Pellionia is a pretty and somewhat uncommon genus in the houseplant trade. Native to tropical and subtropical Asia, there are a few dozen species of Pellionia, of which only one is typically seen in cultivation. These are not the easiest houseplants to cultivate; they have high humidity requirements and cannot tolerate cold drafts at all. However, if you can provide the right conditions, they make a wonderful and interesting trailing plant, with pretty variegated leaves aligned in a flat plane on either side of the stem. When used outside, these are typically used as a groundcover. Inside, however, they are almost always grown in baskets where they can cascade over the rim of their pot.
Growing Conditions for Pellionia Pulchra
- Light: Pellionia are a definite understory plant. They dislike direct sunlight and will easily burn if exposed to the straight rays of the sun. At most, they can survive in an east-facing window.
- Water: Pellionia are moisture and humidity lovers. They should never be allowed to dry out, even during the winter season, and high humidity is a must. Get in the habit of spritzing the plants daily, or grow them in a bathroom or other naturally humid environment. If your leaves brown, the most common cause is definitely low humidity.
- Soil: Any good, fast-draining potting soil will likely do.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Propagation and Repotting
Like many trailing plants, Pellionia is easy to propagate from leaf-tip cuttings. It's best to take the cuttings in the spring when new growth starts. Use a rooting hormone for best results and place the cutting in a warm and humid place. Avoid direct sunlight on the cuttings. When new growth emerges, move the cutting to a more permanent home.
A well-grown Pellionia should be lush and clothed with leaves to the soil level. Because these plants are somewhat tender, it's essential to keep them happy, which means repotting annually into fresh potting soil with good drainage and moisture-holding capacity. Repot in the spring, just as the new growing season starts. It's not essential to continually move the plant up into larger pots, but make sure to knock away dried soil and cut away dead roots when repotting.
Of the several dozen Pellionia species, only two are really seen in cultivation. They include:
- P. daveauana. This is really a better outdoor plant than the smaller cousin listed below. The mature plants only grow to about 12 inches in height and send out creeping stems that are colored light pink with beautiful silver and green variegated leaves. This plant is sometimes called the watermelon begonia.
- P. pulchra. By far the most common Pillionia found in cultivation, this is a lovely trailing plant grown under the right conditions. The P. pulchra has small variegated leaves in green and silver, with darker stems that can tend toward black or purple.
More Tips for Growing Pellionia Pulchra
Pellionia are a relatively rare plant largely because they are difficult for most temperate indoor growers to keep alive and thriving. Plants that are stressed by too little humidity, too much sunlight, and/or cold drafts quickly begin to develop brown leaf margins and decline. Ideally, these are best grown in similar environments to the more tropical ferns or even tree ferns. Also, consider growing them in groupings of other plants to help increase humidity. If you're fortunate enough to keep one alive and it goes into flower, pinch off the insignificant white flowers as soon as they emerge to help keep the plant vigorous. Pellionia are vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and white fly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat it with the least toxic option.