Plant of the week: Pilea peperomioides, with leaves that look like UFOs

When some plants become trendy, you’ll see them everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a few months and then they’ll disappear and you don’t hear about them again. That is not the case with the Pilea peperomioides. While this plant did have its moment in the limelight a few years ago, it’s still considered one of the best plants to add to your collection. It’s much easier to find now after its boom in popularity, and if you’ve managed to get your hands on one, you might be wondering how to properly care for it so it can live its best life.

Pilea perperomioides

What is the Pilea peperomioides?

This is a unique-looking plant that’s often described as adorable, which is why it boomed in popularity a few years ago and is still a trendy house plant choice. Native to southern China, the Pilea peperomioides has many other names that it goes by, including the friendship plant, Chinese money plant, UFO plant, coin plant, and pancake plant. Its leaves are almost a perfect circle, explaining three of its nicknames, and come in a thick glossy texture that almost gives it a fake look. Pileas can grow up to 12 inches tall and equally wide, and they’ll be able to reach these heights rather quickly if all their needs are met.

This beginner-friendly plant will also start to spout off “baby plants” when it’s happy and healthy. These “pups” are easily removed and repotted to give away to friends and family, which explains another one of its nicknames: the friendship plant.

Pilea perperomioides

Care tips for a Pilea peperomioides

You’ve probably seen the photos on Instagram of a Pilea plant that’s grown so large it looks like a mini tree. If that’s your goal, you’re going to want to provide your plant with precisely what it wants so it can grow to its fullest potential.

Water

Many plants will give you obvious signs that they’re ready to be watered. The Pilea peperomioides is one of those plants. You’ll want to avoid letting the plant get dry enough to react, but don’t panic if you see the leaves drooping; as long as you’ve caught it that morning and give the plant a big drink, they will perk back up.

The best way to know if a plant is ready to be watered is by investing in a moisture meter and testing the plant’s soil every few days. You’ll get an accurate reading on the soil condition and avoid overwatering plants, which is the number one reason house plants die. The friendship plant likes its soil to be mostly dry before it’s watered again. So when the soil seems to be dry, water the plant until water is coming out of the drainage hole, then dump out the excess water and return it to its tray.

Light

Pileas like medium to bright light, but they don’t want direct sunlight; this can burn the plant and even kill it if left in the bright sunshine for long enough. The best situation for these plants is next to a window with a sheer covering or about five to six feet away from an afternoon sun window.

Food

Using a balanced liquid fertilizer, the friendship plant only needs to be fed once a month during the growing season. This means between spring, summer, and fall, and you’ll want to give the plant a light feeding to give it a boost.

Temperature

No need to worry too much about the temperature for these plants; they grow fantastically in average home temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. However, avoid placing the plant near a vent, drafty door, or cold spot in the house, as these areas can fluctuate rapidly and cause damage to the plant.

Humidity

These plants aren’t picky about the humidity levels of their surroundings and will thrive perfectly fine in your home’s average humidity percentage. Just be sure to give your plant a shower now and then to clean the dust off the leaves.

Toxicity

The Pilea peperomioides is a non-toxic plant that’s safe to grow around cats, dogs, and humans. However, cats can find these bouncy leaves fun to play with; while it won’t harm your cat if they take a nibble, your cat could easily kill your plant. So maybe put your plant in a location they can’t reach.

Additional care

The Pilea bends and follows the sun quickly, so you’ll want to be sure to rotate your plant regularly, which will allow the plant to keep growing straight and tall. While this is primarily an aesthetic care tip, it’s also better for the plant to grow straight, so it’s less likely to topple over in its pot.

Now you can bring this adorable plant home and care for it in the best way possible. You can even propagate those “pups” and share them with your friends!

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