Pilea peperomioides (/ /), the Chinese money plant, UFO plant, pancake plant or missionary plant, is a species of flowering plant in the nettle family Urticaceae, native to Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in southern China.
|Pilea peperomioides and offspring|
In 1945, the species was found by Norwegian missionary Agnar Espegren in Yunnan Province when he was fleeing from Hunan Province. He took cuttings of it back to Norway, by way of India, in 1946, and from there it was spread throughout Scandinavia.
Pilea peperomioides is an example of a plant that has been spread amongst amateur gardeners via cuttings, without being well-known to western botanists until the late 20th century. They did not know its true classification until the 1980s. The first known published image of it appeared in the Kew magazine in 1984. In recent years it has become widely available commercially and is no longer a curiosity.
Pilea peperomioides is an erect, evergreen perennial plant, with shiny, dark green, circular leaves up to 10 cm (4 in) in diameter on long petioles. The leaves are described as peltate—circular, with the petiole attached near the centre. The plant is completely hairless. It grows to around 30 cm (12 in) tall and wide in the wild, sometimes more indoors. The stem is greenish to dark brown, usually unbranched and upright, and lignified at the base when mature. In poor growing conditions, it loses its leaves in the lower part of the stem and assumes a distinctive habit. The flowers are inconspicuous.
The plant has a superficial resemblance to some species of Peperomia (hence the specific epithet peperomioides), also popular as cultivated plants but in a different family, the Piperaceae. It is also sometimes confused with other peltate-leaved plants such as Nasturtium, Umbilicus and Hydrocotyle.
This species occurs only in China: in the southwest of Sichuan province and the west of Yunnan province. It grows on shady, damp rocks in forests at altitudes from 1500 to 3000m. It is endangered in its native habitat. However, it is kept in China and worldwide as an ornamental plant.
With a minimum temperature of 10 °C (50 °F), in temperate regions, P. peperomioides is cultivated as a houseplant. P. peperomioides is propagated from plantlets that sprout on the trunk of the parent plant (these are called offshoots) or from underground shoots (called rhizomes). These offshoots are often passed on as a lucky plant ("lucky thaler") or friendship plant. Since constant temperatures and high humidity have a positive effect on plant growth, this plant species is suitable for planting terrariums.
Although the plant is endangered in its native habitat, it is among the most popular houseplants today. It is in high demand because it is slim, easy to grow, and tolerates dry environments. However, it is not a new fad, and has been further popularized by social media trends on Instagram, TikTok, and other websites. The plant is readily available in retail greenhouses, which in turn are supplied by industrial-scale farming enterprises.
There are three different cultivars which have appeared in the last few years “Sugar”, “White Splash” and “Mojito.”
- Interview of Dr Phillip Cribb by Jane Perrone on Episode 17: Seeking Pilea peperomioides - why everyone wants the Chinese money plant (01:40) of On the Ledge podcast. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- Citizen science observations for Pilea peperomioides at iNaturalist
- "RHS Plant Selector - Pilea peperomioides". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
- "A Chinese puzzle solved - Pilea peperomioides". Retrieved 30 June 2013.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
- A. Radcliffe-Smith: Pilea peperomioides . Kew Magazine, vol. 1, 1984, pp. 14-19.
- Stanwyck, Mary (2020). The Pilea Peperomioides Handbook: An Illustrated Guide to Caring for Your Chinese Money Plant. London: Pilea Publications. pp. 15–17.
- Airhart, Ellen (2019-03-21). "The Instagram-famous plant that used to be impossible to find". Vox. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
- "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 78. Retrieved 30 April 2018.