Creeping Charlie Plant Care
Table of Contents
If you’ve ever wanted a plant that thrived without constant need for love and attention, then the Creeping Charlie might just be the plant for you. Defined by its rounded leaves with scalloped edges that swoop down a few feet down the planter, these hardy plants are the forgetful gardener’s best friend.
Perhaps more importantly, they are adapted for low moisture and will do well even if you leave them alone for several weeks at a time.
A Quick Overview of the Creeping Charlie Houseplant
The scientific name for the Creeping Charlie is Pilea nummulariifolia. It’s an evergreen perennial plant that spreads by the use of creeping stems (hence the name) and seeds. The plant is native to the British Isles and South America but was brought to North America by European settlers. It was primarily used as medicine and to provide ground cover.
The plant has oval leaves with sunken veins that look very bright and glossy under direct sunlight.
Over time, hobbyists with a green thumb decided that Creeping Charlie was an excellent grower and the evergreen perennial soon became a favorite. The relatively easy care instructions for the plant reaffirms the confidence gardeners have in the plant.
For best results, you should try mimicking the perennial’s habitat in the tropical rainforests of the West Indies. Creeping Charlie thrives in well draining soil with plenty of moisture year-round. The plant should never be exposed to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time. It works well with most soil types, except for heavy clay soil.
It is recommended to use fertile loam soil for an improved growth result. You can also add a few inches of manure, loaf mold, and compost to provide more organic matter for creeping Charlie, if grown outdoors.
Try not to plant creeping Charlie deeper than the top of its root ball to minimize the risk of root rot, especially around the root crown and stem. If you decide to use a potting mix, then consider adding sand to retain moisture. Prepare potting mix using vermiculite, perlite, coarse sand, or peat moss.
As a tropical plant, Creeping Charlie is accustomed to the moist environment found in most rainforests. As mentioned earlier, keep the soil moist (but well drained) to mimic the conditions found in a rainforest.
You can determine if the plant needs more water by checking the top one inch of the soil. If the first inch of the soil has dried out, then you should water the plant.
When watering the plant, make sure that the leaves don’t get wet.. You can do this by using a watering can that has a narrow spout. This allows you to direct water directly onto the soil without getting the leaves wet. Allow the soil to properly absorb as much moisture as it needs and ensure that any excess water is allowed to drain out.
Don’t know if it’s time to water your Creeping charlie plants? Do a finger test to see if the soil needs moisture. If the soil feels dry to the touch (for the first two inches), it’s time to water the plant. Do not overwater the plant to prevent fungal problems that could lead to root rot.
As is true for most house plants, overwatering does more damage than underwatering due to root rot.
Humidity Levels for Creeping Charlie
Creeping Charlie is a tropical plant and prefers relatively high humidity levels, which is very typical of most rainforests. The ideal humidity range for Creeping Charlie is in the 40% to 60% range.
Consider misting your house plant every day or place it near a humidifier. Although the latter is a more expensive investment, it should take care of the humidity problem for you. At around 50% humidity, the leaves of Creeping Charlie will absorb moisture from the air. This will give them those gorgeous and eye-catching foliage.
However, when the humidity is low, it could lead to your Creeping Charlie falling. If you don’t provide it with the correct humidity levels, the plant may even die. But before it comes to that, your Creeping Charlie will alert you by changing the color of the leaves.
Caution: You should never increase the humidity level beyond the 70% mark. Excessive humidity will result in condensation on the leaves and encourage the growth of mold. The risk is multiplied if you mist the leaves.
It is easy to measure the humidity levels of the immediate area with the aid of a hygrometer. You can find one from all major online stores, including Amazon and eBay. The best way to improve the humidity levels is to place a humidifier nearby. This device will restore the ideal humidity levels in a few hours.
Fertilizer for Charlie
Creeping Charlie is a fast grower and needs all the nutrients it can get. Try feeding it water soluble fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio during the growing season. You can also provide a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 to give the foliage an instant boost.
For most locations in North America, this would be any time from March to October. Add the fertilizer once during the growing season and make sure that the plant is well fed. Cut back on the fertilizer in the winter months of November through April when the plant enters a dormant state.
Additionally, you may also use slow release fertilizers. Just make sure they are properly diluted (follow the instructions that come with the product). Liquid fertilizer is relatively easy to use. Simply dilute it to half strength and apply to the soil. This should be done right after you’ve watered to increase the soil’s absorption rate.
The plant does not thrive well in full sun and may not achieve full growth. Instead, choose a spot that receives filtered sunlight to help the plant grow. Creeping Charlie requires filtered light rated between 2500 to 10,000 lux. The average household meets these requirements without having to invest in additional light sources.
