Best Soil and Fertilizer for Pilea Peperomioides

Showing a pilea plant in a pot from top angle
A healthy Pilea plant (Source: Maxpixel)

Did you know Pilea Peperomioides is one of the most Instagrammed houseplants because of its unique coin-shaped leaves and low supply?

The perennial plant that is almost extinct in its natural habitat grows in any typical household condition.

However, one thing it does not tolerate is the wrong potting soil and poor soil condition.

Generally, Pilea Peperomioides thrives in high-quality organic soil composed of peat moss, coir fiber, and perlite, with a slightly acidic (5-6 pH) condition and balanced plant food provided regularly.

Pilea Plant
Pilea Plant (Source: Interior Plants)

All you need to do is ensure the soil is well-draining and has healthy soil microbes to grow a happy and healthier Pilea with brightly verdant round leaves.

Read on to find out how to prepare the best potting soil for the Pilea plant and ways to maintain an ideal soil condition.

What Kind of Soil does Pilea Need and Why?

Pilea Peperomioides, also known as the Chinese Money Plant, is an Asiatic perennial herb that comes from the mountain beds of Yunnan Province in Southern China.

The plant that is almost extinct in its natural habitat was once only grown by plant enthusiasts by propagating a few plant cuttings, driving the scarcity-driven social media hype.

The public’s appeal for its unique coin-shaped leaves made it the most trending plant on Instagram and Etsy.

Pilea Plant gif
Pilea is one of the most Instagrammed plants (Source: Tenor)

Since then, many nurseries and commercial growers have started producing Pilea plants available in many homes today.

The plant naturally grows in the loamy and organic red soil of Yunnan province that boasts high levels of iron oxide, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Therefore, you should provide a similar growing medium at home to ensure healthy-looking Pilea.

Here is a table describing the optimal soil condition for the Pilea plant.

FactorsSpecification
Soil TypeLoose, loamy, and well-draining soil

(Native: Siliceous and aluminous red clay)
Soil MaterialA high-quality potting mix of organic materials such as peat moss, perlite, pumice, coco coir, pine bark, sterile compost, wood fiber, etc.
Soil pH LevelSlightly Acidic (5-6. pH)
Soil CompactionSlight or None

(Excess fertilization and under-watering will cause compaction)
Soil Drainage1-2 inches per hour
TextureLoamy, dark, and less compact
Water Retention CapabilityOver 40%
Soil Temperature55°F-85°F (13°C-30°C) in spring and summer

Nothing less than 50°F (10°C) in fall and winter
Supplementary NutrientsBalanced proportion of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium Micronutrients like iron, nickel, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium.
FertilizationOnce a month in spring and summer with ¼ strength liquid fertilizer
Soil ToxicityPesticide and fertilizer salts like Aluminum, Lead, and Chromated copper arsenate will lead to soil toxicity
Soil ChangeEvery two years

Do not use ordinary garden soil, stop overwatering, and strictly avoid using cheap synthetic fertilizer to prevent compromising the healthy root and shoot growth.

Science Direct points out that plants grown in poor water retaining soil will witness slow root growth and sick-looking foliage.

Your Pilea is guaranteed to thrive for years when you ensure all of these conditions are met!

How to Ensure Ideal Pilea Potting Soil?

Pilea plant is quite picky about the growing medium because it naturally grew on limestone boulders in the shades of mountainous forests.

However, it has come far from its natural setting to a typical house where it can survive well in standard potting soil.

Before we jump into preparing the potting soil for Pilea, let us look at how to ensure an ideal potting soil.

1. Soil Moisture

The appropriate soil moisture is a key to assisting the roots in obtaining oxygen and nutrients.

When the soil is too soggy, the roots will drown in water, leading to oxidation, decay, and fungus infestation.

Similarly, too compact soil, usually 80-90%, will choke the roots, preventing the supply of oxygen, microorganisms, and nutrients.

Therefore, the key is to maintain correct soil moisture at all times to optimize oxygen, water, and nutrient intake from soil to stem and leaves via roots.

