How to Care for Your Pilea in a Heatwave
The height of summer should be a breeze when it comes to Pilea care. There’s nothing better for your Pilea than a lot of sunlight, warm temperatures and long days, right?
Almost right. No doubt you’ve experienced the discomfort of a heatwave (maybe even a prolonged one) and thought that your plants are suffering too. That depends on the plant. If your houseplants come from a tropical region, they will bask in the heat and humidity. If your houseplants are originally found in the desert, then a wave of dry heat would be more to their liking.
But where does Pilea stand on this spectrum? And how can we make sure that we’re giving Pilea plants the right amount of care in a heatwave?
Here are six things you should do for your Pilea when the weather gets unbearably hot.
1. Move your Pilea away from direct sources of light.
We’re hoping that this is superfluous advice and that you’re already savvy enough to know that Pilea prefers bright indirect light all year long. (Here’s what this means.)
But with long sunny days in full swing, the position of the sunlight in your apartment may have changed since you last reshuffled your plants around the room. So just to be sure, check again if your Pilea gets any bright direct light falling on its leaves on summer days. If so, now’s the perfect time for a temporary relocation.
2. Maintain an appropriate level of humidity.
Relative humidity is the amount of moisture contained in the air. Notice that we didn’t say increase or decrease your humidity, because that depends on so many factors. Are you experiencing high humidity heat or low humidity heat? Are you using fans to circulate the air, or are you using an AC unit that removes the humidity from your home?
For most houseplants that we grow indoors, a relative humidity below 20 percent is considered low, while 40 to 50 percent is medium. Relative humidity that goes above 50 percent is high - that is the relative humidity in a greenhouse, and you certainly can’t live in a greenhouse year round.
But the problem in our homes during heatwaves is more likely to be low humidity. A few things we can do to increase the humidity in the house include: running a humidifier, drying clothes on a drying rack indoors, leaving the shower door open when we shower, grouping houseplants together and placing them on a tray of pebbles and water.
3. Move your Pilea away from direct drafts.
Pilea plants don’t like direct drafts, whether these come from an open window, a fan or an AC unit. That doesn’t mean you should be cooped up indoors breathing in stale air. Just move your Pilea to a spot that’s not in the direct line of vision from said window, fan or AC unit.
4. Check for watering needs more often.
Do you remember how to check if your plant needs watering? We have a long post about the best way to tell, but here it is, in a nutshell: stick your finger about two inches deep into the soil. If the soil is still moist that deep, then your Pilea doesn’t need more water for the time being. You can also use a chopstick or a pencil for a less messy way of probing.
We go on and on about being careful not to overwater, but the heatwave is the exception to this rule. Of course, you shouldn’t overwater, but you should adjust your watering schedule if you notice that your plant gets dry faster due to air conditioning, higher temperatures and often intense periods of growth during long daylight months.
And one more tip: always use water at room temperature. Yes, you may be tempted to add a dash of cold water to your Pilea’s pot. But plants are not like people, so you’ll be doing more harm than good if you decide your plant needs water as cold as your iced tea.
5. If your Pilea is in a terracotta pot, wrap it up to retain moisture.
You should only do this if you think you can’t keep up with the previous tip (adjusting your Pilea’s watering schedule) or if you plan on being away from home for a few days when the weather gets hot.
We talked about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of potting containers in this post. We mentioned that one of the advantages of using terracotta pots for your Pilea is the fact that, due to its porous nature, terracotta (unglazed clay) removes excess moisture from the potting soil. But during a heatwave, this turns into a disadvantage, as you may need to water it more often to make up for this loss of moisture.
One temporary fix is wrapping the terracotta pot in a plastic bag. For a more elegant solution, you could place the terracotta pot in a larger glazed pot. Once the heatwave has passed, don’t forget to remove this plastic contraption to avoid mold.
6. If your Pilea is outdoors, offer it some shelter.
We’re pretty strict in our advice about moving Pilea outdoors: only move it if the conditions are just right. But if you’ve already done it and the heatwave caught you by surprise, now’s the time to mitigate the damage.
Make sure to move your Pilea to a shady spot that doesn’t get above 80°F. Pilea plants prefer temperatures between 60-75 °F, so anything above that is too hot for your plant to thrive. If the heatwave lasts more than a couple of days, take your plant to an intermediate space (such as a covered porch or a well-ventilated sunroom) for a bit of respite. However, be aware that a quick transition from scorching heat to an environment with dry air conditioning might send your plant into shock.
Heatwaves don’t last forever, but it’s important to know how to make them as comfortable as possible for your Pilea plant. With a bit of extra care, love and water, your gorgeous pancake-leaved friend will thrive even when the temperatures climb faster than you can say Peperomioides.