Aluminum Plant (Pilea Cadierei)

In recent times vivariums have exploded in popularity. With it, so has the desire and interest in the caretaking of a variety of plants indoors. One of the many plants that have been introduced to the wonders of miniature worlds is the Aluminum Plant.

Not only is this species extremely aesthetically pleasing, but it is also relatively easy to care for. As long as its basic needs are met, there should be no issues successfully growing and propagating it. This article will take a closer look at the Aluminum Plant, providing a complete understanding and care guide to cultivating one.

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name: Pilea Cadierei

Family: Urticaceae

Common Names: Aluminum Plant, Watermelon Pilea

Habitat: Mountains, Vally Hillside

Height: 12in

PH Range: 6.0 to 7.0

Temperature: 60°F to 75°F

What Is An Aluminum Plant?

Aluminum Plant is a species of evergreen perennial in the Urticaceae family, also known as the nettle family. It is usually grown as a hanging or table plant by most people. However, it can also be kept in small enclosures. It is generally simple to please and is mostly used for its variegated foliage.

As long as the setup is able to provide an adequate amount of sunlight and (most importantly) humidity, the Aluminum Plant will thrive. Due to the way this species spreads, it is commonly referred to as a vining plant. A vine can be defined as any plant with a growth habit of creeping or trailing stems.

Aluminum Plant Facts

The Aluminum Plant is scientifically known as Pilea Cadierei. Pilea is the largest genus of flowering plants in the Urticaceae family. There are about 600 to 715 known species that fall under its category. Pilea Cadierei is among one of the more popular species grown indoors today.

Aside from its common name Aluminum Plant, Cadierei is also often referred to as Watermelon Pilea. Both of the common names given to the species in reference to the appearance of its foliage. For this reason, its main purpose inside of a vivarium is usually ornamental. It even gained the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. The British award is presented based on the assessment of the plants’ performance.

Description

As mentioned before, the Aluminum Plant is mostly desired for its attractive leaves. Each individual leaf grows from the ground and branches out in an umbrella-like style. They are oval in shape, thin, and arranged in opposite pairs. In addition, their edges are slightly jagged and the top surface has four rows of raised metallic silver patches.

Aside from its metallic patters, the overall leaves are a medium green color. The silver design is unique to each leaf and creates an assortment of different shapes on each plant. Aluminum Plant is not really known for their flowers. In fact, they only bloom on rare occasions. When the vine does produce flowers, they are very small, off white, and rather plain-looking. Given the right care, Pilea Cadierei is capable of growing up to 12 inches long and forms a lush mat.

Habitat

Aluminum Plant is a species native to the tropical Southeast Asian rainforests, specifically China and Vietnam. However, it has now been naturalized largely all around the world. Especially places that are known for their warm and humid climate. The species is known for spreading rapidly in the wild, where it grows as a groundcover.

The natural habitats of this plant are known for their tropical temperatures, moisture, and bright yet shaded sunlight. Pilea Cadierei can survive a fair share of cooler temperatures. As long as they are not left in anything below 60° degrees Fahrenheit, the plant will be fine. However, the ideal temperature for optimal growth falls anywhere between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

PH Preference

Aluminum Plants tend to thrive with a neutral pH. The PH level of soil measures the relative acidity or alkalinity based on a scale of about 0 to 14. A PH of 7 represents neutral levels, meaning neither acidic nor alkaline. Even though the hypothetical range of PH is actually a lot wider, when it comes to plants the range used is typically between 4 (highly acidic) and 10 (highly alkaline). The ideal PH for Pilea Cadierei will range anywhere between 6.0 and 7.0.

Vivarium Type

The Aluminum Plant is a quite easy-going species. With that in mind, it will not be too complicated when it comes to the type of enclosure it is grown in. The best piece of advice that can be given, is to try and replicate the plant’s natural habitat as much as possible. Doing so will make it easier to provide the vine with the basic needs it will require to thrive. The proper set up and theme of the enclosure will make a big difference to the overall look and health of the plant. Be sure to go with setups that are moist and high in humidity. Here are recommended vivariums it will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosure with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

The aluminum plant is a terrestrial-based flora. Although it does require a moist and humid environment, it should never be left in an over-watered substrate. With that in mind, the plant should always be kept out of aquatic areas of an enclosure. The plant’s striking foliage makes it ideal to decorate and light up any empty areas of a vivarium.

Due to its low growth and bushy pattern, most hobbyists will place the plant towards the bottom of the enclosure. The species spreads in a very mat like style, making it perfect to cover the ground like a carpet. At the end of the day, however, the specific placement of Pilea Cadierei will depend on the individual growing it.

