Yes, Pilea is a succulent. It belongs to the Urticaceae family and is native to various tropical regions around the world, except for Australia and New Zealand.
Its leaves are thick and fleshy and can store water reserves for the plant to use in the event of a drought. It can thus survive warmer and drier climates than most houseplants, which makes it a great choice for beginner gardeners looking for resilient and low-maintenance plants.
In this article, we will discuss more about the pileas, their proper cultural care, and how to propagate them. So, if you are thinking of adding one to your collection, keep reading to learn more.
What is a pilea?
Pilea is a genus of perennial evergreen succulents comprising over 600 different species that are found all over the world.
The pilea varieties that are typically grown as houseplants are the smaller ones that are low-maintenance and easy to grow. They are a great starter plant for newbie gardeners who do not have a lot of experience with plants.
These plants are hardy to zones 9 to 11, so they need to be taken indoors before the frost starts or else they may die. You can take them back outdoors in the spring, when they are actively growing and the weather is pleasant enough.
Depending on the variety, a pilea may have heart-shaped leaves, mossy foliage, or even sword- or lance-shaped leaves. Its flowers, if and when it produces them, are cream or pink in color.
Is pilea a succulent?
Yes, pilea plants are considered succulents because they have fleshy leaves that can retain and store sufficient water for use in the event of a drought.
These plants are more able to survive warm and dry conditions than most regular houseplants, and do not need to be watered very often. In fact, they actually like their roots to dry out completely before being watered again.
Pilea plant care
The majority of pilea species like bright, indirect light. They do not do well under full sunlight; this can even burn the plant’s foliage.
These plants are tropical, and in their natural habitat they get only the dappled light that filters through the tree canopy above them.
If you think your pilea is getting too much light, you should move it to a shadier spot immediately. If you keep it outdoors, place it under a large tree, next to the side of your house, or on your porch or patio.
If you are growing the plant indoors, place it next to a window, preferably a north- or east-facing one, because these windows let in gentle light.
If the only windows in your home let in harsh light, you can still put the plant next to them, but you will probably have to diffuse the light with a sheer curtain.
Make sure you rotate the plant every couple of days so that all sides of it can get some time in the light.
Although this plant likes gentle light, that does not mean it will tolerate long periods in low light conditions. A plant that is not able to get the light that it needs will have pale and droopy leaves, and its growth will become stunted. The plant might also become leggy, or etiolated. Etiolation is a condition in which the plant’s stems literally grow in the direction of the nearest source of light, because the plant is so desperate for light to keep itself alive. The elongated stems do not actually hurt the plant, but they can affect its overall aesthetic.
If you keep the plant in a dark place for too long, you might kill it, so make sure it is kept where it can get the light that it needs. If you live in a place with little to no natural light for certain months of the year, you may need to buy a grow light to support it.
Pileas, like most succulents, do not require a lot of water because they can store water reserves in their foliage. Compared with regular houseplants, they are more than capable of surviving prolonged dry spells.
That said, if you keep your plant outdoors for long periods without rain, ensure that you water it when the soil has dried out, and saturate all of the soil so that all the roots get access to moisture.
An underwatered pilea will have yellow or brown leaves that have started to wilt. To remedy this, water the plant as soon as possible, and keep watering until you can see excess water draining out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Overwatering, on the other hand, is another common mistake made by plant owners. Excessive watering occurs when you give the plant too much water every time you water it, or when you water it more frequently than necessary. Other causes of overwatering include leaving the plant outside during rainy weather, using a pot with poor drainage, or failing to adjust your watering habits to the changing weather or season. The likelihood of overwatering is also greatly reduced if the soil around the roots is well-draining.
Overwatering causes the plant’s roots to be constantly submerged in waterlogged soil, preventing them from drying out sufficiently to absorb oxygen. The roots will drown and die as a result, and the dead roots will start to rot and become vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. These pathogens will make the rot more aggressive and will cause it to spread faster to the rest of the plant. Once the rot has spread to the stems and leaves, it may be too late to save the plant.
You should stop watering your pilea as soon as you suspect it is overwatered. Place it in a sunny location to help the soil dry out faster.
If you suspect root rot, you will need to remove the plant from its pot to confirm this.
Having removed it from the pot, thoroughly rinse the roots to remove as much soil as you can. Because the roots are quite fragile at this point, proceed with caution.
Make a thorough inspection of all the roots, looking for any that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will have to be pruned off and disposed of properly. This should be done with a sterile knife or scissors, leaving only the healthy white roots behind.
Place the plant on a dry paper towel to allow the roots to air-dry for a few hours after they have been pruned.
