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Growing and Caring for a Chinese Money Plant – An Essential Guide

chinese money plant on a windowsill

The Chinese money plant, also known as the missionary plant, lefse plant, pancake plant, UFO plant, or pilea peperomioides, is an incredibly popular houseplant known for its coin-shaped leaves and ease of care.

This unique plant is native to southern China where it grows on the forest floor, but it has become a beloved houseplant around the world. With proper growing conditions and care, the Chinese money plant can thrive for many years in any home.

Here is an essential guide to growing and caring for this beautiful plant.

An Introduction to the Chinese Money Plant

The Chinese money plant was relatively unknown to the rest of the world until it was brought to Europe by a Norwegian missionary in the mid-20th century, from where its popularity spread.

Known for its unique appearance, the plant has a rich history intertwined with folklore, symbolizing good fortune and wealth in Chinese culture, which makes it a popular gift among friends and family.

This distinctive plant, with its coin-shaped, glossy green leaves, not only adds a splash of modern elegance to any space but is also believed to bring good luck and prosperity.

a chinese money plant in a white pot

Chinese Money Plant Benefits

Like many houseplants, the Chinese Money Plant is believed to have air-purifying qualities. Although the extent of its air-purifying capabilities may not be as significant as some other species, it can still contribute to improving indoor air quality by absorbing pollutants and producing oxygen.

One of the most attractive features of the Chinese Money Plant is its low-maintenance nature. It doesn’t require frequent watering, extensive feeding, or special lighting conditions, making it an ideal plant for beginners or those with a busy lifestyle who still wish to enjoy the presence of greenery in their living or working space.

In the realm of Feng Shui, the Chinese Money Plant is considered a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and wealth. Its round leaves, which resemble coins, are thought to attract positive energy related to wealth and abundance, making it a popular choice for those looking to enhance the Feng Shui of their homes or offices.

Selecting Chinese Money Plants

Start your search at local nurseries and garden centers. These places often have knowledgeable staff who can provide valuable care tips specific to your local climate and environment. Plus, you can personally inspect the plant for its health and quality.

  • Inspect the Leaves: Look for vibrant, green, unblemished leaves. Yellow or brown spots, holes, or significant browning at the edges could indicate poor health or pest issues.
  • Check the Soil and Roots: The soil should be moist but not waterlogged. If possible, check the drainage holes at the bottom of the nursery pot to see if the roots appear healthy and not overly crowded or rotting.
  • Look for Pests: Examine both the top and undersides of the leaves and the stem for signs of pests like aphids or spider mites. Tiny webs, sticky residue, or visible bugs are red flags.
  • Overall Shape: A healthy Chinese Money Plant should have a somewhat symmetrical shape with a good amount of foliage. Sparse or leggy growth might indicate insufficient light or other care issues.

How to Grow a Chinese Money Plant

a chinese money plant

The Chinese money plant thrives in the warm, humid conditions of southern China’s forests. To recreate these conditions at home, there are a few key factors to consider:

Light

Pilea peperomioides thrives in bright, indirect light. A spot near a window that receives ample morning or late afternoon sun is ideal.

Direct sunlight, especially during the harsh midday hours, can scorch the leaves, causing them to turn yellow and wilt. If you notice the leaves starting to fade or the stems elongating excessively, it might be an indication that the plant needs more light.

Temperature and Humidity

This plant prefers a warm and stable environment with temperatures ranging between 60-75°F (15-24°C). It is sensitive to sudden temperature changes, which can stress the plant, leading to leaf drop.

While the Chinese Money Plant does well in average home humidity levels, it appreciates a boost in humidity, especially during dry winter months. A pebble tray filled with water or a regular misting can help increase humidity levels around the plant.

Soil and Potting

A well-draining potting mix is crucial for the health of your Chinese Money Plant. A mix designed for cacti and succulents, which typically includes perlite or pumice, works well.

Ensure the pot has adequate drainage holes to prevent water from sitting at the bottom, which can lead to root rot. Repotting should be done every two years or when the plant outgrows its pot, usually indicated by roots growing through the drainage holes.

Watering

Overwatering is a common pitfall in the care of Pilea peperomioides. The soil should be allowed to dry out partially between waterings.

Stick your finger about an inch into the soil; if it feels dry, it’s time to water. During the winter months, reduce the frequency of watering as the plant’s growth slows down.

Using lukewarm water is preferable as cold water can shock the roots, leading to leaf drop.

Feeding

Feed your Chinese Money Plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Avoid fertilizing in the fall and winter when the plant’s growth naturally slows down.

