Pilea Peperomioides (#1 Complete Care Guide for Chinese Money Plant)

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

The Pilea Peperomioides is a compact little houseplant prized for its small, perfectly round leaves. They look like small coins, or, like Milk Button chocolates (if you know, you know!). 🙂

You may also know this plant by several nicknames, all due to its distinctive peltate leaf shape, including:

  • Coin Plant
  • Chinese Money Plant (it is native to Southern China… more on that in a bit!)
  • Pancake Plant
  • UFO Plant
  • Missionary Plant (it was first distributed by a Norwegian missionary)

Caring for the Pilea Peperomioides is easy.

This evergreen semi-succulent is undemanding. It thrives in bright indirect light and a well-draining soil. It can tolerate average room humidity and prefers slightly cooler temperatures between 55 – 65 degrees F (13-18 degrees C), though average room temperatures are okay. Be careful not to overwater, and inspect for spider mites and mealybugs.

Best of all? They are a cinch to propagate, so you can gift them to your friends. They are also recipients of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Origins

In nature, your Pilea Peperomioides grows in shady, mountainous regions of Yunan and Hunan provinces in Southern China. While first collected around 1910, it wasn’t until 1945 that the plant was distributed beyond its native habitat.

In 1945, live cuttings were taken by a Norwegian missionary and (a year later!) gifted to friends and family around Europe.

This was how this Chinese plant ended up around Europe (and beyond!). But only in the 1980s did botanists officially classify this Instagram-worthy Pilea.

Your Pilea is from the nettle family, Urticaceae.

Caring for your Pilea Peperomioides

Light

Your Pilea Peperomioides enjoys bright, indirect light. However, too much direct light can scorch its leaves, so limit direct light to up to 3 hours a day.

For these reasons, East-facing windows are ideal for your plant.

If the leaves are getting smaller and petioles becoming leggy, your plant is not getting enough sunlight.

Another important tip is to rotate your plant every time you water. Because long petioles fan out towards the light, rotate your plant to prevent lopsided growth!

Water & Container

Good watering is key to a happy Pancake Plant!

Getting your watering practices right can save you a lot of grief down the line. This is especially true for succulent-like Pilea Peperiomioides, which are susceptible to overwatering.

The key is to ensure that they get a thorough soak when needed, but can also dry off quickly. While it may seem counterintuitive to SOAK your plant, it’s important to nourish its roots by watering deeply.

Choice of Container:

  • First, ideally, choose a terracotta planter as they are porous and water can evaporate easily from their surfaces. At the same time, roots enjoy good airflow.
  • Ensure the planter has drainage holes, so that water can drain out.

How & When to Water:

  • Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is COMPLETELY dry. Always check the soil moisture with your finger.
  • Water using a long-spouted watering can close to the soil. Avoid watering overhead and splashing water on the foliage.
  • Water deeply, watering until excess water escapes from the drainage hole. Always empty the plant’s saucer!
  • Get into the habit of always checking the soil moisture frequently, so that your plant never accidentally dries out completely through its pot. Topsoil is the first to dry, before the bottom layers.

That’s it! Be careful to observe changes in your plant as it adjusts to your care. If lower leaves start to yellow, this is a sign that your Piles Peperomioides is overwatered.

side view of the Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)
A Pilea Peperomioides – look at its beautiful long petioles (leaf stalks) & button foliage!

Humidity

Your Pilea has succulent-like qualities that help it retain water in its stems and leaves more efficiently than other houseplants. Plus, waxy leaves reduce water loss from the leaf surface!

All these qualities mean it needs less water and can tolerate lower humidity levels.

Happily, average room humidity is fine for your Pancake Plant. 🙂

Temperature

Cool indoor temperatures between 55 – 65 degrees F (13-18 degrees C) is ideal for your Pilea Peperomioides. This is no wonder as it is native to mountainous regions of Southern China.

However, in our experience, temperatures up to 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) are okay too. So don’t fret if you live in a warmer climate. You’ll know it’s TOO hot went the leaves start to curl inwards.

Being a stickler for stable temperatures, remember to place your plant in a spot that is protected from winds, vents, and drafts.

Flowering

While it is pretty unusual, your Pancake Plant can occasionally flower when it is absolutely thriving in your care. You’ll see small white-green flowers emerge on lightly pink stems during the spring.

Interestingly, a short period of cold (below 50 degrees F or 10 degrees C) tends to encourage blooming!

side view of pilea peperomioides with small green and white flowers atop pinkish stems
Copyright © 2022 Pale_Cow_1881. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Growth

A fast grower, expect your Chinese Money Plant to double in size every year. At maturity, it is just 12 inches (30cm) tall, and equally wide thanks to its long petioles!

They have a spreading growth habit, using underground rhizomes to grow.

