You’ve just got a new plant, it was waving to you saying “Hi! Pick Me! Pick Me!” As you walked along Columbia Road Market, weaving in and out of people with arms full of flower bunches and monsteras. You’ve had a coffee, a doughnut and the sun is shining (such dreams, we will get back there!). So you think “Why not? You look cute!”. You get home later on that day and now you’re not sure what to do for the best… here’s a few simple steps you need to take straight away.
1. Homesickness . We need to deal with the fact that any new plant we bring into our home is going to experience quite a big change of scene and shock to its system, and just like us, your new plant might get a bit homesick. If your new plant looks really sad, don’t worry, it might just be longing for the ‘perfect*’ growing conditions it was raised in. Read on to find out about its specific needs and some great general tips.
*Perfect conditions. I say they had “perfect” growing conditions because they probably were, that’s the growers job after all! That doesn’t mean your plant won’t be able to adapt, and eventually thrive, over time in your home. We just need to help it feel at home.
2. Quarantine. So hot right now. The reason you need to quarantine a new plant when you bring it into your new space is the same reason as if you tried to jump on a plane to New Zealand right now… the new space/place doesn’t want any of your bugs.
Houseplant pests and bugs are most likely to come in on a new plant and then very quickly infect the rest of your plants. The worst. So to be on the safe side, place your new plant in quarantine. Find a neutral spot, not close to your other plants, where there is no direct sunlight or draughts and it’s not too hot or too cold - like I said, neutral, not too much of anything. Don’t water it much, just once after a week or so.
3. Acclimatisation. Whilst your new plant is acclimatising, it might lose a leaf or two, but resist the urge to move it around the house during this period, as this will confuse it and won’t help it acclimatise to your home and it’s new environment.
4. Don’t even think about re-potting. Your new Pilea Peperomioides needs to get settled into your home first. If you’re worried that your plant needs a repot, stat, read on to the Soil section for a checklist of repotting requirements.
Whilst your plant is in quarantine and acclimatising, it’s a good option to drop it into a planter bag, so at least she’s looking stylish and is warm and protected whilst spending her days catching up on Tiger King on Netflix. Check up on your new plant every week and see how she’s getting on. Check for any signs of bugs on the leaves, stems and crevices - especially the crevices! Bugs love it there.
After a couple of weeks, even up to 4, if you’re happy she has no bugs and has acclimatised to your home, it’s time to find out more about her. Learning about your plants origins can really help you to create the optimum growing conditions and help her feel at home.
Pilea Peperomioides has one of the best origin stories I’ve come across. It spread around Europe in the late 1900’s without anyone knowing where it had come from or how it got there.
Before we dive into the Pilea’s origin story, let’s all get on board with how to pronounce Pilea Peperomioides! [Pie-Lee-ah Pep-per-oh-me-oi-dees]. Or if you would rather use the common names Chinese Money Plant, Friendship Plant (reasons for these names will all become clear) Pancake plant or UFO Plant!
The Pilea Peperomioides came to Europe in an unconventional way, so there was a period when this little plant was spread throughout homes, looking fabulous on windowsills and coffee tables, but no one actually knew what it was! Ordinarily, plants have been introduced to the UK via organised expeditions, with the specific aim of collecting specimens to bring back. But in the 1980’s, this little fellow was making herself at home in the UK, and no-one knew what she was or where she had come from. In the 1970’s, specimens of Pilea P. had been sent in to Botanical Garden centres at Kew, Edinburgh and Wisley, but without flowers, it is not possible to confirm the identity of a plant specimen. The closest anyone dared go was to suggest a likeness to a Pilea Peperomia.
Fortunately, in 1978, a specimen that included flowers was sent to Kew by a Mrs D. Walport of Northolt. Eventually, after further searching of the archives and with confirmation from the herbarium at Edinburgh, it was confirmed that this mystery plant was in fact Pilea Peperomioides, previously known and named as a Chinese species of Pilea in 1912 by German Botanist Friedrich Diels.
So how had this charming plant made its way from China? Specifically the Tsangshan range which sits at 4250m altitude in the western Yunnan province, where it had first been collected by George Forrest in 1906, into the homes of people across the UK?
