Pilea plants have become popular in recent years—and for good reason! These unusual-looking plants make great conversation pieces that add a bit of whimsical fun to any indoor space. The best part is that pilea plant care is actually really easy!
Also known as the missionary plant, Chinese money plant, or coin plant for its round, disc-like leaves, Pilea peperomioides is the most popular pilea variety out there and probably the one that pops into your mind’s eye when you hear “pilea.” This plant is also sometimes called the pancake plant or UFO plant because its round leaves resemble UFOs that “orbit” the central stem of the plant.
You’ll probably come up with your own nicknames for your plant as well!
Where Does Pilea Come From?
Pilea plants are members of the stinging nettle family, or Urticaceae. Pilea peperomioides is native to the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southern China, right at the base of the Himalayas.
Unlike many popular houseplants, Pilea peperomioides is not a tropical plant, so it’s hardier in much lower temperatures than many of your other indoor plants.
This plant was brought from China to Europe in 1945 by a Norwegian missionary (hence the nickname “missionary plant”), where it then spread in popularity. Today, it’s now found in many homes across the world.
In the right conditions, this spunky little evergreen can grow tiny white flowers in the spring, though it rarely blooms indoors.
Where to Buy a Pilea Plant
Pilea peperomioides can be tricky (but not impossible) to find. While you probably won’t find this one in popular home improvement stores like Lowe’s or IKEA, your local nursery may carry it. If they don’t, you can always ask if they plan to stock it anytime soon.
Your best bet might be to find a pilea plant online through a company like The Sill or Bloomscape. Etsy shops are also a great resource for buying both cuttings and mature plants.
eBay can also be a great place to buy plants, and you can even set up keyword alerts so that you’ll get a notification when a pilea plant goes up for sale!
If all else fails, you can Google “Pilea peperomioides for sale,” “Chinese money plant for sale,” “coin plant for sale,” etc., to find a plant you can buy. Wherever possible, read seller reviews and ratings to make sure the vendor has a good reputation and return policy in case your pilea gets damaged in shipping.
Online plant shopping can be challenging, but you’ll be a pro in no time with a little practice!
Pilea Plant Care for Beginners
Once you’ve got your pilea plant, how do you take care of it?
Pilea plant care is actually pretty straightforward! Here’s what to do:
Soil and Potting
Pot your pilea in a pot with drainage holes, because your plant won’t last long if it’s sitting in soggy soil.
Pick a pot that’s about 2 inches wider than your plant’s root ball. The material of the pot doesn’t matter as long as it drains well, but keep in mind that terracotta has a wicking effect and absorbs moisture from the soil, so your pilea’s soil may dry out quicker in a terracotta pot.
Choose a peaty, fast-draining soil with a pH of 6-7. You can mix a handful of peat moss and a few handfuls of perlite to indoor potting mix for a nice DIY blend for your pilea plant.
Pilea plants grow quickly in the right conditions, so plan on repotting your plant into a larger pot each spring.
Pilea plants like bright, indirect sunlight. This means that they should get as much light as you can possibly give them without allowing the hot midday or afternoon sun to shine directly on the leaves, because this can lead to scorching. (A bit of morning sun is okay, though.)
The best place for a pilea plant is very near an east-facing window. A few feet back from a south- or west-facing window can also work well, and you may want to consider putting up a sheer curtain to filter the bright sunlight.
Pilea can adapt to lower light, but the leaves will be smaller and it might get a bit leggy. For the most attractive-looking plant, sunlight is key.
Note: Make sure to rotate your plant regularly so that it grows in symmetrical shape instead of reaching to one side.
Let the soil mostly dry out between waterings and then give the soil a good, thorough soaking on watering day; but make sure to empty the drainage tray right away so your plant isn’t sitting in a puddle.
Pilea peperomioides tends to droop when it’s thirsty, which is a convenient signal that it’s time to water! You can also tell that it’s time to water when the top half of the soil is dry, or when a moisture meter reads 2-3.
When you’re watering your pilea, you have two options: add water to the top of the soil and let it drain completely, or try bottom watering.
To do this, fill a tub, sink, or container about halfway with water. Place your pilea’s pot inside, but don’t let the surface of the water spill over the top. Check every 10 minutes until the surface of the soil just feels damp, then let the pot drain in a sink or tub for an hour or two.
Bottom watering can be a great method if you tend to overwater, and it’s also a good idea to alternate with top watering so the bottom roots get a good soaking. (We don’t recommend bottom watering exclusively, because it can cause mineral buildup in the soil.)
Give it a try!
In the spring and summer, when your pilea is most likely growing, give it nutrients with a balanced liquid fertilizer. We recommend Indoor Plant Food because it’s gentle enough to use with each watering, so you won’t have to remember a schedule and it reduces the risk of over- or under-fertilizing your pilea.
You can stop fertilizing in the fall and winter if your pilea seems to be dormant; however, indoor plants can sometimes grow in spurts year-round instead of having distinct seasons of growth and dormancy. If you notice that this is the case with your pilea, you may want to fertilize ⅓-½ as often as usual through the fall and winter to keep up a steady supply of nutrients to support your plant’s growth.
Temperature and Humidity
Because they’re native to the Himalayas, as mentioned previously, these plants are hardier at lower temperatures than your typical houseplants. Your pilea will be happy at room temperature and can even handle freezing temperatures, but most indoor pileas probably won’t be acclimated to anything lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: If it doesn’t drop below 50 degrees where you live, putting your plant outside for a few days during the winter can encourage flowering in the spring!
Your pilea doesn’t need a lot of humidity, but keep it away from extra-dry blasts of air from vents and heaters, or your poor plant might turn into a pile of crispy leaves. If you notice your leaves drying out, check for nearby vents and consider putting it on a pebble tray.
