The Chinese money plant is an easy-to-grow houseplant that has been popular in other parts of the world for centuries, remaining unknown in North America until the late 20th century. The plant’s many common names – such as UFO plant, pancake plant, and saucer plant – are in reference to the distinctive, round leaves. Most commonly called Pilea for short, this indoor plant will reward you with beautiful foliage, making it a great choice for people who want to enjoy a beautiful green plant without taking up too much space or time. Here is what you need to know about Pilea peperomioides care.
Pilea peperomioides has many different common names thanks to its perfectly round foliage.
Pilea peperomioides History and Taxonomy
Chinese money plants have been cultivated in Asia for hundreds of years. Originating from the Yunnan Province of China, they weren’t grown outside of Asia until the mid-1900s. In 1946, Norwegian missionary Agnar Espegren brought the plant back to Norway and shared it with his friends. From there, people began trading the plant amongst themselves via cuttings until it found its way into nurseries and gardening stores.
This perennial plant belongs to the Urticaceae family and is classified scientifically as Pilea peperomioides, although the plant has also been known by other names over the years: peperomia, butterweed, or flowering maple, to name a few (the last two are incorrect taxonomically). The main reason for this confusion is because it was originally misclassified under Peperomia (another member of the Urticaceae family) before being rediscovered and named as its own genus, which did not occur until the 1980s.
The plant’s first appearance in print did not occur until 1984, but once “discovered” caught on quickly and is now a popular favorite.
Pilea peperomioides: Indoor or Outdoor?
Pilea plants grow toward their source of light and require regular rotation to grow evenly.
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether your Pilea peperomioides care regimen should take place indoors or outdoors.
The best way to determine whether or not your plant would be comfortable outdoors is by checking its native habitat. The Chinese region where Pilea originates experiences temperatures ranging between -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months to 99 degrees Fahrenheit in summer (USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10). If you have similar conditions where you live then it’s safe to assume that your Pilea peperomioides would also do well outdoors during those months.
You should also take into consideration whether or not there’s enough humidity. This is important because Pilea peperomioides is native to regions where there’s plenty of moisture in the air most times throughout the year. High humidity levels of at least 60% are preferred.
Though shade must be adjusted in hotter, dryer climates, Pilea plants respond well to locations with plenty of light.
If you do not have this type of climate in your area, or there’s too much outdoor shade, then it’s best to perform your Pilea peperomioides care indoors.
If the climate changes suddenly during any season then keep in mind that these seasonal fluctuations can affect how happy your plants are, indoors or outdoors.
Where to Plant Chinese Money Plants
Growing your Pilea peperomioides in a pot is the easiest way to provide proper care, especially if you are new to gardening.
In addition to being easy to care for, growing your Pilea in a pot can be a very attractive option because it adds beauty and style to any space. If you choose to grow your plant indoors, make sure that the soil is kept moist at all times but never soggy or wet. You should also mist its leaves occasionally with water from a spray bottle—but don’t overdo it.
PIlea thrive in pots and perform well as indoor houseplants; this is their most popular application.
If you have experience planting houseplants and want something that doesn’t require too much effort, try planting Chinese money plants directly into an aquarium or large bowl filled with pebbles or gravel plus water (make sure the water penetrates the pebbles and touches the bottom). This type of planting will keep these plants alive indefinitely without needing much maintenance at all.
If you are an experienced gardener, planting these plants in the ground may be right for you. Make sure there is plenty of drainage around your plant and that it gets at least four hours of direct sunlight each day as well. The growing environment needs to mimic its native habitat in order to be successfully grown outdoors.
Chinese money plants are the ultimate in versatility; they fit seamlessly into trends like retro macrame, Tuscan terracotta, modern minimalism, and more.
If you don’t have much space to work with or want something that will look beautiful suspended from your ceiling, then planting Chinese money plants in hanging baskets might be a good option. This type of potting can be accomplished either by using macramé or chains to suspend the baskets, or suspending multiple plants from one container using fishing line and hooks. They’re both easy to do yourself and will provide plenty of room for growth.
Pilea peperomioides Care: Start From Seed
To start growing a Chinese money plant from seed, you’ll need:
- A microwave-safe dish or plate
- About two to three tablespoons of warm water
- Your seeds, preferably fresh (though if you’re using old ones, soak them for about an hour beforehand)
To start germinating your seeds, place them on top of the dish or plate and add warm water. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave on high for several minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing seeds.
The seeds should be covered with a film, which may take several minutes. Then transfer them to a warm place for germination.
Once the seeds have germinated, you’ll need:
- A small container with a drainage hole at least one foot deep and six inches wide (if using plastic containers these should have been previously washed with water or vinegar)
- Potting soil, preferably inorganic (such as vermiculite)
Fill the container halfway with soil and add water until it’s moist. Place your germinated seeds on top of the moistened soil, then cover with another one-fourth inch layer of soil. Cover the container with plastic wrap or a lid and place in a warm spot (e.g., near a south-facing window). Water seeds every two days until they sprout (about two weeks).
Pilea peperomioides Care: Grow From Cuttings
Your Pilea peperomioides care regimen can include water-only; even without soil, the roots and plant will continue to grow.
In order to successfully propagate a Chinese money plant, you’ll need the following supplies:
- A sharp pair of scissors
- A glass or jar with 3-5 inches of water in it (don’t use tap water; instead, use distilled water)
- A few small, clean pebbles (you can find them at any pet store)
- Several pieces of paper towel or soft cloths (like dish towels)
Using your sharp pair of scissors, remove one or two healthy leaves from the top of the plant. Cut close to where the leaf meets the stem but not so close that you damage any part of it. Place these cuttings in a glass or jar filled with 3-5 inches of water.