Pilea plant prefers a slight drought rather than sitting in water.

Ensure to water your plant only when the top 2-3 inches of soil 75% of topsoil dries out. Use a watering calculator to avoid inappropriate soil moisture.

It would sum up to every 1-2 weeks in spring and summer and 20-25 days in fall and winter when the plant goes into hibernation.

2. Drainage Capacity of Soil

The Pilea plant requires a well-draining potting soil that remains loamy but soggy.

The water should naturally drain out at 1-2 inches per hour to ensure the roots get enough moisture without staying wet for a prolonged duration.

A less-draining soil quickly becomes compact and fails to circulate oxygen towards the roots, which is indicated by dropping and yellowing leaves that will turn discolored and crispy.

Soil drainage
Soil drainage (Source: UCANR)

The Pilea plant may also survive in a fast-draining soil until you can ensure to water the plant regularly, twice weekly.

Water Conservation Extension points out that poor soil drainage leads to saturated soils that reduce oxygen availability to roots and decrease the plant’s ability to take up water.

Plant resistance to pathogens is also inhibited in water-saturated soils, which is a concern.

Another primary consideration for better drainage is the choice of pot. Choose clay or terracotta pots that repel excess moisture, keeping the root dry and healthy.

When choosing a plastic or ceramic pot, ensure it has multiple drainage holes at the bottom.

Find out how often to water your Pilea Peperomioides.

3. Nutrients and Organic Matter

Plants naturally take up significant nutrients from the soil through roots and some from the air through leaves.

They draw water and dissolved nutrients through root hairs (cation exchange), which are later passed through the stem towards leaves.

Therefore, an ideal soil condition with the proper moisture and temperature will ensure the Pilea roots take in optimal nutrients.

Soil mixed with Organic Material
Soil mixed with Organic Material (Source: Pexels)

Here is the list of nutrients required by the Pilea Plant.

Essential Nutrients Description
Macronutrients (Primary nutrients)Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium.
Micronutrients (Minor nutrients)Iron, Boron, Chlorine, Copper, Zinc, etc.
Secondary Nutrients (Secondary nutrients)Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, etc.

However, be wary about the type of fertilizer and how often to use it to prevent salt buildup.

Using synthetic fertilizer and overfertilizing will build harmful salts in the soil that will choke the roots of the nutrients, leading to a sick-looking plant.

Try maintaining the fertilizer intake to once a month in the growing season and only apply a balanced fertilizer diluted to ¼ strength.

In addition, only use organic and certified fertilizer for the Pilea plant to boost healthy microorganisms in the soil.

4. Soil Compaction and Aeration

Soil compaction is another concern for the Pilea plant as the compact soil will deprive the plant roots of oxygen and moisture.

Heavily compacted soil reduces pores that affect both water infiltration and drainage.

Pilea plants require the soil to become slightly compact before watering to ensure root growth, but it should not become severely tight.

Significant signs of compact soil are stunted vertical growth, small leaves, and wilted stems.

Thus, the soil compaction above 6 to 8 inches or 80% of soil volume indicates severely compacted soil.

Soil Aeration
Soil Aeration (Source: EOS)

Using appropriate organic materials will ensure loose, porous potting soil with good drainage.

Similarly, regularly watering the pot will help keep the soil porous and well-aerated, whereas good soil aeration will help enhance root development.

5. Warm Soil Temperature

A warm soil temperature is essential to keep the Pilea plant thriving and green.

The warm growing medium assists with photosynthesis and promotes optimal humidity around the plant.

Pilea would do well in USDA zone 9b to 11 with a minimum temperature of 25-50°F, but they hate cold drafts.

The ideal temperature of 55°F-85°F (13°C-30°C) with at least 70°F (21°C) during the day will ensure a healthy-looking plant

Anything under 50°F will send the plant into cold stress. Therefore, you should ensure to place your plant in a warm and brightly lit location in the house.

Soil temperature range
Appropriate soil temperature range (Source: University of British Columbia)

Moreover, move them inside in fall and winter when the temperature drops significantly.

