How to Revive a Dying Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant)

How to revive a dying pilea peperomioides

Is your little pilea peperomioides dying, and you are not sure what to do? Pilea peperomioides are one of my favorite houseplants due to their unique UFO appearance, but unfortunately, from experience, there are quite a few things that can cause them to die back.

I have worked in a nursery for several years, and pilea peperomioides are one of the houseplants that we grow and supply to garden centers.

Therefore, I have learned firsthand not only how to take care of them but also how to treat them if they start to look unwell. In this article, I share all the tips and tricks that I have picked up and also some insight from some specialist growers to care for your pliea peperomioides and save it if it is dying…

The most common reason I encounter for pilea peperomioides dying is because of overwatering. Pilea peperomioides requires the top inch of the potting medium to dry out between bouts of watering. If the soil is consistently damp, the pilea leaves can turn yellow and brown with a drooping, dying appearance caused by root rot.

Whilst overwatering is the most common mistake I see, pilea plants can be sensitive to a range of environmental factors, which can cause a drooping or dying appearance.

To revive a dying pilea peperomioides, we need to replicate the conditions of the pilea’s native environment by planting pilea in well-draining potting soil, watering only when the top inch of the soil is dry, misting the leaves to increase humidity and placing the pilea in an area of bright, indirect light.

Here is a reference table with the most common reasons and symptoms that I have seen for dying pilea peperomioides (also known as Chinese money plant):

Symptoms of Dying Pilea Peperomioides:
Reason for a Dying Pilea Peperomioides:
Drooping Stems and Leaves:Pilea stems and leaves become leggy and droop due to lack of light. Pilea requires bright, indirect light rather than too much shade. Small pots and underwatering can contribute to drooping pilea plants.
Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown (Often with a drooping Appearance):Watering too often, causing the soil to be consistently damp, can result in root rot, which turns the leaves brown and yellow. Pilea peperomioides requires the top inch of the soil to dry between watering.
The Bottom Leaves and Stems Turn Yellow with a Dying Appearance:As the plant matures, the bottom leaves of pilea peperomioides turn yellow with a drooping, dying appearance. If the upper leaves are green and healthy, then there is usually nothing wrong with the plant as the bottom leaves dying back are a natural part of the pilea peperomioides cycle of growth.
Leaves Turning Brown:Too much sun can scorch the leaves. Pilea are adapted to growing out of direct sunlight, and their sensitive leaves can burn in the sun. Healthy leaves should be dark green.
Pilea Leaves Curling and Perhaps Drooping:Overwatering and compacted soil can cause pilea’s leaves (which are typically flat) to curl. Low humidity, high temperatures (more than 85°F), and watering too lightly can also contribute to the pilea’s leaves curling.
Pilea Not Growing:Soil that is too compacted and not porous, aerated, and well-draining can make it difficult for the pilea’s roots to establish, which prevents the pilea from growing properly.

Keep reading to learn the cause of your dying pilea peperomioides and for how to implement the solutions to revive your dying pilea peperomioides plant

Why is My Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant) Drooping?

  • Symptoms. The stems and leaves of the money plant turn leggy or droop downwards, sometimes with a pale color.
  • Causes. Lack of sun and small pots that dry out too quickly between each watering.

The reason I see for a drooping pilea is because of low levels of light. Your pilea plants grow best when in bright, indirect sunlight. If your pilea is in too much shade, then the stems grow longer and weaker as the leaves look for a stronger source of light, which causes a drooping appearance.

To understand why our pilea plants are drooping, it is important that we all understand how they grow in their native environment…

Pilea plants grow naturally in rocky limestone outcrops on hillsides in temperate climates in China, where they are protected from direct sunlight but experience bright, indirect light and high humidity.

Therefore the light indoors can be too low for the pilea, particularly if they are in a room with a north-facing window and lots of dark surfaces.

A lack of light causes the pilea to put its energy into growing its stems as a priority in order to look for more light. The stems then become leggy and weak causing the pilea’s stems and leaves to droop.

Your pilea peperomioides can also droop over, specifically on one side more than the other, if they are not turned regularly so that the whole plant has an even amount of light.

Another cause of drooping pilea plants is due to dry soil.

Pilea plants are often sold as small plants, which may be in smaller pots. A very small pot has less capacity for soil and, therefore, can hold much less moisture and dries out much quicker.

If the soil dries out completely then the pilea droops as a sign of stress.

