Friendship Plant (Pilea involucrata)

Friendship Plant, Panamiga

Friendship plants have funky textured leaves and, like their cousin the Aluminum plant, they have striking stripes on their leaves. They are super easy to care for as long as they’re kept out of direct sun. They get their common name “Friendship Plant” because they are easy to propagate by cutting so you can give endless plant babies to all of your friends.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Pilea involucrata, commonly called the friendship plant, is a bushy trailing plant which is sometimes cultivated, especially where high humidity can be provided, such as in a terrarium. It is native to Central and South America.

Pilea involucrata is a herbaceous plant known for its lush, textured foliage and compact growth habit. It is a tropical perennial that thrives in warm, humid environments. The Friendship Plant is not known for significant commercial or agricultural value but is highly regarded in the horticultural community for its ornamental qualities. It is not considered invasive or problematic when grown in controlled settings such as indoor gardens or terrariums.

The Friendship Plant typically reaches a height of 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) with a similar spread. It is known for its relatively fast growth rate, with an average monthly growth of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) under optimal conditions. The roots of Pilea involucrata are fibrous and relatively shallow, spreading out beneath the soil surface without causing problems to structures or other plants.

The stems of Pilea involucrata are slender, flexible, and often reddish in color. They are covered with fine hairs and have a tendency to trail or spread as the plant matures, which can contribute to a bushy appearance.

The leaves of Pilea involucrata are its most distinctive feature. They are small to medium in size, oval to round in shape, and have a quilted texture with deep veins that create a puckered appearance. The leaves are typically a rich green with a subtle bronze hue and have a velvety feel. Botanically speaking, the leaves are opposite, simple, and have an entire margin. They are attached to the stem by petioles, which are also covered in fine hairs.

Pilea involucrata does produce flowers, but they are small, greenish, and not particularly showy. The flowers are typically inconspicuous and do not contribute significantly to the plant’s ornamental value. The blooming period is not well-defined, as the flowers are often overlooked in favor of the plant’s foliage.

The Friendship Plant may produce small fruits after flowering, but these are rarely observed in cultivation and are not a notable feature of the plant.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

Pilea plants grow on rainforest floors where the plants receive dappled, filtered light but are protected from harsh, direct sun rays. Therefore, be sure to keep your friendship plant out of the direct sun, as this will burn the leaves. Place it in an area where it will receive bright, indirect light. A kitchen counter with a south or west-facing window works well.

Temperature and Humidity

Moderate to high humidity levels are key to ensuring the health of this tropical houseplant. Humidity around 60 percent or higher is ideal. To accomplish this, you may wish to keep this plant in a terrarium, place it near a humidifier or on top of a pebble tray, or mist the leaves. 

The friendship plant prefers temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When kept as a houseplant, this is usually no problem and you shouldn’t have to adjust your thermostat for the sake of your plant. If you keep this plant outdoors, be sure to bring it inside if the temperatures fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering

Pilea involucrata enjoy consistent moisture and do not like to dry out. Therefore, water these plants regularly. Avoid overwatering, however, as this can lead to soggy soil and introduce root rot. To check whether or not your Pilea needs water, simply feel the soil. If the top inch or two is dry, it is time to water the plant. Allow any excess water to drain away. During the growing season, you will need to water more often. In the winter, cut back on watering.

Soil

Rich, loamy, well-draining soil is the best. This will allow the Pilea plant to remain moist, but not soggy. A mix of compost, perlite, and coco coir is a great choice, as it allows for drainage without drying out too quickly. The blend of soil ingredients will remain light and airy instead of compact and heavy.

Fertilizing

Fertilize it once in spring and the second time in summer.

Fertilizing it twice a year is sufficient if you are using fertile potting soil.

To make the potting soil fertile do not add compost or any other organic material that releases an unpleasant smell.

It is best to buy pre-fertilized soil. Such potting soil contains every single nutrient that your plant will need to grow and produce flowers.

