Posted in category: Miniature Plants.

Red Stem Pilea – an Update

I purchased a red stem pilea plant several weeks ago and have already begun propagating pieces from it. As I suspected, it is a good thing that I did my little red stem pilea propagation experiment.

single-stemAs I had feared, the mother plant is failing. Granted, I did accidentally let it get a little dry, but I had suspected it was a bit too leggy and that I should have been more aggressive with trimming it.

The pretty branching piece, shown on the right, was coming off a single stem. That stem is weakening and that entire branch is dying. There’s a smaller branch on the other side of the plant that seems a bit stronger, but, this side is on the way out.

I’m going to give it a vicious haircut and hopefully save a few of the pieces to create new baby plants.

sick-pileaRed stem pilea is one of those sneaky plants. The ends of the branches look like they are OK while the base of the branch is shriveling up to a black, thread-like stick. You can see a little in this picture how the branch bases are turning a sort of beige color. The photo, unfortunately, makes the plant look better than it was. (Note to self… check photos before scalping plants.)

Ironically, my baby plants seem to be doing well. The original cuttings are in the terrarium and the tallest one seems to have grown some more. The others seem to be holding their own.

Today, I planted the one cutting, that did root in water, in the terrarium too.

The second round of cuttings are still in the mini-greenhouse and seem to be coming along nicely. They all seem to be growing and have teeny new leaves.

My advice to anyone who buys a red stem pilea plant is to immediately take some cuttings and work at propagating them. I would much rather have a bunch of little plants that are thriving than one plant that slowly dies completely. It does seem that red stem pilea likes more than just a moist environment – I suspect it likes it truly damp. I also wonder if it might not like a bit of heat. I allow the greenhouse to get a bit of sun each day but the mother plant was on the kitchen table, out of the sun.

Only time will tell how the baby plants fare, but my original red stem pilea appears to be sick and fading fast. bummer.


Update: Mamma plant is gone. She had one little bit of green left that I thought would survive. The next day it was black too.

General Observation: Red Stem Pilea is very touchy about being watered. It doesn’t give you any hints that it is thirsty – it doesn’t droop like most plants will – it just turns black. The leaves are sort of a dullish green color to begin with, so it doesn’t really look all that different before it succombs.

If you have it in an enclosed terrarium, you might be OK but only if the other plants like it moist too. I’ll be trying to keep the babies going (lost one of those too) but this isn’t a plant I would probably buy again.


Update 2: It’s been around 3 months since I purchased my red stem pilea plant. All that’s left is one of the babies that I rooted in the little greenhouse. I think I have the secret sauce to keeping this plant alive though.

I’ve been keeping the little greenhouse on my desk. I’ve removed the dome so it is open to the air. It gets some diffused morning sun and enjoys living in the brightest room in the house. It lives underneath my compact fluorescent desk light next to one of my dinosaur garden and moss garden experiments. I keep a small spray bottle of rain water on my desk and give both the pilea and the moss a few spritzes whenever the planting mix in the greenhouse looks a little dry. I’m keeping both somewhat damp, but not wet.

The last piece of my pilea has sent out new pairs of leaves at each of the terminal ends of the vine. It is even growing some new branches at the base of the last branch.

So based upon my surviving piece of red stem pilea, I would recommend that you keep it in a place where it can get several hours a day of morning sun and/or artificial light. The area under the light also gets a bit warm – so it may like that too. Mist, rather than water and always keep the soil damp, but not wet. I suspect the misting does a number of things – gently waters without disturbing things and creates a little air current as well.

I’ll keep you posted on how it does. Pictures soon to follow.


2 Responses to Red Stem Pilea – an Update

  1. Brandy says:

    So glad I found your site!

    I picked up a small plant a local garden center had. They were experimenting with rooting several pieces, and the one I got looked healthy with a few trailing pieces. I’m a sucker for creepers and vines.

    I didn’t re-pot since I didn’t want to disturb it until it looked stronger. I double-potted it and insulated with sphagnum moss. It seems to love the misting and the damp moss, but your comment about a healthy looking vine while the stem is dying back near the base made me do an all-over inspection this morning. So far, so good. I’ve only had this lil’ guy a few days, and it’s won me over.

    I think I might try propagating like you suggested. I have a cool rectangular planter that needs a resident. I’m wondering if the extra surface area would encourage a stronger plant.

    Looking forward to an update!

    • Tiny Green Gardens aka Michele says:

      Sadly, for me, an extended illness and neglect led to the death of my pilea plants – they do wither quickly when they get too dry. Hopefully, the great care you were treating your plant to will have led to a much happier outcome.

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