Consider whether your pilea is near a source of heat, which can contribute to the soil drying too fast, or in an air current, which can sap moisture from the leaves (pilea’s prefer some humidity).

My pilea peperomioides also naturally grows into a leggy plant over time. I should highlight that the aesthetic, Instagram-worthy appearance may only last 2 years or so before the lower leaves start dying back, and as the plant grows larger, the overall appearance tends to be drooping.

This is also the timeline of growth as a wild plant in terms of developing a drooping appearance over time.

My Tips for Reviving a Drooping and Dying Pilea Peperomioides

  • Pilea prefers a temperature range of 65ºF to 80ºF (18ºC to 27ºC). High temperatures dry out the soil and sap moisture from the leaves, causing them to droop, so I keep my pilea away from any sources of indoor heating to ensure pilea is in its preferred temperature range.
  • Ensure the pilea is not in any direct air currents from air conditioning, draughts, or forced air. As we discussed, pilea plants are adapted to high levels of humidity in their native environment, and dry air indoors saps too much moisture, causing the leaves and stems to droop.
  • Increase the humidity by misting the pilea once every few days, or use a small plant humidifier that can precisely emulate the preferred level of humidity for pilea and other tropical plants to ensure they stay healthy. This creates a humid micro-climate that replicates the more humid conditions of the pilea peperomioides native environment.
  • Check to see if your pilea’s roots are pot-bound by lifting the plant of the pot gently. If you can see lots of roots that look as though they are pressed against the side of the pot as they fight for space, then I recommend repotting the pilea to a pot one size up from the current pot. A larger pot has the capacity for more soil, so the roots can draw up nutrients and moisture as they require.
  • Locate your pilea in a room with bright, indirect light to prevent drooping. A nice bright room ensures that the pilea’s stems do not have to grow long and leggy to look for a stronger source of light. This ensures the pilea can retain a more compact and even appearance for longer. Keep your plant away from direct light, as this can burn the sensitive leaves.
  • Rotate your pilea pot every time you water it to ensure even growth. By rotating the pilea 45 degrees every so often or whenever you water, you can ensure that each side of the plant has enough light, which ensures more even growth and prevents the plant from drooping.

Pro tip: My pilea peperomioides grow best in my bathroom (compared to any other room in my house) because bathrooms are naturally higher in humidity. This keeps my pilea in great condition and prevents it from drooping due to dry air.

If the plant is mature and has a drooping appearance due to the age of the plant, then it can be difficult to revive to its original appearance, although I would still recommend rotating the plant often and locating it in a bright room.

Pilea are often called the ‘friendship plant’ as they often grow offshoots, which propagate very easily. This can provide a new pilea plant that has a non drooping appearance.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate pilea offshoots for new plants:

Why Are My Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant) Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown?

  • Symptoms. Yellow leaves can turn droopy or wilted with a dying appearance.
  • Causes. Lower leaves naturally turn yellow as the pilea peperomioides matures. Too much moisture around the roots or compacted soil can cause root rot and turn the leaves yellow and brown. Low light can also cause pilea leaves to turn leggy and yellow in appearance. Too much sun can scorch the leaves brown.

If your pilea leaves are turning yellow, then this is usually because of root rot due to too much water around the roots. As I stated, pilea peperomioides have adapted to growing in gritty soils and require well-draining conditions. If the soil is too compacted or too damp, then the leaves turn yellow with a dying appearance.

However its should be noted that the lower leaves and stems of the pilea turn yellow and withered as the plant matures.

This is an entirely natural process, and I can assure you that does not necessarily indicate there is any stress to your plant, particularly if the rest of the leaves look healthy and green.

Pilea leaves can also turn yellow if they are in a dimly lit room. Pilea prefers bright, indirect light, which promotes even growth, and dark green, healthy-looking leaves.

If the pilea is in a very shaded location (such as a room with a north-facing window), then the stems can grow leggy, and the leaves turn pale as they look for a stronger source of light. This used to happen to me when I lived in my apartment that didn’t have enough light for my pilea peperomioides to thrive.

Probably the most common cause of pilea peperomioides leaves turn yellow and brown is because the soil is too damp, which can be a result of:

  • Watering too often.
  • Slow-draining or compacted soils.
  • Saucers and trays underneath the pilea’s pot prevent water from draining properly after watering.

Pileas are adapted to growing in rocky or gritty soils that have a porous, aerated structure that allows excess water to drain away from the roots efficiently after rainfall.

