Pilea dropping leaves – House Plant Journal

Pilea dropping leaves

Plant Parent

I have a question about my Pilea. It seems to be consistently dropping leaves but there is also continuous growth at the top. I’m thinking this is a watering problem? I’ve been letting it get drier before I water it again but maybe it wants to be consistently moist? Let me know what you think!

The plant is between south and west facing windows:

Darryl

Thanks for sending the photos! They are extremely helpful.

1) Your pilea is not getting enough light. All plant instructions would say that a pilea likes “bright indirect light” but because most people think “direct sun” is “light”, they end up putting the plant in a place where the sun NEVER touches it.

Instead, use this guideline for placement to achieve “bright indirect light”: put your plant where it will have the widest possible view of the sky and if the sun will come into direct line of sight for more than 2-3 hours, block it with white sheer curtains.

I know it’s a more complicated explanation but the problem with the shortened and over-simplified saying of “bright indirect light” is that it makes you think you can just put the plant anywhere the sun doesn’t shine. “Light” also comes from being able to see the sky – the more the better!

Your plants would be much happier right in front of the window – that’s where they will have the widest possible view of the sky. That’s where “bright indirect light” is.

Further reading: Is it still “bright indirect light” if the sun shines on that spot for a couple hours?

2) Once you’ve put the plant where it will get adequate light, then it will have the potential to grow as well as that light can allow. For Pilea, you water it whenever the soil reaches partial dryness – you must observe the soil to make the judgement of whether or not to water – don’t just blindly follow a schedule. When you water, you should water deeply and evenly and let the excess drain away. Pilea also benefit from regular fertilizing and this will prevent pre-mature lower leaf drop (they’ll still drop but not as quickly as without fertilizer). I’d recommend a 24-8-16 (the higher first number is higher Nitrogen, which encourages leaf growth). If you can’t find that, a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 10-15-10 works fine as well – follow the instructions on the package.

3) In a few months, you’ll want to pot the pilea into a larger pot – around 2″ inches larger. Pilea can outgrow their pot rather quickly compared to other plants.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Plant Parent

Thanks so much for your reply. I’ve had the Pilea in a North facing window for a few days now and it is noticeably looking happier.

Thank you for the information on fertilizing, that is an area I have a LOT of learning to do. I’ve been thinking about getting some worm castings, do you ever use that for your plants?

And you think it could go in a bigger pot? Last time I repot I noticed the root structure seemed to be pretty shallow so I was thinking it wanted a smaller pot.

Darryl

Pileas can grow quite large so I would up-pot them each year if they are growing well. Worm-castings work just fine but good light (widest possible view of the sky + tolerable direct sun duration) is still the gateway to good plant growth.

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