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Problems with Pilea peperomioides | How to revive a Chinese money plant

If you’ve managed to obtain your very own Pilea peperomioides, the last thing you want is to run into any issues. When you’re growing houseplants problems are unfortunately bound to arise sooner or later, though. A plant can be damaged, carry bugs or be placed in a less than ideal location in your home.

Luckily, most issues with Pilea peperomioides are easily solved with a small change. If your Pilea doesn’t seem to be feeling too well right now, just scroll through the list below to see if any of the symptoms match. If yes, keep reading to find out how to easily nurse your plant back to health!

Note: did you stumble upon this article while looking for general Pilea peperomioides care tips? You might want to head over to the Pilea care guide instead, as this article only covers problems that might arise when trying to keep your Chinese money plant happy.

Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plants)

Chinese money plant is droopy

Problem: Plant looking limp
Causes: Shock, thirst, overwatering

If your Pilea peperomioides is letting its leaves droop, something is going on.

There are multiple possible causes for droopy leaves, so ask yourself the following questions to figure out what’s going on:

  • Was the plant just moved, shipped or otherwise shocked? Houseplants in general despise change. They can be cranky for a few days or even a few weeks after a move. Give your Pilea some time and it’ll likely recover by itself if all other care requirements are being met!
  • Did you forget to water? Plants generally lose leaf stiffness when they’re thirsty. Check your Pilea’s soil and if it seems overly dry, give the plant a good sip. Also aerate the plant’s soil using a toothpick or something similar if it’s been a while since you last did so.

    If the soil is too compacted, water might not actually be reaching the roots properly. Avoid using too much peat or coco coir in your soil mix for this reason.
  • Are you overwatering? Yes, drooping can (annoyingly) be caused by both over- and underwatering. If your Pilea seems droopy and hasn’t been moved nor underwatered, try having a look at its soil and roots. Does the soil seem overly wet? Are there any signs of rot on the roots?

    If yes to any of the above, you have to take action ASAP. Skip to the last paragraph of this article for tips on dealing with root rot. This issue can quickly become fatal to your plant if not dealt with accordingly.
Close-up of small Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant) houseplant.

Chinese money plant leaves are curling

Problem: Leaves curling inward or outward
Causes: Too much light, overwatering, cold, overfertilization

If your Pilea’s leaves are curling it can be pretty difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on, because leaf curl can have a bunch of different causes. Pilea enthusiasts don’t always agree on exact causes.

Try going through the list below and see if any of the following applies to your plant.

  • Is your Pilea in an overly light location? A common cause of curling leaves is too much sun or heat. While Pilea peperomioides loves plenty of light it should ideally be indirect or at least shaded by a sheer curtain.
  • Are you overwatering? Check whether the top soil layer is actually dry before you water again and make sure you got the balance of light and watering right. If you’re also seeing yellowing and dying leaves, this might very well be the explanation for your Pilea’s issues. Remember, this plant exhibits succulent tendencies and doesn’t like wet feet!
  • Is your Pilea being exposed to draft? This is not something many plant lovers think about, but some have reported it as a possible cause for curled Pilea peperomioides leaves. Keep the plant away from fans, heaters and AC’s.
  • Are you overfertilizing? You should only be feeding your Pilea peperomioides during the growing season. It doesn’t need a lot nor anything special. Try applying a diluted houseplant fertilizer no more than once a month if you want to feed your Pilea. Remember that many soils already contain slow-release fertilizer, so you usually won’t have to feed too soon after a repot.
Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant) houseplant in white lace-like planter.

Chinese money plant is losing leaves

Problem: Leaf loss
Causes: Normal, overwatering, nutrient deficiency

If you’re regularly finding dead and dying leaves on your Pilea peperomioides it can be easy to panic. Is it dying?!

First off: don’t panic. Some degree of leaf loss is normal in all plants. They’ll shed their lower leaves if they are too far away from the light source, too old or no longer useful for any other reason. My own Pilea shed almost all of its leaves after I bought it and replaced it with smaller ones, for example.