If your potting medium is too compacted or does not drain efficiently, this can exclude oxygen from around the roots, which prevents root respiration.

If the roots cannot respire, then this interferes with their ability to draw up the moisture and nutrients that the pilea requires, which results in the leaves turning yellow with a dying appearance.

How I Revive a Dying Pilea Peperomioides with Yellow Leaves…

  • What you need to do is scale back the watering so that the top inch of the soil dries out between each bout of watering. I find my Pilea typically requires watering once a week in the Spring and Summer and once every 2 weeks in the Fall and Winter when growth slows in response to lower temperatures and less light. If you are watering more often than once a week and the soil is consistently damp, then this is the reason for the leaves turning yellow.
  • Re-pot pilea peperomioides in a new, gritty, draining potting medium. Pilea peperomioides grow naturally in gritty, well-draining, aerated soils, and we need to replicate this when growing pilea indoors. I personally use 2/3’s peat-free potting soil or compost with 1/3 horticultural grit for the optimal balance of soil moisture and drainage. Succulent and cacti soil or pine barked-based potting medium can also be used rather than grit to create a good soil structure.
  • Empty saucers and trays of excess water regularly and ensure the pot has drainage holes in the base. If water pools underneath the pot, then the soil remains damp, and the pilea’s leaves turn yellow due to root rot.
  • Move your pilea peperomioides to a room with bright, indirect light. Pilea are well suited to growing in the brightest rooms of the house to promote healthy growth. Pilea peperomioides with enough light have dark green leaves and retain their shape for much longer. I recommend turning your pilea plant 45 degrees every time you water to ensure each side of the plant gets enough light so the plant has a nice, even shape. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can burn the sensitive leaves.
  • If your pilea peperomioides is turning brown and it is in some direct sunlight, then I advise you to move the pilea to a bright area without direct light. Pilea have sensitive leaves that can burn in full sun. Pilea naturally grows under the canopy of montane forests in China, so it is leaves are protected from strong sunshine but still enjoy bright areas of indirect light. Cut away any sun burnt leaves, as they do not typically recover.

Recreating the well-draining soil conditions with gritty potting soil and watering when the top inch feels dry provides the pilea with the conditions it requires to revive.

However, if the pilea has been in damp soil or sat in water for too long, then it has likely developed root rot, at which point it can be very difficult to save.

Pileas that have turned yellow and grow leggy due to not enough sunlight can somewhat revive once they are moved to a brighter spot.

Cut away any yellowing, leggy leaves, or stems that do not recover to help stimulate new growth. If the whole plant remains alive but leggy, then I would recommend propagating your pilea from healthy growth.

Why Are My Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant) Leaves Curling?

  • Symptoms. Leaves curling from their usual flat shape.
  • Causes. Low humidity, underwatering, overwatering, too much sun, high temperatures.

Most often, the reason I see for pilea peperomioides leaves curling is because the soil is too damp from overwatering. Pilea plants require the top inch of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering. If the pilea’s leaves curl inwards, this indicates stress due to damp potting soil and overwatering.

However, I also see pilea peperomioides leaves can also curl and droop as a reaction to overly dry conditions.

Pileas grow in well-draining gritty soils, so they can tolerate periods of drought between watering, but if the humidity is too low, then this can sap moisture from the leaves.

This was a problem for me as my heating in winter dried out the air, and the air con in the Summer sapped moisture from the leaves of my pilea.

High temperatures and too much sun also increase evaporation and water loss from the leaves, which contributes to the leaves curling appearance, which I find happens in Winter with indoor heating.

It is also important to water your pilea thoroughly each time you water, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot. If you water too lightly then only the top inch or so of the potting medium becomes moist and the water does not reach the roots where it is required.

The reason pilea leaves curl up in response to dry soil and dry air is to reduce the surface area of the leaves. If the leaves have a reduced surface area, this helps to conserve moisture as it lowers the amount of water loss from the leaves.

My Tips for Reviving Dying Pilea Peperomioides with Curling Leaves…

To revive curling pilea peperomioides leaves, we need to replicate the conditions of the pilea’s natural environment with a temperature range of between 65° to 85°F, high humidity and to water the pilea around once a week, then allow the top inch of the soil to dry before watering again.

