CHINESE MONEY PLANT - Pilea peperomioides
Among the trendiest houseplants, the Chinese money plant (also known as the pancake plant or UFO plant) is adored for its unique appearance. The round, coin-sized leaves are thick and glossy. Each leaf is attached to the crown of the plant by a petiole (leaf stem) that connects directly to the leaf underside, giving it a very unique appearance.
This houseplant’s tendency to create lots of small “daughter plants” that are easily separated from the parent plant means it’s a great houseplant for sharing with friends and family. To top it off, Pilea peperomioides care isn’t difficult, making this a terrific choice for houseplant lovers of all abilities.
Native to the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of southern China, the Chinese money plant was first brought to the UK in 1906 by Scottish botanist George Forrest (yes, we know the exact man who found it). It became a popular houseplant later in the 20th century because it is simple to grow and really easy to propagate, meaning friends could pass cuttings around amongst themselves. That earned it the nickname ‘pass it on plant’.
Those round, flat leaves, which can grow as big as 15cm across, have earned it other nicknames, from UFO plant to pancake plant. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s an excellent house guest. A bright place to live and water when it’s dry are all it asks (by the way, don't worry when it loses its lower leaves as it grows - it's totally normal).
At maturity, the plant reaches about 12 inches tall with an equal width; be sure it has plenty of space to grow. If Pilea is happy, it may produce small white flowers on pink-tinged stems. You can consider your thumb very green if the plant comes into flower. That means you’ve done everything right!
Light - Light-wise, the best situation for a Chinese money plant is bright light, with no direct sunlight. Direct sun scorches leaves, and light shade may encourage larger leaves.
If you don't give enough light the leaves will bend and curl rather than remaining flat and coin like. If you happen to give too much light the leaves will gradually take on a purple hue or have a washed out appearance. If the light level increases rapidly, for example if you've been keeping it in a low light condition and then moved it into direct sunlight, burn spots can occur. Make sure you move your plant gradually so it gets used to the changing conditions.
Temperature - Pilea peperomioides plants grow well in a temperature range of between 60°F and 75°F (15° – 23°C). Generally, growing Chinese money plants in average room temperatures is ideal for the fastest growth. The most important care tip is to avoid sudden extremes of temperature and try to keep the room temperature even.
The challenge when caring for your plant is in summer or winter. The hot sun can quickly heat rooms and stress your delicate houseplant. In winter, household heating can cause Chinese money plants to droop if they are too close to a radiator. Also, indoor heating tends to dry out the air. So, getting air moisture levels right is essential for plants to grow well.
This plant needs temperatures no lower than 55°F and it needs to be warmer than that for it to actually grow. So this translates into avoiding cold places and keep it away from any risk of frost. But on that note, a period of cool temperatures may make them more likely to produce their tiny white flowers on pink stems.
Water - Our plants likes to be thoroughly watered and then left alone until they almost dry out before watering again. Bare in mind if you're giving good levels are light and the temperature is reasonably warm you may need to water a few times a week. If the leaves start to look slightly droopy, that’s a sign that the plant needs water. Pilea peperomioides do not like to have their roots sitting in water. Good drainage is key. And if there’s a saucer under the plant, make sure water doesn’t sit in it for longer than an hour or two. Otherwise root rot is the result. Remember to back off watering a bit in the winter!
Humidity - Adequate humidity is one of the essential care requirements for healthy Chinese money plant growth. Indoor household air tends to be drier than the plant’s tropical native habitat. Your Pilea plant needs at least 50% humidity to grow well. To get humidity levels right, mist your plant, use a pebble tray, or a room humidifier.
However your Chinese Money Plant will struggle in excessively humid locations. Mix that in with low light and cool temperatures and you have the perfect recipe for the leaves going yellow or various mold or root rot problems. This isn't the ideal houseplant for dank bathrooms or kitchens.
Soil - Chinese money plants prefer well-drained potting soil and a pot with drainage holes is necessary. Don’t use garden soil to plant this houseplant, and don’t buy the cheapest potting soil you can find. Instead, use a high-quality potting soil. One that’s based on peat moss or coir fiber is best. The potting mix does need to hold a reasonable level of water as these are thirsty plants. So do yourself a favor and avoid very porous mixes otherwise you'll be watering almost daily trying to keep up with the demand.
If you purchased your Chinese money plant from a greenhouse or nursery, chances are it’s already planted in a great potting soil, so there’s no need to repot the plant until it outgrows the pot.
Fertilizer - When it comes to fertilizing Pilea peperomioides, don’t overdo it. Unfortunately, most houseplants are killed with kindness. You really only need to fertilize Chinese money plants once a month. And only feed the plant when it is in a state of active growth. This is typically from early spring through early fall.
Re-pot - These houseplants need space and will frequently outgrow their pots, either because the mother plant has grown larger, or because she has produced so many offsets that the container is full. Make sure you don't upsize it into a giant container, just one or two sizes bigger than the previous pot is perfect.
Maintenance - To keep your Chinese money plant nicely shaped, rotate it at least once a week to prevent it from getting lopsided. The large leaves tend to accumulate dust, so these plants benefit from regular showers, or at least wiping down of their leaves.
Chinese money plants can benefit from pruning to get a bushier appearance. To prune your Pilea plants, trim off the top stems if they start getting too long. To encourage bushy growth, pinch off young shoots after a bud. You should also trim off dead or decaying leaves and stems.
Pests - One of the beauties about growing Chinese money houseplants is that they are quite resistant to pests. However, small pests such as aphids and thrips can infest your plant.
Tropical houseplants such as the Chinese money plant are generally resistant to disease. The most common problem when caring for Pilea plants is root rot. However, this plant disease is preventable if you water your plants properly. To prevent fungal or bacterial diseases, always water your plant when the soil is partly dry.
Propagation - Another important aspect of Pilea peperomioides care is regular division to keep the plant from being crowded in its pot. Happy plants produce small daughter plants called offsets or pups. They grow from the root system a few centimeters away from the base of the mother plant. These offsets should be separated when they’re an inch or two tall.
To divide Pilea peperomioides offsets, dig down into the soil at the base of the offset to expose the roots. Then use a sharp pair of needle-nose snips to separate it from the parent plant. Each little offset doesn’t have to have many roots, but there should be at least a few there. When dividing Chinese money plants, you don’t have to uproot the entire plant, but you certainly can, if it makes the job easier.
Immediately pot up the offsets into new pots of fresh soil. If you accidentally break the roots off of one of them, put the base of the broken offset in a little cup of water. This generates new root growth. Once you see roots form, you can pot that one up, too. Or, you can sink the base of the broken offset into a pot of potting soil. Keep it moist. Eventually new roots will form below the soil as if it were a stem cutting, instead of an offset.
Special Notes - Is Pilea peperomioides safe around cats? Yes it is. It's also safe to have around dogs, children and most other pets too. If your pet has too much interest in the leaves then you may want to move it to a new place as boisterous play can cause damage.