Fill a new pot two-thirds of the way with succulent potting mix and place the plant in the middle. Fill in the gaps around the roots with more soil, ensuring all of the roots are covered.
Water the soil until it is moist, then allow the excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot.
Return the plant to its original location.
The most effective way to avoid both underwatering and overwatering is to develop good watering habits early on. You should only water the plant when the top two inches of soil in the pot feel dry to the touch. If the soil is still a little wet, it is best to wait one or two days before checking it again.
Pilea plants like well-draining soil that is moderately rich. Do not use soil that is too dense or heavy, because it will retain too much water and increase the chances of overwatering and root rot.
Use a peat-based succulent potting mix that includes leaf mold and perlite. Often, African violet soil mix works well for pilea plants.
The pot that you choose for your pilea should also have sufficient drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to allow any excess water to flow out easily. This will also help reduce the possibility of overwatering and root rot.
If there is a saucer beneath the pot to catch water, make sure that you empty it after watering the plant, because the standing water in the saucer can also make its way back into the soil and overwater the plant.
Temperature and humidity
Pilea plants like temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are keeping the plant outdoors and the frost is about to set it, take the plant indoors.
Keep the indoor temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the plant should be fine. Also keep it away from radiators or heater vents because this can quickly dry it out. The same goes for air conditioners and areas where cold drafts from doors and windows can reach the plant.
These plants are tropical, so they prefer their humidity higher than some other plants. If you live in a place where the humidity is low, you might have to take measures to help the plant out in this regard.
You can mist the plant with water every once in a while, or keep it in one of the more humid rooms in your home, like the bathroom or the kitchen.
You can also place the plant’s pot over a water pebble tray, and as the water in the pebble tray evaporates, it will add humidity to the air around the plant.
If you have other plants that enjoy high humidity, group them together with the pilea so they can create a microclimate around each other.
And finally, if you have the budget, you can also buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.
If the plant is grown outdoors, you do not really need to fertilize it because it can get all its nutrients and minerals from the soil.
If you are growing the plant indoors in a pot and you have not repotted it for some time, you may need to feed it with a liquid fertilizer at half-strength. Do this only when the plant is actively growing, in the spring and summer.
Refrain from feeding the plant during the winter because it will not be able to use all the minerals in the soil, and this can cause a salt buildup that can burn the roots and damage the plant.
If you think you have given the plant too much fertilizer, you can flush the soil with water to get rid of the excess minerals.
Propagating pilea plants
The pilea plant grows offsets, or baby plants, at its base, so you can simply remove those and use them to propagate the plant. If your plant does not have offsets yet, it may be a bit young and you will have to wait until they sprout.
Use a sterile knife to cut an offset from the base of the plant, coming as close to the soil as you can.
Place the offset in a glass of water, making sure that the stem is submerged in the water. Avoid submerging any of the leaves, because this can cause them to rot. If you have to remove some of the leaves near the base of the stem, then do so.
Place the glass of water with the offset in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light. Change the water in the glass when it starts to get murky or smell unpleasant.
After two weeks, there should be some roots growing from the bottom of the stem.
Wait a few more weeks until the roots are about an inch long, and then transfer the plant to a pot filled with well-draining succulent soil. Make sure all of the roots are covered with soil.
You can now care for the plant the same way you would a regular plant.
The most common pests seen on pilea plants are scale insects, mealybugs, spider mites and aphids.
These pests all damage the plant by sucking the sap from its foliage.
They will not go away on their own, and they can also reproduce quickly. They hide in the folds of the plant’s foliage as well as the soil.
When the plant has a significant infestation, the leaves will turn yellow and may start to droop.
Before treating your plant, you need to take it to another room and isolate it, so that the pests do not spread to your other, healthy plants.
You can try to remove the pests one by one, manually, but this is only really effective for small infestations that you have caught in the early stages.
For larger infestations, remove any leaves and stems that are too heavily-damaged. Those cannot be salvaged and you are better off just getting rid of them.
You can then use insecticidal soap to kill the insects, or wipe down the plant with a cotton ball soaked in neem oil.
Repeat your chosen method every three days until you are sure that all the insects are gone.
Yes, pilea plants are perennial evergreen succulents native to all continents except Australia and New Zealand.
They have fleshy leaves that can absorb and store water, and this allows them to survive longer periods of drought than most other plants.
These plants need bright, indirect light, water when their soil is dry, well-draining soil and pot, normal room temperature, high humidity, and fertilizer when they are actively growing.
They can be propagated using the offsets that sprout from the base of the plant.
Pileas are low-maintenance houseplants and a great choice for newbie gardeners.
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