Name: Chinese money plant, pilea, pancake plant, UFO plant, missionary plant, Pilea peperomioides.
Height: up to 50cm.
Plant type: evergreen perennial.
Climate: warm, frost-free (but usually grown as an indoor plant).
Soil: premium-quality, well-drained potting mix.
Position: a bright spot out of direct sunlight indoors; part-shade or filtered light outdoors.
Flowers: small white flowers on pink-tinged stems.
Feeding: feed with a controlled-release fertiliser in spring and autumn. Alternatively, liquid feed regularly during the warmer months.
Watering: allow the top 2.5-5cm of potting mix to dry out between each watering.
The Chinese money plant is an attractive evergreen perennial with large, round, glossy-green leaves on long narrow petioles or stems. The stems are decoratively arranged along a central arborescent (tree-like) trunk, where they may grow upwards or have a slight pendulous habit. Small white flowers may appear on pink-tinged stems in early spring and last for several weeks.
The Chinese money plant is easy to propagate (via cuttings or division of offsets or ‘pups’). As a result of its shareability, it is often given as a gift and is said to bring good luck and prosperity.
The intriguing growth habit of the Chinese money plant makes it a striking indoor specimen. Display it on a coffee table, TV unit, dining table or bookshelf. It makes a fantastic desk buddy, too. In the garden, plant in clumps of three or five under a tree canopy where there’s filtered light.
The Chinese money plant thrives outdoors in warm, frost-free climates. Give it a spot in part-shade or filtered light and ensure the soil is well drained.
Indoors, the Chinese money plant prefers a brightly lit spot out of direct sunlight. Water as the potting mix starts to dry out at the top of the pot, but before it becomes completely dry.
The Chinese money plant loves bright, indirect light. Rotate it regularly – once a week or so – to ensure all sides of the plant have access to light. This prevents it from leaning too heavily to one side. As the plant grows taller, stake the central stem to support growth and keep it upright.
Water the Chinese money plant when the top 2.5-5cm of potting mix feels dry. To check, insert your finger into the top of the mix. If it’s moist, hold off watering for a while; if it’s dry, water well.
Liquid feed regularly with an indoor plant fertiliser during the warmer months. Alternatively, use a controlled-release fertiliser in spring and autumn.
The Chinese money plant naturally sheds its lower leaves throughout the year. However, if it is shedding regularly, this may be due to poor light or inconsistent watering. Ensure the plant is positioned in a brightly lit spot out of direct sunlight and only water when the top 2.5-5cm of potting mix is dry.
Mealybugs are common pests of the Chinese money plant. They hide in the leaf axils and can be difficult to spot, especially if the leaves are densely crowded. Treat with a suitable organic insecticide. Test spray first on a small inconspicuous spot and continue with a more widespread spray only if there are no adverse effects.
The Chinese money plant can be propagated via stem cuttings, leaf cuttings or by dividing offsets or ‘pups’ from the mother plant. It’s best to take cuttings during the warmer months when the plant is actively growing.
To propagate leaf cuttings, cut the petiole where it joins the trunk, taking a small piece of the central trunk with it. Place the cutting in a glass of water and top up the water as needed to keep the base of the cutting submerged. Roots should form within six to eight weeks.
A stem cutting comes from the main stem. Depending on how tall the plant is, you may be able to divide it into a few cuttings. Each cutting should be at least 10cm long and have a few leaves. Place in water or pot up in a propagating mix.
‘Pups’ or small baby plants appear at the base of the mother plant. They can be left to grow in the pot or separated to grow into new plants. To separate them, remove the plant from the pot and gently tickle the root ball to loosen the soil. Use a clean sharp knife or secateurs to cut away baby plants and pot up in fresh mix.
Calathea: these subtropical perennials have attractive leaf colours and patterns.
Peace lily: loved for its easy-going nature, striking glossy-green leaves and creamy-white flowers.
Air plant: an epiphyte and type of bromeliad that thrives with no soil, seemingly living off ‘air’.
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Photo credit: Getty Images