While known in the southern Chinese provinces of Yunan and Sichuan where it grows naturally in abundance, this plant has really only gained world-wide popularity in the last 15 years. I’m talking about the Chinese money plant. Known by its scientific name of Pilea peperomioides, this evergreen houseplant is incredibly easy to grow.
Who wouldn’t want this cute plant? Let’s dive in and talk about how to care for a Chinese money plant!
Table of contents
- Mature Size: 12” tall and 5-6” wide; use a support stick to keep your plant tall as it grows larger and becomes heavier
- Sunlight: Bright, filtered/indirect light
- Water: Water thoroughly when top ⅔ of soil is dry
- Soil: Well draining soil
- Temperature: 60°F-80°F
- Hardiness Zone: 10
- Propagation: Cuttings
Once word got out about how easy it is to care for such a fascinating plant, the Chinese money plant’s popularity went through the roof. For some reason, it took numerous “re-discoveries” for this plant to make its way into popular plant culture, but once it did, the Chinese money plant was flying off shelves.
Pilea peperomioides grows in a playful and unconventional way. It has one main stem from which numerous offshoots grow, curving out from the center. Bright green coin-shaped leaves top each offshoot. As the plant ages, more shoots begin to grow from the top of the main stem; lower leaves will begin to fall off, but don’t worry, this is normal! This allows the plant to put more nutrients into the new growth sprouting out on top!
Another attractive characteristic of the Chinese money plant is its prolific growth and low-maintenance nature. This plant grows incredibly fast and creates numerous new growths at the base of the plant. It requires little care and is not fussy. Because caring for a Chinese money plant is so easy, it is great for beginners.
P. peperomioides can be planted in a variety of planters. They prefer plants made out of terracotta because terracotta is porous and aids in preventing soggy soil. You can also use a hanging pot for your Chinese money plant and allow the leaves to flow over the sides.
The Chinese money plant thrives in bright indirect light. In the northern hemisphere, they do great in east facing windows where they receive gentle morning light. If placed in an east facing window, make sure that it still provides ample bright light throughout the day for the fullest growth.
I have a great window seat (that of course is ONLY used for plants and not sitting humans) that faces to the south. For the majority of the day, any plant on this seat will get full sun. If I have a plant that needs a little bit less light, I will place it on the shelves just off to the left and to the right of the seat. The plants in this area receive bright light all day but are never in the direct sun rays. This would also be a perfect light environment for your P. peperomioides.
Do keep out of direct sun rays, especially in the early to mid afternoon when the sun is at its brightest. Your Chinese money plant could get burnt. If this happens, you will notice brown, crispy leaves.
To keep the growth of your Pilea peperomioides even and balanced, rotate your plant weekly by a quarter turn so one particular side doesn’t lean too heavily toward the light source
Yet another amazing reason to care for a Pilea peperomioides is its simple water needs. To best care for a Chinese money plant it is important to know that they enjoy thorough waterings but want their soil to mostly dry out between waterings. I suggest watering this plant only when the top ⅔ of the soil is dry.
I check the dryness of my soil by sticking a chopstick straight down into the soil. If minimal moist soil remains onto the chopstick after removal, it’s a good time to water. You may ask how this translates to how often to water a Chinese money plant. A good estimate is once every week and a half or so.
When watering, be sure to give your Chinese money plant a good drenching. I water all of my P. peperomioides in the kitchen sink. This allows me to saturate all of the soil thoroughly but excess water can then drain out the bottom. Once the water has stopped, I will place them back in their home!
Organic potting soil with a mixture of peat moss or coir fiber is ideal, however not totally necessary. The Chinese money plant is a very forgiving houseplant so I want to discuss two options for soil.
The first option and best soil for a Chinese money plant is high quality organic potting soil that can be costly, asking upwards of $20 per bag. Organic potting soil contains organic material that provides nutrients that every plant requires. Organic material is made from natural decomposed materials such as compost or manures.
This nutrient rich base is then mixed with peat moss or coir fiber which are mediums that are excellent at water absorption but don’t easily tightly compress. Ideally organic potting soil is also mixed with perlite to allow for better water drainage.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on organic potting soil, I have had success planting my Chinese money plants in regular succulent soil. I’ve noticed very little difference between the two soils, though I will say that the organic soil encourages more dense growth due to the nutrients more readily available.
Average indoor household temperatures, between 60°F-80°F are perfect for the Chinese money plant, again making it a perfect houseplant! It also does very well with the average humidity of houses which sits anywhere between 30%-50%.
So do Chinese money plants like high humidity places like the bathroom? Chinese money plants prefer less humid places in the house such as the living room or a home office. If placed in the bathroom, especially one without good ventilation, the soil would stay too moist and could lead to root rot.
Avoid placing your Chinese money plant over or near heating and cooling vents that may negatively alter the temperature or humidity of the immediate area.
