Pilea Depressa (#1 Care Hacks & what to AVOID!)

topview of a pilea depressa

Pilea Depressa (Latin name, meaning Depressed clearweed) is an evergreen creeper native to tropical South America.

It boasts tiny green leaves with scalloped edges and greenish-pink stems. The Pilea Depressa grows well in hanging baskets, with foliage overflowing from its pot. Alternatively, it can happily grow horizontally as a ground cover on your patio.

This easy-to-grow plant is well-suited to indoor environments, or mild outdoor temperatures. It enjoys warmth, high humidity (>50%), and moist soil that never dries out completely through its pot.

Let’s dive into the details!

Both Baby Tears? Pilea Depressa vs. Soleirolia Soleirolii

Before we dive into how to care for your plant, we want to clear up a common misconception.

You may hear the Pilea Depressa referred to as Baby Tears. This nickname comes from its resemblance to Soleirolia Soleirolii, the original (OG) Baby Tears.

Soleirolia Soleirolii leaves, the "original" Baby Tears in the garden top view
Soleirolia Soleirolii, the “original” Baby Tears. They are a different plant to Pilea Depressa.

To clarify: though they share the same nickname, they are taxonomically different plants from different genera (Pilea vs. Soleirolia).

They do, however, share the same family (Urticaceae, sometimes known as the nettle family). So, they can be thought of as close cousins. 🙂

To tell them apart, check out their leaves. Your Pilea Depressa’s leaves are larger, thicker, and more fleshy than the Soileirolia Soleirolii’s. The latter also has leaves with smooth, not scalloped edges.

Caring for your Pilea Depressa

Light

Your Pilea Depressa grows best in bright, indirect light.

Any brightly-lit indoor space will do, as long as it doesn’t get many hours of harsh direct afternoon sunlight (this causes its leaves to burn!).

Low-light conditions are tolerable, but your plant will grow a lot slower. 🙂

a pilea depressa, baby tears plant, with long vines hanging from a hanging basket
A messy Pilea Depressa, or Depressed clearweed from a hanging pot.

Water

Watering is the trickiest part of care for your Pilea Depressa.

Your Baby Tears is susceptible to overwatering, but at the same time, it is not drought-tolerant and hates drying out through its pot.

We check the soil moisture every 4-5 days, and water ours once the top inch of soil is dry to the touch.

Remember to water it deeply, allowing excess water to escape from the draining hole. Then, wait until the topsoil is dry again before watering.

What if I’ve under or over-watered my plant?

If you’ve gotten a new Baby Tears and are still getting used to things, you may accidentally underwater your plant. Don’t panic.

The Pilea Depressa is quite hardy, so it perks back up again after a good soak. Just don’t make a habit of it 🙂

  • Signs of overwatering: yellow leaves near the soil line and damp soil.
  • Signs of underwatering: dry, crispy leaves that grow smaller and more slowly than usual. Cakey soil.

If you’ve got an overwatered plant, check out our guide to help you.

Humidity

The one thing your Baby Tears plant loves is humidity.

It is often grown in a terrarium but can do perfectly well in normal indoor conditions too. You’ll just need to give it a humidity boost.

You can consider placing it in a bathroom, where humidity levels are naturally higher. But consider whether your plant gets enough light here.

Ideally, you’d want to aim for >50% humidity for your plant to THRIVE. Trust us, it’ll reward you with faster growth and lusher leaves.

The easiest way of course is to use a humidifier.

Check out our article for more tips on how to increase humidity.

Temperature

Keep your plant in temperatures between 60-70 degrees F (15-25 degrees C). This plant is not cold-hardy. Dips below 55 degrees F (12 degrees C) will damage your Pilea Depressa.

pilea depressa leaves topview
Pilea Depressa leaves

Flowering

The Pilea Depressa grows clusters of tiny white, petal-less flowers. These emerge in the spring and summer months.

Growth

At maturity, your plant can grow to a length of 20-40 inches (50-100cm). Leaves are small and numerous, typically measuring less than 1/4 inch (0.6cm).

In environments that are warm, humid, and have plenty of bright indirect light, your Baby Tears grows really quickly. Under less optimal conditions, the growth rate visibly drops off.

Experiment to find the best spot, particularly for light, in your home!

Soil or Growing Medium

A rich, well-draining potting mix is that is slightly acidic is perfect for your Baby Tears.

We recommend creating your own mix, using:

Peat moss is a slightly acidic amendment that lightens the soil while allowing it to retain the right amount of moisture. It is a fibrous material that results from decomposing moss and other organic matter in peat bogs over thousands of years.

At the same time, the addition of perlite improves the soil’s drainage. 🙂

Fertilizer

Your plant is a light feeder, so you need to be careful not to overdo fertilizing this Baby.

A mild liquid fertilizer, applied at half strength every month during the spring and summer active growing months is ideal.

Hold off fertilizing in fall and winter. Less is better 🙂

Repotting

Your plant enjoys being a bit snug in its pot. So there’s no huge rush to repot.

We typically like to wait until we see roots peeking out from under the drainage hole, or circling above the soil’s surface before repotting. This works out to be once every 2-3 years.

Toxicity

Thankfully, your plant is not toxic to pets and humans. They are a good choice if you have kids or curious dogs or cats.

topview of a pilea depressa

Propagation

The Pilea Depressa is a VERY easy plant to propagate and give away to your friends. Our favorite method is through stem cuttings.

