The cheery round leaves of the Pilea peperomioides or Chinese Money Plant are one of its chief charms, so it’s understandably heartbreaking when they start to crack or split.
Mechanical damage, incorrect placement, insufficient root systems, and a short temperature range contribute to splitting Pilea leaves. Additionally, dry roots, excessive moisture, and fertilizers all contribute to cracks on Chinese Money Plant leaves. Therefore, maintain a humidity level of at least 50% and a temperature range of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
But don’t despair. Chinese Money Plant leaves split for many reasons, most of which are easy to fix. So let’s look at what causes split leaves in Pileas and what you can do to fix it.
What Causes Split Pilea Leaves
You don’t need to do a lot of heavy watering with these clever plants because they store water in their leaves.
However, the fact that they don’t begin to show signs of thirst until the situation is dire makes it easy to forget to water them at all.
If the Pilea isn’t given enough water, its pert foliage will begin to die from the inside out. It’s common for dried leaves to wrinkle, crack, or break completely when they’re brittle.
If you give your plants too much water, you risk developing fungal diseases that weaken and damage their leaves.
Your plant’s ability to grow structurally consistent leaves is hindered by wildly fluctuating between too dry and too wet.
New growth pushes and strains the tight edges until they crack in leaves that start their lives in dry soil. They are often too small in the margin to accommodate later exuberance.
Fortunately, Pilea doesn’t seem to mind if the water level fluctuates. Therefore, it’s best to let the top inch or two of the growing medium dry out before watering again.
This will ensure that the Pilea is well hydrated but without the risk of overwatering.
Excessive Direct Sunlight
Pilea prefers bright, indirect light, and they need a lot of it. However, exposure to direct sunlight can have a variety of adverse effects.
Sunburn on the leaves is the quickest and most obvious sign. Powerful ultraviolet light first removes the color from the leaves before wreaking havoc on the underlying structure.
They become brittle and prone to cracking as the sunburned skin dies entirely from the inside out.
Spring sun can cause dehydration, which can lead to the leaf drying out and dying if not corrected quickly. Cracks will appear soon after.
Keep your Pilea out of direct sunlight. Indirect, bright light is the best.
Unfortunately, merely moving a sun-struck Pilea to a shady location can result in additional issues for that Pilea.
Pileas use cupping as a defense against overexposure to light. The leaves form a saucer-like shape as they descend. Dehydration and overexposure to sunlight can both be prevented with this.
However, if you move your Pilea into indirect light, it may try to correct this cupping. So it tries to flatten the leaves so they can absorb more light in its new, less intensely lit location. ‘Sweet round leaves.’
It’s not unusual for the edges of these flattened leaves to crack, especially if the plant has been exposed to intense light for an extended period.
This is because the leaves grow into that round shape, and there simply isn’t enough leaf to go all the way around the edges once they flatten out.
If you can imagine a paper cup attempting to be a plate, you’ll get a sense of how difficult it is for your Pilea.
Keeping your Pilea inconsistent light is the best way to avoid this. I prefer a room facing south or south-east.
Lack of Humidity
Your Pilea’s care program should include a focus on atmospheric humidity. Maintaining healthy leaves relies heavily on the amount of moisture in the air, which can be challenging to measure but is essential.
Low-lying moist forests of southern China are home to Pilea, a naturally occurring plant.
The ideal humidity level is 50 percent or higher in the room. Leaves begin to dry out if the humidity isn’t that high.
The leaf’s structure becomes brittle and prone to cracking as it develops a brown, crisp edge.
Given that most homes and workplaces have humidity levels below 50%, it’s a good idea to give them a little boost.
Increasing the relative humidity in your home is as simple as misting with a spray bottle of clean water every other day.
Pilea can benefit from a pebble tray as a long-term solution. This is a simple shallow dish or tray filled with flat stones and freshwater.
Pilea thrives in a humid environment, and this humidifier is a great way to achieve that. More on that can be found here. I’ve written more on that here.
For leaves to grow strong and healthy, they require boron, a micronutrient.
Unfortunately, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are the three macronutrients that most commercial fertilizers focus on, so it’s easy for a fast-growing plant to develop deficiencies.
Adding boron to your Pilea may be in order if it has been flourishing recently.
My preferred method is to dilute a quarter of a teaspoon of boric acid in a gallon of water and apply it to the foliage of the plants. (You can see Amazon’s prices here)
This is sprayed directly onto the Pilea leaves, delivering that vital mineral now to where it is most needed. Additionally, it prevents the buildup of toxic boron in the soil.
Curious Children or Pets
Pilea leaves are a popular choice for people who have children or pets due to their low toxicity.
Those pert round leaves, so glossy and smooth they almost beg to be touched, can be very appealing to little fingers.
Even the most well-behaved child may be tempted to investigate this endearing little plant.
It is best to keep your plants out of reach of children and animals. While Pilea is a safe plant to experiment with, most indoor plants are toxic.
Many have venomous sap or are poisonous in some way. Breaking the habit of touching indoor plants now could save your small friend a lot of trouble later on.
A Pilea leaf is mostly water, a juicy disc of green that is well suited to storing moisture during dry periods.
It’s one of the reasons Pileas are such a good beginner plant – they don’t mind missing a watering every now and then.
However, water storage costs are sturdy, and Pilea leaves are delicate. They flex and snap easily, primarily when mismanaged.
It may take some time for the injury to the leaf to become apparent. A crack forms as the damaged tissue dies.
If you’ve recently repotted your Pilea, thoroughly inspected it for pests or disease, or otherwise handled the plant, you’re most likely to blame for the crack.
But, of course, it goes without saying that a dropped plant will also suffer damage!
Surprisingly, this is the most reassuring of all split-leaf causes. There is no ongoing danger, such as tears caused by pets or children, and nothing that causes long-term issues, such as watering or light problems.
Just chalk it up to experience and try to be more gentle the next time.
Is There A Way to Fix Split Pilea Leaves?
Sadly, once a leaf has been split, it cannot be put back together. However, this does not mean that the leaf is now worthless.
On the contrary, it can continue to photosynthesize and supply Pilea with vital sugars for as long as the foliage is green.
Weakly damaged leaves should be left alone, in general. They provide the plant with the energy to produce new, whole leaves in large quantities.
In addition, Pilea’s growth is predictable and steady. After a while, there will be an abundance of fresh leaves.
Removing damaged leaves isn’t a big deal if you don’t like how they look. Clean scissors or shears can be used to remove them from the base of the plant.
Only remove about half of the plant’s leaves so that there is enough greenery for the future growth of these sweet tiny plants.