How to Grow Friendship Plant
I’ve been looking for a particular houseplant with interesting bronze crinkly leaves. I didn’t know what it was called. I have finally found it and it is called the Friendship Plant because it is so easy to propagate and share with friends.
What is Friendship Plant?
Friendship plant (Pilea involucrata) is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. It grows on the edges of the tropical forests so it is no surprise that these plants need high humidity like their native habitat. They are frequently grown in terrariums which mimic their very humid home.
These plants are hardy in zones 11 and 12 so you will only see them growing here in the US as a houseplant. The plants aren’t large, 6 – 12 inches high and 6- 12 inches wide, but they have a tendency to sprawl. Regular pruning keeps them bushy and attractive.
By far the most interesting thing about the friendship plant is its heavily crinkled leaves. They are small, 1 – 3 inches and bronze with green edges. They look stiff but are surprisingly soft to the touch.
The flowers are tiny and either green or pink. These plants are grown for their interesting foliage rather than their flowers.
How to Grow Friendship Plant
In their native environment, friendship plants grow along the edges of the forest so they like partial shade. Keep your plant away from sunny windows. If you have a room with windows that face north, that should provide them with just the right amount of light.
Humidity is the key to keeping your plant happy and healthy. Our homes are too dry for them so you will have to provide humidity. The simplest way to do this is to house it in a terrarium. Terrariums are collections of plants that grow in sealed containers. The idea is that you water the plants and then seal the container. They then become a self-sustaining little world where the water is constantly recycled between the plants and the soil and the atmosphere inside making for a very humid environment, perfect for your friendship plant. Terrariums are usually planted with small plants and decorative items to make them look like miniature gardens.
Another alternative is to mist your plant every day. Misting every day covers the leaves with fine water droplets that provide humidity as they evaporate.
Or you can make a humidity tray to provide constant humidity similar to a terrarium. To make a humidity tray, take a shallow pan like a jelly roll pan and fill it with ornamental or aquarium gravel. Fill the tray with water and set your plant on top of the gravel. Don’t put it in the gravel. It has to remain on top of the gravel. The water in the pan will evaporate, creating humidity around your plant. Check the tray frequently and replenish the water when it is close to drying out.
Even though you are providing a humid environment, if your plant is not growing in a terrarium, you will need to water it. Water just enough to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. Don’t let the soil dry out. Your plant could die because it needs both water and a humid environment.
If your plant is growing outside of a terrarium, you will need fertilize it to replace the nutrients that are being washed out of the soil every time you water. Fertilize it monthly using a balance 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted to half strength. Do this during the spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. Suspend fertilizing during the fall and the winter when the plant is resting.
How to Grow Friendship Plant From Cuttings
Friendship plants grown indoors as houseplants don’t have any insects to pollinate their flowers so they don’t develop seeds. If you want to propagate your plant, you have to do it with stem cuttings. Fortunately these plants grow very easily from stem cuttings.
Stem cuttings should be done in the spring when the plant is actively growing. To make a stem cutting, using a sharp knife or pruners, cut a 3 – 6 inch piece from a healthy stem. Strip the leaves from the bottom 1 – 3 inches of the cutting depending in the size. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone if you want to speed up the root formation. Rooting hormone is not necessary so if you don’t have any, that’s okay. Gently push the bottom 1 – 3 inches of your cutting into the moist soil in a container. Place the container and cutting inside of a plastic bag to create a humid environment and then place it in a north facing window.
It could take up to a month for your cutting to develop roots. You will know that your cutting has roots when it starts growing new leaves. Plants that don’t have roots, can’t make new leaves.
© 2020 Caren White