6. Slight Acidic Nature

A pan-tropical species, it thrives in slightly acidic soil that helps break down the nutrients available to the plant roots.

High pH or alkaline soil releases sodium into the soil, slowing down the root growth of tropical plants.

Ensure to provide a Pilea potting mix that holds the pH level between 5 and 6.

One way to obtain naturally acidic soil is using organic materials in the potting mix.

Otherwise, mix some crushed sulfur or ammonium-based nitrogen when amending the potting mix to decrease its pH level.

Soil pH and availability of nutrients
Soil pH and availability of nutrients (Source: Agriculture and Food Journal)

Note: Beware of low pH toxicity on the plant, which may lead to aluminum and manganese poisoning, risking poor root growth.

Prepping the Soil/Potting Mix for Pilea

Pilea plant requires a well-draining, organic, and loamy potting mix based mainly on peat moss, coco coir, and perlite.

Remember, it should be:

  • Tight enough to hold moisture and nutrients and provide root anchorage.
  • Loose enough to allow aeration and water drainage

Here is a list of items ideal for the Pilea plant.

MaterialsBenefits
Peat Moss1. Retains soil moisture
2. Holds Nutrients
3. Enhances Soil Aeration
Perlite/Pumice/Vermiculite1. Makes soil light and porous.
2. Improves drainage
3. Helps retain Water
4. Improves aeration
Pine/Orchid Bark1. It keeps the medium light
2. It prevents soil compaction
3. It circulates air in the soil
Sterilized Compost1. Encourages healthy microbial growth
2. Discourages fungal growth
3. Packed with nutrients
Coconut Coir1. Does not alter soil pH
2. Holds moisture in the soil
3. Makes soil porous and light

However, the key is ensuring each item’s appropriate portion to prevent compact soil mix.

Here are a few recipes to help you prepare ideal Pilea potting mixes at home.

Recipe 1

  • 70% Coco coir and Orchid bark
  • 20% Perlite, pumice, or vermiculite
  • 10% Sterilized compost

Recipe 2

  • One part sterilized compost with pine bark (Creates air pockets to increase the oxygen supply to the roots)
  • One part coconut coir
  • One part perlite or vermiculite

Best Commercial Soil Mix for Pilea Plant

Alternatively, you can purchase a commercial potting mix and combine them with household material to create a perfect blend.

Here are a few commercial potting mix options for your Pilea plant.

Potting MixBenefitsImage
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix
1. Contains processed peat moss, coir, and compost
2. Ensure the soil mix remains fast-draining
Miracle Gro Potting Mix
Noot Organic Indoor Plant Soilless Potting Mix
1. All-purpose mix for aroid and other houseplants
2. Contains 10-15-12 NPK fertilizer
3. Safe for pets and children
Noot Fertilizer
All Natural Orchid Potting Mix1. An all-purpose orchid blend containing charcoal, sponge rock, pine bark, and coconut chips
2. Promotes good aeration and drainage
Burpee Organic Mix1. Contains coconut coir, peat, and perlite
2. Ensure vibrant blossom
3. OMRI listed for organic use
Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix
1. A rich blend of sphagnum peat moss, humus, and perlite
2. Supplemented with earthworm casting, alfalfa, and kelp meal
Epsoma Potting Mix

Problems due to Poor Soil Condition in Pilea Plant

Wrong potting soil and poor soil condition are two significant factors that may cause a sick-looking Pilea Peperomioides.

If you are wondering, your Pilea plant will begin exhibiting tell-tale signs that would indicate the soil condition is wrong.

Here is the list of problems.

1. Yellowing or Drooping Leaves

Yellowing leaves with drooping is one of the early indications of soil problems, incredibly soggy soil conditions, and mold or pest infestation.

The waterlogged soil will prevent the roots from obtaining oxygen and nutrients.

Pilea plant showcasing yellow leaves
Pilea plant looks gloomy with yellow leaves (Source: Wikimedia)

Do not worry. Your Pilea plant is not dying; it is suffering from excess water saturation.

