11 Common Problems With Chinese Money Plants

Do you have some problems with your Chinese Money Plant and aren't quite sure what to do? Pileas are fairly low maintenance plants, but they can have occasional problems. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton walks through the most common problems you are likely to encounter with your Pilea.

pilea problems


Chinese Money Plant, Pancake Plant, UFO Plant, or simply Pilea peperomioides. Whatever you call it, there is no doubt this plant has become a favorite among houseplant lovers. Its interesting rounded leaves and fascinating growth habit make it one of the most eye-catching indoor plants you can buy.

Unfortunately, they are also prone to quite a few growth problems, as are most houseplants. These can be stressful once they appear, but it’s important not to panic.

While there are many common problems that the Pilea may encounter, many of them are easy to recover from with quick identification and proper action. Let’s take a look at the most common problems that Chinese Money Plants may encounter, and how to bring your favorite houseplant back to good health.

Curling Leaves

Houseplant with plant curling leaves
Leaf curl can be caused by high light levels, lack of moisture, or over-watering.

Chinese Money Plants are also known as Pancake Plants after the shape of their flat and rounded leaves. However, the leaves of your plant may not always be flat and rounded. There are several factors that can lead to curling leaves, with the direction and shape giving clues as to what the issue may be.

If the leaves are curling inward and creating a cup shape, lack of moisture is what to look for. This may be due to underwatering or lack of humidity. High light levels can also lead to this shape, causing the leaves to curl to protect themselves from burning.

Make sure your Pilea is well-watered and in humidity above 40%. Also check the light levels and move them out of the path of direct sun. Once the conditions have been resolved, the leaves should fill out again and return to their previous shape.

Leaves curling downwards are slightly more concerning and usually a sign of overwatering, which is the most common houseplant mistake that most owners make.

The leaves become limp, unable to keep their structure as the roots begin to rot. Low lighting conditions can also contribute to a lack of evaporation and therefore curling, even though the Pilea is typically thought of as being low-light friendly.

Never water when the top layer of soil is still moist. Wait until the top one or two inches dry out completely before watering again. Also ensure there is enough drainage in the pot and the soil to prevent root rot.

Finally, age can play a role in curling. New leaves can often emerge slightly curled, flattening out as they age. If the curling only appears on new leaves, you have nothing to worry about.

Drooping Leaves

Drooping Leaves of houseplant
A sign that your Chinese Money Plant is suddenly drooping may be too much or too little watering.

You may have seen images of upright and thriving Chinese Money Plants all over social media, wondering why yours looks a bit sad in comparison. A drooping Pilea is not always a sign of a problem though, as some naturally droop under the weight of larger leaves – especially leaves lower down.

Older leaves may also simply lose their vigor and begin to slowly tip over. This doesn’t mean there is anything drastically wrong with your plant, it’s just part of how they naturally grow in their spherical shape.

However, if your Pilea starts drooping suddenly, that’s a likely sign of a problem. The culprit is usually watering and applying either too little or too much.

With too much water, the petioles will become soft and mushy, unable to hold up the leaves. With too little water, the cells lack moisture and cannot hold their structure. Test the soil with your finger to figure out which is more likely and adjust as required.

Low light can also contribute to moisture issues, leading to further drooping. You may be watering the right amount, but the lack of evaporation in lower light areas leaves too much moisture around the roots, leading to root rot. Move the plant to a brighter spot and slow watering to improve conditions.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing Chinese Money plant Leaves
If you notice that the leaves of your plant are turning yellow, then this indicates improper watering or a lack of nutrients.

Yellowing leaves are another common problem caused by moisture issues. If several leaves start yellowing at once and become limp, you’ve likely overwatered your plant. A majority of the leaves turning yellow indicates a severe issue with root rot, usually requiring immediate repotting if you want to save the plant.

Nutrient deficiencies also lead to yellowing leaves, with the intensity and pattern giving a clue as to which nutrient your plant is deficient in. For example, nitrogen deficiency in plants will usually turn the oldest leaves entirely yellow, while iron deficiency results in a patchy yellow appearance.

If you’ve repotted often enough and follow a regular fertilizing routine, yellowing leaves due to nutrient deficiency are unlikely. However, if your plant has been in the same pot for a few years without a soil replacement and you haven’t fertilized at all, nutrients are the likely cause.

