Those wanting a versatile plant that will maintain its shape and beauty year round will enjoy growing pilea depressa. Also known as “baby tears”, pilea depressa makes a great houseplant, outdoor climbing vine, or ground cover while also being very easy to grow and maintain.
- Scientific Name and Common Names: Pilea depressa, also known as baby tears, angel’s tear, Polyanna vine, Jacob’s tear, Paddy’s wig, depressed clearweed, or Corsican creeper
- Origin: Brazil and Mexico
- Indoor or Outdoor Plant: Is most suitable as a houseplant, but can be grown outdoors year-round in warm climates (USDA zones 10 through 12).
- Height and Structure: Normally around four inches cm in height and 3 inches in diameter, but can spread up to 20 inches wide when planted as a groundcover. As a climbing vine, it can reach heights of up to 40 inches.
- Temperature: Between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Flower Color: Small, round, and white appearing in spring
The ideal time for planting pilea depressa will depend on whether you are growing it indoors or out. When planting it outdoors, you should wait until after the danger of frost has passed. Ideally, the soil temperature should be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and an outdoor air temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
Indoor planting can really take place in any season so long as your space has sufficient heat and humidity. For best results, purchase new specimens from a nursery or greenhouse when planting in fall or winter. Already-established outdoor plants are typically hardy enough to move indoors once the temperatures begin to dip.
Place individual plants approximately twelve inches apart when planting outdoors. When using as a groundcover, plant in a grid formation leaving approximately twelve inches between plants and eight to ten inches between each row.
For houseplants, use a hanging basket or container at least 18 inches in diameter. Plant only one specimen per container unless you are using a pot that’s at least 30 inches in diameter.
This plant requires at least four hours of indirect sunlight each day. Avoid direct sunlight as overexposure may cause the leaves to wither and turn brown. When planting outdoors, choose an area with partial shade or place in container pots underneath a canopy.
Choose, a light, well-drained soil for pilea depressa specimens. You may use a commercial potting mix or create your own by combining sand, perlite and peat. Avoid heavy or clay soils as they tend to hold water and could cause the roots to retain too much water.
Under the best conditions, depressed clearwood grows very fast. This is one reason it is so desirable as a ground cover. Pilea depressa grows slightly slower indoors; however, you will still probably need to repot or divide your specimens every twelve months or so.
Pilea depressa is an evergreen plant that remains thick and bushy year round. It’s a perennial, so even if your outdoor plants do fade in winter you can count on them returning once the soil temperature has heated back up again.
Whether your pilea depressa requires staking will depend on how you are growing it. For example, it will naturally require some support in order to become a climbing vine. Many gardeners “train” the plant by tying small pieces of the stalk to a trellis or stake. As it matures, you may find you no longer need to support the vine at all.
Pilea depressa does have a tendency to droop as it grows longer. If you have baby tears in a hanging basket, you will probably prefer this look in which case you will not need to provide any staking at all. However, if you would like a more traditional houseplant, you might require some support. Small wooden stakes are generally sufficient, and you could always tie small pieces of the plant to the stake much like you would when growing it as a climbing vine.
Water often enough that the soil remains damp but not soggy. Two to three times per week is generally sufficient. Overwatering is a common problem with pilea depressa, and can result in root rot. You may also notice white edema spots or even black leaves if you water this plant too much.
Use a liquid houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer. For very young plants, you may want to dilute the fertilizer to about half strength and increase the potency as the vine grows. Fertilizing once a month is normally sufficient during warmer months, and the pilea depressa should not require any fertilizing whatsoever during fall and winter.
Since the pilea depressa plant originated in Brazil, it is best suited for humid, tropical climates. The ideal indoor humidity for this plant is at least 50%. If your home’s humidity is lower than that, consider using a humidifier to raise levels or place the vine inside a terrarium. Otherwise, you’ll need to lightly mist the leaves every other day or so.
Since pilea depressa acts as a groundcover, mulching really isn’t required. However, you may wish to plant it inside a pebble or rock garden, particularly if your soil doesn’t drain well. The rocks will provide some buffer between the leaves and standing water to keep them from developing fungus.
Whether you trim your pilea depressa will depend on the way in which you are growing it. For example, when used as a houseplant or placed in a hanging basket, it may require occasional trimming. When planted as a vine or ground cover you may wish to just leave it alone. However, if you are training it to grow in a certain pattern, it could be helpful to cut away unruly areas.
Should your leaves develop white spots, you will want to trim those as well. Cut away stalks down to the leader, then thoroughly disinfect your shears afterwards to prevent disease from spreading.
Your plants will likely need to be repotted about once a year or so. A telltale sign that pilea depressa needs to be repotted is thick, dense roots. Once the roots become very thick or begin to fill up your container, it’s time to repot.
To prevent shock, repot pilea depressa indoors during spring. Use a garden spade to cut around the root ball so that you can gently remove it. Add three to four inches of potting soil to the container, then place the intact plant on top. Shake off any excess dirt from the roots and then fan them out before covering. Tamp the soil down around the stem and then water lightly.
It’s easy to propagate pilea depressa to create even more plants or share with your friends. Simply take a cutting around six to eight inches long that contains at least two to three nodes. Place the cutting in a jar of warm water, ensuring that at least one of the nodes is fully submerged.
Set the jar in a sunny window and you will notice new roots developing in around four to six weeks. You’ll be ready to transplant once the roots are between two and three inches long.
During the propagation process, keep an eye on the water in your jar. If it appears dirty, drain it and then replace.
To divide pilea depressa, use a hand-held garden spade to cut underneath an individual stem. Ensure you dig deep enough to gather up the majority of the roots. Once you have removed your baby tears, immediately plant them in another container with a good potting soil mix.
Whiteflies are a common pest and are typically found on the underside of the leaves. Whiteflies are generally the same size as gnats but have the appearance of a moth. These insects secrete a sticky substance known as “honeydew” that can eventually lead to mildew.
Aphids may also infest baby tears. Also known as “plant lice”, aphids suck the sap from plants causing them to wither and die. Drooping, yellow leaves or black mold on top of the leaves is a sure sign your pilea depressa is affected with aphids.
Whiteflies and aphids have both developed a resistance to many chemical pesticides. Accordingly, some effective ways of dealing with these pests include using sticky traps to catch them or spraying the leaves with neem oil. Neem oil produces a garlicy odor and can be effective at repelling thrips, moths, and fungus gnats, as well.