Chinese money plant: care & propagation of Pilea peperomioides

Alina
Alina
Alina
Alina

For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

In recent years, the Chinese money plant has really grown in popularity. This unique plant is not just a quirky addition to your houseplant collection, it is easy to care for and propagate too.

Pilea plant in grey pot
The Chinese money plant is not just pretty to look at, it is also easy to care for [Photo: dropStock/ Shutterstock.com]

Chinese money plants (Pilea peperomioides) used to be hard to find but, fortunately for us houseplant lovers, they are quite easy to propagate once you get your hands on one. Read on for our Chinese money plant care tips and learn how to easily propagate this unusual plant.

Chinese money plant: origin and characteristics

The Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides), also known as pancake plant, UFO plant, missionary plant, or simply pilea, is a herbaceous perennial belonging to the nettle family, Urticaceae. Native to Southeast Asia, pilea plants used to be found exclusively in southwest China at altitudes of around 1500 to 3000 metres.

Pilea are known for their unique circular leaves which stick out on long stalks from the main green-brown stem. The shiny leaves can reach a diameter of over 15 cm. Though they rarely bloom when kept as houseplants, Pilea peperomioides flowers are delicate and inconspicuous.

How tall does a Chinese money plant grow? As a houseplant, pilea can grow up to 50 cm tall.

Close-up of underside of round pilea leaves
Pilea plants are sometimes called pancake plants or UFO plants because of their unique circular leaves [Photo: Arienne van der Plas/ Shutterstock.com]

Our favourite Pilea peperomioides varieties

Here are some of the most beautiful variegated pilea varieties:

  • Pilea peperomioides ‘Sugar: This variety has irregularly shaped leaves and silver marbled variegation, making it look like the foliage is covered in sugar crystals.
  • Pilea peperomioides White Splash: This pilea variety has white spotted variegation. As with the other varieties, the variegation is not uniform and varies from leaf to leaf.
  • Pilea peperomioides Mojito: The leaves of this variety are characterised by yellow to light green marbling.
Variegated leaves of Pilea peperomioides ‘White splash’
The beautiful variegation which characterises these varieties makes them extremely sought after as houseplants [Photo: Broniss/ Shutterstock.com]

Growing a Chinese money plant: where and how

After getting a hold of a Chinese money plant, it will most likely need repotting. When repotting Chinese money plants, use a slightly (20%) larger pot with drainage holes. Pileas prefer a well-drained, humus-rich houseplant potting soil with a pH value between 5.5 and 6.5. Chinese money plants tolerate temperatures of around 15 to 18 °C and prefer a bright location with no direct sunlight or draughts. Ideally, place yours in a room with an east or west facing window. In winter, move it somewhere with south facing windows.

Chinese money plant care

While pilea plants are relatively low maintenance, it is still important to keep an eye on things – check the state of your plant and its soil regularly. Follow our tips on pilea care to keep your plant happy and healthy.

Watering, pruning and fertilising

While Chinese money plants do not require much water, you should never let the soil dry out completely either. Water regularly with a little water and pour away any excess – your pilea should never be standing in water. To check if your plant needs watering, simply use your finger to feel about an inch into the soil. If the top layer is dry, water your pilea.

Pruning Chinese money plants is not strictly necessary, but if your plant is looking leggy, you can shorten the main stem in spring. This will not only help make the plant grow more compact but can also stimulate older plants to sprout new shoots.

Repotting Chinese money plant
The best time to repot Chinese money plants is in spring [Photo: pinot-noir/ Shutterstock.com]

From April to September, fertilise your Chinese money plant with liquid plant food once every two weeks. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food is made up of animal-free ingredients and beneficial soil bacteria which help promote strong and healthy plant growth. Our fertiliser is also safe for pets and you can apply it quickly and easily by simply diluting in the water you use to water your plants.

Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food
Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food

Liquid fertiliser with an NK ratio of 3-4, for all houseplants, promotes healthy plant growth, child & pet friendly

Chinese money plant care: leaf loss or yellowing

Some yellowing leaves and leaf loss can be normal to a certain extent and is not usually cause for concern. However, if several leaves are turning yellow, this is a sign that there could be a problem. Here are a few possible causes and ways to remedy them:

  • Unsuitable light conditions: Change location and observe
  • Improper watering: Check the soil regularly and water when the top inch is dry
  • Insufficient nutrient supply: Fertilise regularly with complete fertiliser
  • Compacted or old substrate: Repot the plant in fresh soil
Discoloured Chinese money plant leaf
Yellowing leaves are a sign that something is wrong with your Chinese money plant [Photo: Tina Grimault/ Shutterstock.com]

Overview: Chinese money plant care

  • Watering: Regular, small amounts of water
  • Fertilise: Once every 2 weeks from April to September
  • Pruning: Not essential, cut back the main shoot in spring if necessary
  • Yellowing and loss of leaves: Change location, adjust watering or fertilising, or repot the plant

Chinese money plant propagation

Propagating Pilea peperomioides is easy and can be done all year round. It is, however, best to propagate in spring from March to May when you plan on repotting anyway.

Pilea plants can be propagated through a type of vegetative propagation known as division. To divide a plant, you simply separate offshoots, or daughter plants, from the mother plant and plant them elsewhere to grow into new pileas.

After a while, you will notice mature plants producing small offshoots that pop up out of the soil next to the mother plant. Once these reach a certain size, carefully remove some of the soil around the offshoot and, using a sharp, clean knife, cut it out along with a few of its roots. Next, transplant the daughter plant into a small pot with seedling compost. You can also root the cutting in water, but these roots are often quite sensitive and break easily. To ensure your new pilea plant takes root and establishes itself well, place it somewhere between 15 and 18 °C and keep the soil moist. You can also propagate Chinese money plants from leaf and stem cuttings.

Many small, propagated Chinese money plants
Over time, a mother plant can produce many offshoots [Photo: Luoxi/ Shutterstock.com]

Is Pilea peperomioides poisonous?

Pilea plants are not poisonous, so there is no need to worry as they pose no danger to pets or children.

The Chinese money plant is popular because of its quirky appearance. Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), also known as water hyssop, is another interesting looking plant that has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance cognitive performance. Aside from being the subject of promising medical research, it can also be grown as a houseplant!

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