Soil or Growing Medium

Because Pileas are sensitive to overwatering, choose a porous mix. Also, aim for a pH of 6.0-7.0, slightly acidic to neutral. At these pHs, your plant best absorbs nutrients in the potting mix.

We like using a high-quality peat-based potting mix, and adding perlite to enhance drainage:

We’ve started using Bonide Insect Control granules, which is added into the soil and protects against pests such as aphids, whitefly, and fungus gnats… so far with great results!

We enjoy this granule formula, because it can be used preventatively and easily added to all potted plants. It also saves us the mess of a spray bottle 😛

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2022 12:15 am GMT

Fertilizer

Your rapidly-growing plant benefits from a light dose of fertilizer. Choose a nutritionally-complete fertilizer, as Pilea Peperomioides are susceptible to nitrogen and potassium deficiencies.

  • Nitrogen deficiency affects older leaves first, which are usually at the bottom. These grow brown and curl inwards.
  • Potassium deficiency appears as yellow leaves with edges that look burned. You may think that this is due to too much sunlight, but a potassium deficiency can also cause this look.

For this reason, we like using Dyna-Gro Grow, which is gentle but nutritionally complete.

Apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer monthly at half strength during the active growing season. Hold off in fall and winter.

Repotting

The Pancake Plant should be repotted when you see roots peeking out of its drainage holes. Pilea Peperomioides do not like to be root-bound. You’d also want them to have enough space to grow new pups!

Here are some repotting tips:

  • Choose a pot that is just 2 inches (5cm) larger. Don’t “overpot”, as this increases the risk of overwatering. A larger pot means a higher volume of soil, which retains too much water.
  • Always use a pot with drainage holes.
  • Water your plant the day before repotting. This helps your Pilea more easily dislodge from its pot, and also helps to reduce transplant shock.
  • Use fresh soil to replenish nutrients in the potting mix.
  • As always, spring is the best time for repotting.

Toxicity

Thankfully, your Pilea Peperomioides is pet and child-friendly. No parts of the plant are considered toxic. Hurrah!

Propagation

A Pilea Peperomioides’s ease of propagation has earned the nickname, “Pass it on” plant.

There are several ways to propagate, including by stem cuttings. However, removing offsets using a clean blade is by far the easiest way. A mature Pilea Peperomioides spontaneously produce offsets (baby plants), sometimes called pups.

Pups pop up next to the mother plant and start growing leaves. Once they have a couple of leaves and reach at least 3inches (7cm) tall, they are ready to be propagated!

Chances of successful propagation are high. You just need to separate the pup from its mother plant by severing the connection at the main stem.

You can do so using a sterilized knife. Then, pot them up separately.

Propagation through Removing Offsets (Pups)

  1. Sterilize a knife blade with 70% isopropyl solution.
  2. Using the sterilized blade, separate the pup from the mother plant by cutting the pup’s connection to the mother’s main stem. Ensure the separated pup has a couple of leaves attached.
  3. Repot the pup in evenly moist potting mix. Choose a pot that is suitable for the size of the pup.
  4. Keep both plants in a spot protected from winds and drafts, with plenty of indirect light.
  5. It may a few weeks for the baby plant and mother plant to recover. Your plants may show signs of stress in the meantime.
  6. New growth means your plants have recovered.

Pruning

Occasionally pruning helps keep your Pilea Peperomioides looking handsome and bushy. If you spot any dead or yellowed foliage, you can use clean garden shears to trim these off. We like sterilizing using 70% isopropyl solution.

Same goes for leggy growth! Snipping off long stems helps your plant re-focus its energy by growing new plants from the base, encouraging that bushy look.

Common Pests and Diseases

When it comes to pests and diseases, your Pilea Peperomioides is sometimes prone to common houseplant pests, like:

  • Spider mites
  • Mealybugs
  • Fungus Gnats
  • Scale

If it has a disease, these are usually:

  • Root rot due to overwatering; or
  • Fungal issues due to overwatering.

To prevent a pest infestation, we’ve started mixing Bonide House Plant Insect Control granules into the potting soil. It’s a good, broad-based pesticide that can be applied preventatively!

Other important habits include regularly checking your plants for signs of infestation. Simple, but oh so important!

In terms of root rot and fungal issues, all these can be prevented by using the right watering practices and choosing a well-draining, porous potting soil. Check out the Soil section for the ideal mix. 🙂

side view of pilea peperomioides (also known as Chinese money plant or pancake plant) with small green and white flowers atop pinkish stems

Spider mites

Spider mites are about 1/50 inch (0.5mm) in size, so it’s not easy to observe them directly without a microscope. Instead, look out for pale, grey stipplings on leaves or fine webbing on leaf undersides and near the stems as signs of an infestation.

These sap-sucking pests use sharp mouthparts to pierce plant tissue and feed on sugary sap. This deprives your plant of nutrients.

They also like to feed on chlorophyll, which accounts for the discoloration of leaves when they are present.

