Interior foliage plants, or houseplants, were very popular during the “green revolution” or “back to earth” movement of the 1970s. They fell out of popularity in the ’80s and ’90s, giving way to bedding plants and herbaceous perennials.

Well, guess what? Houseplants are back.

Pilea peperomioides is one plant that has surged into popularity. Pictures of the Chinese money plant have been popping up on social media. People are selling “pups” on eBay and Etsy. Native to China, this plant has a long list of common names: pancake plant, UFO plant, lefsa plant and missionary plant.

The story is that a Norwegian missionary brought cuttings back to Norway from China in the 1940s. The “pups” spread throughout Scandinavia and eventually to the United States. People passed “pups” around for years before this plant was finally officially identified in the 1980s.

Chinese money plant is small in stature at 8 to 12 inches tall. The shoots grow from the crown, terminating in a saucer-shaped leaf. The leaves form an attractive mounded appearance. The bright green leaves do accumulate dust and should be cleaned as needed.

The plants prefer well-drained potting soil. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Wet feet will cause root rot, which will quickly spread, killing the plant. Fertilize monthly from March to October with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Follow label directions.

Keep the plant out of direct sunlight as it will scorch; bright indirect light is best. It is a good idea to rotate the plant to prevent it from getting lopsided. Avoid hot drafts from heat vents and cold drafts from windows and doors. The plant does not tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees.

Pilea peperomioides can be propagated from root plantlets or stem plantlets. Root plantlets develop from the mother plant’s root system. Root plantlets already have roots. Using a sharp, clean knife, sever the young pup from the mother plant and transplant into a container with potting soil. Root plantlets are the easiest method and the pups have little transplant shock.

Stem plantlets are produced on the stems of the mother plant. Stem plantlets do not have a root system of their own. Using a sharp, clean knife, remove the stem pups from the mother plant. Plant the pups into a container with moist potting soil. Cover the rooting container with a humidity dome or plastic to increase humidity. Do not allow too much condensation to develop inside the dome or plastic, as the plant will develop foliar diseases. Rooting of the stem pups will take longer during the winter months.

Chinese money plant is not difficult to grow. Healthy plants produce pups from their roots and stems. Keep the plant happy and there will be plenty of pups to give away or sell. Look for Pilea peperomioides at the RCTC Horticulture spring plant sale.

Robin Fruth-Dugstad is a horticulture professor at Rochester Community and Technical College with 25 years of experience gardening and landscaping. Send plant and garden questions to

What's your reaction?