Whether you need to take action depends on the amount of leaf loss. If balance is lacking (more loss than growth, especially during the growing season), there might be something going on.

What is causing leaf loss on your Pilea can be pretty difficult to figure out, because almost all issues can eventually cause the plant to start shedding. The most common cause again, though, is overwatering. If your Pilea’s leaves are yellowing and/or browning uniformly before dying off, this might be the issue.

  •  Overwatering. As mentioned before, this plant is succulent-like. The top of its soil should be dry before watering again, which can take longer than you’d think during winter. Have a look at the last paragraph for tips on preventing overwatering (beyond just watering less).
  • Underfertilizing. If you’re sure you’re not overwatering, consider food. How long has it been since you last repotted the plant or applied fertilizer? If it’s the growing season and your Pilea is producing new leaves, it might need a little fertilizer to keep going. Leaves turning yellow before dying off might be related to simple hunger.
Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant) leaves

Chinese money plant leaves getting brown spot

Problem: Brown spots on leaves
Causes: Overfertilization, sunburn, cold

Like most other issues, brown leaf spots can have a few possible causes.

Note that here we don’t mean overall browning and then leaf death: we’re talking brown splotches that show up suddenly.

  • Fertilizer burn. Have you fertilized or repotted your Pilea peperomioides lately? Fertilizer burn can show up as browning on the leaves. Be sure to dilute any fertilizer before applying it to your Pilea’s soil to prevent any damage.
  • Sunburn. Has your Pilea been getting blasted by the sun lately? I don’t mean a few rays here, I mean direct afternoon sun for several hours. Exposure to that kind of intensity can cause brown scarring as well as yellow spotting on the leaves. Move the plant if you haven’t already!
  • Cold damage. If it’s wintertime and your Pilea peperomioides is next to a drafty or single pane window, it might be getting too cold. Cold damage manifests itself through scarring on the leaves. If you’re seeing raised, brownish lesions be sure to check the temperature around the plant.

White grains on Chinese money plant leaves

Problem: Grainy secretions
Causes: Mineral deposits

Seeing little white sand-like grains on the underside of your Pilea’s leaves? Unlike with most of the items on this list, there is no reason to worry here.

The white grains are mineral deposits excreted by the leaves. You can easily remove them by gently wiping the leaf, or just leave things as is.

If you’re seeing white spots rather than grains there might be something else going on.

Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant) showing curled leaves and yellowing
Leaf bending and yellowing on a Pilea peperomioides.

Chinese money plant leaves changing color

Problem: Leaves changing shade of green
Causes: Normal, lack of light

We’ve discussed all kinds of Pilea leaf colors so far. Yellow, brown, splotchy… and that’s not all. If you’ve had your Pilea peperomioides for a while and you’re seeing its leaves changing to another shade of green, that might spook you as well. Is this an indication of some kind of disease?

Luckily, it usually isn’t. Houseplant leaves can vary in their greenness depending on lighting. If your Pilea is in a bright spot its leaves might be quite light green, which can explain color changes during springtime when days start to lengthen and the sun’s intensity increases. Not a problem unless you’re seeing any of the signs of sun damage discussed before (brown/yellow splotches, leaf curl).

During wintertime, your Pilea’s leaves might turn a darker green shade. Again, no issues with this. Just be sure the plant is still getting enough light to survive and don’t forget to adjust your watering schedule. A plant that isn’t receiving as much light doesn’t need as much water either.

Pilea peperomioides (Chinese money plant) with leaf curling inwards
Leaf curling on Pilea peperomioides.

Chinese money plant bugs: help!

Problem: Infestation
Causes: Mealybugs, aphids, spider mites & more

Bugs are a common problem with houseplants in general and unfortunately, Pilea peperomioides is not exempt from this.

Although the presence of the occasional creepy crawly thing shouldn’t be too damaging to your plant, a severe infestation can be dangerous. And it can go unnoticed: some bugs are very tiny and hide on the underside of your plant’s leaves.