Cut back on watering, check for root rot, and prune away the damaged roots before applying fungicide to prevent fungal infestation.

Find out eight causes of limp leaves and their solutions.

2. Soil Compaction

Overwatering the plant too often may lead to compact soil because excess watering will flush out needed aerating materials.

Overfertilization is another cause of soil compaction, where using synthetic fertilizer or feeding excess food may kill the healthy microorganisms.

You will witness dried foliage and stem along with complex, light-colored soil.

The best solution is to transplant your Pilea in a fresh potting mix.

3. Low Water Infiltration

Low water infiltration may usually occur when the soil becomes compact by losing aerating materials.

The poor soil condition allows fewer poles to pass water.

As per the rule, the infiltration rate of fewer than 0.06 inches per hour indicates the problem of low water infiltration.

The only solution is to replace the poor potting soil with freshly made soil mix.

4. Curling Leaves

The lack of appropriate nutrients and soil microbes may lead to leaf curling problems.

The potting mix, either too old or lacking regular fertilization, will exhibit curling and discolored leaves.

Introduce monthly plant fertilization with balanced organic liquid food to increase the number of healthy microbes in the soil.

Leaves curling due to underwatering
Leaves curling (Source: Tenor)

Read our article about how and when to fertilize the Pilea plant.

5. Stunted Growth

Stunted Pilea growth refers to three problems with the plant -water, soil, and light.

While fixing water and light intake is the easiest, improving soil conditions may be difficult.

Using the wrong potting mix or lacking nutrients and healthy soil microbes will lead to stunted growth.

As a solution, begin fertilizing your plant; aerate the soil with organic compost, or replace the potting mix altogether.

6. Soil Contamination

Using synthetic fertilizer, applying undiluted fertilizer, or excess fertilization may lead to salt buildup in the soil.

The soil will lose fertility and turn sterile, leading to many problems, including root and stem burn, stunted growth, yellowing foliage, etc.

Your only solution is to replace the potting soil with a fresh mix.

Salt Build up due to Overfertilization
Salt Build due to overfertilization

7. Mold and Pests Infestation

The growth of mold is linked to waterlogged soil that will lead to root rot and fungal infection.

Too much humidity and moisture may also lead to mold growth.

Mold and fungus primarily feed on decomposing plant matter; hence, the buildup of dead leaves will increase mold growth.

A mushy and decayed stem with visible mold growth on the lower limb and soil indicates fungal infection.

Depending on the severity of the problem, apply certified fungicide to the soil or transplant the plant to a fresh potting mix.

Does Pilea Plant Need Fertilizer?

It is a good idea to regularly fertilize your Pilea plant to strengthen foliage growth and maintain the lush green color.

Ensure to dilute the solution before applying and provide the plant food only in spring and summer to prevent overfertilization and salt buildup.

Generally, fertilizing once a month with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ¼ strength will boost plant growth.

Hand of a man putting fertilizer to a plant
Feeding the plant (Source: Stocklib)

Here is the list of primary and secondary nutrients required by the Pilea plant.

NutrientsSpecification
Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium1. It boosts water regulation, boosts immunity, and encourages root growth.

2. It helps induce vertical growth, green vegetation, cell growth, and protein synthesis.
Iron, Nickel, Copper-Boron, Zinc, Chlorine, and Manganese1. It helps induce quicker and bushier growth.

2. It maintains healthy root conditions and soil microorganisms.
Calcium, Sulphur, and Magnesium1. Trace elements help to maintain the plant’s immune system.

2. It boosts metabolism and helps retain nutrients.

You may want to feed your plant when you water it to encourage the roots to get the most nutrients before they begin flushing.

Signs your Pilea Needs Fertilizing

The Pilea plant will begin exhibiting some visible signs due to a lack of nutrients, including;

  • The yellowing of tips with gradual yellowing of the entire leaf and stem is usually caused by nitrogen deficiency.
  • The dull appearance of the foliage is due to potassium deficiency.
  • Lack of potassium leaves small patches of discoloration.
  • Slowed growth in the growing season.
  • Purple or reddish color on the leaves due to chlorosis.

