Growing An Indoor Chinese Money Plant

Written by Kathryn Koehler
Updated: January 11, 2023
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Growing a Chinese money plant indoors is a splendid addition to any interior space, from offices and restaurants to classrooms and homes.

The Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides), native to China, is one of the newer species of houseplants on the market. Though the plant was introduced in Europe in the mid-19th century, by a missionary named Agnar Espegren, it only became widely commercially available in the United States circa 2016.

Since its introduction into the mainstream, the Chinese money plant has become one of the more popular and treasured houseplants in the United States. Thank goodness, growing an indoor Chinese money plant is relatively simple and straightforward.

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Keep reading to learn about the optimum conditions for growing a Chinese money plant indoors. We’ll discuss the plant’s appearance, light requirements, preferred soil types, watering routines, and the temperature and humidity ranges that allow these trending plants to not only survive but thrive!

Chinese Money Plant
Species Pilea peperomioides
Common NamesChinese money plant, UFO plant, pancake plant, missionary plant, friendship plant, pass-along plant
Light Requirementsbright, indirect light
Preferred Soilwell-draining, ph levels 6.0-7.0
Watering Routineallow the soil to dry out between thorough waterings
Temperature/Humidity60-75 degrees Fahrenheit; 50-75 percent humidity

Growing An Indoor Chinese Money Plant: Appearance

Pilea peperomioides is native to China solely, hence its nickname the Chinese money plant. It is also called the missionary plant, a nod to Agnar Espegren, a missionary responsible for bringing the plant out of China and to the rest of the world. His habit of giving these plants to friends is what earned Pilea peperomioides the nicknames pass-along plant and friendship plant.

But it’s the plants’ round leaves that earned it the sobriquets UFO plant and pancake plant.

Chinese money plants are evergreen perennials with a single round, shiny, green leaf at the end of many stems erupting from the crown of the plant. These plants will grow to a height of 12 inches, with an equal spread, while producing many offsets, also called pups, tiny clones of the established plant, that are perfect for propagating. The plant flowers in nature, but is not a reliable flowerer growing indoors.

Full frame Chinese money plant against whit isolate. The plant consists of flat and somewhat concave round green leaves with a cream to yellow dot where the plant stem is connected. The leaves face all different directions and are of varying heights and sizes.

The Chinese money plant’s round leaves earned it the nicknames UFO plant and pancake plant.

©Mehta Photography/Shutterstock.com

Light Requirements

All plants require sunlight to grow. The sun provides plants with the energy they need to grow through a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the combining of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to create glucose. Glucose energizes plants, resulting in their growth.

Choosing the best location for your Chinese money plant is easy. Undnderstanding how the Earth revolves around the sun is key. Though seasonal differences influence the amount of light streaming through your windows, conventional wisdom suggests the following:

  • North-facing windows receive the least amount of light.
  • South-facing windows receive the most light, both in intensity and amount of time.
  • East-facing windows receive bright morning light. The sun is lower in the morning, so the light in east-facing windows is bright, but not overly warm/ hot.
  • West-facing windows receive bright afternoon to evening sun, which can be quite warm/hot.

Chinese money plants prefer bright, indirect light, making east-facing windows the best location for growing these plants inside. Eastern windows provide adequate light without getting too hot.

Chinese money plant in a sunny window with sunlight streaming between the plants round, green leaves. The plants almost vertical stem is frame right, with its leaves taking up most of the frame except of far left.

Chinese money plants prefer bright, indirect light, making east-facing windows the best location for growing these plants inside.

©Floris Verweij/Shutterstock.com

If an east window is not available, a west window will do. Care must be taken so that the plant does not suffer from overexposure to afternoon sunshine. Too much direct light can result in scorched leaves.

South-facing windows are simply too bright and sunny for these plants, though they can be placed in a room with Southern sun exposure, but should be placed several feet away from the window, lest they become too hot.

If the only available window in your indoor space is a north-facing one, your plant will be leggy (extra long stems) and droopy, as the stems will bend under the weight of the plant’s leaves.

Rotating the plant a quarter turn weekly will aid uniform growth.

Growing An Indoor Chinese Money Plant: Soil Requirements

Good potting soil holds moisture, without being overly wet, and provides nutrients, like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, while allowing the plant’s root access to oxygen. Store-bought potting soil is an excellent choice for indoor growing

Most commercially available potting soils are a mixture of ground-up tree bark, peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. This mixture is steam-sterilized, removing any harmful microorganisms that could lead to diseased plants. So, while potting soil isn’t actu, it does provide an advantageous medium for growing these plants indoors.

