How to grow the Chinese Money Plant
So you want to grow the rare and lucky Chinese money plant (aka UFO plant, missionary plant). However, you also know if you kill this lucky green ball of goodness you’ll be cursed for the rest of your life. Fear not my little plant entrepreneur – we’ve written a comprehensive guide to help you reap your lucky reward for years to come.
The Chinese money plant is a semi succulent evergreen perennial from the mountainous Yunnan region in China. It’s a great houseplant which thrives in a combination of aerated soil, bright indirect light, regular but infrequent watering and periodic fertilisation.
Below, like usual – we get into the nitty gritty of growing your own luscious Chinese money success story.
The nerdy stuff
Pilea peperomioides – most commonly known as the ‘Chinese money plant’ – is a flowering species from the nettle family (Urticaceae). It hails from a mountainous region of China where it grows naturally in the forest like conditions. For the history buffs, it was first brought to Europe (and then beyond) by a Norwegian missionary with a bit of a green finger – though for whatever reason, is still hard to come by at your average nursery. Treated with love, this lucky girl will grow up to 30cm in every direction.
It is a semi succulent evergreen perennial, and is recognisable with its saucer shaped sexy green leaves (which is why some people call it the UFO plant – what imaginations). The leaves are hairless and tend to waxy, and can have a diameter of up to 15cm. Holy lordy. They grow on fine long stems (petioles), which emerge from a central stem axis which is usually green/brown.
In household conditions, they’ll often spread via rhizomes underneath the surface of the soil – you’ll see little babies popping out of the soil, but they are much like modern millennials; you’ll find them still attached to their home and mother. They can also produce little (rather unimpressive) flowers.
With a little luck (ha) you’ll find yourself a nice little money plant to take home to a partner who’ll pretend to be impressed. How now to keep your new baby alive? Step one is not screwing up the planting, Janice.
Like most house plants, the money maker needs aerated quality soil from which to forge its new green kingdom. It’s not super fussy, but I’d use a premium potting mix with about 10% perlite mixed in. For the newbies among us, perlite is puffed volcanic rock which will helps keep plenty of air in the soil, and also helps the plant survive the overactive trigger finger waterers out there. Don’t overpack the soil; if the plant has some height already, you may want to use a wee little sticky to help it stay straight.
Use a pot with good drainage, as always – roots in water is not your friend here.
Walla. You’re planted and on your way.
Positioning / sunlight
The Chinese money plant is often touted as a great low light plant. Nonsense. She’ll survive perhaps, like the bank account of a student on Centrelink after a big weekend – just.
Medium to bright indirect sunlight works best. No direct light unless you want to burn her at the stake. North, east and western facing windows are good choices – west can be a little harsh so move her a foot or two away (south, west and east for those north of the equator folk).
Another key tip here: rotate or get bendy. The stem axis will move toward the lord of light, and unless you want a banana plant, you need to rotate every 2-3 days a quarter turn.
Don’t be afraid to try a new position if things aren’t progressing well – but aim for a well-lit indirect light where possible.
If you’ve read a few of our articles you’ll know that watering is where most people drop the ball. They either water too little because they are forgetful / lazy / enjoy watching things die, or water too often because they can’t help themselves. Back off a little Janice.
90% dry. That’s the ticket here. This plant hails from a dryish mountain region so she needs water only when almost parched. Once a week is a starting guide, but you’ll need to be more frequent in bright light conditions, less do in dark light. A good way to work your schedule out is to water thoroughly, and wait until you notice the first sign of leaf droop; one day short of this is a good schedule to start with, but you’ll still need to keep an eye on the soil dryness / light conditions through the seasons and use some judgement.
We also recommend filtered water if you’re getting odd spots on your leaves. Take the plant out of its decorative pot, water completely through 2-3 times and wait until the dripping is no more, then return home.
Use a decent organic indoor fertiliser, preferably liquid. Fertilise once a month during spring through autumn. Put the fertiliser away in winter. Go to 6 weeks if you’re slightly dim inside.
You’ve had some success, now auntie Gayle is asking for a money plant too. Classic auntie Gayle. Not to worry, just follow these steps my Chinese money Padawan.
Await the puppies. Yes, the little baby Chinese money plants which sprout from the soil are known as pups. When you see a puppy, do not touch it. Patience. Let it grow about three inches long, then dig down and find where it is suckling its mother still. Cut it off from the nest. No more mooching for this pup.
Now you have your cute puppy plant, you can pot directly into a wee little pot with the same potting mixture described above. Hot tip – add in a little organic biotone starter. It helps add some of that delicious good fungus and bacteria back to the sterile soil you get from the nursery, and baby plants dig that.
Alternatively, use a propagation station to help foster root growth before repotting – particularly if you’re having trouble with the direct plant method. Care for them as you do their parent. Soon enough they’ll be little teenagers and you can kick them out of home to Aunt Gayle’s place.
- Plant with premium potting mix with 10% perlite into a well draining pot
- Position in indirect medium to bright light
- Water when dry – not too often
- Fertilise every 4-6 weeks during the warmer months
- Harvest little shoots from the soil by cutting at their junction with the mother plant, and repot / place into propagation station
- Use filtered water if able
There you have it my friends. The complete guide to growing one of these UFO / Chinese money / missionary bad boys like a boss. Go forth and get lucky
Miss Pot Plant