By Erin Marissa Russell
Want to learn about how to care for a Chinese money plant? We’ve got all the details, from planting to long-term care. Just keep reading to find out more.
The Chinese Money Plant gets its name from the plant’s round, coin-shaped leaves. In fact, other names for Pilea peperomioides include coin plant, pancake plant, or UFO plant. This plant comes from China and is grown indoors as a houseplant in the United States.
Chinese money plants need rich soil that drains well in order to thrive. They do best in soil with a pH balance of 6.0 to 7.0. (Not sure of your soil’s pH balance? Read our article How to Test pH in Your Soil. Start with fresh, clean potting soil mix that is either peat-based or coir-based. Add perlite to the soil to improve its drainage and prevent the soil from becoming oversaturated.
The temperature and humidity inside your house will be a fine environment for this houseplant. The only thing you need to be wary of are overly dry areas, like near heating vents or baseboards. Avoid these spots.
Although Pilea peperomioides is hardy down to freezing temperatures, as an indoor plant you should keep it above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). If you want your Chinese money plant to bloom, a brief window of cold exposure during the wintertime can be useful.
Choose a container for your Chinese money plant that is large enough to accommodate the root ball of this fast-growing plant. Your container will also need to have drainage holes. Plastic, terra cotta, or ceramic containers are appropriate, though terra cotta will absorb some moisture, which means you’ll need to water your plant more frequently if you choose to pot it in terra cotta.
Find your Chinese money plant a spot where it will get medium to bright indirect light. Direct light can scorch the plant, so make sure the light is medium to bright indirect light. Your plant will naturally stretch toward the light a bit as it grows, so rotate it every once in a while to keep it looking symmetrical. It is possible to grow Chinese money plant in lower light, but the plant will struggle, produce smaller leaves, become leggy, and grow fewer offshoots.
Chinese money plants do best with moderate watering. That means to water the plant well, but let it dry out almost completely between waterings. You can check the moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil near where your Chinese money plant is growing. If the earth feels moist or clings to your skin, it is still wet. Dry soil will feel dry to the touch and will also not stick to your skin.
The Chinese money plant will show you when it needs water by drooping a bit. The plants won’t stay drooping after being watered, though. You’ll be able to revive them by giving them the moisture they need.
Fertilize your Chinese money plant monthly during its growth period with a balanced, general purpose fertilizer. During the fall and winter when the plant is dormant, you should not use fertilizer.
Because Pilea peperomioides is so fast-growing, plan to repot it yearly. Repot your Chinese money plant in early spring or summer into a larger container, as it will need the extra space. You should freshen the soil with a new batch of potting soil mixed with perlite when you change the container.
This is also the time to remove any offshoots you wish to maintain the shape of your plant. You can learn about how to propagate these offshoots into new plants in the next section. Alternatively, you can leave them attached if you want your plant to develop a denser, bushier appearance.
It’s so easy to propagate new plants from Pilea peperomioides that it’s earned the monikers “pass it on plant” and “the sharing plant.” As long as your plant is growing healthy and strong, it will produce offshoots that either come up from the roots or from nodes on the stem (normally in places where leaves have dropped). Once these offshoots have grown to a few inches tall, you can separate them from the original plant and propagate them into new plants.
You can separate an offshoot from the original plant by carefully digging up the roots. Use a clean, sterilized gardening knife or pair of shears to cut the root one or two inches under the soil line. You can sterilize your gardening tools by soaking them in a mix of half alcohol and half water for five minutes. Then rinse them under clear running water, and let them air dry.
Once you have taken your cutting, put it into a container filled with fresh, new, moist potting soil. Until your cutting has developed its own root system, keep the soil moist but do not let it get oversaturated. Once roots have developed, switch to the watering and fertilization instructions given earlier in this article.
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small insects that resemble tufts of white cotton. They feed on plants by inserting their sharp mouth parts and sucking out the liquid inside the plant. Plants may respond to a mealybug infestation by turning yellow or curling. You may also notice sticky areas where mealybugs have been feeding that can lead to sooty mold.
Overwatering or overfertilization can contribute to a mealybug infestation. Start by separating the infested plant from others so the insects won’t travel to neighboring plants. Then you can use a high-pressure jet of water from the hose to knock the mealybugs off. This will take several rounds of treatment to be effective. You can also remove mealybugs from the plant with a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.
For more information, see our article How to Fight Mealybugs.
Scale: When adult scale insects get ready to feed, it’s a long-term decision. These insects attach themselves to the plant with their needle-like mouths, then cover themselves with a waxy substance that hides them. Sometimes scale insects go undetected because they look like bumps on stems or branches. Where scale insects have been feeding, you may find a clear, sticky substance called honeydew.
You can make a homemade spray to fight scale insects out of a gallon of warm water, a few drops of dish soap, and a tablespoon of neem oil. Repeated applications may be necessary.
For more information, see our article How to Control Scale Insects.
Spider Mites: Spider mites are itsy bitsy spiders, not mites, and they’re about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Where spider mites have been feeding, foliage is discolored to yellow or may drop from the plant entirely. Check the undersides of leaves for the colonies of tiny red or white spider mites. You may also see webbing on the undersides of leaves that the spider mites leave behind.
A small problem can become a major infestation quickly, so it’s important to take quick action if you have spider mites. One simple treatment is knocking the spider mites off the plant with a jet of high-pressure water from the garden hose. This treatment needs to be repeated several times in order to be effective. Be careful not to knock the spider mites onto neighboring plants. It’s best to move your Chinese money plant to an empty spot in the yard before trying this procedure.
For more information, see our article How to Fight Spider Mites.
These plants have become a rarity in recent years, so if you’ve got one in your collection, you’ll want to take good care of it, as it can be hard to replace. Whether you’re adding a new Chinese money plant to your collection or you just want to make sure you’re giving your Pilea peperomioides the best possible care, this article has armed you with the knowledge you need to be a success.