Curling, yellowing, spotting, and drooping leaves can leave you wondering what your little alien “UFO Plant” is up to. How can you troubleshoot your Mini Pilea’s issues?
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Take a Few Deep Breaths and Begin
Chances are, this may not be the first blog you’ve read on this topic. Are you tired of “everything” being the problem? It is true; one problem can have several causes. However, take a deep breath and answer a few questions to troubleshoot your Mini Pilea’s care.
Troubleshooting Problem One: Your Mini Pilea’s Outward Curl
What’s it look like? A taco shell pointed towards you.
What kind of dirt did you use?
The soil you use provides your plant with moisture long after you put down the watering can. Pileas that sit in poorly-draining, overly moist soil will start to curl.
How can you improve drainage? Repot your Pilea in well-draining cactus or succulent soil, adding an extra handful of perlite. Doing this will ensure that the soil holds enough moisture to keep your plant “evenly moist” without ever becoming soggy or muddy.
Note: You need to water well-draining soil more frequently, so carefully monitor your Pilea’s moisture levels until you establish a routine.
How large is your container?
Pilea’s prefer ‘snug’ containers. Placing your small Pilea in a large container will make its leaves curl and cause its eventual death. Why? Your plantie’s root system can’t soak up all the moisture contained in the soil, and it eventually rots. If your Mini Pilea’s sitting in a large pot, stop the troubleshooting there, and repot your plant. Your container should only be 1 inch larger than your Pilea’s root system.
How frequently do you water?
Overwatering is the #1 cause of plant issues (including curling leaves), so this topic deserves extra scrutiny. Rewater your Pilea when the first inch of topsoil is dry, and the leaves are flexible. Sticking to a weekly or biweekly schedule is not beneficial for your plant; instead, check its moisture levels often and water when it shows the proper signs.
Are you afraid you’ve overdone it? You should repot chronically overwatered plants. Allow the roots to partially dry out by leaving your ‘exposed’ Pilea out of its pot for a few hours before replanting. Take this opportunity to use the proper (well-draining) soil selection, if you haven’t already. Adjust your watering habits, and let your plant dry out more thoroughly between waterings.
Troubleshooting Problem Two: The Inward Curl
What does it look like? A parachute, with the edges curling underneath.
What’s the temperature?
If you have placed your Pilea outdoors for a ‘summer vacation,’ ensure that the temperature never rises above 80 degrees. Plants that are too warm will develop curly leaves. Bring your Pilea back indoors.
If you have not recently relocated your Mini Pilea and your home maintains comfortable temperatures, keep troubleshooting: this isn’t your problem. As with most indoor plants, keep your Pilea away from heating and air vents.
Are you giving your plant a humidity boost?
If you want flat leaves, you have to provide your Pilea with sufficient humidity (50-75%). Give your plant a boost by misting its leaves twice a week, investing in a humidifier, or relocating it to a more humid area of your home (like the bathroom or kitchen).
How much light is your Pilea receiving?
High-intensity light will cause your Pilea’s leaves to curl. Remember, these plants require bright, indirect light. You should not expose your Pilea to direct sun, especially in the afternoon hours. You should move your plant a few more feet away from the window or hang a sheer curtain.
Troubleshooting Problem Three: Your Mini Pilea’s Yellowing Leaves
What’s it look like? Yellow patches that turn into a yellow leaf (that eventually falls off). The bad news: You can’t reverse the yellowing. So, how do you prevent it from happening again?
How old was the leaf?
Pileas shed their leaves fairly frequently, so if it produces new growth and loses some of its oldest leaves to yellowing, don’t be surprised. You can speed up the process by removing the “petiole” (leaf-connecter stem) from the main stalk.
Are you providing extra humidity?
Pileas require 50-70% humidity to thrive, while the average American household hovers around 10%. See the problem? Low humidity can cause premature leaf yellowing and drop. Give it the boost it needs with a humidifier or misting twice a week.
How’s your drainage?
The soil and container you select can make or break your “drainage,” and could be the cause of your yellowing leaves. An unaltered potting mix does not contain the proper amount of drainage for your plant, and containers without drainage holes are not suitable for a Pilea. What should you do? Repot your plant in cactus or succulent soil (with added perlite) and an appropriately proportioned pot with holes.
Have you ever fertilized?
Nutrient deficiencies can also lead to yellowing leaves.If you haven’t ever fertilized (or haven’t done so during the growing season), this could be your issue! Fertilize your plant once a month during its growing season with half-strength, balanced fertilizer. An added bonus? You could get some pups out of it! Don’t overcompensate, though. Establish a healthy routine and stick to it!
What’s your watering routine?
That’s right: watering again. If you are keeping your Pilea’s soil constantly moist, reduce your watering frequency. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry, and the leaves are flexible. If you are unsure if your plant is ready for water, wait a day or two.
Problem Four: Brown Spots
What does it look like? A small brown polka dot on the leaf’s surface.
How do you humidify?
Water that sits on your Pilea’s leaves for extended periods will cause “brown spot.” This condition is essentially tiny rotten dots on your plant’s leaf. Misting is often the culprit, so keep these things in mind:
Mist your Pilea in the morning. Bright light helps moisture evaporate more quickly.
Invest in a fine-spray mister (and have self-control).
Mist your plant twice a week (no, not twice a day).
How frequently do you fertilize?
Overfertilization will also cause brown spotting on your plant’s leaves as a result of chemical burn. You can over fertilize your plant by doing it (1) too frequently or (2) by not diluting the mixture properly. Fertilize your Pilea once a month during its growing season, with half-strength, balanced fertilizer. If you continue to have issues with brown spots, lessen the frequency.
Problem Five: Drooping
Hound dogs have droopy faces, and Pileas have droopy leaves. It’s just a fact of life. If your plant looks abnormally droopy and limp, however, ask yourself these questions:
Is the soil moist?
Consistently moist soil will cause your plant to droop and can eventually lead to root rot. Hold off on rewatering your plant until the soil dries out one inch below its surface.
Is the soil dry?
Extra droopy leaves can also mean that your plant is thirsty! If the soil is dry and crispy, rehydrate it by bottom watering your plant.
With a bit of troubleshooting and extra care, your Mini Pilea “UFO Plant” will know it’s ‘safe for landing’ and make itself right at home!
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