With the aid of Robert Pearson, a journalist at the Sunday Telegraph, an illustrated article was published on 9 January 1983, to find out if anyone had any information on the introduction of Pilea P. to the UK.
A glimmer of hope at finally solving the Pilea Peperomioides riddle came from a family in Cornwall, the Sidebottoms. They had been gifted a small specimen of the plant by their Norwegian au pair, Modil Wigg, 20 years previously! This new link within the Pileas journey through Scandinavia was the key to finding out how and why Pilea Peperomioides had made its way to Europe from the mountains of Yunnan, China.
To find out how Pilea Peperomioides had made its way to Norway, further publicity was required to help share the mystery with the public in the hope of finding answers. Appearing on a popular Swedish TV program, it was finally revealed that a Norwegian Missionary, Agnar Espergen, had brought the plant to Norway from China in 1946! During a week in Kunming, in Yunnan province, Espergen and his family were awaiting transport out of China when he acquired a small plant specimen of Pilea Peperomioides packed into a small box, the plant then travelled with the family and all their belongings to India where they lived for a year. Finally returning to Norway in 1946, the Espergen family and their still thriving Pilea plant came home. The Pilea Peperomioides was then widely gifted throughout Norway by Espergen as it propagates so readily and easily. This led to a few of its common names becoming ‘The Missionary Plant’ and ‘The Friendship Plant’.
Little Pilea Peperomioides had spread and been cultivated in the homes of houseplant lovers throughout Europe, before botanists even knew what it was! If you have a Pilea Peperomioides, you’ll know how charming and happy a houseplant it is. If you have yet to bring one into your home, ask around! It’s likely that a friend has an off shoot they can gift you, and this plant can continue to spread joy in our homes and connect us with other houseplant lovers.
How much sunlight do Pilea Peperomioides need? Here we’re talking about the duration of time your plant is getting sunlight. In the UK, at the Summer Solstice our longest day is up to 16 hours and 38 minutes, compared to the Winter Solstice where our shortest day is 7 hours and 49 minutes. That’s a big difference, for us and our houseplants. Unless you’re planning to invest in a grow light for your houseplants (and that’s a whole other blog post!) there’s not much we can do about the short winter days, and our houseplants have adapted to this, and generally tend to have a rest period during the short winter days. So you’ll see little growth and possibly even think the plant is looking a bit unwell. However, once Spring starts to hint at coming around, our plants soon start to perk up.
If we focus on the growing period for Pilea Peperomioides, looking at Spring through to Autumn, our Pilea Peperomioides will take as much sunlight as she can get. But as we’ll see next, the quality of that sunlight matters just as much as the quantity.
What type of sunlight do Pilea Peperomioides need? When we talk about the type of sunlight our plants need, it gets a bit more complicated, read on for a rough guide on sunlight intensity, a Hilda hack or two and keep your eyes peeled for an in-depth blog post on lighting coming soon!
For Pilea Peperomioides, they benefit from bright but indirect sunlight and can even manage in semi shade conditions. A semi shaded position can also encourage the leaves to grow bigger.
What does this actually mean for my Pilea Peperomioides? How do I look after my Pilea Peperomioides and make sure she’s in the best place to thrive in my home?
Bright but indirect light means that placing your Pilea Peperomioides on a windowsill that doesn’t receive direct sunbeams can be a good spot. If the windowsill gets direct sunlight in the morning, such as a South East facing window, but not in the afternoon this can also be good. The afternoon sun can be more powerful and potentially scorch or burn the leaves. To find a south east facing window, use the compass on your phone to check the direction your windows are facing. Once you’ve checked your windowsill direction, use this rough guide to determine what light it gives you;
I’ve had the best success with a South East facing windowsill as the morning light isn’t too strong and the duration of light given is good.
Alternatively, placing your Pilea Peperomioides in a bright room, in front of a bright window but back from the windowsill, such as in the centre of a dining table or coffee table is another good way to get bright but indirect sunlight. If you’re still not sure how to work out the best spot for your plant, read on for a Hilda Hack for houseplant lighting.
