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Best Soil and Fertilizer for Pilea Peperomioides

The perennial plant Pilea peperomioides which is almost extinct in its natural habitat, can tolerate any houseplant condition except for the wrong soil and fertilizer supply.

Generally, Pilea peperomioides thrives in high-quality organic soil composed of peat moss, coir fiber, and perlite, with a slightly acidic (5-7.5 pH) condition and balanced plant food provided regularly.

Stay with the article to find out how to prepare the best potting soil for the Pilea plant and ways to maintain an ideal fertilizer balance.

What Kind of Soil does Pilea Need and Why?

To grow a happy and healthier Pilea with brightly verdant round leaves, ensure the soil is well-draining and has healthy soil microbes.

The Pilea 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 a healthy-looking Pilea.

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

Soil TypeLoose, loamy, and well-draining soil

(Native: Siliceous and aluminous red clay)
Soil MaterialMix of organic materials such as peat moss, perlite, pumice, coco coir, pine bark, sterile compost, wood fiber, etc.
Soil pH LevelSlightly Acidic (5-7.5 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 in spring and summer

Nothing less than 50°F 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

How to Ensure Ideal Pilea Potting Soil?

The Pilea plant is picky about the growing medium because it naturally grows on limestone boulders in 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 start preparing the potting soil for Pilea, let us look at how to ensure an ideal potting soil.

1. Soil Moisture

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

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 maintaining correct soil moisture to optimize oxygen, water, and nutrient intake from soil to stem and leaves via roots.

Ensure to water Pilea only when the top 2-3 inches of topsoil dries out.

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

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 toward the roots, indicated by drooping and yellowing leaves that will turn discolored and crispy.

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

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.

3. Nutrients and Organic Matter

Pilea naturally takes up significant water and dissolved nutrients through root hairs, which are later passed through the stem toward leaves.

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

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

So, 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. Warm Soil Temperature

The warm growing medium assists photosynthesis and promotes optimal humidity around the Pilea to keep it thriving and green.

The ideal temperature of 55°F-85°F with at least 70°F during the day will ensure a healthy-looking plant.

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

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

5. Slightly Acidic Nature

A pan-tropical species, Pilea thrives in slightly acidic soil that helps easily absorb readily available nutrients rather than in alkaline soil.

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

So, provide a Pilea potting mix that holds the pH between 5 and 6 for the optimal result, while seven pH will also have little effect on Pilea.

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.

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

Preparing 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.

The soil should be tight enough to hold moisture and nutrients and provide root anchorage and loose enough to allow aeration and water drainage.
Pilea soil and buds
The soil for Pilea should be rich in organic matter to improve drainage and fulfill the need for fertilizer.

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

Peat Moss1. Retains soil moisture
2. Holds Nutrients
3. Enhances Soil Aeration
Perlite/Vermiculite/Pumice1. 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.

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
  • 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.

Potting MixBenefits
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix
1. Contains processed peat moss, coir, and compost
2. Ensure the soil mix remains fast-draining
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
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

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.

1. Yellowing or Drooping Leaves: The early indication of soil problems is when the leaves turn yellow and droop due to soggy conditions and mold or pest infestation.

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

2. Soil Compaction: Overfertilization and overwatering the plant often leads to compact soil where excess watering flushes out needed aerating materials, and synthetic fertilizer may kill healthy microorganisms.

  • Solution: The best solution is transplanting your Pilea in a fresh potting mix.

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

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

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

  • Solution: Begin fertilizing your plant, aerate the soil with organic compost or replace the potting mix.

5. Soil Contamination: Using synthetic fertilizer, applying undiluted fertilizer, or excess fertilization may lead to salt buildup in the soil, root and stem burn, yellowing foliage etc.

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

Does Pilea Need Fertilizer along the Soil mix?

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

Generally, fertilizing once a month with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ¼ strength in spring and summer will boost plant growth and prevent overfertilization.
A plastic bag containing a pilea plant and monstera along side a liquid fertilizer.
Liquid fertilizers are fast-release, while granular is slow.

And better to feed the Pilea when watering 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.
  • A 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, 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.

So, 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. Commercial Organic Fertilizer

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

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
Dr. Earth Organic Food1. Human Grade whole-foods with a 1-2-2 NPK ratio.
2. Entirely safe for the plant and pets.
3. Derived from natural market super-foods such as seafoods, raw meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Perky Plant1. Water soluble organic succulent plant food with a 4-1-4 NPK ratio.
2. Includes additional micronutrients like mycorrhizae bone meal that support healthy growth.
Alternatively, choose Osmocote Smart-release 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 prepare a homemade organic fertilizer from kitchen scraps, mulch, leaves, etc.

The organic fertilizer helps increase Pilea’s soil moisture-retaining capacity and nutrient intake and supports the growth of healthy microbes in the soil.

Here are a few examples of homemade fertilizer materials

Kitchen ScrapsHelps with moisture retention

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.
ManureGood 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 GroundsIncreases the acidic content in the soilRoot growth can be hindered
Banana PeelsRich in potassium contentDecomposes very slowly

Tips to Make Homemade Fertilizer for Pilea

  • Using a compost bin is a standard method of creating fertilizer at home.
  • Mix green like leaves, coffee grounds, 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?

The fertilizer should be applied according to the requirement of the Pilea as they are light feeders requiring monthly feeding or as per the size of the plant.

  • Read the manufacturer’s guide or manual carefully.
  • Mix one part of the liquid concentrate in a jar with three parts of water to dilute the strength to ¼.
  • Pour or sprinkle the fertilizer solution directly over the soil but keep at least a few inches from the roots of the Pilea.
  • Ensure the solution does not touch plant stems 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.

FAQs About Pilea Soil and Fertilizer

What kind of soil do Pilea need?

Choose a well-draining potting mix rich in organic matter instead of the regular and cheap potting soil used for other houseplants.

Also, although they have succulent leaves, better not to choose a succulent soil with high perlite and sand quantity as it allows quick percolation of water.

What kind of fertilizer does a Pilea need?

Pilea is a light feeder, befitting from the monthly supply of balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/4th of its strength.

You can also choose homemade and organic fertilizers rich in nitrogen and potassium content to maintain the health of Pilea.

Is coffee good for Pilea?

Coffee grounds help to make the soil more acidic by decreasing the alkalinity of the soil. And we know that Pilea loves slightly acidic soil.

So adding coffee grounds will help in the nutrient uptake from the soil.

Final Thought

Most of the Pilea novices are more likely to make mistakes with the potting soil and regular care than seasoned gardeners.

Remember to use the correct soil 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 you use.

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