How to Grow Pancake Plants

This trendy houseplant makes being a plant parent so easy.

pilea plant

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No plant has made quite such an impression in 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 pilea peperomioides will readily produce offsets, or baby plants, from its roots and stems, home gardeners would typically share and trade new plants they’d 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 pilea peperomioides offset, you can purchase one at your local nursery, garden center, or houseplant store.

When purchasing a pilea peperomioides 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, and missionary plants
  • Plant Type: Flowering evergreen perennial
  • Mature Size: 1 foot tall
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-drained potting soil
  • Soil pH: 6.0 to 7.0
  • Toxicity: Not Toxic

Plant Care

With the right soil (high-quality organic potting soil with a peat moss or coir fiber base, ideally) and bright, indirect light, pancake plants are quite easy to care for. 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 all sides have a chance to get the brightest light.

Feed your pilea peperomioides with 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 Pilea Peperomioides

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 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. Pilea also tend to flourish in a slightly undersized pot, so keep that in mind, especially when potting up smaller specimens. While you want to avoid children or pets chowing down on your pilea’s leaves, it’s comforting to know that this plant is non-toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. 

Pancake Plant Varieties

There are a few varieties of pilea plants, but luckily, they all look pretty different, so it's easy to differentiate between them. For instance, aluminum plants' leaves fill quite similar to those of a pancake plant (thick and waxy), the former's leaves are a much darker shade of green and accented with metallic-silver variegation. Artillery plants look like the type of leaf you'd draw as a child: It has that charming teardrop shape with quite a sharp point. However, artillery plants' leaves are absolutely tiny. Dark mystery pileas look the most different from a traditional pancake plant with their chocolate brown, super textured leaves. Moon valley friendship plants are one of our favorites—partly because the name is just so charming. They're leaves look like something we'd enjoy in a salad: they're a rich green shade with a violet 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 up root offsets from your plant.

How to Propagate Pancake Plants

While there is no way to propagate pancake plants on demand, once your pilea is happy, it will start to grow offsets from its stems and its 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 do not 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 up. 

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 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 pilea’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 do not 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 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.

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