How to Grow and Care for Pilea Involucrata (Friendship Plant)

Friendship Plant

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Pilea involucrata, also often referred to as the friendship plant, is known for its textured, deeply veined leaves and metallic colorations of bronze and silver. It is important to note that this plant is often confused with Pilea mollis, which is also referred to as a friendship plant. In this guide, we will be discussing Pilea involucrata specifically, identifiable by its ovate, opposite pairs of leaves, and unique foliage coloring. This plant is a creeping plant perfect for terrariums and it’s a pet-friendly houseplant, too. 

Common Name  Friendship plant
Botanical Name  Pilea involucrata
Family  Urticaceae
 Plant Type  Perennial
 Mature Size  6-12 in. tall, 6-12 in. wide
 Sun Exposure  Partial
 Soil Type  Loamy, Moist but Well-drained
 Soil pH  Acidic, Neutral
 Bloom Time  Spring
 Flower Color  Pink
 Hardiness Zones  11-12, USA
 Native Area  South America, Central America

Pilea Involucrata Care

Here are the main care requirements for growing Pilea involucrata: 

  • Pot in nutrient-rich but loose and well-draining soil. 
  • Place in a bright location out of direct sunlight.
  • Water regularly but do not over-saturate the soil.
  • Use a well-balanced, half-strength fertilizer during the growing season.

Light

Pilea plants grow on rainforest floors where the plants receive dappled, filtered light but are protected from harsh, direct sun rays. Therefore, be sure to keep your friendship plant out of the direct sun, as this will burn the leaves. Place it in an area where it will receive bright, indirect light. A kitchen counter with a south or west-facing window works well.

Soil

Rich, loamy, well-draining soil is the best. This will allow the Pilea plant to remain moist, but not soggy. A mix of compost, perlite, and coco coir is a great choice, as it allows for drainage without drying out too quickly. The blend of soil ingredients will remain light and airy instead of compact and heavy. 

Water

Pilea involucrata enjoy consistent moisture and do not like to dry out. Therefore, water these plants regularly. Avoid overwatering, however, as this can lead to soggy soil and introduce root rot. To check whether or not your Pilea needs water, simply feel the soil. If the top inch or two is dry, it is time to water the plant. Allow any excess water to drain away. During the growing season, you will need to water more often. In the winter, cut back on watering. 

Temperature and Humidity

Moderate to high humidity levels are key to ensuring the health of this tropical houseplant. Humidity around 60 percent or higher is ideal. To accomplish this, you may wish to keep this plant in a terrarium, place it near a humidifier or on top of a pebble tray, or mist the leaves. 

The friendship plant prefers temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When kept as a houseplant, this is usually no problem and you shouldn't have to adjust your thermostat for the sake of your plant. If you keep this plant outdoors, be sure to bring it inside if the temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Fertilizer

Pilea involucrata are not picky when it comes to fertilizer. Supply this plant with a well-balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength once per month during the growing season for the best results. Withhold fertilizer during the winter season. 

Propagating Pilea Involucrata 

Pilea involucrata is extremely easy to propagate, which contributed to the common name of this plant. Since they were so easily propagated and shared with others, people began calling them the friendship plant. 

You can easily create a large collection of these plants to give away to friends by means of stem cuttings. To do this, you will need a pot with drainage holes, well-draining, loamy soil, rooting hormone, a pair of snips, and a plastic bag. Then follow these instructions: 

  1. Choose a stem that is around three to four inches long with multiple sets of leaves. Be sure the stem has at least two nodes. 
  2. Cut the stem with a sharp pair of clean snips. Remove the lower sets of leaves where the stem will be in the soil. 
  3. Dip the cutting in the rooting hormone. 
  4. Plant the cutting into moistened, loamy soil and press the soil so the cutting stands upright. Just be sure the soil is not compressed to the point of being compact and hard. 
  5. Place the plastic bag over the pot to increase the humidity. 
  6. Set the pot in an area that receives bright, indirect lighting. 
  7. Air out the bag daily and water the soil when it begins to dry. 
  8. Roots should form in a few weeks. When this occurs, remove the bag and care for the plant as usual. 

Potting and Repotting Pilea Involucrata

Pilea involucrata stay quite small and have a medium growth rate, so they will not need to be repotted often. They may need to be repotted once every two years as they grow to maturity, which usually takes three to five years. Repot when the plant is root bound and you notice roots growing through the drainage holes of the pot. 

When it’s time to repot your friendship plant, choose a pot that is one to two inches larger than its current pot. Then gently slide the Pilea out of its pot and plant it into the larger container with more loamy, well-draining soil. Be sure to bury the plant at the same depth as it was buried before to prevent unnecessary stress. Give it some water and care for it as usual. 

Common Problems With Pilea Involucrata

When given the right environment, Pilea involucrata does not often present many problems. However, it may run into issues if conditions are not ideal. Let’s look at some common problems with this plant. 

Brown Edged Leaves

Brown houseplant leaves are a sign of too little humidity. As mentioned, these plants thrive in moderate to very high humidity levels. Therefore, it is imperative that you increase the humidity. You can do this by placing the plant near a humidifier, on top of a tray of water and pebbles, or misting the leaves. You can also move it to an area where more humidity is present, such as a bathroom—but keep in mind the plant’s need for bright indirect light.

Yellow, Drooping Leaves

Yellow leaves are sometimes a sign of overwatering and can quickly lead to root rot if nothing is done. Withhold water until the soil begins to dry. If the soil is soggy, you will need to replace it with a mix that drains better. Although the problem presents itself in the leaves, you should inspect the stem and roots for signs of rot, which will appear as brown, mushy sections. If this occurs, remove the rotted sections to try to save the plant. Then replant in loamy, well-draining soil. 

FAQ
  • Can I keep Pilea involucrata in the bathroom?

    Yes, as long as the plant will still receive bright, indirect lighting. Because Pilea involucrata require high amounts of humidity, the bathroom may be a perfect place to grow them. However, if there isn’t much light in your bathroom, it may not be the best choice.  

  • Do Pilea involucrata like small pots?

    Generally, yes. Because these plants stay small and have a medium growth rate, they do not require large pots. Only repot Pilea involucrata when the plant is root bound and choose a pot that is one to two inches larger than the current pot.  

  • What’s the difference between Pilea involucrata and Pilea mollis?

    These two plants are often confused with each other. This is because Pilea mollis is a cultivator of Pilea involucrata, so some people see them as the same plant. They can be differentiated by their unique foliage textures and patterns. Pilea involucrata has deeply veined bronze and silver leaves. Pilea mollis has highly textured bright green leaves with bronze accents. Pilea mollis is also referred to as “Moon Valley”, because of its textured surface.