Pilea peperomioides in terracotta pot with unhealthy leaves that are curling inward

Pilea Peperomioides Leaves Curling? Here’s Why

The Pilea Peperomioides, also known as the Chinese money plant, pancake plant, or UFO plant, will often curl its leaves inward or outward when it becomes stressed. Depending on which of the issues below your Pilea is suffering from, will determine which way the leaves curl. Keep reading to find out the ten most likely reasons your Pilea Peperomioides leaves are curling!

Pilea Peperomioides leaves curl due to nitrogen deficiencies, pests, diseases, becoming rootbound, dry air, overwatering, underwatering, lack of soil drainage, temperature fluctuations, and excessive sunlight. 

Fortunately, no matter what issue above has befallen your Chinese money plant, amending its care and helping the houseplant bounce back is usually very doable.

Let’s look at how!

Doming vs. Cupping – A Quick Review of the Differences

The way the Chinese money plant’s leaves curl is not always the same across the board. The leaves can either curl outward or inward.

It’s worth knowing the difference, as this can indicate what’s wrong with your plant!

Pilea Peperomioides Leaf Doming

Doming refers to the pancake-like leaves of the Pilea Peperomioides curling outward. 

Nutrient issues, drafty air, temperature fluctuations, dry air, and underwatering are all likely culprits. 

Pilea Peperomioides Leaf Cupping

When a Pilea’s leaves are curling inward, it’s referred to as cupping. CLeaves cupping happens because they’ve been deprived of water and they’re trying to retain the remaining moisture.

If your Pilea plants leaves are cupping it’s time to water your plant.

 The Chinese money plant’s leaves will curl if the plant is suffering from low light, overwatering, or poor-draining soil.  

10 Reasons the Pilea Peperomioides Leaves Curl

Keeping those indicators in mind, let’s dive deeper into why the leaves of the Pilea Peperomioides will curl and how you can fix it! 

1. Nitrogen Deficiencies 

The Chinese money plant requires a balanced plant fertilizer with an even mix of macronutrients nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. A ratio of 10-10-10 is best. 

If the balance of nutrients is insufficient, then the Pilea Peperomioides will let you know by curling its leaves.

You could even have the right fertilizer formula, but if you apply the stuff too seldomly, then the Chinese money plant can still experience nitrogen deficiencies. 

Pilea Peperomioides’ growing season begins in the spring. Each month during the warm season, you should fertilize. That will promote a good balance of nitrogen! 

2. Pests

Indoor gardeners love the Chinese money plant because of the purported luck and good fortune it delivers. Pests love it because it’s a juicy houseplant they can suck sap from. 

Particularly, you need to be on the lookout for scale, mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids. 

A very damaging type of pest, scale insects eat a plant’s branches, stems, and leaves, rendering the plant a shell of its former self. Both indoor and outdoor plants can be impacted. 

Covered in wax, mealybugs are tiny, soft insects that prefer indoor, landscape, and garden plants. They tend to appear on plants in colonies and can quickly become a huge headache. 

Related to scorpions, ticks, and spiders, spider mites are very small insects that can weave webs like larger spider species. When I say small, spider mites tinier than a pinhead!

A common sight in many indoor gardens, aphids are soft, small insects that survive on plant juices, depriving houseplants of their nutrients. 

Since most of the pests that target the Pilea Peperomioides are so small, you can kill them with simple products such as dish soap or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. Castile soap is also efficient.

3. Diseases

A whole slew of diseases can also impact the Pilea Peperomioides, including botrytis blight, powdery mildew, leaf spot disease, stem rot, and root rot.

Botrytis blight or gray mold is caused by a lack of air circulation in a plant’s pot or among the plants in your indoor garden. As a fungal disease, there’s no real treatment except managing overly wet conditions.

The white moldy spots that can cover the Chinese money plant if it has powdery mildew are hard to miss. Both sides of the leaves can be affected. Potassium bicarbonate might help, as it can kill mildew spores.

A whole laundry list of fungi can cause leaf spot disease, including Tubakia, Phyllosticta, Gnomonia, Cercospora, and Alternaria. Prune the affected leaves of the Pilea Peperomioides and use a fungicide like neem oil.

Fungi like Pythium, Fusarium, and Rhizoctonia can cause stem rot, a fungal disease that impacts a houseplant’s stems. Unfortunately, outside of pruning, there’s usually not too much you can do to help your plant. 

Root rot is a fungal disease caused by the depletion of oxygen in the face of an overabundance of water. Poor-draining soil is one cause of root rot; overwatering is another. Pruning a plant’s dying roots and mushy foliage can help. 

4. Growing Rootbound

The Chinese money plant is not a small houseplant. More so, this plant is a fast-growing plant. Not repotting your Pilea and allowing it to become rootbound can cause the leaves to curl.

About every two years, and perhaps even more frequently than that, you’ll have to repot the Pilea Peperomioides. If you don’t, then the plant can become rootbound.

By the time you see roots emerging from the pot’s drainage holes, that’s a clear indicator the plant needs a newer, slightly larger pot, ASAP. 

When a plant like the Pilea Peperomioides is rootbound, its roots encircle the pot and sometimes ensnarl the root system, choking itself. This can prevent nutrients and water from reaching the plant and cause the leaves to curl.

Like many houseplants, the Chinese money plant prefers not to be rootbound.