Let them sit for several weeks (three weeks is the minimum; five weeks is optimal). You’ll know when they’re ready because new roots will start growing out of the bottom part of the cutting. When this happens, gently remove each cutting from its water source and place it in soil with a few pebbles at the bottom so that it has somewhere to rest. Water regularly but not too often—just enough so that your plant stays hydrated.
After about five months of growth, it’ll be time to transfer your new plant into a small pot. Place some paper towel or soft cloths at the bottom of the pot before pouring in some water and soil. Use your hands to gently remove any excess soil from the root system (this will prevent mold from forming on top of it) before transferring it into its new home.
Pilea peperomioides Care: Nursery Specimens
Chinese money plants (in back) are an interesting and complementary addition to many different styles of indoor gardens.
Nursery specimens can stay in the nursery pot for a short time, but it’s best to transfer to a larger container (with drainage holes) immediately. Combine fresh potting soil with vermiculite, carefully transfer the root ball and plant from the nursery container to the new pot, and water in.
Additional tips for Pilea peperomioides care of a nursery specimen:
- Water your Pilea peperomioides once every 2 weeks to ensure it stays healthy and hydrated.
- Fertilize the plant once a month with a balanced fertilizer or an organic plant food like compost, fish emulsion, or worm castings.
- Place the Chinese money plant in a warm spot that receives partial sun or indirect light for most of the day, but not too much direct sunlight as this can burn its leaves (look for something similar to low-sodium salt). In winter months, move it to a cooler room so that you can reduce watering frequency (for example, from twice per week down to once per week).
- Repot your Pilea peperomioides every 2 years if necessary—it will tell you when this is needed by becoming rootbound. You might also consider repotting annually if changing out the soil regularly (more often than once every two years).
- If growing outdoors during summer months only: Provide shade with trees and shrubs around houseplants since they prefer being out in full sun when temperatures rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26°C). High humidity is also needed for outdoor growing.
- To prune: Use a clean pair of scissors to cut off any dead stems or leaves. Cut back new growth that is growing too large for its container.
From Seedling to Established Plant
If your plant starts growing too fast or has yellowing leaves, you may need to reduce the amount of sunlight it gets.
A major key to successful establishment is beginning with a healthy seedling. At the nursery, look for plants that are in good shape and have plenty of healthy growth. In addition, make sure that the leaves of your Pilea peperomioides are green and not brown or yellowing. If they’re a little dry, give them some water before planting them so they’ll be more likely to survive once they’re in their new home.
To establish your healthy seedling, follow these instructions:
- Place the plant in a pot filled with regular store-bought potting soil. Don’t use fertilizer or other additives because they can harm your new plant’s growth. Vermiculite can be added to aid with drainage.
- Water the soil until it feels moist to the touch but not soggy (you’ll know it’s too wet when you see water pooling on top of the dirt).
- Keep your Pilea peperomioides in indirect light (such as under an overhang or behind a curtain) for about two weeks to allow it time to adjust. After this adjustment period, you can move the plant into a brighter area.If your plant starts growing too fast or has yellowing leaves, you may need to reduce the amount of sunlight it gets. Try moving it into a shadier area or adding more water to its soil.
- When planting your Pilea peperomioides outdoors, make sure you dig a hole that’s big enough for your plant’s root ball and at least twice as deep as the potting soil is tall. After placing your new plant in the hole and covering it with dirt, water well.
- Once your plant has taken root and is growing well, you can start to fertilize it weekly with a liquid fertilizer or an all-purpose one like Miracle-Gro. A hormone such as Superthrive works well. Dilute a capful of Superthrive in a gallon jug of distilled water and water the plant from that jug as needed. Be sure not to overdo the fertilizer, because too much of it can burn the roots.
Pilea peperomioides Care: Low-Maintenance Required
Once established, Pilea peperomioides plants are very easy to care for.
Pilea peperomioides care of a healthy, established plant is a low-maintenance process. There are five key areas of care to monitor:
- Watering: Pilea peperomioides is a low-maintenance houseplant that doesn’t require much water, but it will appreciate being watered regularly. The soil should be allowed to dry out between watering, and once the surface has gone bone dry, you can allow it to go dry for another week before watering again. Watch the leaves – dropping will indicate it’s time to water.
- Light: Provide bright light with no direct sun exposure (unless conditions are humid and not too hot) for Chinese money plants. If you live in an area with lots of natural sunlight, consider placing your plant in indirect sunlight instead (such as by a window). This plant thrives in conditions that mimic its native habitat.
- Soil: Use a good quality potting mix consisting of peat moss or coir fiber combined with perlite or vermiculite; avoid using dirt from your garden because this may contain harmful insects or diseases that could harm your plants.
- Fertilizer: Feed your Chinese money plant at least once every two months during its growing season (spring through fall) using an all-purpose liquid fertilizer diluted according to label instructions, or a capful of Superthrive diluted in one gallon of distilled water. Alternatively, feed every four weeks throughout the year using slow-release fertilizers like Osmocote Plus.
- Rotate: Pilea plants grow toward light, so if you notice the foliage leaning too much to one side, simply rotate to keep the light exposure and growth patterns even.
A Rewarding Growing Experience
Pilea plants have a leaf structure similar to Lotus plants, and should not be mistaken for Chinese money trees, which have braided trunks.
Pilea peperomioides care is a rewarding growing experience, especially for beginners as the plants grow generously with little maintenance. It’s a beautiful plant that adds an interesting flair to your houseplant garden while blending in seamlessly with any theme. Keep in mind that all plants can ultimately have different responses to external stimuli. If you find that your Chinese money plant isn’t thriving in its current location, refer back to the five areas of maintenance mentioned in the previous section.