Mini Pilea vs. Pilea: The Differences Compared


Propagating your pilea can feel like a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time doing any sort of propagation. Even after you’re done cutting off the plantlets and creating some new baby pileas, there’s a long journey ahead of you. It can help to know the differences between mini pileas and adult pilea to provide appropriate care. 

Mini pileas are smaller and easier to fit indoors. They have a shorter, weaker root system that is at greater risk of incurring damage due to suboptimal conditions. Also, mini pileas should be grown in water for the first few weeks of their life cycle.

In this article, I’ll go over how mini pileas differ from their adult counterparts, how you should care for them, and find out whether or not there’s anything about them that warrants particular attention. Stay tuned to learn more about mini pileas. 

Mini Pileas Are More Conveniently Placed Indoors

This one pretty much just goes without saying. Mini pileas are far smaller than their fully grown versions since they’re just at the beginning of their life cycle. Adult pileas can grow up to 12 inches (30.48 cm) tall, with many being even taller. And they can be equally as wide and lengthy. 

As you can imagine, this tends to leave you with limited options for placement. Especially in an already-crowded indoor environment, you might struggle to fit the bulky adult pilea. 

Mini pileas, on the other hand, are about a few inches in all their dimensions. You can keep them in spots restricted to regular pileas for a more balanced and complete indoors.

Small corners, tabletops, drawers, study tables, dining tables, countertops, the options are endless with mini pileas. 

You can also use a smaller pot, which makes things easier. Paired with their low demands for sunlight, mini pileas are one of the most convenient plants to grow indoors. You can keep them just about anywhere, although they prefer to be in more humid rooms. 

Do keep in mind that your mini pilea will eventually grow to be just as big as its parent plants, so you’ll have to transplant it into a larger pot and perhaps alter its location. 

Don’t worry, though. Pileas take a few years to reach their peak size. And once they do, you can always propagate again. 

Propagating pileas is pretty straightforward. Here’s a complete step-by-step guide if you want to learn how to do it yourself: How to Replant Chinese Money Plant Babies

Mini Pileas Can Be Grown in Water 

Let’s first discuss the possibility of growing your mini pileas in water for the first few weeks after you’ve cut them off from the mother plant. 

Mini pileas have little to no roots at this point, so you can grow them in water. It’s not like they can harvest nutrients from the soil without having roots anyway, right?

This is actually a recommended practice because it allows your mini pileas to quickly develop a couple of reliable, sturdy roots before being transplanted into the soil. 

Some gardeners skip this step and plant the mini pilea directly in the soil. This usually works too, but it increases the likelihood that the baby plant will fail to develop a self-sustaining root system and succumb to starvation within the first few weeks of its independence.

Now, adult pileas can be grown in water too. But this is not a recommended practice, as pileas grown exclusively in water tend to be smaller, weaker, thinner, and less healthy than their soil-based peers. 

You’d also have to add water-soluble fertilizer to the water regularly because, unlike soil, water does not have the nutrients your pilea needs by default. You’ll have to add them yourself. 

In short, I recommend you grow your mini pilea in water for the first few weeks. Once it develops some roots, you can safely transplant it into the soil. 

I do not recommend growing your pilea in water once it has developed roots because of the above-mentioned downsides. However, feel free to try it out as a little experiment on the side. 

Hydroponic growing is a fun transition to make as a backyard gardener. 

Mini Pileas Can’t Tolerate Damaging Conditions As Well 

Deep, healthy, and efficient roots are very important in determining how healthy and beautiful a plant ends up being. Let me explain.

Watering Routines Need To Be Super Accurate

Plants with longer roots can survive relatively longer without food and water because they can access the resources present deeper in the soil. Their shallow-rooted companions are the first ones to die in the event of a drought. 

The top layers of soil dry out first, followed by the lower layers. It’s only natural that plants unable to access the lower layers starve first. 

Interestingly, this is actually why you often hear that you should give your plants more water, less often, rather than giving them less water, more often. 

Doing the former encourages plants to sink their roots deeper into the soil to catch more of the water you supply them with. You end up with plants that can better tolerate periods of dryness. 

Anyways, as I mentioned before, mini pileas have shorter and fewer roots. 

So if you forget to water your plants on time, your mini pileas are far more likely to suffer from dehydration. 

This means you have to be more careful watering your mini pileas, as you have less room for error. Most gardeners stick to popular guidelines or routines, such as weekly waterings. 

However, you can be much more precise than that. Here’s a practical way to judge whether or not your mini pileas are ready for another watering.

  • Put your finger into the soil. Go about an inch or two deep. 
  • Judge how hydrated the soil is. The degree of moisture in the soil determines your next action. 
  • If the soil is wet or moist, you can leave things as they are and check back in another day or two. 
  • If the soil is dry, water it generously. Stop before water begins to stagnate on the surface to prevent overwatering. 

Important: make sure you’re using well-draining soil in a pot that has a drainage hole. Pots without drainage holes are a no-go in today’s climate because of how significantly they increase the risk of damage due to overwatering. 

The key is to let the soil dry briefly in between waterings and then water it back to its highest moisture-retention capacity again. It’s best to never let the soil get bone dry if you want optimal growth. 

Pro-tip: Use distilled water for the best results. Tap water has chemicals such as chlorine, which can hurt your mini pilea. You can either: 

Other Factors To Account For

More vigilant watering is not your only concern when it comes to properly caring for the mini pilea. 

Injuries take time and energy to heal. Since mini pileas don’t have reverses of energy at their disposal, unlike adult pileas, they can’t cope well with damage.

Mini pileas won’t be able to nurse themselves back to full health the way the adult plants can. 

You need to pay extra attention to other potentially damaging conditions, such as overexposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures, and low humidity.

Frost is a life-threatening occurrence that will hurt your pileas, mini or otherwise, really bad, so you definitely want to protect against it. 

To give you a brief description of and countermeasure against each:

  • Overexposure to sunlight. Pileas (and mini pileas, even more so) can’t tolerate direct sunlight, so you must provide them with filtered sunlight or partial shade. Pileas only need a few hours of indirect sunlight a day. 
  • Low humidity. Pileas prefer humidity levels of over 50%. If the humidity falls significantly below that threshold, they can lose their leaves. Place them in a bathroom or a room with a humidifier. Alternatively, mist them occasionally (though this may encourage fungal growth.)
  • Extreme temperatures. Mini pileas need to be kept at 55°F to 80°F (13°C to 27°C). Frosts (sub-zero temperature) can cause extreme damage to pileas by freezing the water within their cells, so don’t leave them unprotected outdoors during winter nights. 
  • Pests. Mini pileas are at greater risk of developing an infection because they get their stems exposed during propagation. Plantlets can also sometimes catch a disease if you use an unsanitary cutter during propagation. 

Of course, this only scratches the surface of the proper care requirements for a pilea plant. If you want to learn more about caring for pileas–and potentially help your mini pileas grow faster–read more here: How to Make a Chinese Money Plant Grow Faster

Final Thoughts

Mini pileas are different from pileas in several ways. They’re smaller in all three dimensions, which means you have much more options in terms of where you can place them. Mini pileas make for excellent decorations on, for example, countertops and dining tables.

Secondly, mini pileas can safely be grown in water for their first few weeks. It’s actually a best practice to do so. 

Lastly, mini pileas don’t have the sturdy, deep roots or plentiful stores of energy that adult pileas do, so you need to be more careful in caring for them. Any damage can be life-threatening.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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