I have found that when caring for my Chinese money plant, it does best to fertilize monthly, only through the spring and summer. I use an organic fertilizer that has equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are the macro ingredients that make up every fertilizer. When looking for a balanced fertilizer, you want to look for a package where the three numbers on the label are equal.
When fertilizing your Chinese money plant, be sure to dilute the mixture in the container with water to ¼ to ½ the strength. Doing so will prevent signs of unhealthy growth due to fertilizer burn.
The best thing about the Chinese money plant is that it produces numerous baby plants, or plantlets, at a very quick rate. This is the reason why another name for this plant is ‘The Friendship Plant’ because it can be passed along to numerous people in your social circle over and over again so they can have multiple plants too!
Just like caring for the Chinese money plant straightforward and easy, so is propagation! These are the steps I take to propagate my Chinese money plant:
- Look for the little plantlets that sprout up around the base of the P. peperomioides; they are ready to be separated once they have at least two to four leaves. Each separate plantlet is easy to identify as their set of leaves will grow from a central point.
- Gently move the top one inch of soil away from the base of the plantlet; you will notice each plantlet will be attached to the main stem.
- Using a clean, sharp knife, make a straight cut approximately one inch from the main stem.
- Transplant each newly separated plantlet into a new container with fresh soil.
- Once planted, the new Chinese money plants you have propagated should be kept out of direct sun completely and should be lightly misted daily until they establish a new root system. This usually only takes a few weeks when you notice new growth appearing!
- At this time, you can begin to introduce the new plants into brighter light and into areas that receive direct gentle morning light. Water as you would a full grown Chinese money plant.
Propagation is a great time to prune excess leaves from the main plant and to remove any dropped and dead leaves from the soil. This keeps your plant healthy and prevents pests from taking over!
A Chinese money plant with numerous yellow leaves can point to a couple of issues. One of the biggest is overwatering; the leaves will appear mushy and the edges will curl downwards. Too little nitrogen, which can happen when the plant isn’t regularly replanted with new soil or when an unbalanced fertilizer is used, can also cause yellowed leaves.
Overfertilizing can also cause yellow leaves. Be sure to only fertilize your P. peperomioides monthly through the spring and summer months and dilute to ½ to ¼ strength.
Dropping leaves can be a normal part of a Chinese money plant’s growth. Leaves that drop because of the natural aging process will be from the bottom most part of the plant. You will also notice new growth continuing to appear at the top of the plant to indicate that it is still healthy. If you notice leaves near the bottom most part of the plant beginning to droop and brown, use garden scissors to prune the old growth away.
Overwatering can cause leaves to drop as can underwatering. If you suspect either one of these are the case, take a close look at your watering habits and pay attention to the moisture level in the soil. To find out more information about overwatered plants and succulents, check out this post!
Brown and Black Patches
Dark discoloration on leaves is most commonly a result of overwatering leading to root rot or pests.
Unfortunately, like all succulents, Chinese money plants can attract some common pests. The two that are most seen lurking in and around P. peperomioides are mealybugs and spider mites. For an in-depth discussion on succulent and cacti pests and how to treat them, check out our post here!
First and foremost, as with any plant with any pest infestation, isolate it from all the other plants to stop the chance of spreading!
Mealybugs are small, 4mm long insects that have soft, white bodies that, when grouped together, have the appearance of cotton balls. These insects feed on the sap from the plant. You will mostly see these bugs clustered along the plant’s stems or near the root system.
To treat a mealybug problem, use a cotton tipped applicator or soft paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol and gently brush the mealybugs off the plant. This may take a couple sessions over a few days.
Treating a mealybug infestation under the soil in the roots is a bit more involved. Take the entire Chinese money plant out of its pot and gently remove all excess soil. Soak the roots in neem oil or drench in a bowl of water heated to 115°F. Again, this may need to be done a handful of times, no more than once a day. When all the mealybugs are gone, replant your Chinese money plant in a new (or sterilize the old) container with fresh soil.
Spider mites are most easily identified by the fine, wispy webs they spin between the leaves. The spider mites themselves are much more difficult to identify and appear like small grains of pepper moving across your plant.
You can take a spray bottle filled with either rubbing alcohol or neem oil and spray the entire Chinese money plant. Then gently take a q-tip or a paper towel to remove the webs and any stray insects you may see. Just like when dealing with mealybugs, this treatment should be done a couple times for the best results.
Stretched Out and Sparse
Luckily, this is an easy one. If you notice that your Chinese money plant is looking leggy, it needs more sun! Move it to a brighter area of your home but avoid any places that receive direct afternoon sunlight.
The Chinese money plant, or P. peperomioides, is a fun plant that can be shared! It is extremely low maintenance and is quite happy to be a houseplant. You now know how to care for a Chinese money plant and have learned signs that might indicate a problem. Now go out and get yourself this exquisite plant and enjoy!