Plants for the Vivarium 
Pictures and text by Ken Uy (unless otherwise noted) 
Family: Utricacaea 
 Genus: Pilea
Black Jungle
P. cardierei
P. involucrata
'Moon Valley'
P. pubescens
'Metallic Blue'
P. spruceana
P. spruceana
'Silver Tree'
     Plants of the genus Pilea are useful in providing some interesting foliage patterns and colors in the vivarium. They like the growing conditions that are available in tropical forest vivariums, which certainly doesn't hurt matters. The only thing that they need besides the warmth and humidity is bright light. The light should be just bright enough to maintain colors and compact growth without causing leaf burning or bleaching. In most vivariums, that would probably mean maximum light exposure unless it's directly under extremely powerful light sources such as metal halide lighting. 

     The plants will do best if they are maintained at a temperature between 65°F (18.3°C) and 85°F (29.4°C).  Temperatures should not go below 55°F (12.8°C). If the vivarium substrate is suitable they can easily rooted on site. If fact, taking young tip cuttings from commercially grown plants that have been grown on a bit at home may be the best way to avoid introducing pesticides and other noxious chemicals from that the plants may have been exposed to. 
     They can take waterlogged situations but prefer a well aerated substrate. Poor aeration at the roots can result in poor leaf growth.  The plants do like to be kept evenly moist, but can dry out a bit between waterings if necessary. 
     If growing tips are pinched regularly, then the plants should remain nice and densely branched. If they start to become rather leggy, then tip cuttings can be used to restart them. 

     Some Pilea that are may be available are: 

  • P. cardierei (aluminum plant) A popular upright growing plant with raised silvery patterns between green veins on the leaves. The variety 'Minima' has smaller leaves and stays more compact. 
  • P. involucrata (Panamiga, friendship plant) Has dark green leaves that turn coppery in bright light. The variety 'Moon Valley' has textured leaves that are dark bronze with bright fresh green edges. 
  • P. microphylla (artillery plant) This plant is named after the way it expels clouds of pollen. The plant has a ferny appearance, with tiny green leaves. 
  • P. nummularifolia (creeping charley) A creeping plant with small pale green leaves.
  • P. pubescens 'Metallic Blue' has pointed leaves that are completely silvery blue-gray.
  • P. spruceana The variety 'Norfolk' has roundish bronze leaves with two sliver stripes along the midvein. The bronze color gets darker with good light. 'Silver Tree' is a more upright grower with dark pointed leaves. The leaves have a broad sliver stripe running down the center. 

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 Copyright © 1999 by Kenneth K. Uy. All rights reserved.