Substrate

The best substrate for growing an Aluminum Plant is simply one that drains well. Although there is an assortment of substrates that will work just fine, the right mix will be consequential to the plant’s health. A rough and sandy soil mixture will be ideal for the species.

Try mixing one-part sand or perlite with two parts peat moss, to boost the substrate even more. The peat moss will help maintain humidity in the soil, while the perlite or sand will make sure that there is proper drainage. A lack of appropriate drainage can lead to rotting roots and eventually the plant’s death. In addition, this mixture will also allow Pilea Cadierei’s lengthy roots to penetrate through the soil and develop a strong underground system.

Lighting

The Aluminum Plant is very similar to most rainforest plants when it comes to lighting. It thrives best in bright indirect light. It should not be placed under direct sunlight, or the leaves will end up burning. This makes sense since in its natural habitat larger trees and plants drown out most light far before it could reach the vine’s leaves. Make sure that the plant is receiving bright indirect light for at least 4 hours each day. Not enough light will also be damaging to a Pilea Cadierei. If deprived of the light it needs the stems will become leggy and weak.

When setting up lighting inside of a vivarium, LED lights will work extremely well. Try to go for cooler colors that resemble a bright, but shaded day. This will make sure the plant is getting all the light it needs, without being harmed. Avoid any type of light that has high levels of UV rays. This will be like placing the fern under direct sunlight.

Buy Aluminum Plant

When it comes to buying an Aluminum Plant, there are a few things to keep in mind. Making sure that the plant being bought is healthy is essential for its success in a vivarium. Vegetation that is already in poor conditions, will have a very hard time adjusting to new environments. Always make sure to buy from a reliable and honest establishment.

Whether it is an online store or a physical location should not matter. However, online stores might need to be researched a little bit harder to make sure that they are legitimate and are sending the correct plants. In addition, always check the foliage closely for yellowing, wilting, black spots, or any signs of damage. Pay close attention and look for any pests or fungal diseases. Inspect both sides of the leaves to avoid missing any red flags.  Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info of this plant:

Aluminum Plant Care and Propagation

As long as the given Aluminum Plant has the right amount of light, water, and humidity levels, it is pretty much the perfect vine for a beginner to experiment with. It’s low maintenance requirements will make it easy for those who are not experienced to successfully keep up.

Some other elements to consider are the drainage and space available for the plant. Pilea Cadierei is known to have an extensive and vigorous root system. It is capable of cracking pots or any containers if left unattended. Having the proper drainage and space will allow the roots to grow freely, without causing any damage to the plant or the enclosure itself. Periodic trimmings and removing dead foliage will also help with the roots as well as promote the health and growth of the plant.

How to grow

The easiest way to propagate an Aluminum Plant is through stem cuttings. Simply take an adult plant and cut the stem right below the area where a leaf is attached (node). Then grab the new cuttings and replant them somewhere else in the vivarium. Each new plant will usually start growing roots in about 3 to 4 weeks. The most important thing will be to provide a warm, shaded, and moist environment. Once the new roots have grown in, the cuttings can be treated like any adult plant.

Watering

Aluminum Plant likes an evenly moist soil as well as the environment.  However, be cautious about overwatering this vine. Too much water will lead to unhealthy growth and ultimately the plant’s death. The substrate of this vine should be allowed to dry out before it is watered again.

An easy way to make sure the right amount of water is provided is by using your bare hands to check the substrate. Dip a finger into the top 1/ 2 inches of the substrate. If it is dry to the touch, then you can proceed with watering, and if it still feels moist, then you can wait a few days before checking again. In addition, Pilea Cadierei has a constant need for higher levels of humidity in its environment. Around 50% of relative humidity should be the ideal goal to aim for.

Plants Similar To Aluminum Plant

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing setup. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment. Furthermore, if for some reason you find Aluminium plants hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this plant… Here are some other vine plants you might find may do well with or in the place of Pilea Cadierei:

Golden Pothos "Devil's Ivy" (Epipremnum Aureum)
English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes Phyllostachya)

Conclusion

In general, Aluminum Plants can be great for vivarium use. Consider this vibrant flora for tropical biotypes and be cautious about aquatic areas or overwatering. If all things considered in the caretaking section are taken seriously, you will have a thick, luscious vine excellent for ground cover. If this is the first time you are reading about Pilea Cadierei, what are your thoughts about its use beyond the typical household ornament?