A Pilea Care Guide for the Most Popular Plant on Instagram

Pilea (Pie-lee-uh) Peperomioides passion is all over Instagram where the simple hashtag #pilea garners over 200,000 posts on any given day. Plant lovers are flocking to buy a Pilea, the friendship plant, to grow and photograph for their perfect Instagram or Pinterest post, and, the universal question is: Why?

The answer may lie in the unusual beauty of this exotic plant. It's whimsical, dancing stems with dollar-shaped leaves anchored on the end of the stem is unique. It is famous for its lure of bringing good fortune, money, and abundance to its owner. Also known as the Chinese Money plant or Pancake plant, the look of the Pilea Peperomioides can be characterized as poetic, whimsical, and silly. The peltate (shaped like a shield) leaves multiply rapidly creating stunning specimens that are worthy of their fame on social media. Whatever you may think of the look, there is no disputing its popularity on social media. You can find pictures of Pilea all over Instagram using tags #plantporn, #plantsofinstagram, #pilealovers, and #insidegardening.

A little bit of history...

The Pilea was introduced initially into western countries in the 1940s by a Norwegian missionary who obtained it from Southern China. Rare and mysterious, floral enthusiasts had to propagate the Pilea for the species to survive. Today, the Pilea is one of the most popular houseplants and is relatively easy to find, but it can be a bit challenging to keep alive, unlike other common houseplants. With its growth in popularity, it has become a top choice for interior designers looking to create some interest and curiosity in their houseplant choice.  If your looking to own one of your own Instagram stars, we have you covered here or here or here. We can also plant a Pilea in a container of your choice.

To help you keep your token of good fortune alive, we created the following guide to answer all your important Pilea peperomioides care questions. It is essential to learn how to care for it since you don’t want to kill your famous social media star. 

Your Pilea + Sunlight

The Chinese money plant tends to grow best when exposed to indirect sunlight. Although it is very responsive to sunlight, you shouldn’t be tempted to place them in direct sun rays as it will burn the leaves. If possible, use a sheer curtain to filter direct light and reduce the intensity of the sunlight.

Like most plants, they will grow in the direction of the sunlight, so it is essential to rotate your plant weekly. You may find that the growth of your Pilea requires turning more than twice every week as it grows.

Don't Make This Mistake: Your Pilea peperomioides + Watering

Overwatering your Pilea is the most common mistake owners make, which can lead to death by drowning. Like you, your plant needs water to survive and thrive but give it too much, and its long arms and coin-shaped ends will droop.

Generally, plants need to be watered only once a week. Despite what you may think, it is perfectly fine to use fresh, cold water from your tap. If you prefer water without additives, you can purchase a purified jug of water from the grocery store. The frequency of watering will depend on the environmental conditions and the state of the soil. If the room is warm, you might have to water your plant more often since the high temperatures will quickly dry the potting soil. If your Pilea sits in a cool spot with plenty of shade, it may require water every ten days. 

You should be able to tell by looking at the top of the soil if your plant needs water. If it is dry anywhere from 1/2 inch to 1 inch down into the soil surface, it is time to water. If you see your Pilea leaves looking droopy, it is likely a sign of dehydration. Give it a drink.

How you water your Pilea is also important. Watering your plant at the soil level allows time for the soil to absorb the water. Don't pour water on the leaves as it can damage them and cause fungal disease. Soaking your plant is an alternative way to keep it watered. Just fill your kitchen sink with water and take the container with your Pilea and place it in the water gently. Your pot should have holes drilled in the bottom and should not have any pebbles blocking the spaces. Remove your plant from the water once the surface of the soil becomes moist.

Get the Right Fit: Your Pilea + Pot

A critical part of keeping a health Pilea is by making sure it is in the correct container with a drainage hole in the bottom. Once you have thoroughly watered your plant, it is essential to drain out the excess water. A hole and plater to capture the excess water will serve you well. If your plant soaks in water, then the roots will not be able to take in air and might eventually die. Another tip is that, in general, Pilea Peperomioides prefer terra cotta containers. It's in their chemistry. The terra cotta is a natural clay that lets the soil breathe. If you overwater your Pilea the terra cotta will be more forgiving, and it dries out a bit faster. You can place your terra cotta pot inside a larger, more decorative pot to get the best of both pots. Just remove the terra cotta pot when you water it so you can make sure it drains completely. Once your Instagram star has settled in and is thriving, it may be time to consider re-potting. We have you covered with a guide to re-potting that includes tips on identifying if it is time to re-pot your plant.

Spread the love: Propagating Pilea Babies

You can propagate a new Pilea at any time of the year, but the best time is the spring season when the natural growth rate is at its peak. Pilea Peperomioides are infamous for sprouting multiple, new shoots so avoid completely covering the topsoil in your container with rocks when you plant your Pilea. Leave some room for the new plants to get started.

If you are interested in propagating new babies, you can cut the new shoots with a sharp knife to preserve the plant tissues. When you cut the shoots do so at about one centimeter or so below the soil.  To ensure success, make sure the new plant is at least 2 inches tall before you separate it from the mother. 

Plant your little Pilea directly in the soil immediately after you make the cutting. In a few weeks, the new shoots will stabilize in the soil, but your plant will take about a month to sprout fresh leaves. If your little plant is not big enough to survive in the ground, give it's roots some time to develop in water.

Dirty Fingers: Your Pilea's Favorite Soil

Ideally, you should use lightly well-drained soil to ensure that they thrive. As noted above, the roots should not be allowed to sit in water for long as they need to breathe. If your plant is in a container with a hole, then the water will drain out of the soil slowly and eventually leave the container through the bottom. We suggest using a mixture of potting soil and perlite. We did, and our Pilea plants have been thriving.

Enjoy your new friend, and be sure to take a picture of your #Pilea to share with your fellow enthusiasts on Instagram or Pinterest. Tag your photos with common hashtags and share it far and wide — comment and share with us on Instagram, on Twitter, and Facebook.

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Carlos Franco
Tags: Plants Tips