Posted in category: Miniature Plants.

Red Stem Pilea

I’ve recently added red stem pilea to my tiny green gardening endeavors. I ordered it from Josh’s Frogs¬†(2.5 pot) and it’s also available from Buds and Blooms Greenhouse. Unfortunately, the last time I checked both vendors are showing out of stock and there’s not other vendors actively selling red stem pilea plants on Amazon. Josh’s sells from the own website as well as Amazon and they are out of stock on both venues. Please check for yourself as this could have just been a seasonal thing and hopefully you can add one of these great plants to your own tiny green garden.

red-stem-pileaRed stem pilea appears to be yet another of those plants where folks call it by slightly different names. I’ve seen it called pilea glauca, silver sprinkles, red stem tears, gray artillery plant and baby tears. Most growers seems to describe the leaves as silvery-blue

What I call it is a pretty little, creeping plant with red stems and teeny grey-green leaves. I just don’t see the bluish cast so many folks describe it as having.

Growing Red Stem Pilea

The first one I received was crushed in transit. (I’ll keep my editorial comments about the condition of the box I received to myself.) Thankfully, Josh’s Frogs guarantees their plants and sent me another one. This one had a much easier cross-country trip and only a few of the little branches were broken. (Note: Josh’s Frogs apparently had a practice of shipping all of their plants bare root. Both of mine came in a pot. Not sure if they are moving to one or the other or experimenting on which way protects the plants better. I had several nice discussions with their “plant lady” and it seems like they are constantly looking for ways to improve their packaging.)

Somewhat Fragile

That brings me to my first observation about red stem pilea – it is pretty fragile. The red stems break fairly easily, particularly near the joints. If buying this plant for a vivarium, I would think your inhabitants would have to be fairly tiny and light-weight.

Spreading Growth Habit

single-stemMy second observation is a bit of a guess at this point, after all, I’ve only had a healthy plant for about a week. I don’t think it would be happy in a small container or a container where it can’t creep along the soil. It is a creeping plant that, based on the two plants I’ve seen, would like to take root at virtually every joint. Even joints not resting on dirt have sent out air roots. Both of mine came in 2 inch pots. They had a few central plant stems with long branches coming out of them.

Notice in the photo how all of this lovely growth is attached to the base of the plant by a single stem. Anything happens to that stem and I’ll lose half of my plant. I plan on taking a few cuttings off of this branch to lighten the load.

Continuous leaf drop

My third observation is one that I someone else mentioned too, it seems that red stem pilea tends to frequently drop leaves. They just turn black and fall off, sometimes with a bit of stem. I figured it was just something due to the rigors of being shipped and being bounced around. The other person mentioned having their red stem pilea for some time and having to change where she kept it due to the continuous leaf drop.

Red Stem Pilea Growing Information

The scientific name of this plant is pilea glauca. It is one of about 600 different species of pilea. The leaves are tiny, about the size of a pencil eraser.

From what I’ve read and based on my propagation experiment, some sunlight might be a good thing. But, I suspect since it is listed as a low-light plant that a dose of light from a plant light or being located in a bright room might suffice.

Red stem pilea makes such a great terrarium plant because¬†it likes a moist and humid environment. I can’t comment on this from a long-term perspective, but it certainly seems the case with the cuttings I took. Within 7 days, they had actually grown taller than the container and every surviving cutting had new leaves – see my red stem pilea propagation experiment.

As to how this plant does outside, it is listed as being hardy in zones 10a-12. Sounds like if the temperature gets too close to freezing, red stem pilea is toast. One expert said they prefer daytime temperatures of 75-80 degrees and 65-70 at night. (Sounds like a perfect match for most homes.)

Red stem pilea generally grows 2 to 12 inches tall. That big branch on mine could easily grow to 12 inches. But, my tallest cutting was flopping over around 3. So, I suppose that height thing depends on how you measure height. I would guess it also depends on how you plant your red stem pilea.

Several growers mentioned that it likes to cascade but that it can also climb. It is said to spread 12-28 inches but I suspect if allowed to truly creep and spread, it could cover a far larger area as new plants form along the stems.

Red stem pilea does flower, though some folks say the flowers are quite tiny. When they do flower, the flowers tend to be pale pink – I can’t wait to see what they look like if mine ever flowers.

Red Stem Pilea & Succulents

What I don’t understand is that several folks keep mentioning red stem pilea as a good companion for succulents. I don’t get it. It doesn’t like full sun and it likes a moist environment. Maybe they are selling a slightly different cultivar, there are around 600 kinds of pilea, but I suspect it is incorrect information simply being repeated. I wouldn’t try them together. If you have, please drop a comment and let me know how it went.

2 Responses to Red Stem Pilea

  1. Sharaun says:

    I purchased a pilea glauca at our local Lowe’s Garden Center. We are in the San Francisco Bay area. The plant’s tiny cascading leaves are what caught my eye, I’d never seen this plant. It’s in a 6″ pot with hangers attached. We just moved here 4 month’s ago, so we’re still trying to settle in and experience a cycle in the house. I temporarily hung the plant in a bathroom near a window that allowed bright light, no direct sunlight, no breezes or drafts. This morning I noticed it had dropped many of the tiny leaves, many of them green. Watering too much? Not watering enough? My husband took a shower in there, and it has been on the warm side these days. I’ve taken it out of the bathroom and have moved it to a kitchen window with a different sun/shade exposure.

    • Tiny Green Gardens aka Michele says:

      Oh Sharaun, my apologies for not seeing your comment sooner. Sadly, I might be too late to help save your pilea but two things come to mind – pilea appear to drop leaves easily and/or your California sunshine might be a little too bright for it. It probably liked the moisture of the bathroom but might need to be a bit further from the window.

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