Whether you’re a first-time owner or a seasoned plant mom/dad, it definitely pays to know the common problems with Chinese Money Plant before you bring one home.
Pilea peperomioides or the Chinese Money Plant (aka UFO plant) is typically a hardy species, but as with any other living thing on Earth, it may suffer some problems from time to time. Most of the common issues that afflict the Chinese Money Plant are pretty simple to deal with, only that you need to recognize them early.
Here are some of the common problems that could affect your Pilea:
The Chinese Money Plant is popular for its beautiful, round, dark green leaves. So, if your precious CMP is dropping more leaves than usual (“usual” as in natural aging), we totally understand why you’re worried.
As mentioned, your CMP, or any plant for that matter, will lose or drop some of its older leaves because that’s part of its natural lifecycle. Don’t freak out when you see one or two leaves have fallen off at a time, that’s fine. But your concern is valid when more leaves are dropping at a faster rate.
Pilea Leaf Drop and Overwatering
Overwatering is the most common mistake that many indoor plant owners make. It’s also the most common cause of leaf drop, including other issues.
Your Pilea is especially vulnerable to overwatering. While this plant likes moisture, it’s prone to root rot when the soil is waterlogged. Even if you don’t overwater your CMP, too much moisture due to poor water drainage causes the same problem.
So, how does overwatering damage a plant? Roots growing in watery soil may die because they cannot absorb the oxygen required for normal function. The root damage gets worse the longer the air supply is cut off. The dying roots eventually rot, resulting in inadequate supply and distribution of nutrients—hence, the leaf drop.
Pilea Leaf Drop and Underwatering
Underwatering also causes leaf drop. This is the plant's way to survive by conserving the moisture in the soil. But leaf drop due to overwatering is still more likely than underwatering. Other factors like nutrient deficiency and inadequate sunlight may also contribute to leaf drop.
Leaf Drop Solution
If you suspect your Chinese Money Plant suffers from leaf drop and root rot due to overwatering, you must stop watering it until the soil dries out.
Sometimes, you may need to remove it from its pot to trim the rotten roots, including the dying leaves. Place it on a baking rack so that it airs out more quickly. You can return it to the old pot after punching more holes for better drainage. But if fungi exist, you must put your Pilea in a new pot and replace the soil.
Curling leaves can be caused by various factors, with the direction and shape indicating the source of the problem.
Sometimes, new leaves will appear slightly curled before flattening out as they mature. If the curling only affects fresh leaves, there is no need for concern.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Like the other common problems with the Chinese Money Plant, brown spots could mean many different things. Note that we’re talking about brown splotches that suddenly appear on the leaves and not general browning and leaf death. These are common causes of brown spots on Pilea leaves:
- Overfertilization. This leads to fertilizer burn, which may appear as brown splotches on your Pilea’s leaves. Stay within the recommended dose of fertilizer to avoid the problem. If you’ve just repotted your Chinese Money Plant, dilute the fertilizer before adding it to the soil.
- Sunburn. Pilea naturally thrives in bright light but not direct sunlight. Overexposure to sunlight, especially when direct, may lead to the appearance of both yellow spots and brown patches on the leaves.
- Cold. The temperature during winter may be too low, especially if your Chinese money plant sits right next to a drafty. Scarring on the leaves is a sign of cold damage. Be sure to check the temperature if you start noticing elevated, brownish lesions.
- Pests. Brown patches on your Chinese Money Plant’s leaves could also result from pests. Pests that feed on sap, like mealybugs, harm the leaves. They leave spots that typically start as yellow spots and then brown. Compared to the brown splotches caused by sunburn, spots from pests are usually much smaller.
Brown vs. Dark Brown Spots on Pilea Leaves
Water the soil only when necessary, and avoid the leaves as much as possible. This is particularly important in dimly lit corners in your space, where it takes longer for water to evaporate.
White Spots on Leaves
If you see white sand-like grains on the underside of the leaves, there's usually nothing to worry about. Unlike most of the issues in this post, white grains on a Chinese Money Plant’s leaves are pretty harmless.
The white grains are mineral deposits from the leaves. You can easily remove them by gently wiping the leaf, or you can simply leave them alone. If they bother you, try using filtered water instead of tap water.
Woolly white spots, on the other hand, may mean a different problem. If they appear on crevices and leaf bases, they’re most likely mealybugs.
Soft and Mushy Trunk
Even though it is soft, the main trunk of your Chinese Money Plant should never be too soft that it’s mushy. The Pilea’s upright shape depends on this trunk, which, of course, is the conveyer belt for water and nutrients to its other parts. If it's mushy, the damage is severe, preventing it from performing its primary function. With a mushy trunk, the rest of the plant may die.
The softness of the trunk is most likely caused by excessive water. When excessive moisture goes unchecked for an extended period, it starts to cause rotting on the main stem, which is typically not used to too much moisture. Fungi that cause root rot could also spread to the stem, causing it to decay.
Another common issue caused by excess moisture is yellowing leaves. If leaves turn yellow and become droopy simultaneously, you’re most likely overwatering your Pilea or water cannot drain properly from the pot.
When most leaves change to yellow, it indicates root rot. This means you need to repot the plant to save it. There are also other causes of yellowing leaves, which are:
- Nutrient deficiency. This is likely the cause if your plant has been in the same pot for a long time without soil replacement or fertilizer.
- Overfertilizing. Too much fertilizer tends to “burn” your Pilea. Before the color turns brown, the patches on the leaves may start as yellow.
Leggy or Stretched Stems
Poor lighting conditions cause your Chinese Money Plant (and other plant species, too) to grow leggy stems. When your plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, it tends to search for a better way to have it. As it grows this way, constantly reaching for more access to sunlight, its stems stretch out, and its entire structure adjusts accordingly.
We bet that when your precious CMP was young, it was short and compact with leaves growing in a rounded pattern. Understandably, you want to keep it this way. So, if you notice that your indoor Pilea's stems are stretching out, move the plant near the window. It should ideally be exposed to bright but indirect light throughout the day.