Propagate in Spring for the highest chance of success. 🙂

Propagation through Stem Cuttings

  1. First, gather all the items needed:
  2. Identify a healthy length of stem tip (end of the vine) that is around 5-6 inches (12-15cm) long. Make sure that this stem has a couple of leaves and at least two nodes!
  3. Using sterilized garden shears, cut off the identified stem. Cut just below the node.
  4. Remove leaves, if any, from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
  5. Dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone. This encourages roots to grow.
  6. Plant the stem cutting in a small pot filled with potting soil.
  7. Place in a warm spot with plenty of indirect light. If you can, place a humidifier next to the new plant.
  8. Keep the potting soil lightly moist, but never waterlogged or soggy.
  9. In about 2-4 weeks, roots should emerge. You will know that roots have developed when you feel slight resistance when giving your plant a very gentle tug.
  10. Treat as you would any other Pilea Depressa.

Pruning

Pruning your fast-growing vine is a good idea to keep it looking bushy and neat. Also, cutting off any dead, damaged leaves or leggy stems also helps your plant focus its energy on new growth. 🙂

3 things to note:

  • Avoid pruning off more than a third of the length of the plant, as this causes too much stress.
  • Use sharp shears to minimize trauma when cutting.
  • Sterilize your tools before and after use to prevent contamination between houseplants. This is such an often occurrence whereby a pest or disease infects all your plants thanks to unsanitary tools! We use 70% isopropyl solution to sterilize.

Common Pests and Diseases

While your Baby Tears is relatively pest and disease-resistant, no plant problem-free! If your Pilea Depressa has issues, the most common problems are aphids and root rot.

Aphids

macro of green aphids on a green leaf - close up
Aphids on a green leaf

Aphids are sucking pests that feed on plant sap from new growth, depriving your plant of nutrients. They usually cluster on growth ends, where they use sharp mouthparts to pierce plant tissues to reach the sap.

They are usually light green and pear-shaped, about 1/8 of an inch (0.3cm) long. However, there are over 5,000 species of aphids that also come in black, pink, and white.

To kill off aphids,

  • Isolate your plant from other healthy plants to prevent contamination. These insects are highly mobile so can start to infect your other houseplants.
  • Take a good look at your plant. Use a water jet to physically dislodge any visible aphids.
  • Spray a neem oil solution on your plant’s stem and foliage. Neem oil works to inhibit aphids and kill off larvae. Check out our guide on how to make a neem oil solution and how to use and reapply this.
  • Use sterilized garden shears to cut off damaged parts of the plant. Dispose of this securely; remember, you don’t want to contaminate other plants!
  • Re-apply neem oil as necessary.

Root Rot

Your Pilea Depressa is susceptible to root rot, which is caused by overwatering.

If the water is stagnant and left sitting at the roots, this causes moisture-loving fungi to attack. In other cases, root rot may arise simply from excess water cutting off the air supply to the roots.

In both cases, roots grow turn brown, start to decay, and smell bad.

To prevent root rot,

  • Use a well-draining potting mix, like the one we recommend in the Soil section.
  • Ensure you water your plant only when the topsoil is dry.
  • Empty the saucer, so that your plant is never sitting in a pool of water.
  • Choose a pot with drainage holes.

For details on how to save your overwatered plant (or plant suffering from root rot), check out our guide.

Why is my Pilea Depressa Dying?

There may be several reasons why your Pilea Depressa is in distress. Let’s look at the top few.

  • Pale, discolored leaves – this usually indicates your plant has too much direct light.
  • Yellow leaves – overwatering is the most common cause for yellow leaves, especially if you see these yellow leaves close to the soil line.
  • Slow growth – insufficient light or humidity is usually the problem. Use a grow light or humidifier to help your plant out.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common names for the Pilea Depressa?

This plant has quite a few nicknames, including Baby Tears, Depressed clearweed, Kiereweed, Artillery Plant, and Gunpowder Plant.

A few of these nicknames are common across many different Pilea species. 🙂

Where can I buy a Pilea Depressa?

As the Pilea Depressa is not a rare plant, it can be found quite easily in local gardening centers or nurseries.

Similar Plants and Varieties

Pilea Depressa ‘Tiny Tears’

Tiny Tears is a cultivar of the Pilea Depressa. They have leaves that are about half the size of the original Depressa. They need similar care to the Pilea Depressa, so you can use this guide for growing your Tiny Tears too.

Pilea Glauca, or Pilea Silver Sparkle

The Pilea Glauca, the Pilea Silver Sparkle from a hanging pot showing off its little blue-gray leaves and and pink stems
The Pilea Glauca, the Pilea Silver Sparkle

The Pilea Glauca is another small vining plant that has tiny oval, blue-gray leaves growing on pink stems. The leaves have a silvery shimmer when it catches the light.

Pilea Peperomioides, the Pancake Plant

Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides) houseplant in a small pot being held up

The Pilea Peperomioides is an adorable houseplant with a thick central stem, and long leaf petioles that fan out perfectly round leaves in all directions. Its no wonder this plant is also called the Pancake Plant, or the Coin Plant.

Other Vining Houseplants we Love

If you’re in the market for small, vining plants, here are a few of our absolute favorites: 🙂

Wrapping Up

The Pilea Depressa is a beautiful vining plant from South America. They are undemanding plants that can tolerate different light conditions, but for best growth, give it:

  • Bright indirect light.
  • Water only when topsoil is dry.
  • A rich and well draining soil – 2 parts peat moss and 1 part perlite.
  • Warm temperatures and humidity > 50%.
  • Light fertilizing; once a month at half strength.
  • Propagation is easy using stem cuttings.
  • Your plant is pet and children-friendly.

Check out the Peperomia Hope next!

Deborah

Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.