Pilea Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#20
Updated: Jan 1
Pilea is one of the most diverse houseplants because of the many shapes, sizes, and colors it comes in. When people hear "Pilea" they typically think the plant with those weird UFO-looking leaves. BUT there is more than just that!
Variety Names (Common Names) Growth Habit:
Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant, Pass It On Plant, Sharing Plant, UFO Plant, Pancake Plant) Dark green, round leaves that has tree-like growth when more mature.
Pilea cadierei (Aluminum Plant, Watermelon Pilea) Upright growth with green foliage and white/silver pattern on the leaves.
Pilea microphylla (Artillery Plant, Rockwood) Upright growth with tiny leaves with green and sometimes pink or white leaves (see FUN FACT at bottom).
Pilea mollis (Moon Valley) Upright growth with rough textured leaves. Light green foliage with the center of the leaves being dark red/bronze
Pilea involucrate (Friendship Plant) Upright growth with rough textured leaves. Light green foliage with dark red/purple veins.
Pilea nummulariifolia (Creeping Charlie) Trailing habit with bright green, rough textured leaves.
Pilea glauca (Red Stem Pilea, Grey Artillery Plant, Aquamarine, Silver Sparkle, Silver Sprinkles) Low growing and trailing habit with blue or green foliage. Some varieties have red stems.
Pilea spruceana (Norfolk, Silver Tree) Low growing with dark red/bronze foliage. Some varieties have silver stripes on the leaves.
Pilea depressa (Baby Tears) Tiny, bright green leaves that have a trailing habit.
There are MANY more varieties but the list above details the most commonly seen and sought after varieties. There are actually over 500 different species of Pilea!
It really depends on the species of Pilea for what kind of sunlight they prefer. But it is safe to say, Pilea typically like medium to bright indirect light.
In a South window (inside of a small greenhouse from Ikea) I have a Pilea peperomioides. There is another building close by so we don’t get direct sunlight all afternoon. But for many hours we do. I had the plant originally up against the greenhouse wall, closest to the window, but I noticed the leaves were turning black. This is burning from direct sun so I moved it away from that side of the greenhouse wall. Since then I haven’t had any issues with burning leaves.
My Pilea glauca is sitting a couple feet from a South window getting filtered light through other houseplants and it is doing great! The branches stretch towards the light which is deceiving. If I move it closer to the window it will start burning due to direct sunlight. Either way, it's doing good!
I also have a Pilea depressa (picture to the right) in an East window that is growing vigorously! I've tried this plant in a West window and a North window previously. In the North window it grew VERY slow, but when I placed it in the West window I gained about 5" of growth in just a couple months!
Pilea typically like to be in evenly moist soil. If they are underwatered you will start to loose some of the leaves. As I always say, it depends on the environment you have the plant. If you have it in a warm space (more sunlight or outside in the summer) you will need to water more often than a space with less light (or having it indoors constantly).
Pilea prefer moderate to high humidity. After doing research on all the varieties, there were pretty conflicting answers to the humidity question. Some sources said all Pilea need high humidity. However, some sources said most Pilea don't need any extra humidity.
So to help you out, I split the varieties up based on my experience with their humidity...
High humidity: Pilea microphylla, Pilea glauca (in terrarium image above), Pilea spruceana (in terrarium image above), Pilea depressa
Medium humidity: Pilea peperomioides, Pilea cadierei, Pilea mollis, Pilea involucrate, Pilea nummulariifolia
The high humidity varieties are commonly found in 1-2" pots, PERFECT for terrarium settings. Those terrariums will be the best way to provide the highest humidity possible. You can also use a humidifier, place your plants on top of pebble trays, or mist the plant (and environment around it) frequently.
I always start by saying there isn't a wrong answer for fertilization methods UNLESS you fertilize too often or too much. I always use the recommended amount or a bit less on houseplants.
I currently use a concentrate indoor fertilizer every 4 weeks in peak growing season and I reduce it to every 6-8 months in the off season. I do this on ALL of my houseplants. It just keeps everything pretty consistent and I would rather under-fertilize than over-fertilize. This method has worked well for me this season but previously I just used a granular slow release fertilizer and this also worked fine (not as well as the liquid fertilizer though!).
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual recommends fertilizing Pilea much more frequently. To be fair, the only Pilea they discussed was Pilea cadierei but they recommend "in spring and summer, feed plants weekly with a balanced houseplant food diluted to half the recommended rate. In fall and winter, feed monthly." I may try fertilizing my Pilea a bit more often and see if that helps even more! Let me know how you fertilize your Pilea in the blog comments!
There are a few different ways to propagate. It all depends on what variety you want propagated.
Pilea peperomioides form what are called “pups” or offsets which are basically mini plants growing off the parent plant (the original plant or main root system). In the image to the left, the pup is forming left of the parent plant. Sansevieria can grow like this as well! Once you see a pup forming you can cut those off the parent plant and repot as a new plant. Make sure you have a sharp knife or sharp pruners to make a clean cut. You don't need to take the whole plant out of it's pot to remove the pup. You can cut the pup off the parent plant as close to the soil level as possible. You will need to place this in water, or moist soil, until it forms its own root system.
Pilea depressa, Pilea glauca, Pilea cadierei, & Pilea spruceana can be propagated by taking cuttings and placing it in water, or a moist soil mixture, until rooted. I've learned soil propagation is much faster than water propagation, but either one works! You can split Pilea depressa & Pilea glauca once they are more mature.
Pilea's are part of the Urticaceae Family or Nettle Family.
Well-draining soil is preferred! A cactus soil or a potting mix (mixed) with extra perlite works great! Even though the soil needs to stay evenly moist, you don't want them sitting in water.
Pilea are fairly easy to find in most houseplant shops or garden centers! In the image to the right, I am shopping at Watter Farms in Neenah, WI! Pilea peperomioides are on the table and Pilea glauca are in the hanging baskets above!
Peperomia is often confused with Pilea. There are some plants that look very similar with rounded leaves and variable colors. They also start with P so that doesn’t help either!
Many people call Pilea glauca or Pilea depressa, Baby Tears but there is another plant that is not a Pilea who's common name is also Baby Tears - Soleirolia soleirolii. Soleirolia soleirolii looks freakishly similar to to Pilea depressa! Soul-E-roll-EA Soul-E-roll-EI
Some Pilea do bloom but you probably will not see it as a houseplant. If they do form, most of the varieties have varying size small white clusters of flowers.
Fun Instagram accounts that share some amazing Pilea: Jamie from Jamies_Jungle has an amazing house full of incredible houseplants and he posts pictures of his amazing Pilea pretty frequently! Botantistbyheart is also known for his huge Pileas!
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Why the common name Artillery Plant (Pilea microphylla)? The male flowers explosively release pollen into the air! The more ya know!
Always written with extreme plant passion!