You cannot speed up plant growth with over-fertilization. Also, you cannot increase the number of flowers per plant with a high dose of nutrients.

To protect your plant from overfertilization dilute the fertilizer as per the instructions. Then directly pour into the base of the plant.

Do not spray fertilizer on the plant leaves. This will cause leaf burn and make them crispy brown.

Pruning

Pruning means cutting the unwanted and overly grown parts of the plants.

But Pilea Involucrata aka moon valley friendship plant does not grow large so you do not need pruning.

You may need to trim it to give it desired shape or to keep it healthy by removing the yellow leaves.

To cut the plant choose its active growing season which is spring and summer.

According to my knowledge spring is the best time for pruning.

Propagation

Pilea involucrata is extremely easy to propagate, which contributed to the common name of this plant. Since they were so easily propagated and shared with others, people began calling them the friendship plant.

You can easily create a large collection of these plants to give away to friends by means of stem cuttings. To do this, you will need a pot with drainage holes, well-draining, loamy soil, rooting hormone, a pair of snips, and a plastic bag. Then follow these instructions:

  • Choose a stem that is around three to four inches long with multiple sets of leaves. Be sure the stem has at least two nodes. 
  • Cut the stem with a sharp pair of clean snips. Remove the lower sets of leaves where the stem will be in the soil. 
  • Dip the cutting in the rooting hormone. 
  • Plant the cutting into moistened, loamy soil and press the soil so the cutting stands upright. Just be sure the soil is not compressed to the point of being compact and hard. 
  • Place the plastic bag over the pot to increase the humidity. 
  • Set the pot in an area that receives bright, indirect lighting. 
  • Air out the bag daily and water the soil when it begins to dry. 
  • Roots should form in a few weeks. When this occurs, remove the bag and care for the plant as usual.

Potting and Repotting 

Pilea involucrata stay quite small and have a medium growth rate, so they will not need to be repotted often. They may need to be repotted once every two years as they grow to maturity, which usually takes three to five years. Repot when the plant is root bound and you notice roots growing through the drainage holes of the pot. 

When it’s time to repot your friendship plant, choose a pot that is one to two inches larger than its current pot. Then gently slide the Pilea out of its pot and plant it into the larger container with more loamy, well-draining soil. Be sure to bury the plant at the same depth as it was buried before to prevent unnecessary stress. Give it some water and care for it as usual.

Pests and Diseases

All the Pilea Involucrata common problems are listed below. Read carefully and find out the solution.

Common Pests

Aphids and spider mites are the main culprits that can damage the plant. You need to inspect the plant daily to find any pest infestation.

These pests are often found on the undersides of the plant leaves.

They suck the sap of the plants making them nutrient deficient. Once the plant becomes nutrient deficient it starts dying.

To save your plant, once you see pests, immediately grab the rubbing alcohol and cotton cloth.

Pour some alcohol on the cloth and wipe the leaves.

If this is time-consuming for you and you want a single quick solution then use insecticidal soap to wash your plants.

Buy it from Amazon and rinse your entire plant. The chemical in the soap will kill all the pests. The good news is it is not harmful to humans. But you should wear gloves before using soap.

Common Diseases

Root rot is the main disease that can infect the plant, otherwise, this plant is disease resistant. Overwatering causes root infection which is deadly for plants like Pilea Involucrata.

For proper Pilea Involucrata care, follow the correct watering technique. Avoid the use of hard water and tap water.

Give soft water that is suitable for human drinking.

In case your plant is infected by root rot. Then, take it out of the pot, cut the infected roots, and place it back on the same pot but in new soil. Because the old soil may contain fungus bacteria. These bacteria can again infect the roots.

Friendship Plant (Pilea involucrata) Details

Common name Friendship Plant, Panamiga
Botanical name Pilea involucrata
Plant type Houseplant
Hardiness zone 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b
Height 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
Width 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
Sunlight Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
Flower color Green
Leaf color Gold/Yellow