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Pilea peperomioides

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Pilea peperomioides
Pilea peperomioides and offspring
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Urticaceae
Genus: Pilea
P. peperomioides
Binomial name
Pilea peperomioides
Diels, 1912

Pilea peperomioides (/pˈlə pɛpəˌrmiˈɔɪdz/[1]), the Chinese money plant,[2] UFO plant, pancake plant, lefse plant or missionary plant,[3] is a species of flowering plant in the nettle family Urticaceae, native to Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in southern China.

Pilea peperomia and pups
Pilea peperomia and its pups


The Scottish botanist George Forrest was the first westerner to collect Pilea peperomioides, in 1906 and again in 1910, in the Cang Mountain range in Yunnan Province.

In 1945, the species was found by Norwegian missionary Agnar Espegren in Yunnan Province when he was fleeing from Hunan Province. He took cuttings of P. peperomioides back to Norway, by way of India in 1946, and from there it was spread throughout Scandinavia.

Pilea peperomioides is an example of a plant that has been spread amongst amateur gardeners via cuttings, without being well known to western botanists until the late 20th century. This led to the plant earning the nickname of “friendship plant”, or “pass-along plant”. Many horticulturists and hobbyists were not aware of its true classification, in the nettle family Urticaceae, until the 1980s. The first known published image of it appeared in the Kew magazine in 1984.[4] Through the early 2010s and 2020s, P. peperomioides became widely available commercially, and is no longer a curiosity. The initial offerings for sale on the mainstream plant market saw great demand for the plant, with prices going as high as US$75 for a single unrooted cutting, advertised on Instagram, as late as 2019.[5] The average price for a 3- or 4-inch pot being around $5–10 USD, with the median price for slightly larger plants capping out around US$20, in September 2022. The affordable price, coupled with its ease of propagation, has led to a gradual decrease in cost (yet certainly not popularity) of this species.


Pilea peperomioides is an erect, evergreen perennial plant, with shiny, dark green, circular leaves up to 10 cm (4 in) in diameter on long petioles.[6] The leaves are described as peltate—circular, with the petiole attached near the centre. The plant is completely hairless. It grows to around 30 cm (12 in) tall and wide in the wild. Indoors, it has the potential to grow larger. The stem is greenish to dark brown, usually unbranched and upright, and lignified at the base when mature. In poor growing conditions, it loses its leaves in the lower part of the stem and assumes a distinctive habit. The flowers are inconspicuous.[7]

The plant has a superficial resemblance to some species of Peperomia (hence the specific epithet peperomioides), also popular as cultivated plants but in a different family, the Piperaceae. It is also sometimes confused with other peltate-leaved plants such as Nasturtium, Umbilicus and Hydrocotyle.


This species occurs only in China: in the southwest of Sichuan province and the west of Yunnan province. It grows on shady, damp rocks in forests at altitudes from 1,500 to 3,000 m (4,900 to 9,800 ft). It is endangered in its native habitat. However, it is kept in China and worldwide as an ornamental plant.


In temperate regions, P. peperomioides is treated as a houseplant, with cultivation recommended at a minimum temperature anywhere from 13 °C (55 °F)[8] to 5 °C (41 °F).[3] However, in its native range, the plant tolerates periods near or below freezing.[9] Thus the plant could be kept in unheated indoor areas or even outdoors in temperate climates; the foliage may be killed back by frost, but regrows in spring.[9] Wessel Marais, the Kew Gardens botanist who determined the identity of the plant in the 1980s, later grew the plant outdoors in Cazillac, France.[10] He reported it surviving for 6 or 7 years with temperatures as low as −9 °C (16 °F), noting that "the stems above ground are killed but it comes again from below ground-level, so deep planting should do the trick".[10]

P. peperomioides is propagated from plantlets that sprout on the trunk of the parent plant (these are called offshoots) or from underground shoots (called rhizomes).[11] These offshoots are often passed on as a lucky plant ("lucky thaler") or friendship plant. Since constant temperatures and high humidity have a positive effect on plant growth. This plant species is suitable for planting terrariums.

Although the plant is endangered in its native habitat, it is among the most popular houseplants today. It is in high demand because it is slim, easy to grow, and tolerates dry environments. The plant is readily available in retail greenhouses, which in turn are supplied by industrial-scale farming enterprises.

This species has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[3][12]

There are three different cultivars which have appeared in the last few years “Sugar”, “White Splash” and “Mojito.”


Similar to other indoor plants, Pilea peperomioides L. (Chinese money plant) can be multiplied most successfully when it is actively growing. Anytime of the year is a good time to try to propagate these Pilei, but the spring and early summer are the best times to accomplish it. The two ways to propagate Chinese Money Plants is through divisions and stem cuttings.

Stem cuttings in Pilea perperomioides are often confused with leaf cuttings, as the propagation technique requires slicing off a leaf of the mother plant; however, the cutting must take place at the stem and include stem tissue for successful propagation. Hence it is technically a stem cutting not a leaf cutting.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Interview of Dr Phillip Cribb [nl] by Jane Perrone on Episode 17: Seeking Pilea peperomioides - why everyone wants the Chinese money plant (01:40) of On the Ledge podcast. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  2. ^ Citizen science observations for Pilea peperomioides at iNaturalist Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ a b c "RHS Plant Selector - Pilea peperomioides". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  4. ^ "A Chinese puzzle solved - Pilea peperomioides". Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  5. ^ Ellen Airhart (21 March 2019). "The Instagram-famous plant that used to be impossible to find". Vox. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  6. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  7. ^ A. Radcliffe-Smith: Pilea peperomioides . Kew Magazine, vol. 1, 1984, pp. 14-19.
  8. ^ William Davidson. "Chinese Money Plant." Doctor Houseplant: An Indispensible Guide to Keeping Your Houseplants Happy and Healthy. Cool Springs Press, 2020. p. 110. ISBN 9780760369869
  9. ^ a b Jane Perrone. Legends of the Leaf: Unearthing the secrets to help your plants thrive. Unbound, 2023. n. pag. ISBN 9781800182011
  10. ^ a b Alan Radcliffe-Smith. "A supplementary note on the cultivation of Pilea peperomioides." Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 14.1 (February 1997): 55-56. doi:10.1111/1467-8748.00063
  11. ^ Stanwyck, Mary (2020). The Pilea Peperomioides Handbook: An Illustrated Guide to Caring for Your Chinese Money Plant. London: Pilea Publications. pp. 15–17.
  12. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 78. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  13. ^ https://www.wikihow.com/Propagate-Pilea