Meet the houseplant: Pilea peperomioides

Pilea peperomioides

Surely one of the first Instagram-famous plants, I first spotted this doing the rounds on the ‘gram before you could easily buy it in shops. It quickly became one of my must have plants and when I finally did track it down, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s got gorgeous big round glossy green leaves that look fabulous in photos, it grows pretty quickly, is really easy to look after and, best of all, once it’s happy and established, it grows new baby plants that you can simply pull out, stick in pot and give to friends.

Watering:

This is a plant that can tolerate a bit of neglect with water — it’s best to wait for the compost to completely dry out in between waterings. In the summer, I water mine once a week, in the winter, more like once every fortnight or every three weeks. If you forget though, don’t worry, it might drop a leaf or two but will quickly bounce back to life once it gets watered again.

Light:

Bright, indirect light is usually recommended, though I find this can happily tolerate a shadier spot. Avoid direct rays of sun, which will scorch the leaves. A North or East facing windowsill is a good position, but overhead lighting is the absolute best option — under a skylight for example. This is because Pilea lean towards light quite noticeably, so if you’ve got side lighting, for example from a window, make sure to turn it around frequently if you don’t want it growing at an angle…

Feeding:

A general houseplant feed, once a fortnight or so in the growing season (March – August) would help to keep a pilea really happy. 

Repotting:

Keep an eye on pilea as they do need quite frequent repotting. Because they’re always growing new babies, the pot can get full with roots quite quickly. Slip it out every so often and take a check whether it is predominantly compost or predominantly roots in there. If the roots have taken over, it’s time to repot.

Pilea might need to go up a pot size about once a year, or once every couple of years. This will also depend whether you leave the baby plants growing in the same pot or remove them and grow in new pots. If it’s all growing together, it will likely need a bigger pot quicker…

Pilea babies
New plants growing at the stem of the parent

Propagating:

The great joy with these plants is how quickly they grow babies, known as “pups”. These are really easy to re-pot and you have a brand new plant in no time. Once you see a few specks of green at the base of the stem in the pot, you know a new plant is on the way. After it has formed and grown about four leaves, this is a good time to separate it and pot it on. Just give it a sharp tug to pull it away from the parent plant, and put it in a new pot of its own. I always start with a fairly small pot, like the one below, filled with a general houseplant compost. Make a dip in the middle with your finger (or a pencil, or specifically made dibber) and place the baby plant in. Pinch the compost around the edges to firm it in, and water gently. It’ll outgrow this size pot fairly quickly – probably a couple of months – so move it on once it starts to look too big…

Baby pilea peperomioides

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