On the other hand, overfertilization will show vivid signs mentioned above, including drooping leaves, stunted growth, stem decay, and discolored soil.

Best Pilea Plant Fertilizers to Use

The market is flooded with cheap, synthetic fertilizers that only damage the soil over time due to salt buildup.

Remember to check fertilizer status, NPK ratio, manufacturer guide, and ingredients before buying it.

On the other hand, using organic fertilizer will maintain soil quality and encourage healthy soil microbes.

1. Buy Commercial Organic Fertilizer

Here is the list of appropriate organic liquid fertilizers for the Pilea plant.

FertilizerBenefitsImage
EZ-gro 20-20-20 Fertilizer1. All-purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer appropriate for the Pilea plant.
2. Encourage large leaf growth and green vegetation.
3. Packed with a micronutrient package
Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food1. All-purpose plant food with a balanced NPK ratio.
2. Entirely safe for the plant.
3. Water-soluble property prevents root burn and works instantly
Miracle-Gro Liquid Fertilizer
Miracle-Gro Liquid Fertilizer (source: Amazon)
J R Peters 52024 Jacks Classic No.1.51. All-purpose plant food with a 20-20-20 NPK ratio.
2. It contains NPK with potash, phosphate, boron, and copper.
3. It provides rapid leaf expansion and green color.

Alternatively, choose Osmocote Smart-release plant food to allow the slow release of nutrients over time.

Spread the Osmocote pellets and water them thoroughly once every three months during the active growing period.

If your Pilea’s bottom leaves begin curling, know that they need more nitrogen content.

Provide amino-acid supplement and balanced fertilizer until the leaves seem to revive.

2. Homemade Organic Fertilizer for Pilea

Otherwise, you can resort to preparing a homemade organic fertilizer from kitchen scraps, mulch, leaves, etc.

The organic content helps increase the plant’s moisture-retaining capacity and nutrient intake.

Here are a few examples of homemade fertilizer materials

TypesFeaturesLimitations
Kitchen ScrapsHelps with moisture retention
Slow-release
The smell may be unbearable with time
WeedsHigh in nitrogen contentIf the seeds and roots of the weed are not deadheaded properly, they can reproduce
ManureHas a good amount of nitrogen
Helps in water retention
Can be too acidic for the soil if not composted
Tree LeavesMakes the soil lighter
Full of trace minerals
It can lead to nitrogen deficiency for a short period of time
EggshellsLowers the acid content
Increases calcium in the soil
Their sodium content can harm the plant
Coffee GroundsThey can increase the acidic content in the soilRoot growth can be hindered
Banana PeelsRich in potassium contentThey decompose very slowly

Tips to Make Homemade Fertilizer for Pilea

  • Using a compost bin is a common method of creating fertilizer at home.
  • Mix green like a leaf, coffee ground, and manure with brown items like dry leaves, branches, straw, etc.
  • Aerate the compost regularly for weeks to allow all parts to decompose evenly.

How to Apply the Fertilizer to Pilea?

  • Read the manufacturer’s guide or manual carefully.
  • Mix one part of liquid concentrate in a jar with three parts of water to dilute the strength to ¼.
  • Pour or sprinkle the solution directly over the soil. Keep at least a few inches from the plant root.
  • Ensure the solution does not touch plant stem or leaves, which may lead to a chemical burn.
  • Thoroughly water the plant afterward to help the nutrients reach the roots as soon as possible.
  • Spread the pellets in the soil and water thoroughly afterward for a slow-release fertilizer.

Conclusion

Pilea Peperomioides makes a perfect houseplant for beginners.

However, they are more likely to make mistakes with the potting soil and regular care than seasoned gardeners.

Remember to use the correct potting mix and provide ample indirect sunlight, humidity, and organic fertilizer to witness a healthy Pilea plant.

Pay special attention to the watering schedule and the type of fertilizer your use.

Related Article: Why is My Pilea Dying?

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