The Aluminum Plant – Pilea cadierei [py-LEE-uh kad-ee-AIR-eye] is a bushy little plant with distinct markings on the leaves.
Due to its compact size, it fits perfectly in almost any space.
It’s also known by the common names of:
- Watermelon pilea
- Aluminum plant
It belongs to the nettle family Urticaceae (like Pellionia pulchra – Polynesian ivy) and is native to China and Vietnam.
The aluminum plant makes a nice addition to any spot in your home.
These foliage plants are easy to grow if protected against direct sun and freezing temperatures.
Pilea Aluminum Plant Care Tips
Size and Growth
There are many different varieties of pilea plants, each with a different look. The pilea cadierei features dark green leaves with silver markings.
Aluminum plants are short and may only reach up to 12″ inches in height.
Flowering and Fragrance
While this plant is grown for its distinct foliage, it does produce flowers. However, the blooms are small and green.
The flowers appear in clusters in the spring and don’t produce a scent. When they appear, the plant looks like it’s exploding as the small pollen clouds release.
Light and Temperature
The aluminum plant is suited to USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, and cannot survive freezing temperatures.
It also doesn’t like the extreme heat or too much direct sunlight as the bright light and heat can sunburn the leaves.
If grown indoors, place the plant in a room with indirect light like a north-facing or east-facing window.
If grown outdoors, give it partial shade. Be careful as too much shade will make the plant weak.
Overall, the aluminum plant thrives in temperatures between 60 – 70° degrees Fahrenheit. It should be a little cooler in the winter and a little warmer during the summer.
Watering and Feeding
The aluminum plant is easy to care for and this house plant requires lots of moisture. Keep the soil moist and do not allow the soil to dry out.
During the warmer months, plants need water two to three times per week.
Use liquid water-soluble fertilizer once per week during the summer growing season.
In the winter, the plant requires less water but shouldn’t be allowed to dry out completely. If plants are overwatered pythium root rot can develop.
TIP: If the air starts to get too dry during the winter, mist the plant daily with water.
Soil and Transplanting
The aluminum plant requires a potting soil mixture with good drainage. Soggy soil will lead to root rot. If the container doesn’t have adequate drainage holes, add a layer of charcoal or gravel to the bottom.
The water will eventually drain from the potting mixture and into the charcoal or gravel.
With proper care, plants live for many years but may require repotting.
When giving the plant a new home or if the root system has outgrown the current pot, transplant the plant in the spring.
Maintenance Requirements & Grooming
Pruning the plant helps encourage bushier growth. In the spring, trim back the plant about halfway.
The new growth will return thicker, creating a fuller plant.
Cuttings and younger plants require pinching during the warmer months.
Pinching encourages the side branches to grow out thicker and fuller. Pinch the plant tip out just above the leaves for optimal growth.
Propagation Of Aluminum Plants
Propagate pilea cadierei from seed, division, or cuttings.
Stem tip cuttings are the easiest option when following these steps:
- Take the cuttings in the spring
- Combine a potting mix with river sand to increase drainage
- Place the cuttings in the potting mix
- Cover the cuttings with plastic containing ventilation holes
- Place the container in a warm spot
- After the cuttings take root, place two or three in a pot
Remember to pinch the tops throughout the spring and summer.
The following year, the plant should be ready to transplant into its permanent home.
Aluminum Pilea Pests or Disease Problems
The aluminum plant is not an invasive species or toxic. However, it does have a few potential threats.
Mealybugs and spider mites love this plant. (Natural ways to kill spider mites here)
Whiteflies may also pose a problem. Try to wash the mites or flies away with lukewarm water.
If the water doesn’t get rid of the infestation, use insecticide like neem oil.
Besides the pests, look out for gray mold. It’s the biggest problem that the aluminum plant may face.
With gray mold, the leaves start to develop grayish-brown patches. The leaves will then slowly rot and wither. This is typically caused by overwatering.
To get rid of the rot, cut away the infected areas. If the rot has spread, a fungicide may treat the problem.
Suggested Pilea Cadierei Uses
Due to the short nature of this plant, it looks best when paired with taller plants. The taller plants can also provide some shade for the aluminum plant.
Plant Aluminum Cadierei in hanging baskets or grow them as a groundcover.
Whether it is placed alone or with other plants, keep the aluminum plants away from direct sunlight and hot windows.
Outdoor growth is only recommended in warmer, humid regions of the Southwest as the aluminum plant requires lots of moisture.