Much like the Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig) this plant is a regular in the cool-kid-club houseplant game.
In the US, it can be difficult to find this plant at a price point that won't make wring your hands and cringe with sticker shock for what is a relatively small plant.
(But it's soooooo cooooool!)
Locally, in the Seattle area, it seems like the price for a 4 inch pot of this plant will cost you anywhere from 35-55 dollars.
Woof. Am I right?
While this can be a relatively spendy plant, its care is fairly easy. Additionally, once your plant is established it will produce a plethora of pups readily.
With none of our local plant pals being able to spare a plantlet, pilea goals were put on the back burner. There were loads of other plants to research and nerd out about. (Aren't there always?)
In a serendipitous excursion to the Fremont Sunday Market, we happened upon @pileapeperomioidespopup, a local mom and pop shop that was vending some really nice Pilea peperomioides. After chatting with one of the owners, she guided me to picking out a plant that had a tiny pilea pup popping up from the soil line. In addition to a healthy plant, a care sheet, fertilizer and darling holder for transport came with our new addition.
It felt good to not only obtain a plant that had been on the wish list for a good while, but also support a local small business. Wins all around!
Fast forward about four months later and we have a plant that, despite our dark PNW winters, has doubled in size and is regularly producing new plantlets.
So, how do you take care of this thing and how do you make more of them?
Cultivation (or at least how we've done things):
- Bright, indirect light. No direct sunlight. That will burn the leaves. (Ouch!)
- These plants will quickly grow/lean towards the source of light. To mitigate a lopsided plant friend, turn your P. peperomioides regularly.
- If you're a houseplant grower who has lots of overcast days, like we do in the PNW, placing this plant on a window sill or next to one won't burn it. But when the sun does come out, relocated your pal away from harsh sun rays.
- A breathable, peat-based potting mix with some added perlite.
- The terra cotta pot from IKEA helps to pull moisture away from the growing medium so we didn't add as much perlite we normally would.
- This plant likes a moderate moisture level to the soil.
- Like a lot of pilea out there, it's better to err on the side of under watering than over watering. Over water your prized plant and it will rot quickly. Underwater it and you may see some limp looking leaves but the plant will bounce back after a good drink.
- If the first inch and a half of the soil is dry, it's probably a good time to water. But you will known your climate and substrate the best!
- Empty whatever water that collects in the drip tray! Sitting water will be re-absorbed back into the growing media and make some soggy, root rot prone soil conditions. Yikes. No thanks.
- Every other watering session, our plant is given a very weak solution of liquid seaweed and water.
Pilea peperomioides are rather prolific at pup production! There are three ways I know of that you can make new plants.
- Pups from runners.
- Pups from the main stalk.
- Leaf propagation.
Pups from runners:
As we touched on before, an established plant will send out runners into the soil that will eventually break to the surface to say hello.
These pups will be quite small and unassuming at first. In fact, the one we photographed here was assumed to not even exist until we accidentally discovered it in our photo session.
Use your best judgement for when you'd like to separate these plantlets from the parent. We took the first pup out when it was just slightly larger than the one pictured by severing the runner as close to the parent stalk as possible. It had one or two roots and went into a peat-based soil in a tiny, glass jam jar. The pup was monitored very closely. It grew happily in it's jar under an LED desk lamp. Growth then surged with the influx of light and the pup was transferred to a four inch plastic nursery pot. Today, the leaves range from dime size all the way up to silver dollar size. Some of the first leaves are still at the base of the main stalk. So cute!
Pups from the main stalk:
Pups can also develop directly on the main stalk of the plant! Our P. peperomioides has tiny flecks of green above where those iconic leaves once were. They are too tiny to be separated, but with Spring right around the corner, we have a hunch it won't be too long until we will be up to our eyeballs in P. peperomioides! Time will tell!
Note: Rooting pups in water is not unheard of. In fact, many of the #plantgoals folks we look to have wonderful photos of their P. peperomioides pups with vast root systems in little clear jars and other darling little propagation vessels. Remember to change the water regularly! We hope to demonstrate this method in a future post.
We have yet to try this. But from what we have gleaned, if you get a healthy, new-ish leaf with a portion of the petiole intact, push it into some soil, keep it in a high humidity environment, it can root and eventually produce a new plant.
When we have a better opportunity to harvest some leaves to try this, we'll post our results. Until then, our Pilea peperomioides will be patiently waiting for Spring!