Pilea Depressa 'Baby Tears'
Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
- Offer a bright, indirect setting away from any operating heat sources or direct sunlight.
- Keep the soil evenly moist using the bottom-up method of submersion; allowing excess moisture to sit in the cubbyholes of the foliage may result in rot or southern blight.
- Provide a humid location by introducing a humidity/pebble tray, which will also slow the rates of drying soil, too.
- Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every six in the colder months.
- Pests aren't as much of an issue with Pilea depressa, however, have a quick scan for Aphids that'll attack the juvenile growths in the spring.
- Repot every three years using a houseplant potting mix - this is a perfect time to propagate the vines.
- Pilea depressa tend to grow more efficiently when situated in shallow, wide pots. Have a search at your nearest garden centre for terracotta bulb bowls that'll be located in the outdoor pot department. Alternatively, 'tot' specimens in a 5cm pot (available at Blue Diamond stores in the U.K.) are perfect for tropical-themed terrariums or displays due to their growth habits!
Location & Light
Pilea depressa will thrive in bright, indirect settings away from intense sunlight or operating heat sources. Specimens located in darker settings must be watered far less than those grown in brighter areas due to the longer amount of time it takes for the soil to dry out. If you're worried about its location being too dark, if a newspaper can be read while having your back towards the light source, you're good to go!
The most challenging part of Pilea depressa cultivation is providing near-continuous moist soil with the avoidance of persistent droughts; hydrate the plant once every few days to ensure thorough moisture throughout the year. It's highly recommended to irrigate using the bottom-up method, as excess moisture that settles in the plant's centre could cause the central leaves to rot, leaving you with a naked base. Under-watering symptoms include a gradual decline in foliage size, crispy leaves and stunted growth, which are usually due to forgetfulness or too much heat/sunlight. Over-watering symptoms include a rotten root ball, lower leaves turning yellow and plant death. Never allow the plant to sit in water for long periods, primarily if it's situated in a shady spot. Prolonged saturation will enable mould to develop on the soil, along with the heightened chance of root rot.
Create a humidity tray to provide a moist and stable environment for your plant. If the surrounding saturation is too low or the heat too high, the new growth may start to brown over and curl, especially in direct sunlight. Gently hose the foliage down from time to time to hydrate the leaves and keep the dust levels down. This will also slow the rates of drying soil and dehydration.
Feed every four waters during the growing period and every six in the autumn and winter, using a 'Houseplant' labelled fertiliser. Never apply a 'ready to use’ product into the soil without a pre-water first, as it may burn the roots and lead to yellowed leaves.
Common Issues with Pilea Depressa
Under-watering is the biggest issue that indoor gardeners will face. Typical signs include wilting, sunken or yellowed leaves and stunted growth. If the specimen receives even a hint of direct light - relocate it. The increased temperatures and sun exposure will significantly speed the process of dehydration, which in turn will result in inevitable death. Pilea depressa cannot survive in drought-like conditions, so providing a bright, indirect setting with an abundance of moisture is paramount for quality growth. Those situated in direct sunlight or within three metres of a radiator are most likely to suffer from dehydration.
When a specimen is severely dehydrated, most of its leaves will crisp-up and fall off - leaving you with a naked plant. Although it may spell the end of juvenile plantlets, there may still be light at the end of the tunnel for more established specimens. If its stem is still plump without any signs of retraction, prune-away the severely affected areas and contain the plant (with its pot) in a transparent bag that has small holes. Keep the soil continually moist, providing a good level of indirect light and temperatures above 15°C (59°F). After a few weeks, new life will form in the nodal junctions on the stems, signalling the start of its recovery process. Maintain a sealed environment for the following month until you feel it's necessary to release it back into the open air. For the prevention of environmental shock, be sure to introduce a humidity tray for higher levels of atmospheric moisture around the plant in its new setting. Not only will this ease the specimen back into healthy functioning life, but it'll also reduce the rate of transpiration (water-loss in the leaves), and therefore downplay the risk of dehydration and further decline.
Never situate it within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance a radiator or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature and dry air, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of dehydration and browning leaf-tips.