Hilda Hack - Light Meter App
If you think you’ve found the best spot for your Pilea Peperomioides, but aren’t sure if the light intensity is going to be too strong or too weak, a good way to check is by using a Light Meter App. Our eyes compensate for the changes in light intensity between the windowsill and the back of a room, so often we don’t think there’s a problem, meanwhile our plants are over there with night vision goggles on trying to see in the dark. By using a light meter app we can quickly and simply use our phones to check the intensity of the light, much like a photographer would check light levels before trying to shoot a photograph.
The best and simplest app I’ve found is called Korona light app. I know, unfortunate name right now, but you’re not going to forget what it’s called right!? It uses the front facing camera to take a light reading, if you swipe to the screen that says ‘Light Meter’ and the units are in Lux, this is the simplest way to see what the light intensity is like for your plants. Hold your screen at leaf level and face it toward the window, the reading on the screen will change as you move, when you’re happy with where the phone is facing, you can press down on the screen to ‘hold’ so you can see what the reading is. So what does the Lux reading mean? Well for our Pilea Peperomioides, the light levels required are bright indirect light to semi shade. If we look at the below categories this means we need to be hitting between the very lowest at 15,000 Lux up to 35,000 Lux. Take a few readings throughout the day, aim for morning, midday and afternoon and see what kind of levels you’re hitting. This will help you decide if your chosen spot is going to suit your Pilea Peperomioides.
Sunlight intensity guide:
Now we know where your Pilea Peperomioides spot in your house is going to be, how often and which method you are going to use for watering, we can get our plants dressed! We can’t expect our beloved houseplants to feel at home if they’re naked.
I view the plastic pot your plants come in like a good bra. The plastic pot has so many benefits for your plants, which I’ll come to later, and as a good foundation for a great outfit it’s a winner. You can test your Pilea Peperomioides in a range of different outfits to see what works best for your plant and your home.
Here are a few things to consider to help make the right outfit choice when shopping for a new plant pot for your Pilea Peperomioides;
This is where our plants origin story helps a lot, as it gives us an idea of the warmth & humidity our plants will love the most. As you can imagine, coming from the mountain region in Yunnan province, these plants are quite hardy. They have adapted now to living in our homes here in the UK, and aren’t likely to survive a winter outside, although in theory they can manage summer outside, I haven’t risked this as our summers can be so temperamental! I keep my Pilea’s warm but not hot and average room humidity is fine for them.
Draughts. The enemy of houseplants. Make sure you find your Pilea Peperomioides a spot to grow in that’s not got a cold draught blowing in.
Hilda Hack - A cheeky mist every couple of days will help your Pilea and combat any potential lack of humidity from being indoors as well as giving it a freshen up and helping to keep dust from the leaves. Check out the Hilda Mister if you’re looking for a stylish and easy to use option.
Who doesn’t love a good makeover montage? It was the cornerstone of so many of my favourite 90’s films. Whilst I’m a strong believer in the power of our natural and inner beauty, you can’t deny a good zhuzh can help us really feel that inner beauty and leave us feeling positive and pumped. The reason behind this is it shows us that someone cares - whether we’re showing ourselves some self love with an extra zhuzh in the morning, or a friend takes the time to help us find the perfect outfit for our next do, we glow from the inside out when we feel that love and care. The same is true for our plants. I love to let nature take its course and see the wild and wonderful ways different plants grow and adapt, the shapes they create and the surprising places a new leaf might pop out. But sometimes they need a helping hand, a trim here and there, a leaf wipe, a new outfit to really make them feel fabulous.
Let’s take a look at what our Pilea Peperomioides needs to help put a spring in those pancake shaped leaves.
By now, your plant will be settled in its spot, you’ve found the right spot to give enough light, warmth and humidity and you’re happy with your watering rhythm. So what’s next for Pilea Peperomioides?
Keep the leaves clean and dust free. Dust is not cool, it can affect our plants more than we realise:
Leaves are like our skin, we want the plant to be able to breathe and photosynthesise to the max. Keeping the leaves clean will make a big difference to your plants happiness. Wipe with a dry cloth every few weeks such as our bamboo cloth that comes with the moisture meter. Or if it’s been a while, mist the leaves first and then wipe to really get them clean and spruced up good.
Use this as an opportunity to check in over the general health of your plant
First off, we want to check the health of our plants soil and decide if it’s time to re-pot.
