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Foliage Plant
of the month


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Pilea spp. (pi-LEE-a)

Aluminum plant, Watermelon Pilea, Friendship plant, Panamiga, Creeping Charlie, Artillery plant

Pileas are grown as outdoor groundcover in tropical climates, and they make hardy houseplants prized for their beautiful foliage. The plants are available in bushy or trailing varieties, and their leaves range from compact round leaves to larger leaves with depressed veins that give the illusion of quilting. Leaf coloration ranges from silvery green to a deep bronze or copper tinge.

With proper care, these plants can live indoors for years (see “Repotting”).

Pileas are available year-round.

LIGHT Average indoor light is appropriate. Keep the plants out of direct sun.
WATER In spring through fall, water thoroughly and allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Water less frequently in winter.
TEMPERATURE Average warm indoor temperatures are appropriate; Pileas like a night temperature between 65 F and 70 F and a day temperature between 75 F and 85
F. Avoid temperatures below 50 F.
HUMIDITY Mist the leaves regularly.
FERTILIZER Feed established plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer, diluted by half, every two months. Wait three or four months before feeding newly purchased or newly potted plants.
PROPOGATION Pileas can be propagated easily through stem cuttings in spring or early summer.
REPOTTING It is recommended to take stem cuttings and start new plants each spring to replace Pileas that have grown leggy with age rather than repotting older plants. The plants generally grow best in 3- to 4-inch pots.

PESTS AND PROBLEMS Daily misting helps prevent red spider mites, which can be treated with insecticide if they appear.
LEAF DROP Even healthy plants can shed a few leaves in winter, but cold air and too-wet SOIL can be the cause of more serious shedding.
WILTING LEAVES Overwatering, especially in winter, can cause leaves to droop.
BROWN-TIPPED LEAVES This can be a sign of light levels that are too low. If moving the plant to a sunnier spot doesn’t help, a sudden drop in temperature may be to blame.

WHAT'S IN A NAME The genus name comes from the Greek “pilos,” which means “cap” and refers to the shape of the seeds. The common name “artillery plant” comes from the habit of some of the plants’ seed pods, which forcibly eject the seeds once they are ripe. The common name “friendship plant” comes from their ease of propagating.
FAMILY Pileas are members of the Urticaceae (nettle) family.
HOME SWEET HOME The plants are native to Vietnam, Central and South America, Mexico and the West Indies.
DISPLAY OPTIONS Pileas work well in hanging baskets and in terrariums.

Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
The Chain of Life Network®,
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, by Barbara Pleasant
Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, Inc.,
The House Plant Expert, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon

Photos courtesy of Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, Inc.

You may reach Foliage Plant of the Month writer Amy Bauer by e-mail at or by phone at (800) 355-8086.


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