a little more info on winter indoor plant care, click here.
Leaves that fold up, overly wet soil or a pot that feels heavy for its size are signs of overwatering. When this occurs, check the pot for drainage holes and make sure they are not blocked. Cut back on watering and, if necessary, repot with fresh potting mix.
When watering, make sure the water is soaking in to the potting mix and always allow excess water to drain from the base of the pot – don’t let it sit in water. If the pot is sitting in a cover pot or on a saucer, make sure there’s no water sitting in the cover pot or saucer. Allowing plants to sit in water lead to root rot and plant death.
If you're really struggling to get the watering balance right, why not try a Soil Moisture Meter? This handy tool will help you work out how wet the soil is, and whether your plant is ready for another drink.
Indoor plants including pilea can be fertilised, but most do not need a lot of fertiliser. From time to time, if the plant is growing (that is getting bigger and producing new leaves) you can apply liquid plant food following the instructions on the container. Don’t feed more than once a month, and only feed plants in spring and summer. Poor growth or yellow leaves are more likely to be caused by poor light conditions than lack of fertiliser. Try moving your plant into a brighter position before feeding.
Keep leaves clean
Another important part of caring for P. peperomioides is to keep its smooth leaves clean and free of dust - this will help it to make the most of the light it gets access to. Lightly dust the leaves with a soft cloth on a regular basis, and from time to time, gently wash them down while the plant is being watered.
When pilea is growing well it can produce small plantlets around its base. Once the small plants are around 5-7cm high, and are growing well and producing new leaves, they’ll be able to grow independently. Carefully detach the small plants (use a sharp knife to sever them from the mother plant) and lift the little plant, roots and all, from the pot. Transfer the separated plant to its own small pot. Use fresh potting mix and water it in well. If the severed plant doesn’t have a root system, try propagating it in water until roots form, then transplant your baby plant into its own little pot and watch it grow!