Start by repotting your plant into fresh soil. Degraded soil cannot hold onto water or nutrients from fertilizers, making any effort to resolve the problem without a refresh futile. Then, follow up with a liquid fertilizer applied every 6-8 weeks during spring and summer to prevent nutrient deficiencies in the future.

When fertilizing, make sure you don’t overdo it. Overfertilizing can actually also lead to yellowing leaves and will only make your growth problems worse. Follow the advice on the packaging and never apply more often than needed.

Leaf Drop

Female hand holding a leaf from a Pilea Peperomioides
Falling leaves indicate improper watering, which can lead to root rot. Make sure the pot has good drainage.

Leaf drop is a common issue in Pileas and also one of the most concerning. While discoloration in a few leaves can be fixed and pruned away, there is no way to stick back on a leaf that has dropped off the plant completely.

Like most problems on this list, the issue is overwatering. Although Pileas like moisture, they are sensitive to root rot when left in waterlogged or soggy soil. Even if you don’t water too often, lack of drainage in the pot or soil can also stop oxygen from getting to the roots, causing the same problem.

There is no way to avoid the drainage requirements for these houseplants. Even ‘hacks’ that claim to improve drainage, like placing a layer of rocks at the bottom of the pot, cannot replace all important drainage holes in containers. Your soil mix also needs to be loose and well-draining to stop any waterlogging.

Severe underwatering can also cause the plant to drop its leaves in an attempt to survive and conserve the remaining moisture, although issues with overwatering are far more likely. Low light and nutrient deficiencies may also play a role, depending on the performance of your plant.

If none of those problems are likely, leaf drop may simply be the result of age. Older leaves will fade out and drop off the plant as part of the natural lifecycle. These are usually the leaves lower down on the stem. If only one or two leaves have dropped at one time, chalk it up to old age

Brown Patches

Brown Patches on plant
The causes of brown leaves are lighting problems.

Yellowing is not the only discoloration you may come across. Brown leaves are also common, occurring for a number of different reasons in a number of different patterns. One you may come across often is patchy brown areas, typically the result of a lighting issue.

In their native habitats, Chinese Money Plants are shaded underneath trees and other shrubs. They receive dappled light most of the day, equating to bright indirect light indoors. They cannot handle direct sunlight very well and can face damage if exposed to bright rays for too long.

If you leave your Pilea in the path of direct midday or afternoon sun, you are likely to see brown patches develop along the leaves. These parts will become dried and crispy, appearing on the sides of the plant that face the light source.

Unfortunately, there is no fix for this problem once it occurs. Prune away the affected leaves to keep the plant tidy and move it to a spot with more moderate light.

Pests may also cause brown patches on the leaves of your Chinese Money Plant. Sap-sucking pests like mealybugs damage foliage. They leave spots on the leaves that turn from yellow to brown when they die off. These spots will be much smaller than those caused by direct sunlight exposure.

If this is the case, start by identifying the pest. Wash as many off the plant as you can. Then apply a natural insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to prevent any more spots from forming.

Black Patches

Black Patches
Spots of dark brown color may occur due to excessive watering.

Brown patches are generally light and crispy, indicating a lighting problem. However, patches can develop that are so dark brown they appear almost black. In this case, the culprit once again is overwatering.

Excess water in the soil can cause parts of the leaves to rot and turn brown before the roots turn mushy and stop drawing up moisture. Droplets that get stuck on the leaves and don’t evaporate can lead to the same problem. Keeping the top layer of soil dry in between watering will help protect the leaves from worsening.

When watering, always water the soil only, avoiding the leaves as much as you can. This is especially important in low-light areas where water takes longer to evaporate. If you do happen to get some droplets on the leaves, simply shake them off or dry off the leaves before returning them to their previous home.

White Spots

White Spots
Small white spots may appear on the underside of the leaves as mineral deposits.

Continuing with the wide spectrum of color changes you may come across, we have white spots on the leaves. This is a commonly asked question as it’s not quite like any other symptoms on other houseplants you may have at home. Luckily, this issue is usually nothing to worry about.

Small white spots that appear on the undersides of Chinese Money Plant leaves are simply mineral deposits. They appear during the plant’s natural growth processes. They can be left alone or simply wiped off the leaves and have no adverse effects on growth. If you want to limit these spots, try using filtered rather than tap water.

When white spots appear fluffy, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. This is a sign of a mealybug infestation – small pests that release this white powdery substance to protect themselves while feeding on leaves or laying eggs.