  • Ensure the top inch of your soil is dry before watering pilea plants with a good soak. If you have been overwatering your pilea and you suspect this is the reason for curling leaves, then you need to allow the top inch or so to dry out before watering again. Always remember to empty any saucers or trays underneath your pilea’s pot of water regularly so that water does not pool around the base of the pot. Always plant pilea in pots with drainage holes in the base.
  • Plant pilea in a well-draining potting mix and avoid compacting the potting soil. Aerated soil that is well draining is important for growing pilea and preventing problems associated with overwatering, such as curling leaves. If the soil is compacted, then what I do is repot my pilea and amend the soil with 1/3 grit, succulent, and cacti soil or orchid potting medium with 2/3’s ordinary potting soil or compost. I have used both, and they both have worked great. This replicates the soil conditions of the pilea’s native environment,
  • Keep pilea away from draughts, air currents from forced air, and out of the direct current of air conditioning. All these factors dry the air and sap moisture from the leaves, which can cause them to curl. I move mine to the other side of the room from any heating in the Winter to prevent my plant’s leaves from curling.
  • I spray my pilea with mist once every 2 days. Pilea grow in relatively humid environments, so misting your pilea helps to create a humid micro-climate around the plant. If my plea leaves are curling, then I mist them every 2 days to help to reduce water loss and restore the curled leaves to their normal appearance.
  • Pilea prefers a temperature range of 65°F to 85°F (18°C to 30°C). Keep pilea within the preferred temperature range to revive the curling leaves, as excess temperature sap moisture from the leaves and dry out the soil too quickly.

If the cause of your curling pilea leaves is overwatering and damp potting soil, then the pilea should revive gradually over the weeks as long as the soil can dry somewhat between bouts of watering. This restores the natural balance of moisture and drainage for the pilea to thrive.

If the cause of the curling leaves is due to dry conditions, then I recommend you implement regular misting of the leaves, a cooler environment (still above 65°F or 18°C), and keep the pilea away from direct sunlight and away from drying air currents. When I treat a pilea with curling leaves, I find it can revive in as little as a week.

The pilea should start to recover well from drought stress after a good soak.

Why is My Pilea Peperomioides Not Growing?

Are you frustrated that your pilea peperomioides is not growing?

If your pilea is not growing (or growing very slowly), I find it is usually because the potting soil is too compacted for the roots to grow properly.

Your pilea plants require aerated soil to establish. If the soil is too dense, then the pilea’s root system cannot establish and access the moisture and nutrients they require to grow properly.

As we discussed, pilea grow in porous, well-draining, gritty soil in their native environment. This allows water to drain efficiently and space for sufficient oxygen for root respiration so that the plant can grow properly.

The solution for a pilea that is not growing well is to replicate the soil in the pilea’s native environment by amending it with 1/3 horticultural grit, succulent and cacti soil, or orchid potting medium.

All these options help to improve the structure of the potting soil so that it is more favorable for pilea peperomioides to grow well.

Useful tip: I would also recommend repotting the pilea to a pot the next size up in case pot-bound roots are limiting the pilea’s growth.

It is also best practice to use a regular houseplant fertilizer at half strength every 4 weeks in the Spring and Summer, which can help stimulate growth, particularly if the pilea has been in the same pot for a long time or the potting soil is especially poor in nutrients.

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying pilea peperomioides is usually because of root rot due to overwatering. Pilea plants require the top inch of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering. If pilea peperomioides is watered too often, the leaves turn yellow and brown with a drooping, dying appearance.
  • The reason for a drooping pilea peperomioides is usually because of a lack of light. Pilea plants require bright, indirect light. If pilea peperomioides are too shaded, the leaves and stems grow leggy and turn yellow with a drooping appearance.
  • The reason for pilea peperomioides leaves turning yellow or brown is usually lack of light or overwatering. If the soil is consistently damp, then the leaves turn yellow and droop down because of root rot. Pilea peperomioides turns yellow, grows leggy, and droops without enough light.
  • Pilea peperomioides leaves turn yellow with a dying appearance at the bottom of the plant as the plant matures. As the pilea grows, it invests its energy and resources in new growth higher up the stem, which causes the lower leaves to turn yellow with a dying appearance.
  • The reason for pilea peperomioides leaves curling is usually because of low humidity, high temperature, and watering too lightly, which causes the leaves to curl to conserve moisture. Pilea peperomioides prefers high humidity, temperatures between 65° to 85°F, and generous watering to prevent the leaves from curling.
  • The most common reason for pilea peperomioides not growing is because the soil is too dense and the roots cannot be established. The roots cannot grow properly in dense soil, which prevents the pilea peperomioides roots from accessing the moisture and nutrients they require to grow.

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