Pilea plants only grow to be about a foot tall, so you probably won’t have to prune much. Make sure to remove any damaged leaves or stems to promote the overall health of the plant, but pruning to control size won’t be necessary.
That’s one of the factors that makes this an amazing plant for small spaces!
Propagating pilea plants can be a lot of fun because these plants do most of the propagating for you!
Your pilea plant will put out offshoots from both the root system and nodes on the stem of the mother plant. For propagation, all you have to do is remove those offshoots and plant them!
To remove an offshoot from a node, simply use sharp, clean shears or a knife to cut off the offshoot at the base where it connects to the stem. When removing one that’s growing from the roots, simply dig down about an inch and cut the root the offshoot is attached to.
Then plant the offshoots in a separate small pot, and you’ve got a brand-new baby pilea plant!
Small leaves: Your pilea plant needs more light! Place near a window where it will receive bright, indirect sunlight for most of the day.
Drooping stems: Your pilea probably needs water. If the soil feels dry, give it a drink! When the soil is still damp and thirst doesn’t seem to be the issue, make sure it isn’t near a vent. Have you repotted or moved the plant recently? It may just be in shock. Give it a few days to perk up!
Browning stems: You might have overwatered your pilea! If it doesn’t dry out in a few days, you may need to repot your plant into fresh, fast-draining soil. Make sure the pot is draining as well. If not, it’s time for a new pot with better drainage! If the browning gets worse, repot your plant into a clean pot with fresh soil, and use our Root Supplement when you water to help the roots heal.
Leggy: If you’ve got some long stems with tiny leaves, your pilea might be reaching for light! Find a better spot where your plant will get more bright, indirect sunlight.
Insects: Pilea plants aren’t particularly prone to pests, but it can happen! If you notice insects, webbing, or sticky residue on your plant, rinse the leaves in the sink and use a diluted neem oil product to treat the leaves (be sure to follow the directions on the bottle to avoid chemically burning your plant). Our Leaf Armor can also protect the leaves from pests as well as dust, debris, and pathogens.
Curling leaves: If your pilea’s leaves are rolling up like tacos, your plant might be thirsty! It’s also a good idea to make sure there isn’t a vent or heater nearby that might be drying out the leaves. This is a common problem when the weather gets colder and we turn on the heater!
Yellowing leaves: Your pilea is probably overwatered. Scale back on the watering a little bit, make sure it’s getting plenty of light, and make sure the pot and soil drain well so the plant isn’t sitting in water. You might also want to use our Root Supplement when you do water to protect the roots from infection.
Stunted growth: If it’s the middle of spring or summer and your pilea isn’t growing, make sure your plant isn’t root-wrapped. If it is, it’s time for a pot upgrade—it won’t be able to grow if the roots are scrunched!
Is Pilea Toxic?
Nope! Pilea plants are nontoxic, so they’re a safe choice if you have pets or children who might try to sample the leaves.
Pilea Varieties to Try
Have you fallen in love with Pilea peperomioides? Then you should try these other gorgeous pilea varieties that come in all kinds of shapes and colors. They also stay relatively small, which makes them a great choice if you don’t have a lot of space.
Watermelon Pilea (Pilea cadierei)
This pilea species sports arrow-shaped white and dark-green striped leaves, much like a watermelon rind! This is a tropical pilea variety, so it prefers warmer temperatures and more humidity than Pilea peperomioides. It also grows to be about 18 inches tall, so it’s one of the larger pilea species. Still, it’s an easy grower and beautiful to look at!
Moon Valley Pilea (Pilea mollis)
This gorgeous cultivar is known for its fuzzy, heavily textured leaves with jagged edges. The leaves are green and yellow along the outsides with a maroon to chocolatey-brown center. This plant will form dense clusters of leaves and grow to be about a foot tall. This will be an unusual and easygoing addition to your collection!
Creeping Charlie (Pilea nummulariifolia)
Pilea plants come in all kinds of shapes. This one is actually a cascading variety with tiny but thick and intensely green leaves. Plant this one in a hanging basket or place it on a shelf where its vines can grow downward. This plant is considered invasive in many places and may actually require pruning to control the length. But it’s a beautiful, delicate-looking addition to any room!
Baby’s Tears (Pilea depressa)
Despite its gloomy name, this variety is actually quite beautiful and graceful-looking with its small, plump leaves. Unlike other pilea varieties, Baby’s Tears does well in a lot of humidity and will do well in a bright bathroom or a terrarium. But if you don’t have a humid home, no worries. Regular indoor humidity is fine! Try a hanging basket or a pot on a shelf or table.
Dark Mystery (Pilea “Dark Mystery”)
This striking cultivar is prized for its lance-shaped, chocolate-brown leaves with serrated edges. This variety stays quite small and will stand out on a colorful shelf or among green plants. Try it as a tabletop plant or near a bright window for a spooky and funky-looking conversation piece.
Friendship Plant (Pilea involucrata “Friendship”)
This tropical variety is native to the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. It likes warmer temps and more humidity than some other varieties, but it’s still easy to care for indoors and can add nice variety to your indoor plant collection with its pointed, textured leaves.
Try a Pilea to Spice Up Your Space
Few plant genuses yield so much variety in shape, size, and color as pilea! If you filled your home with nothing but pilea plants, you’d enjoy such a wide variety that you may not even notice the absence of other types of plants.
Overall, these plants are easy to care for and give you a lot of color and pop without much work. It’s the perfect combination! Try one of these varieties to change up your space.
Ready to expand your houseplant knowledge? Try these resources!