To kill off spider mites,

  1. Isolate your plant from other healthy plants to prevent contamination. These insects are highly mobile so can start to infect your other houseplants.
  2. Take a good look at your plant. Use a water jet to physically dislodge any visible spider mites.
  3. Spray a neem oil solution on your plant’s stems and foliage, and as a soil drench. Neem oil works as a broad-based pesticide to inhibit feeding and breathing, and kill off larvae. Check out our guide on how to make a neem oil solution and how to use and reapply this.
  4. 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!
  5. Re-apply neem oil as necessary.

Mealybugs, Fungus Gnats, and Scale

Thankfully, mealybugs, fungus gnats and scale can be eradicated in the same way as spider mites. Look out for:

  • Mealybugs – these sap-suckers look like little bits of cotton wool. While easily recognizable, they like to cluster together in hard-to-reach corners of the plant.
  • Fungus Gnats – attracted to overwatered plants, fungus gnats are black flying insects, usually around 1/8 inch (0.3cm) long, and look like fruit flies.
  • Scale – scale often look like immobile shell-like bumps that are clustered together, usually between 1/16 (0.2cm) to 1/8 inch (0.3cm) long. They come in many colors.

Root Rot

Root rot is a common problem due to persistent overwatering. If you notice:

  • browning or yellowing leaves, especially the lower leaves for your Pilea Peperomioides; and
  • moist soil that remains moist for over a week;

chances are that your plant is overwatered. This is a common issue as plants like the Pilea are susceptible to overwatering.

At the soil level, water molecules crowd out air particles, such that roots suffocate and die away. Root rot is a condition in which roots decay, turning from white and firm to soft and mushy. Sometimes they have a foul smell.

In this state, they are unable to function normally to draw water and nutrients to the plant.

The extent of overwatering and root damage determines what you need to do next; check out our step-by-step guide on how to remedy your plant… if it can be rescued!

Troubleshooting for Pilea Peperomioides

  • Yellow leaves. This is usually due to an overwatered plant. Check the soil moisture to confirm.
  • Drooping leaves that also curl downward. This is another sign of overwatering.
  • Leaves curling inward, forming a cup shape. There are 3 main reasons for this. Either your Pilea Peperomioides is getting too much light, is suffering from too much heat, or is underwatered.
  • Leaves curling outward, like a dome. This is usually due to too little light and overwatering.
  • Leaf drop. This is usually due to overwatering, or under fertilization.
  • Small white grains on its leaves. This is an interesting feature of Pilea Peperomioides but is nothing to worry about. These grains are mineral deposits that are naturally occurring and can be wiped off. It is neither harmful to your plant nor a sign of a decline.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Pilea Peperomioides rare?

They were previously very difficult to find in the USA (despite being common in Europe). Thankfully, they have recently become much more readily available!! So no, we would not consider them rare.

You can buy a Chinese Money Plant from Etsy. You should only have to pay about US$10 for a starter plant.

How do I encourage Pups to grow in my Pilea Peperomioides?

Baby plants grow only when the mother plant is happy and established. Pay attention to the mom’s growing conditions: light, water, and fertilization are key components.

When it’s thriving, you can encourage more pups to grow by:

  • repotting the plant into a larger container once it gets snug in its pot; and
  • repotting existing pups in a separate pot.

Similar Plants and Varieties

The word “peperomioides” (in Pilea Peperomioides) translates to peperomia-like. So we have included some Peperomias to our “similar plants” list:

Raindrop Peperomia vs. Pilea Peperomioides!

side by side comparison between a potted Peperomia Polybotrya ‘Raindrop’ (left) and a potted Pilea Peperomioides (right)
Raindrop Peperomia (left) versus the Pilea Peperomioides (right).

Speaking of similarities… the Raindrop Peperomia (scientific name: Peperomia Polybotrya ‘Raindrop’) is commonly mistaken for the Pilea Peperomioides. Of course, they have many similarities. Both are small, compact plants with an upright growing habit, prized for with adorable round leaves.

To tell them apart, look at the leaf tips carefully. The Raindrop Peperomia has a pointed tip resembling a, well, raindrop. On the other hand, Pilea Peperomioides are perfectly round.

Wrapping Up

Easy to grow and propagate, your little Pilea Peperomioides makes an adorable indoor plant. For it to thrive,

  • Provide it with bright, indirect light. It can tolerate low-light but won’t thrive.
  • Apply nutritionally complete, liquid fertilizer at half strength, once a month during the active growing season.
  • Use a porous potting mix. Equal parts high-quality indoor mix and perlite is a great option.
  • Protect it from winds and drafts.
  • Mild indoor temperatures and average room humidity is fine.
  • Be careful not to overwater. Topsoil must be COMPLETELY DRY before watering.
  • Rotate plant for even growth.
  • Inspect regularly for pests.

Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.