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No plant has made such an impression on American culture in recent years as the pancake plant. Also called a Chinese money plant, coin plant, or missionary plant, this cute, easy-care houseplant with flat, round succulent leaves has a history of being shared between friends.
Long cultivated in China, Pilea peperomioides was brought to Europe by a Norwegian missionary in the 1940s—hence some of its many nicknames. Since a healthy, happy pancake plant will readily produce offsets, or baby plants, from its roots and stems, home gardeners typically share and trade new plants they've propagated from the offsets.
Since the houseplant trend exploded in recent years, supply for Pilea peperomioides has caught up with demand, and commercial growers have started raising them for sale. If you don't have access to a friend or neighbor's pancake plant offset, you can purchase one at your local nursery, garden center, or houseplant store.
When purchasing a pancake plant, choose a full, healthy-looking specimen. Be sure to check and see if any of the plants already have offsets growing from the central stem or in the soil. You’ll have plant babies to propagate and share much sooner this way.
- Botanical Name: Pilea peperomioides
- Common Name: Pancake plant, Chinese money plant, coin plant, missionary plant
- Plant Type: Flowering evergreen perennial
- Mature Size: 1 foot high
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
- Soil Type: Well-drained potting soil
- Soil pH: 6.0–7.0
With the right soil—ideally, a high-quality, organic potting soil with peat moss or coir fiber base—and bright, indirect light, pancake plants are quite easy to grow. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, and avoid letting your plant sit in water because overwatering is one of the few ways to damage this particular type of plant. Always water from the top rather than allowing your plant to soak up water from the bottom.
Choose a spot to display your Pilea peperomioides that's no cooler than 50 degrees at night.
Curling leaves can indicate that your plant isn't getting enough light, so if you see this, move it to a brighter space (still out of direct sunlight). It's also helpful to rotate your plant every week so that all sides have a chance to get the brightest light.
Feed your pancake plant monthly doses of liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength during spring and summer to encourage growth. If you're not seeing any baby plants, make sure you're fertilizing, pinching off any dead growth, and giving your plant sufficient light.
If your plant is tall and top-heavy, try cutting 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, and remove them only to help spur new growth. Pancake plants are grown primarily for their leaves, but they do produce inflorescences of tiny white flowers.
Plan to repot your plant every two years or so, ideally in early spring at the very start of the growing season; avoid repotting in winter when growth has slowed. Repot in a container that's one size larger, or use the same pot as before with fresh soil.
Best Growing Conditions for Pancake Plant
Pancake plants grow best in lots of bright, indirect light, ideally near a window, but be sure to keep them out of direct sun. Use a well-draining soil mix that dries out relatively quickly. Some gardeners prefer to plant their pancake plants in a succulent soil mix or an all-purpose potting soil with the addition of a little perlite or coarse sand to promote drainage.
For the same reason, many home gardeners choose to plant their pancake plants in terra-cotta pots, which allow moisture to evaporate from the soil more quickly than plastic or glazed ceramic pots. However, any of these choices will work as long as the container has a drainage hole or two in the bottom.
Just make sure to check soil moisture regularly, and water accordingly. Pancake plants also tend to flourish in a slightly undersized pot, so keep that in mind, especially when potting up smaller specimens.
Pancake Plant Varieties
There are a few varieties of pancake plants, but, luckily, they all look pretty different, so it's easy to differentiate between them. For instance, the leaves of the aluminum plant feel quite similar to those of a pancake plant (thick and waxy), but the former's leaves are a much darker shade of green, accented with metallic-silver variegation. Artillery plants look like the type of leaf you'd draw as a child: It has a charming teardrop shape with quite a sharp point. However, its leaves are tiny. 'Dark Mystery' varies the most from a traditional pancake plant with its highly textured chocolate-brown leaves, while 'Moon Valley' boasts leaves that look like something we'd enjoy in a salad, with a rich green shade and purple running up the center. Plus, they kind of feel like crumpled tissue paper.
Repotting time is also a good opportunity to remove and pot uproot offsets from your pancake plant.
How to Propagate Pancake Plants
While there's no way to propagate pancake plants on-demand, once yours is happy, it'll start to grow offsets from its stems and roots. It's best to remove and propagate both types of offsets during the growing season rather than in winter when growth tends to be slower. Offsets should be ready to remove two to three weeks after they appear.
How to Propagate Pancake Plants via Stem Offsets
Step 1: Remove stem offsets by cutting as close to the mother plant as possible with a clean, sharp blade. Take care to avoid damaging its central stem.
Step 2: Since stem offsets don't yet have a root system, they must be rooted in water before they can be planted. Place your cutting in a small glass, vase, or jar with the stem submerged below the surface of the water. The clear glass lets you monitor root growth, which is helpful in determining when the offset is ready to pot.
Step 3: When your offset has grown new leaves in addition to new roots, it's ready to plant. Pot the baby plant in an appropriately sized container with a well-drained potting mix. 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. For root offsets, simply make a cut below the soil with a clean, sharp blade to separate the baby's root system from the mother's.
Step 2: Since root offsets have their own root system already, they don't need to be rooted in water. Plant root or stem offsets in an appropriately sized container with well-draining potting soil.
Step 3: Water the new plants; put them in a spot with bright, indirect light; and care for them as usual.
Common Growing Problems
To be perfectly honest, there aren't a ton of issues when it comes to growing pancake plants, which is what makes them a great option for new plant parents. The most common issue is overwatering them, but don't worry: There's an easy fix for this. If you have overwatered, let your plant dry out a bit before watering again. So, plan on skipping your next watering session to give your plant time to play catch-up.
The Real Story Behind Pilea Peperomioides. Pilea. March 21, 2018