Choosing The Best Soil For Pilea Peperomioides
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Here at the Pilea headquarters, we make it our mission to help plant aficionados care for their beloved “pass-it-on” plants. And one common question we often get from our readers is, “How do I choose the best soil for my Pilea Peperomioides?”
We get it! We understand why this might be confusing. With so many factors to take into consideration when it comes to healthy soil - PH, composition, nutrients, drainage - making the right choice may seem like an overwhelming task.
Here’s a simpler way to look at it - good potting soil should accomplish three basic requirements: hold just enough water for the roots to absorb, provide good nutrients for the plant, and allow the roots to access oxygen. Keeping these requirements in mind, we did some digging to present you with reliable information from trustworthy sources.
Here are four things you should keep in mind to help you choose the best soil for your Pilea!
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1. The soil composition for your Pilea matters
You should know that most potting mixes sold in bags for houseplant use are peat-based. Peat is a fibrous material that forms when mosses and other living material decompose in peat bogs. The advantage of using a peat-based potting mix is that it is lightweight and affordable. Peat is also good at holding moisture and providing your houseplants with an acidic growing environment.
However, the problem with peat-based mixes is that peat decomposes quickly. In the process, it becomes compacted, deprives the roots of oxygen, and restrains their access to water.
One way to prevent these issues from affecting your Pilea is to mix your own potting medium, which brings us to our second tip.
2. You can make your own Pilea potting mix
If you notice that the potting mix available in your local area is not cutting it, and your plants are not adjusting well a few weeks after repotting, then you can buy the necessary ingredients separately and mix your own growing medium.
Perlite looks like tiny white foam pellets. In fact, it is heat-puffed volcanic glass, and it’s often included in bags of potting mix to help keep it light and prevent it from becoming compacted. Perlite itself does not contain any nutrients, so it’s best to keep it under twenty percent of your potting mix.
Coco coir, a by-product of processing coconut fiber, is the outer husk of the coconut. Two of the main benefits of using coconut coir are the fact that it’s lightweight and has good water retention. You can use it as an addition to your potting mix, but keep it under twenty percent of the total as coco coir does not contain any nutrients.
To get an evenly distributed blend, you should mix these elements in a bowl or a bucket before you add them to your planter. The mix we usually use with our Pilea plants is coco peat fiber or peat moss, and a small portion of perlite (one part perlite to nine parts soil).
3. Repot your Pilea about once a year.
The truth is that no matter how good your potting mix is, it will become compacted and depleted of nutrients after about a year. You can’t expect the soil to remain nutrient-rich and nourishing forever. And yes, this still applies if you fertilize your Pilea.
Repotting is an important part of keeping healthy Pilea plants, and there’s no way around it. It’s also a good occasion to notice whether you need to make any changes in the type of potting mix that you use or the size of your pot. If your Pilea has become root-bound, then that’s a sign that it needs an upgrade.
4. Get to know your Pilea plant (but also know yourself).
When it comes to plant parenthood, we have to walk the fine line of bringing our houseplants’ preferences in harmony with our tendencies.
Pilea plants are sensitive to overwatering - they don’t like soggy roots and they need good drainage. If you absolutely can’t help yourself from overwatering, then choose a potting soil that goes against that tendency - something with more perlite, for instance.
On the other hand, if you often forget to water your Pilea, plant it in soil that’s heavier in coconut coir and peat - two media that improve water retention. Some soil mixes drain and dry out faster than others, depending on factors such as the amount of light the plant and the pot receive, room temperature and humidity, how fast your Pilea grows and propagates, and the porosity of your pot. (For example, terracotta pots will dry faster than glazed pots, no matter what potting mix you use.)
Generally, it's a good idea to experiment with a few combinations of soil and soilless elements until you find the right one for your Pilea.
Also, don’t forget that potting soil also needs good aeration, so have a look at this guide to learn how to aerate the soil properly.
Quick disclaimer: potting soil and potting mix are not the same thing, even though the terms might be used interchangeably on commercially-available products. Potting mix - the one you usually buy from garden centers for your houseplants - is technically soil-less. For this to be considered soil, it would have to contain minerals and humus, which most potting mixes don’t. However, unless you’re talking to a Master Gardener, you’re probably safe to use the word “soil” to refer to potting mix. We don’t want to be pedantic, and we certainly don’t want to confuse plantkeepers with complicated jargon. That’s why we want to clarify that when we use the word “soil” in our posts, we are referring to the potting mix used for growing houseplants in pots!