A rootbound plant, if left in that condition for long enough, can experience root death, so upgrade your Pilea Peperomioides container ASAP!

The original pot size for this plant should have been between six and eight inches. When repotting your Pilea, Its new pot should be about an inch to two inches larger.

Many indoor gardeners think that if they repot their plants in a much larger pot or container it will save them the trouble of having to repot it again in a year or two.

This theory is often wrong. What really happens when people try to outsmart mother nature is that the container is too large for the plant causing it to struggle and not receive the correct amount of water and nutrients.

5. Dry Air 

Have you noticed that the leaves of the Pilea Peperomioides are curling inward and turning brown around the sides and the tips? Those are indicators the air is too dry.

The Chinese money plant prefers humidity levels at 50 percent at least. You can go as high as 75 percent humidity and this plant would still be perfectly contented.

Beginner indoor gardeners might not know how humid their homes or offices are. More than likely? Not enough for the Pilea Peperomioides. 

The indoor relative humidity is between 30 and 50 percent. Even if yours was a particularly humid environment, it would only be the baseline for what the Pilea Peperomioides needs when it comes to humidity.

So how do you fix this issue? That’s simple! If you don’t already own a humidifier, then buy one, fill it with water, plug it in, and let it do its thing. 

Your Pilea Peperomioides will begin sprucing up again and its leaves should stay open. 

6. Overwatering 

Drooping, yellow, curling leaves are indicative of an overwatered Pilea Peperomioides. 

This plant has a tough watering schedule, especially for beginners, which can explain how overwatering happens. 

You’re supposed to let the soil dry out completely before watering again. 

If its soil is still a bit moist and you top off the plant’s water supply, then the conditions in its pot are going to get too saturated and soggy.

You’ll recall that overwatering is the leading cause of root rot, the fungal disease that kills a plant’s roots. 

Although the Pilea Peperomioides has curling leaves now, the plant could be dead in a matter of days or weeks if the root system is too weak to sustain it. 

If you’re not sure how moist or dry the soil is, wash your hands, dry them, and put one or two fingers into the soil. 

You don’t have to bury your whole hand in the soil, but if you can feel even some moisture lingering around the bottom of the pot, then wait to water the Pilea Peperomioides until the moisture is gone. 

To learn more about detecting the signs of an overwatered houseplant I suggest reading my article titled, 9 Signs You’re Overwatering Your Houseplants.

7. Underwatering

Leaf doming, as you’ll recall, can be caused by an underwatered Pilea Peperomioides. 

Although I would call this plant moderately drought-tolerant, it’s not drought-resistant. 

It can’t survive in dry conditions for very long like a succulent can because the Pilea Peperomioides has no internal water storage system. 

You need to keep the plant hydrated but just hydrated enough. It can be tough to manage, but the fingertip test will really help you understand just how dry the Chinese money plant’s soil is. 

8. Lack of Soil Drainage

The Pilea Peperomioides thrives best in well-draining soil. You can use standard potting soil for this plant, but it must be light and airy.

What can cause soil to harden, trapping in water? Time will definitely do it. The soil can begin to press down on itself the longer it’s been in the pot, compacting and losing its aeration. 

A lack of soil amendments can also be to blame. 

The Pilea Peperomioides reacts well to perlite and coir fiber in its soil.

The volcanic glass perlite contains a lot of water. This is beneficial to the Chinese money plant, as the perlite will maintain moist soil so you can go longer without having to water your plant. 

Both drainage and aeration are better with perlite too. 

Coir fiber refers to coconut coir, a fiber taken from the coconut’s outer husk that’s a great soil amendment for many indoor plant species.

Boosting air porosity in the soil and improving moisture retention, coco coir will absorb water (even more than peat moss) so the conditions in the Pilea Peperomioides’ pot are never soggy. 

9. Temperature Fluctuations

The Pilea Peperomioides is quite temperature-tolerant, preferring temps between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even if things got a little cold or hot at home or at the office, the Chinese money plant is forgiving enough. What it’s less forgiving of are temperature extremes. 

When temperatures drop below 50 degrees, the plant will begin noticeably curling its leaves. You might also notice foliar yellowing, wilting, and shrunken leaves. 

Those are all signs to move the Pilea Peperomioides indoors or to an otherwise warmer area right away. In very cold conditions, the plant’s tissue could die.

Leaf cupping and rolling are signs that the Chinese money plant is in an environment that’s too warm. The plant will begin wilting, its leaf edges can dry out, and the plant will look and feel very dry to the touch.

When exposed to extreme heat, the best thing to do is move the Pilea Peperomioides to a more comfortable spot, moisten its soil, and monitor its recovery carefully.

10. Excessive Sunlight 

The Pilea Peperomioides prefers bright, indirect light that passes through a curtain before reaching the plant. 

If your Chinese money plant has been basking in direct sunlight for too long, then it’s no wonder its leaves are curling. Luckily correcting the amount of light it’s receiving is an easy fix.

You can move it further from the harsh light, or ideally, place a curtain or a few plants that thrive in direct sunlight between your Pilea and the direct light.

Besides that, you’ll see that the leaves are yellow or brown and dry, even brittle to the touch.

These leaves have burned, and the only thing you can do for them now is prune them from the plant. 

As for the remaining leaves, once they’re not exposed to constant sun, they should stop curling. 

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