Pilea dropping green leaves – House Plant Journal

Pilea dropping green leaves

Plant: Pilea peperomioides

How long have you had the plant? 1 to 6 months


I have got myself a Pilea 5 months ago and I have been treating it with utmost care. Watering it once in 7-10 days (only after ensuring the top 2 inch of soil is dried off). Kept it in indirect sunlight (but not in a dark corner). Fertilized it only once – with much diluted down 10-10-10 NPK.

It was doing good – till summer set in.

My perfect Pilea has been acting very strangely lately. Almost every morning, I wake up to find one perfectly healthy green leaf has fallen off. I don’t have any pets/ babies at home & the PP stays untouched, undisturbed through the day. The temperature is hot, humid and temperate where I live – but the plant is not exposed to direct sunlight. A ceiling fan is on, almost all day, in the room it sits – so temperature is not higher than 30°C.

The PP is left with only a few leaves now & I am absolutely distraught. A couple of new leaves are growing from the attached pup (that came with the mother plant). I noticed a new pup growing today. It’s just that the green, healthy leaves on the main stem are dropping off just like that and making the plant leggy.

What am I doing wrong. Any idea? Please help.



Thanks for all the info.  One more question: could you please show me where the plant lives relative to your windows?

Plant Parent


Here’s what you’re doing wrong: you were led to believe that the main point of “bright indirect light” meant “avoid direct sun”

This leads most people to put plants WAY too far from their windows in an effort to avoid any direct sun.

But take a light meter and measure how bright your indirect light is at that distance.  In my estimation from this photo, it is probably no higher than 20-50 foot-candles, which is perfectly bright enough for you to see, but for the plant, results in very slow photosynthesis.

Measuring light is critical for making sense of whether your “bright indirect light” is actually bright enough.

Slow photosynthesis means slow carbohydrate production – the plant is starving – like a person who hasn’t had enough food to eat.

If you don’t want to buy a light meter, read this guideline very carefully:

In order to give the best possible light situation for a “bright indirect light” plant:
Step 1: put your plant RIGHT IN FRONT of your largest possible window (the goal for indoor plants is “widest possible view of the sky”)
Step 2: if the sun shines directly on the plant *for longer than* 2 or 3 hours, then consider blocking it with a white sheer curtain or moving it temporarily from the window.  If the exposure time is less than that, it’s totally fine for the plant as long as you keep up with watering.

Expectations: when you have a light meter, you’ll see that the physical size of the window and the distance from the window affects the indirect light strength a lot.  To put it simply, the people who you think have the greenest thumbs are just those who have the largest windows.

Houseplant care is confusing because it is poorly explained: fixated on watering and vague about light.  If you want clarity, I think you’ll enjoy my book and online course.

Tired of your houseplants dying on you?

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