Growing Aluminum Plant: How To Care For Pilea Cadierei

Pilea cadierei (pil-EY-ah kad-ee-AIR-ey) is a herbaceous perennial native to China and Vietnam.

While it didn’t become popular in the United States until the 1970s, it’s been a great go-to plant for novices since then.

Growing Pilea CadiereiPin

It’s a perfect houseplant for gardeners of all levels because it’s generally easy to grow and maintain at the right temperature and sunlight.

It’s most commonly referred to as the Aluminum plant because the leaves look like someone brushed them with aluminum (silver) paint.

The contrast between the green and the aluminum color is striking.

The Aluminum plant is one of many variations of pileas, but it is probably the most popular.

With a maximum size of 1′ to 2′ feet, it’s compact enough to set near a windowsill but not too big to steal the sun from other plants. 

It can live for many years given the right growing conditions. While it is almost exclusively a houseplant, the Aluminum plant can grow as a groundcover in warm, humid climates.

Pilea cadierei goes by several common names, including:

  • Aluminum plant
  • Watermelon pilea
  • Watermelon plant 

Quick Facts On Pilea Cadierei 

  • Family: Urticaceae
  • Light: Indirect sunlight
  • Temperature: between 60° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit year-round
  • Water: Keep evenly moist; 2-3 times a week
  • Fertilizer: Feed once a week during the summer
  • Propagation: Cuttings
  • Common Problems: Spider mites, whitefly, leaf drop, gray mold

Pilea Cadierei Care

What Does The Aluminum Plant Look Like, And How Big Does It Grow?

The Aluminum plant is a perennial with pretty leaves with unique silver or aluminum marks.

However, while the leaves are rich in color, the underside of the leaves is not quite as vibrant.

The plant only grows up to a foot tall, so it’s relatively compact and easy to manage indoors.

There are wide varieties of pilea plants, with the Aluminum plant or pilea cadierei just one of them.

The Aluminum plant grows all year, so it’s a perfect houseplant for those that want an all-season plant.

When Does The Aluminum Plant Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

The Aluminum plant flowers from time to time, but it’s not the reason to purchase this plant.

The flowers are fairly small and insignificant and have no fragrance.

However, pollen is ejected when the flowers bloom in a small cloud-like explosion.

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

Most gardeners keep the Aluminum plant indoors because it’s easiest to control the light and temperature.

This plant needs bright indirect light, so an east or north-facing window is best. If they have direct sunlight, their leaves may burn.

If grown outside, the plant can grow in the shade, but it doesn’t thrive without some sunlight.

Plants grown in the shade tend to be weaker and less full.

The perfect temperature for the Aluminum plant is roughly 60° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are in this temperature range throughout the year, you can plant your Pilea cadierei outdoors. Otherwise, it’s best suited as an indoor plant.

How And When To Water And Fertilize Aluminum Plant?

The Pilea cadierei needs to be evenly watered, which may mean 2 to 3 times per week during the spring and summer.

The plant will not need as much water in the winter, but be careful not to let the soil dry out completely.

The Aluminum plant fares the best when fed weekly during the summer. Fertilizer will encourage growth and give the plant any extra nutrients that it may need.

What Is The Best Soil For Pilea Cadierei, And When Should You Transplant?

The Aluminum plant fares best in sandy potting soil. Make sure that your pot has drainage holes. If not, you can put a layer of pea gravel at the bottom to hold the excess water.

The spring is the best time to repot your Aluminum plant.

Here’s how to do it:

  • First, gently remove your plant from its current pot, and if necessary, purchase a slightly larger pot for repotting.
  • Next, put sandy potting soil in the new pot and water the soil until moist.
  • Then place the plant in the new pot.

Does Pilea Cadierei Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

If you prefer a bush-like appearance for your Aluminum plant, then it’s best to prune it down halfway in the spring. Pruning will encourage thicker growth.

In addition, you can pinch back your young Aluminum plants during the growing season to encourage bushier growth.

Any trimmings that you cut in the spring make for fabulous cuttings.

How To Propagate Watermelon Pilea?

While you can attempt to propagate with seed, cuttings are much more reliable. Therefore, propagation of watermelon pilea is best in the spring.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Use sharp pruning shears or knives, cutting stems about 3″ to 4″ inches long.
  • Place sandy potting soil in a small pot and moisten the soil.
  • Put the cuttings in moist soil.
  • Place a plastic bag with a few small holes over the cuttings.
  • Move the small pots to a warm spot with indirect sun.
  • Once the cuttings have rooted, place 2 to 3 of them together in a slightly larger pot.
  • Putting them together will encourage a bush-like Watermelon plant.

Watermelon Pilea Pests And Diseases

If you have accidentally overwatered your Watermelon pilea, you may notice gray mold on the leaves. If so, cut off any affected leaves and purchase a fungicide for treatment.

Conversely, if you have accidentally underwatered your Watermelon pilea, you may notice leaf drop. In this case, place the pot in a bucket of water and let it soak.

In addition, spider mites, unfortunately, love the Watermelon pilea.

If you see the apparent sign of webbing underneath the leaves, you can place the whole plant into an insecticide.

There are also stakes with an insecticide that may be effective in treating spider mites.

Whiteflies may also appear in mid-to late-summer when it gets warm and humid. If you find yourself with a whitefly infestation, treat it similarly to spider mites.

Suggested Pilea Cadierei Uses 

Because the Pilea cadierei can be fussy with the sun and cold, most gardeners find it easiest to have the plant indoors.

While indoors, you can control the sunlight it receives and cold drafts.

Many people use the Pilea cadierei as a decorative tabletop plant or on the windowsill. It does well with other plants because of its compact size.

Lastly, some people place unrooted aluminum plant stems in aquariums.

If grown outdoors, it’s best between Zones 11 and 12 as long it’s in part shade.