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Pilea plant perfection

Plant ABC

Words by Kelsey Lee Jones

Illustrations by Camilla Perkins

The Pilea peperomioides is an interesting plant, it was spread amongst amateur gardeners before being fully known to botanists and its true identity wasn’t established until the 80s. Today it’s highly desired (yes, Instagram famous) – so if you’re lucky enough to own one, here are some tips on how to care for it perfectly.

Latin name: Pilea peperomioides (P. peperomioides)

Nickname: Chinese money plant, pancake plant, lefse plant, or missionary plant (the species was collected by missionary Agnar Espegren who took cuttings with him back from China to his native Norway).

Family: Urticaceae, stinging nettle family

Native to: Yunnan Province in southern China

Spotted in: 1970’s Scandinavian interiors

Life cycle: Evergreen perennial

Soil: Well-drained

Special feature: Power of attracting wealth, and pancake-shaped leaves

Pileas love a spot near a window

They grow best where they get a lot of light, but no direct sunlight. They’ll also do fine in shadier spots, but the leaves might turn a darker green. It’s good to rotate the plant a few times a week into the direction of the sun to prevent the lopsided look. You may also want to put your plant outdoors as temperatures get warmer, but, again, keep away from direct light.

In a pot with draining holes

The soil needs to be almost dried out between waterings, with more watering required in warmer months. When the leaves and stems look droopy, the plant needs water. You can also treat your plant with an all-purpose plant feed during the spring and summer growing seasons.

Pat the pancakes

Those large flat round leaves might look pretty but they are also good at accumulating dust,  they benefit from regular showers, or a little pat down with a damp cloth.

Easy-peasy propagation

Since the plants aren’t widely available in shops, the best way to get a Pilea plant is to get a cutting from a friend. Luckily it’s an easy one to propagate because it makes its own babies. There are two ways it does this: some will grow on the stem of the plant, and other shoots will pop up from underneath the soil. You can take cuttings of your Pilea all year round but the best period to take your cuttings is in spring when the plant grows the fastest and has the most energy.


Now that you’ve perfected Pilea plant care, here are some tips for keeping up with your Calathea.