Moon Valley Pilea: 101 Plant Care Guide

Moon Valley Pilea is an eye-catching little houseplant, also known as Moon Valley Friendship Plant or Artillery Plant (Pilea mollis ‘Moon Valley’). It’s a member of the Nettle family, but don’t worry, it doesn’t sting like its cousins and is non-toxic and pet-friendly.

Pilea mollis ‘Moon Valley’ is often sold as Pilea involucrata ‘Moon Valley,’ which is also known as the Friendship Plant. P. involucrata has deeply textured leaves with silver and bronze coloring, and P. mollis has lime-green-edged leaves with purple-bronze in the veins and grooves. These two plants are considered separate species, but their differences are ambiguous and often confusing.

Whichever species I have, it is one of my favorites due to its curious, bumpy, saw-toothed leaves that grow in pairs, each at right angles to the previous pair up the stem.

The new little leaves at the tips of the branches are soft, light green, narrowly oval, and just developing their bumpy texture. As they mature, the leaves expand into wide ovals, 2 to 3 inches long, with prominently toothed edges and a purplish bronze color in each of the deep grooves and veins.

From time to time, clusters of tiny, pinkish-white flowers bloom in the leaf axils, and the plant stretches out stiffly from its pot onto my kitchen windowsill, begging to be trimmed and propagated.

Care for Your Moon Valley Pilea Plant

Image Credit: Nancy Maffia/Author.

Moon Valley Pilea is an easy plant for anyone to grow indoors and will respond to average household conditions. You just need to provide the right light, soil, and water, and it will thrive.

Light

Image Credit: Nancy Maffia/Author.

This little guy is native to the rainforests of Central and South America, where it grows on the forest floor as an understory plant. It receives dappled sunlight and rarely, if ever, direct sun that would burn its tender leaves.

In your house, it would get similar indirect light in an east- or north-facing window. Moon Valley needs bright indirect light out of the direct sun’s rays. If you don’t have an available east or north window, then set it back from a west- or south-facing window or hang a sheer curtain to soften the light.

Temperature & Humidity

Average household temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees F are perfect for the plant as long as it’s not in hot or cold drafts like from a heating vent, air conditioner, or winter window.

It prefers high humidity (above 50%), so it will appreciate living in a high-humidity area of the house, like the bathroom or laundry room if there is enough light.

I have mine in a north-facing kitchen window where it has enough humidity and is growing happily. You can also set it on a pebble tray with water or use a humidifier.

Soil

Image Credit: Nancy Maffia/Author.

Pileas do best in rich, peaty, well-draining soil. I use an African Violet potting mix and always add some perlite to the soil to ensure good drainage.

Fertilizer

Moon Valley only requires a little fertilizer if it has rich, nutritious soil and is repotted once every year or two with fresh soil. After a year in the same soil, though, the nutrients will become depleted, and you may want to boost the plant’s growth with a balanced indoor plant fertilizer every three months during the spring and summer.

Water

Feel the top of the soil, and if it’s dry, run some water through the pot and out the drainage holes, making sure to discard the excess. Your Pilea will tell you when it needs a drink because the stems and leaves will droop, but they will perk up quickly after you water it.

I always use rainwater to water my indoor plants since my tap water is high in minerals, such as chlorine, that many tropical plants are sensitive to. Distilled water is an excellent alternative if it’s difficult for you to collect rainwater.

Pests

Mealybugs and spider mites love to suck the juices out of Pilea Moon Valley if they are given the opportunity.

Mealybugs are slow-moving, cottony insects that attach themselves to stems and leaves. They can cause the plant to droop and lose vigor, but fortunately, they are easy to spot and control.

The best way to get rid of them is to pick off as many as you can with tweezers and then wipe the leaves and stems down with rubbing alcohol, which will kill any remaining bugs. Pilea plant’s stems are brittle and can snap easily, so be careful when handling them.

Spider mites are tiny, red or black, eight-legged critters that can cover the stems and leaves and cause them to be stippled and distorted. A spray of horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or Neem oil will control them.

Pruning

Moon Valley Pileas grow to a height of 6 to 12 inches before they bend out stiffly over the edge of the pot. When they reach that size, it’s an excellent time to prune them back to encourage new growth and propagate the cuttings.

Propagation

Image Credit: Nancy Maffia/Author.

Pilea Moon Valley is called Friendship Plant because it’s easy to propagate and give to your friends, and you can do it in either soil or water.

Water

This method allows you to see the root growth through the glass, which I like.

You’ll need a clear jar filled with water and a cutting about 3 to 4 inches long with several sets of leaves. Remove the bottom leaves that will be below the water line and put the cutting into the jar.

Set it in a warm location in bright indirect light and wait to see roots forming in about 2 to 3 weeks. Allow the roots to grow 2 or 3 inches long before planting the cutting in fresh potting mix.

NOTE: Change the water every 5 to 6 days to prevent algae from growing.

Soil

You can’t see the root growth with this method, but you won’t have two steps: (1) rooting the cutting and (2) planting in soil, like in the water propagation method.

You’ll need a small pot filled with moist soil and a cutting about 3 to 4 inches long with the bottom leaves removed.

Poke a hole down into the soil with a pencil or chopstick and stick the cutting into the hole. Press the soil down and water it lightly, then set the pot in a warm location in bright indirect light. The roots should begin to grow in 3 to 4 weeks.

Water your plant so the soil is consistently moist (but not soggy!) while the roots are forming, then resume regular watering after about 6 weeks.

OPTIONAL: Dip the end of the cuttings into powdered rooting hormone to encourage root growth.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.