Pileas don’t often attract issues with mealybugs. But, if you do notice these crawling pests around the stems and leaves, tackle them immediately to avoid any further spread.

Spray off any visible bugs and apply rubbing alcohol to the rest to remove them. Quarantine your plant while you handle the infestation to stop them from spreading to your other houseplants.

Mushy Stem

Mushy Stem
The stem of the plant may be soft due to over-watering.

The central trunk of your Chinese Money, although soft, should never be mushy. This green growth is key to maintaining the upright shape of the plant and transports water and nutrients to all the leaves that need it. When it becomes mushy, it cannot perform any of these functions, eventually killing the rest of the plant.

It’s not surprising (considering how often it has come up) that the cause of this problem is excessive water. When moisture remains in the soil for long periods, it begins to rot part of the stem that is not accustomed to water exposure. The fungi that cause root rot can also travel up the plant to the stem, causing the mushy texture.

Once the stem of your plant begins to rot, it becomes very difficult to save. It usually indicates an issue below the soil too which may be too far gone. If you can save a few parts of the plant, propagate them to grow brand new Chinese Money Plants.


Pilea stretching
The leggy, stretching stems of the plant are the result of improper lighting conditions.

When you first purchase your Pilea peperomioides, it will likely be short, compact and rounded, topped off by large leaves that give it a soft but structural look. However, it may not stay this way for long. In the wrong conditions, Pileass are prone to stretching, extending their central trunk and looking diminished.

Leggy stems in plants are the result of inadequate lighting conditions. When your Pilea doesn’t receive enough sunlight for survival, it will begin reaching toward the nearest light source in order to improve conditions. The plant will lack its typical structure, slowing growth and wilting as it tries to survive.

If your Pilea has just begun to stretch out, moving it to an area with brighter light levels will fix the problem. Ideally, it should be placed in a full day of bright indirect light. This will allow the plant to grow its best, even though Pileas handle moderate lighting quite well. Avoid areas with low light, such as rooms with small or north-facing windows.

For extremely leggy plants that have a thin central stem and no leaves at the base, more drastic measures are required. Grab a sharp knife or pair of pruning shears and cut the stem in half, just below where the leaf growth begins. This is called topping and allows the stem to root again, cutting off all the leggy growth.

Simply replant the stem into a brand-new pot with fresh soil, keep the soil moist and wait for new roots to develop.

Lack Of New Growth

Pilea peperomioides new growth
The reasons for the lack of new leaves are lack of light, not enough space in the container and lack of nutrients.

We all want our Chinese Money Plants to grow to the best of their ability, always expanding and putting out new leaves. You may aspire to have one of those towering Pileas that require years of growth and effort. But there are many factors that can impede this goal related to care and environmental conditions.

The first is lack of light. Simply put, plants need sunlight for photosynthesis to grow and survive. Without it, they will stop growing. Make sure your Pilea is in the best position possible if you’re looking for strong and continuous growth – bright indirect light.

They can also stop growing when they fill up all the available space in their containers. If the roots don’t have any more space to expand, the plant won’t expand above the soil either. Repot into a slightly bigger container with new potting soil and growth should return to normal.

Lack of nutrients may also be a cause, especially if the plant has been in the same container for a while without new soil or fertilizer. Without the nutrients needed to fuel growth and maintain cells, your Pilea will eventually slow growth and ultimately stop completely.

A regular fertilizing routine, along with a soil refresh every few years, will prevent this issue from popping up again.

No Offsets

Pilea peperomioides offsets
The lack of offsets indicates stress and improper conditions for normal growth.

The final problem is not one of the most concerning but does become an issue if you want to propagate your plant. This problem is the lack of offsets.

Offsets are produced by Pileas in the right conditions. For offsets to occur, they need to not be stressed or struggling in any way. A lack of them, therefore, indicates the conditions around your plant are not quite right.

While it is not a serious issue, you may want to address the cause before it becomes a bigger problem.

A happy Pilea should continually produce offsets during the growing season of spring and summer. This will allow you to grow even more of them at no cost.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the most common issues your Chinese Money Plant may encounter, it’s important to take action if you notice them. While these low-maintenance houseplants may not be commonly plagued by pests or disease, they do need regular maintenance to stay healthy and trouble free. With quick identification and swift action, you’ll have your Pilea back to good health in no time!

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