You should always be inspecting any new plants or plants that you’re moving indoors after summer, even if they’re not showing any visible problems. Common symptoms of bugs include:

  • Leaf curl and webbing on the underside of the leaves (spider mites)
  • Fuzzy white dots lodged in crevices/leaf bases (mealybugs)
  • Tiny flies appearing in your home (fungus gnats)

If you’re noticing any of these be sure to have a look to figure out what’s going on. If you find any bugs, treat with an insecticidal soap to prevent the problem from escalating.

Close-up of Pilea peperomioides houseplant.

Chinese money plant rotting

Problem: Root and/or stem rot
Causes: Bacterial or fungal infection due to overwatering

Because (root) rot from overwatering is a very common cause of Pilea peperomioides death I’d like to pay a little more attention to it.

Using the guide above you were hopefully able to figure out what’s going on with your Pilea. But what do you actually do when you lift the plant from its pot and find a mess of blackening rotting roots?

Rot is very severe and in many cases, it won’t be possible to save the plant. If things aren’t too advanced yet, however, you might be able to contain the problem.

  • Propagation. First off, whenever there is any sign of rot on a plant I personally like to immediately take a cutting as far away from the affected part as possible. In many cases, including with Pilea peperomioides, this usually means beheading the plant. I then use the instructions from the Pilea propagation guide as a Plan B in case I’m unable to save the mother plant.

    Removing part of your plant is actually helpful when dealing with rot, because you’ll most likely be cutting off a lot or even all of the roots and it will have trouble sustaining all of its existing leaves without them anyway.
  • Root trimming. Is the rot isolated to (part of) the roots? Cut ’em off. No, seriously. If a plant is rotting you’ll unfortunately have to cut away any affected parts and salvage what you can. Remove anything that looks even remotely blackened. Then, repot into fresh soil and water very carefully until the plant appears to have adapted.
  • Stem rot. If the rot has reached your Pilea’s stem, the previously mentioned propagation option is unfortunately pretty much all you can do. Everything that’s rotting has to go. All you can do is hope the top part of your Pilea peperomioides has not yet been affected and can continue to grow.

Now, I’ll have to be honest and tell you that by the time you notice rot it’ll often be too late. That’s why prevention is always preferable. Overwatering and wet soil are the prime causes of (root) rot in houseplants, so keep reading below to find out how to make sure your Pilea doesn’t suffer from wet feet.

Bumps on Pilea leaves

Problem: Oedema
Causes: Erratic watering

Ever heard of oedema on houseplants? It’s a condition caused by overwatering and/or erratic watering. It manifests differently in different plant species, but on Pilea peperomioides, it tends to show as small blisters or bumps on the leaves.

Oedema is not uncommon for newly bought Pileas, as garden centers aren’t always the best about watering. The bad news is that the bumps won’t go away. The good news is that, as long as you provide great Pilea peperomioides care, new leaves should come out normal.

Overwatering: prevention

As you’ve (hopefully!) been able to conclude from this article, one of the most common causes of Pilea death is overwatering.

Now, just telling you that you’re overwatering might lead you to reduce waterings, which can be very helpful. Surprisingly though, in some cases just watering less might not be enough to prevent wet feet.

  • Proper drainage. Unless you’re an experienced houseplant grower you should always be using a pot with a drainage hole. If there is any leftover water present in the plant’s saucer after a few hours, discard that and water less next time.
  • Proper soil. Can’t stress it enough: Pilea peperomioides is succulent-like. This should be reflected in your choice of soil. You can use regular potting soil, but be sure to mix in some grit like perlite. This doesn’t just increase drainage but also helps keep the roots aerated. You can have a look at the Pilea potting guide for more info.
  • Proper pot. It can be tempting to try and give your plant as much room as possible. However, overpotting (using a pot that’s too large) can actually result in overly wet soil. This especially applies if your plant is still establishing itself and doesn’t have a strong root system yet. It simply won’t be able to soak up water throughout the entire pot, leaving the soil wet and nasty.

Tip: Not sure how much water your Pilea peperomioides actually needs? Take a peek at the full Pilea watering guide for everything you need to know.

Pilea peperomioides houseplant in terracotta planter on dark table with white background.