What soil for Pilea Peperomioides? Pilea Peperomioides like lots of drainage, so I like to mix in some Orchid Bark mixture as this has a large structure and so adds pockets of aeration and increased water flow (drainage). Using Hilda’s Coco & Coir soil bricks for 2/3 of the potting mix, I then use a 1/3 Orchid Bark mix.
Hilda top tip - if you’re unsure how to get the ratio of potting soil right along with the correct amount for the pot you’re going to be using, use your hands! Take your empty pot you’re going to pot into, and for a Pilea go 2 handfuls of Coco & Coir and then 1 handful of Orchid Bark until the pot is loosely full, as this will leave room for the actual plant to sit in! Get your hands in there and mix up the soil so there’s an even spread of Orchid bark throughout.
How big a pot should you re-pot into? This is a good question as it can seem hard to know what to do for the best, especially if your plant is very pot bound! We don’t want too large a ratio of compost to roots as this will overplant our Pilea and the compost could hold too much moisture and rot the roots. A safe rule of thumb is to go up to 2” larger on your new pot size.
Hilda top tip - if you don’t know how big your pot is, most plastic nursery pots should say on the bottom. Alternatively, use the measure tool on your phone to measure from point to point of the rim of your pot and choose one a size or two bigger to re-pot into.
What pot should you re-pot into? I am a big fan of keeping your Pilea Peperomioides, in fact most of your houseplants, in plastic nursery pots, here’s why;
Benefits of plastic nursery pots;
The other option is to plant out directly into a ceramic or terracotta plant pot.
A terracotta or clay/ceramic pot is porous so it will dry the soil out quickly as it absorbs the water and helps it evaporate after you’ve watered your plant. This is great for cacti and succulents, plants that like fast drainage and need to be on the drier side of things.
Happily, your Pilea Peperomioides will adapt to either a terracotta or a plastic plant pot, so long as the soil itself is fast draining. I would always advise using the plastic nursery pots as the strong foundation along with a stylish outer plant pot. This gives you the best of both, the best care for your plant and the option to dress it in whatever outfit you love and works best for you and your home.
How good does it feel when you walk out of the hair dressers, swishing your hair and checking your reflection because you just look and feel That Good! The same is true for our plants. Well, kind of, they’re not going to be strutting down the high street with Saturday Night fever in their heads, but a good trim can make the world of difference to our plants and how they grow and bloom.
With a Pilea Peperomioides, the most likely haircut is going to be a fringe trim. Every now and then an old dead leaf will just need to be tweaked off. You can trim off leaves and Pilea Pups for propagation, but we’ll get to that next…
As we found out in the origin story of Pilea Peperomioides, this little plant is very easy to propagate and grow, allowing it to spread around Europe and become known as the friendship plant. So, how to propagate Pilea Peperomioides? The main way is by having a happy and healthy mother plant that produces off shoots, these eventually push out through the soil and grow alongside the mother plant, like little Pilea children. Once the pups get big enough, they can be trimmed from the main stem and grown on to become majestic plants in their own right.
The most important factor is having clean, sharp snips. They need to be clean so they don’t spread any germs to the open end of the plant stems. And they need to be sharp so they don’t crush or tear when you’re making the cut, this will hamper your plants chance of healing and putting out roots and shoots!
Once you’ve got a nice little pupper snipped off to propagate, you can place it in soil or water to grow roots. Personally I love placing my propagations in water so I can see the roots growing. There’s something so otherworldly about being able to actually see the roots of a plant, it’s like getting the ultimate sneak-peak-behind-the-scenes-backstage-pass. And the first time you spot a little root starting to grow on a new propagation is like Christmas morning! So exciting! You can grow your Pilea Peperomioides in water using a jam jar or vase or glass, or if you want to start up a little propagation station, there are a few options in the Hilda store. The Pot-Belly propagation vase from Japan is my absolute favourite and I love watching the roots grow in the stylish concrete and glass vessel.
It’s best to keep the propagation growing in water until the roots are well established, a good 2” long at least. I usually leave mine growing for a while until I get round to potting them on into compost in their very own little pot. This is fine and they are happy enough, just make sure to give them fresh water every week and if they look a bit sad or floppy, and the roots are long enough, plant them up and they should cheer up.