More serious plant enthusiasts believe creating your own growing medium is the way to get the best results when growing indoors. A mix of 1/3 organic compost, 1/3 peat moss/ coco coir, and 1/3 perlite or vermiculite is recommended.

While this recipe may provide your plant with perfect soil conditions, unless you are potting numerous plants, mixing your own will leave you with practically full bags of the ingredients that were used. So, unless you have ample storage space, a pre-mixed option is probably best.

Chinese money plants are vigorous growers that will require re-potting every three years or so. Experts do recommend replacing all of your plant’s potting soil when repotting to give it the best advantage.

Closeup of pilea peperomioides Chinese money friendship UFO plant potted houseplant propagated cuttings in green stoneware planter isolated on white background being held by a left , light-skinned human hand.

While potting soil isn’t actually soil, it does provide an advantageous medium for growing Chinese money plants indoors.

©Pegasene/Shutterstock.com

Watering Routines

The one mistake that will kill a Chinese money plant fast is overwatering. This plant does not like boggy water in which its roots remain wet.

A good rule of thumb to consider when watering your Chinese money plant is to not water it until the soil has dried out. This is best determined by sticking your thumb into the soil, at least 1 inch deep. If the soil feels damp, wait before watering.

Thoroughly water your plant when it is dry, drenching the soil. Then allow the soil to dry out before thoroughly watering it again. Continuous light watering simply keeps the plant’s roots wet without encouraging deeper growth.

Terra cotta pots are favored over plastic containers, as terra cotta is porous, allowing the soil to dry out more quickly, avoiding soil that is too wet for these plants. Care must be taken when using plastic pots, to avoid the risk of stagnation and, in the direst of circumstances root rot, which will eventually kill your Chinese money plant.

Closeup of Pilea peperomioides houseplant in terracotta pot on white table at home. Sunlight. Chinese money plant with water drops on green leaves.

Terra cotta pots are favored over plastic containers, as terra cotta is porous, allowing the soil to dry out more quickly.

©DimaBerlin/Shutterstock.com

Growing An Indoor Chinese Money Plant: Humidity and Temperature

Growing an indoor Chinese money tree requires some thought to placement and room conditions.

Humidity

Chinese money plants thrive in warm, moist air. Moist air is humid air. Many people in the United states use air conditioning to mechanically remove humidity from indoor spaces in the summertime.

In winter, when the air is drier, indoor humidity levels plummet, requiring the use of humidifiers to raise the humidity to comfortable levels.

What this means for Chinese money plants is that indoor environments are typically not humid enough for their liking.

Chinese money plants thrive in humidity levels above 50 percent, on the low end, and 75 percent on the upper end. Most indoor spaces have relative humidity levels of 30-40 percent in the winter when air the is drier, and between 40-60 percent in the summer, when the air can be quite humid.

Research suggests that 40-50 percent humidity is the comfort zone for most folks, with humidity levels over 50 percent beginning to feel sticky. 75 percent humidity is oppressive.

Keeping both you and your plant comfortable is a tall order. The good news is that Chinese money plants will tolerate lower humidity. Misting the plants leave will help. Placing a humidifier in the room can help, but be certain to keep the room free of cold, dry drafts. Terrariums are a good choice for growing Chinese money plants, as they maintain humidity levels above 50 percent.

Temperature

Temperature-wise, Chinese money plants are comfortable in a range of 55-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Most home climates are well within that range at 68-78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Noticeable changes, like drooping, flimsy leaves, will occur in your Chinese money plant if you allow the temperature to drop below 50 degrees for an extended period. However, a short period of cooler temperatures (around 55 degrees) may encourage your plant to flower in the spring.

A light-skinned human right hand is visible upper left frame holding a clear plastic spray bottle that is filled with water. The sprayer is emitting a triangle-shaped spray of water mist toward the Chinese money plant that is center to right frame in a withe ceramic pot on an elevated blonde wood plant stand. The plant stand is on a white table. grey wall and  window  in background

Misting the plants leave will keep it comfrotable.

©DimaBerlin/Shutterstock.com

Placing your plant in a terra-cotta pot using quality potting soil, in combination with an infrequent, but thorough watering routine, and placing your plant in an east window should keep you and your Chinese money plant happy. Learn more about these popular plants here.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mehta Photography/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Kathryn Koehler is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her focus is on unusual animals, places, and events. Kat has over 20 years of experience as a professional writer and educator. She holds a master's degree from Vanderbilt University. When she is not writing for A-Z-Animals, Kat enjoys puttering in her garden, baking deliciously healthful treats for her family, and playing with her two rescue mutts, Popcorn and Scooter. She resides in Tennessee.

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Sources
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  5. weather.gov, Available here: https://www.weather.gov/arx/why_dewpoint_vs_humidity