As mentioned before, botrytis (grey mould) & southern blight are major threats among heavy foliage plants when excess moisture is allowed to sit on compacted foliage. Remove the affected areas and improve the growing conditions by situating the plant in a brighter location and keeping the leaves dry.
Excessive yellowing older leaves (closest to soil) are a clear sign of over-watering, usually caused by too little light. Although they can do well in darker locations, the frequency of irrigations must be reduced to counteract the chance of root rot. People don't realise that a plant's root system needs access to oxygen too; when soil is watered, the air will travel upwards and out of the potting mix. A lack of accessible oxygen for the roots will cause them to subsequently breakdown over the oncoming days.
Curled leaves and brown leaf-edges are the result of too little water and over-exposure to the sun. Pilea depressa are best located in bright, indirect settings, and those that haven't acclimatised to the harsh rays will show signs of sun-scorch and environmental shock. A splash of winter sunlight is acceptable as long as the soil moisture is regularly observed, with complete avoidance once summer comes along.
Pilea depressa is a creeping perennial the originates from the Caribbean, but has recently been introduced to some regions of El Salvador and Puerto Rico. The species was named by Carl Ludwig Blume in the early 19th-century, using the Latin word, depressa, in reference to its 'flattened leaves'.
12° - 26°C (54° - 80°F)
H1b (Hardiness Zone 12) - Can be grown outdoors during the summer in a sheltered location with temperatures above 12℃ (54℉), but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure any direct sunlight as it may result in sun-scorch and dehydration. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.
Up to 0.1m (4 inches) in height and 0.7m (27 inches) in width once they reach maturity; the ultimate height will take between 4 - 8 years to achieve with over 10cm of new growth per season!
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed, Division & Stem Cuttings.
Division (Easy) - In spring, split the root ball into several sections that house a good amount of foliage and roots. Dividing too-small segments of the root-ball could lead to transplant shock or unsuccessful propagation. Sections that are at least 5cm (2 inches) in diameter serve the best chance of propagation due to the stored energy in the roots and stems. Place the sections into houseplant compost and water regularly, avoiding prolonged sunlight or persistent droughts.
Stem Cuttings (Very Easy)
- Choose the healthiest, most established vines, using between three to six leaves, with the vine being at least 8cm (3 inches) in length.
- Using a clean pair of scissors, cut directly below a node (leaf) and prune the older half of the leaves. This end will be kept in water and therefore may rot if the leaves are left.
- Place the cuttings into water. Once small roots develop in the nodal junctions (3cm / 1 inch), which can take over 30 days, it's time to prepare the soil and pot.
- Use a 7cm (3 inches) pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance. Use a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix is best as they'll provide adequate drainage. Alternatively, place the cuttings into the mother plant's soil to promote a bushier appearance, as mentioned in 'Common Issues'.
- Set the cutting into the compost, keeping the foliage above the soil line. Be sure to submerge the bottom nodes into the soil, or else further root development will hinder.
- Avoid direct sunlight and maintain moist soil to prevent dehydration. After six weeks, treat the specimen as a mature plant by following the care advice described above.
Small clusters of white flowers will appear midway down the stem and can last up to several days. This process usually gets underway in late spring, but some specimens can flower before, or after this time bracket. Although Pilea will bloom each year, the show is almost uninspiring and is often removed by horticulturalists so that the plant focuses its energy onto the foliage.
Repot every three years in spring using a 'Houseplant' labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. As Pilea depressa are ground creepers, they tend to grow quicker in a wide, shallow pot; visit your local garden centre and search for 'Terracotta Bulb Bowls' which should be on sale all year round. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those that are situated in a darker location, add a thin layer of small grit in the pot's base to improve drainage and downplay over-watering.
Pests & Diseases
Although pests aren't usually an issue when cultivating Pilea depressa, fungus gnats or aphids may attack weakened specimens with overly moist soil. Common diseases are root rot, botrytis, rust, powdery mildew and southern blight.
Not known to be poisonous by the consumption of pets and humans. If high quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.