Ok so we’ve got our new plant friend home, she made it through quarantine, she’s feeling at home and fabulous in her spot and we’re even planning a propagation station for early spring. What’s next? What should we expect from our new plant friend? And what are some issues or problems we need to look out for?
Your Pilea Peperomioides will grow upwards, with the stem becoming thick, brown and woody. The leaves spring out on their leaf stalks from the main stem and arch out. As the stem grows, old leaves will eventually need to be tweaked off, but this is normal and part of its growth cycle.
If your Pilea Peperomioides is left in its spot without being rotated, the main stem will start to bend and grow toward the light. So you need to decide what kind of look you’re after (see images below). Give your plant a quarter turn every week to keep the stem growing upright and the growth of the UFO leaves even about the stem. Or you could encourage your Pilea Peperomioides to bend and grow towards the light and this in turn will cause the leaves to face the light, so you have a screen of UFO discs and the Pilea Peperomioides almost becomes a trailing plant. All you need to do to create this effect is stop rotating your plant for even growth, and always have the pot facing the light in the same direction.
Either method, but especially the first, your Pilea Peperomioides will need some support at some point, either a bamboo cane or a plant stake. Gently slide the support into the soil next to the stem and use string to tie up the stalk to give support.
You might have got yourself a Pilea Peperomioides after being inspired by some of the very ‘insta-worthy’ plants that are out there and shared online. But chances are your Pilea isn’t looking anything like those luscious glossy pics you’ve seen. If you’re worrying that your Pilea Peperomioides has got a bad case of the instagram vs. reality issues we all know and love, keep going with your Pilea and try these top tips I’ve found to get the best growth and happiest plant;
Another note of warning for your Pilea Peperomioides - Winter… The combo of UK low light winters, indoors and central heating is a tough time for Pilea Peperomioides. Two of mine got very sad this winter but one remained happy, she just slowed way down in growth. She is quite a bit smaller too so I think that helped. Don’t worry if yours get a bit sad over winter, they quickly start to cheer up again (just like us) at the first signs of longer days. Keep doing your normal care but cut back on watering and don’t feed through winter. Make sure the leaves are dust free so they can take advantage of any sunny winter days.
Why are my Pilea Peperomioides leaves curling?
Most likely overwatering. Let the top inch of soil dry out before re-watering, or use a moisture meter to check how the soil is. Make sure you have drainage in the bottom of your pot and you let all the water run out before putting it back in it’s pot. Don’t put a small plant in a big pot as it’s an overwhelming amount of soil to root ratio and the soil will hold too much moisture.
Why are my Pilea Peperomioides leaves turning yellow?
It’s likely your plant needs a good feed as this could be caused by either a potassium or nitrogen deficiency. I only recommend the Liquid Gold Leaf plant food, it has been a plant game changer for me.
Why are my Pilea Peperomioides leaves drooping?
This could just be the natural progression as your older leaves have had their time. This is normal and the leaves can be tweaked off. If it’s not just the older leaves that are drooping, your Pilea Peperomioides could be suffering from low light (especially if it’s winter). Either try to move your plant to a sunnier spot and see if this cheers it up, or wait for brighter days of spring.
Why are there white spots on the underneath of my Pilea Peperomioides leaves?
These are totally normal and are just mineral deposits as your plant photosynthesises. If you really don’t like it, start using filtered water for your plant. Otherwise don’t worry and let your plant carry on growing!
Are Pilea Peperomioides toxic?
Pilea Peperomioides is not toxic, so you don’t need to worry about finding it a spot that’s out of reach of little hands or paws.
When do Pilea Peperomioides flower?
Pilea Peperomioides will flower in Spring, and they are more likely to flower if they’ve been kept cool over winter. They are technically going to survive outdoors as they are originally from the mountains of Yunnan Province in China, but after years of being grown and propagated indoors as houseplants I think they’ve gotten used to their home comforts. I haven’t had flowers on any of my P.P’s yet, but a friend of mine has with a propagation I gifted her! The plant was kept in a conservatory so I imagine it had cooler winter temperatures and then once Spring hit, out popped the small white flowers!
Our eyes compensate for the changes in light intensity between the windowsill and the back of a room, so often we don’t think there’s a problem, meanwhile our plants are over there with night vision goggles on trying to see in the dark