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How to Grow Pancake Plants

Pancake plant (Pilea peperomioides) growing indoors by sunny window

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Along with its undeniably unique look, pancake plants (Pilea peperomioides) come with their own rich history. Also called a Chinese money plant, coin plant, or missionary plant, this trendy species is an easy-care houseplant with flat, round, succulent leaves.

Long cultivated in China, this plant was brought to Europe by a Norwegian missionary during the 1940s. Pancake plants are known as the "Pass It On" plant thanks to many years of being gifted between friends around the globe.

If you don't have access to a friend or neighbor's pancake plant offset, you can purchase one at your local garden store or online nursery.

  • Botanical Name: Pilea peperomioides
  • Common Name: Pancake plant, Chinese money plant, coin plant, missionary plant
  • Plant Type: Flowering evergreen perennial
  • Mature Size: 12 inches high
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-drained potting soil
  • Soil pH: 6.0–7.0
Pancake plants (Pilea peperomioides) growing in pots

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Plant Care

With the right soil—high-quality, organic potting soil with peat moss or coir fiber base—and bright, indirect light, pancake plants are easy to grow. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, and avoid letting these plants sit in water. Always water from the top rather than allowing pancake plants to soak up water from the bottom.

Feed your pancake plant monthly doses of liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength during spring and summer. If you're not seeing baby plants, make sure you're fertilizing, pinching off dead growth, and giving your plant sufficient light

If your plant is tall and top-heavy, trim off the top portion to propagate on its own; this can spur new growth and offsets in the mother plant. For a fuller-looking plant, simply leave the offsets in the soil or on the stem (removing them only to encourage growth). 

Best Growing Conditions for Pancake Plants

Pancake plants grow best in bright, indirect light, ideally near a west- or south-facing window. Be sure to keep them out of direct sun. Use a well-draining soil mix that dries out relatively quickly: Some gardeners prefer succulent soil mix or an all-purpose potting soil with the addition of perlite or coarse sand.

Many gardeners also choose terracotta pots, which allow moisture to evaporate from the soil quickly. However, any of these choices will work as long as you choose a container with drainage holes. 

Check the soil moisture regularly and water accordingly. Drooping leaves are one of the most common issues with pancake plants: This indicates that your plant is overwatered. Simply allow it to dry out before watering again, then continue spreading out waterings until the leaves perk back up. If the soil feels dry after about 2 inches, the plant needs watering. Pancake plants also tend to flourish in a slightly undersized pot—which is especially helpful when potting smaller specimens. 

Choose a spot to display your Pilea peperomioides that's no cooler than 50 degrees at night.

Types of Pancake Plants

There are several common varieties of pancake plants in the Pilea genus, all with their own unique looks. The leaves of the aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei) feel similar to pancake plants with a thick, waxy texture, but feature a darker shade of green with metallic silver variegation. Artillery plants (Pilea microphylla) have small, teardrop-shaped leaves with a sharp point. Pilea 'Dark Mystery' varies the most from pancake plants with dark, chocolate-brown leaves, while the 'Moon Valley' species features deep crevices with dark colors that contrast bright green hues.

Propagating pancake plants (Pilea peperomioides) in pots

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How to Propagate Pancake Plants

Since a healthy, happy pancake plant will readily produce offsets, it's a tradition for home gardeners to share propagations from these plants. When purchasing a pancake plant, choose a full, healthy specimen that already has offsets growing from the stem or in the soil—you'll have plant babies to propagate much sooner.

Pancake plants can be propagated via stem or root offsets, and it's best to do this during the growing season. Propagated offsets from pancake plants can grow in water for up to one month. Once the stem has grown new roots and leaves in water, it's ready to transplant into a pot. Offsets should be ready to remove two to three weeks after they appear. Here's how:

How to Propagate Pancake Plants via Stem Offsets

Step 1: Remove offsets by cutting as close to the mother plant as possible with clean, sharp gardening shears. Avoid damaging the central stem. 

Step 2: Root the offsets in water. Place your cutting in a small glass, submerging the stem below the waterline. Monitor root growth through the glass to determine when the offset is ready to pot. 

Step 3: Once your offset has grown leaves in addition to new roots, it's ready to plant. Pot the baby plant in an appropriately sized container with well-draining potting soil. Place it in a spot with bright, indirect light, and care for it as usual.

How to Propagate Pancake Plants via Root Offsets

Step 1: Wait until your plant's offsets have developed several leaves before removing them. Make a cut below the soil with clean, sharp gardening shears to separate the baby's root system from the mother's.

Step 2: Since these offsets already have their own root system, they don't need to be propagated in water. Plant root offsets in an appropriately sized container with well-draining potting soil. 

Step 3: Water the plants and place them in a spot with bright, indirect light. Care for them as usual before repotting in a larger container as needed.

Three pancake plants (Pilea peperomioides) growing on windowsill

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Common Problems With Pancake Plants

Pancake plants don't present many growing challenges, which makes them a great option for new plant parents. Here's how to treat a few common problems you may encounter:

Brown Leaves

Brown leaves on a pancake plant can indicate a few different issues: sunburn, fertilizer burn, or temperatures that are too cold. If you're having trouble determining the cause, move your plant to a space with less direct light (opting for a north- or east-facing window rather than west or south) and ensure temperatures in the room don't drop below 50 degrees. Always dilute fertilizers to half-strength, and only use them during the growing season.

Curling Leaves

Curling leaves can indicate that your plant isn't getting enough light. If your pancake plant's leaves lose their signature flat shape, move it to a space with brighter light. Rotate your plant weekly to expose each side to the sun until its leaves return to their original state.

Repotting pancake plants (Chinese money plants, Pilea peperomioides)

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Potting and Repotting Pancake Plants

Plan to repot your plant about every two years, ideally in early spring at the start of the growing season. Avoid repotting during the winter when growth has slowed. Use a container that's one size larger for plants that are outgrowing their pot, or continue using the same pot with fresh soil. Always ensure the pot of your choice has proper drainage to prevent excess water from building around the roots.

Repotting time is also a great opportunity to remove and pot root offsets from your pancake plant.

How to Get Pancake Plants to Bloom

Pancake plants are grown primarily for their leaves, but they do produce inflorescences of tiny white or pale pink flowers. To encourage your plant to bloom, place it in a colder room during the winter months (around 50 degrees) to allow the plant to go dormant before producing flowers.


How Fast Do Pancake Plants Grow?

These fast-growing plants are known to double in size each year when they're young. Once your plant has reached about 12 inches in height, it is mature.

Are Pancake Plants Easy to Care For?

Pancake plants are low-maintenance houseplants with very few common growing problems and simple care steps.

How Long Can Pancake Plants Live?

Species in the Pilea genus can survive for several decades with the proper care steps, often living between 10 and 20 years.

Article Sources
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  1. The Real Story Behind Pilea Peperomioides. Pilea.

  2. Do Pilea Plants Bloom?. Pilea. 26 April 2021.