Pruning and Grooming

Pruning is not typically necessary for the Chinese Money Plant, but you may wish to trim away any yellowed or dead leaves at the base of the plant to encourage healthy growth and maintain its aesthetic.

Wiping the leaves with a damp cloth not only keeps the plant looking its best but also ensures the leaves can efficiently photosynthesize.

Chinese Money Plant Propagation

a Chinese money plant

One of the most rewarding aspects of caring for a Chinese Money Plant is its ease of propagation. It readily produces offsets, or “pups,” which can be separated from the parent plant and potted individually.

To propagate, gently remove the pup from the main plant, ensuring it has some roots attached, and pot it in a small container with well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and place the pot in bright, indirect light. The pup will soon establish itself as a new plant.

Chinese Money Plant Care

Once you’ve purchased your Chinese Money Plant, ensure you transport it carefully, especially if the weather is cold or extremely hot, as extreme temperatures can shock the plant.

Upon bringing it home, consider repotting it into a slightly larger pot with fresh, well-draining soil to give it a good start in its new environment.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

a chinese money plant in the sunshine
  • Dropping Leaves: If your Chinese Money Plant starts dropping leaves, it could be due to overwatering, sudden temperature changes, or insufficient light. Evaluate the care you’re providing and adjust as necessary.
  • Chinese Money Plant Yellow Leaves: The most common cause of yellowing leaves is overwatering. Ensure the soil is well-draining and allow it to dry out partially between waterings. If the soil feels soggy or the pot is heavy, it might be a sign of excess water.
  • Curling Leaves: Curling leaves can indicate underwatering or low humidity. Ensure the plant is receiving enough water and consider increasing the humidity around the plant.
  • Sparse, Leggy Growth: Insufficient light often causes lanky growth. Provide several hours of bright, indirect light daily. Turn the plant periodically and prune leggy stems to encourage bushier growth.
  • Leaf Spotting: Spotting is typically a sign of low humidity. Mist leaves, use a pebble tray, or get a humidifier to increase humidity to 40-50%. Remove affected leaves promptly.
  • Root rot: Overwatering. Allow soil to partially dry before watering.
  • Few or No Blooms: Cool temperatures below 65°F typically prevent flowering. Increase temperatures slightly and provide plenty of indirect sunlight to encourage blooms.
  • Pests: While relatively resistant to pests, Pilea peperomioides can occasionally be troubled by common houseplant pests such as aphids or spider mites. Regular inspection and wiping down the leaves can prevent infestations. If pests are detected, treat the plant with a mild insecticidal soap or neem oil solution.

Ideal Display and Companion Plantings

chinese money plant on a rustic shelf in the bathroom

The round, coin-shaped leaves of the Chinese money plant look fantastic whether grown in a pot solo or paired with other plants. Here are some ideal display options:

  • Hanging basket – Let the stems cascade over the edges of a hanging basket. Pair with other trailing plants like ivy or ficus pumila.
  • Shelves – Position pots on shelves and allow the stems to trail down. The leaves will beautifully drape downward.
  • Mixed pots – Combine with ferns, nerve plants, polka dot plants, or other shade-lovers in a pot.
  • Solo – The plant’s unique foliage stands out beautifully on its own in a simple ceramic pot.
  • Tabletop – Place small pots atop end tables, coffee tables, desks, or other surfaces. Keep out of direct sun.

The Chinese money plant is a uniquely shaped specimen with coin-like foliage that makes a fantastic easy care houseplant.

Follow this guide for ideal conditions and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, cascading plant that can be enjoyed for many years to come.

With the right care and trimming, the Chinese money plant will provide unique, tropical style in any indoor space.

Can the Chinese Money Plant thrive in low light?

While it can survive in low-light conditions, growth may be slower, and the leaves may lose their vibrant green color. For optimal health and appearance, provide bright, indirect light.

Is the Chinese Money Plant toxic to pets?

No, the Chinese Money Plant is non-toxic to cats and dogs, making it a pet-friendly option for indoor gardeners.

How big does a Chinese Money Plant get?

In indoor conditions, a Chinese Money Plant can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in height and width. Its growth can be influenced by pot size, light conditions, and general care.

How do I encourage my Chinese Money Plant to have a fuller look?

To encourage a fuller appearance, rotate your plant regularly to ensure even light distribution, which promotes balanced growth. You can also pinch off the top of the main stem to encourage side shoots.

What kind of potting mix is best for a Chinese Money Plant?

Use a well-draining potting mix, ideally one that includes peat, perlite, and/or vermiculite to ensure good aeration and moisture retention without waterlogging the roots.

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