Pilea microphylla

Common Name: artillery plant
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Urticaceae
Native Range: Mexico to Brazil
Zone: 11 to 12
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zone 11-12. In St. Louis, grow indoors in a warm, humid environment in bright indirect light. Some morning sun is acceptable, but avoid full afternoon sun. Use a peaty soil-based potting mix. Plants like high humidity, and appreciate humidified rooms or placement on a bed of wet pebbles. Water moderately in the growing season, and reduce watering in fall to late winter. Pinch stem tips as needed to keep plant compact. Easily propagated from stem cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Native from Mexico to Brazil, artillery plant is a short-lived perennial or annual that typically grows from 8-12” tall. In its native habitat, it may spread to as much as 24” wide and is sometimes massed as a ground cover. Abundant, tiny, obovate to rounded, succulent, light green leaves (1/4” to 1/2” long) appear on this small shrubby plant, giving it an almost fern-like appearance. Tiny greenish flowers are not particularly showy. Male flowers explosively discharge pollen into the air, hence the common name of artillery plant. Indoor plants rarely flower and fruit. ‘Variegata’ is more compact (to 6” tall) with white, pink and green variegated leaves.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for mealybugs and spider mites. Leaf spots and stem rot may occur. Fragile plant stems.

Garden Uses

Outdoor ground cover in the tropics. Small indoor plant. Annual for outdoor containers.