For indoor plants, consider placing Creeping Charlie near a North or East window. This will provide the plant with the daily recommended dose of filtered sunlight. You may also use a piece of cloth or light curtain to filter the sunlight and reduce the harshness of its rays. Direct sunlight is harmful to Creeping Charlie and may scorch its leaves.
Creeping Charlie prefers a soil that is slightly acidic with a pH value ranging from 6.5 to 7.2. Try not to increase the acidity of the soil too much because this will disrupt the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil. The pH value plays an important role in nutrient absorption and should be kept neutral at all times.
Anything from acidic to neutral should provide ideal growing conditions for the houseplant. Some gardeners confuse a pH imbalance with mineral deficiency because many of their symptoms overlap. An incorrect diagnosis usually leads to an incorrect solution that leads to even more problems.
For example, upon seeing yellow leaves and a stunted growth rate, most gardeners will add more fertilizer because they think that their Charlie houseplant is starving. However, fertilizers do very little to improve the pH value, and adding more of it won’t improve teh plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Indeed, you may be throwing away nutrients because the plant won’t be able to enjoy them. So if your Creeping Charlie isn’t doing too well and you’ve ruled out temperature, water, and nutrients as the main culprits, then soil acidity may require your attention.
The most common symptom of a pH imbalance is yellow hue on the leaves. Before you decide to add more fertilizer to the soil, check its pH value. This can be done with the help of a pH meter. Insert the pH sensor into the soil. Depending on the make and model of the device, you should be able to see the pH value instantly.
This method is quick and inexpensive, but it does require you to buy one from a store near you. A cheaper method is to buy a pH test kit at home. Scoop out a small section of the sample and place it in the test kit. Now observe the color changes to learn about the soil’s pH value. A disadvantage of using this method is that it is very likely to give you a wide range of pH values instead of an accurate answer.
Creeping Charlie prefers a warm temperature in the range of 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Like any other tropical houseplant, Creeping Charlie does not appreciate extreme fluctuations in temperature. This means you should keep the plant isolated from drafty windows and doors as well as heat vents.
Exposure to temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit and above 85 degrees Fahrenheit may stunt its growth and could even kill it. Frost, in particular, can be deadly to your houseplants because it leads to cellular damage. The cold damage may be irreversible in some cases. If possible, bring your Creeping Charlie plants indoors during the colder months.
Potting and Repotting
Creeping Charlie is a fast grower and will rapidly cover its surroundings. So you may have to repot the plant every 2 to 3 years, depending on how much growth you want. Instead of sticking to a schedule, use a visual test to determine if repotting your Charlie houseplant is necessary.
As a rule of thumb, if you see Charlie’s roots piercing out of the drainage holes or have completely covered the soil, it’s time to repot the houseplant. Only go up one pot size or a few inches when repotting the plant because it prefers a cramped environment. Make sure that the pot has good drainage holes. Always use fresh potting soil when repotting Creeping Charlie.
Propagation of Creeping Charlie House Plants
You can easily propagate Creeping Charlie by dividing the stem cuttings or root ball. It is recommended to make stem cuttings in the spring months. Use moist potting blend to encourage new growth. Always use sterilized tools when you decide to propagate through stem cuttings. Make sure you don’t damage the plant.
Stem cuttings will increase the stress levels of the plant and make it vulnerable to pests. Allow at least 24 hours before watering or adding fertilizer. Make sure that the soil conditions are within the recommended range to keep the plant growing.
Creeping Charlie plants can award you with flowers – as long as the conditions are just right. Blooming is a rare occurrence and only ever occurs in the wild. However, some growers have been successful with blooming. The flowers resemble the color of lavender, and may even appear white and green at times.
The most wonderful thing about the flowers is their intoxicating scent.
Pests and Diseases
Creeping Charlie plants are extremely resilient but not immune to pests and diseases. The plant will become vulnerable to pests during the winter months when it enters a weakened state. Rapid temperature fluctuations may also lead to heightened levels of stress. You can prevent disease and pests from attacking Creeping Charlie plants by providing it with good care.
If you notice pests like spider mites and scale, the infestation may be at an advanced stage. The first step is to make sure the plant receives excellent care. Ensure that the plant is well fed and is kept in an optimal environment in terms of temperature, humidity, and light.
The next step is damage control. You have to clean the plant with insecticidal soap to eliminate the pests. Another alternative to insecticidal soap is essential oils like neem oil to drown the pests and neutralize their eggs before they can hatch. The best remedy, however, is to nurse your plant back to health by providing it with the ideal conditions as discussed above.
You may also use rubbing alcohol to get rid of pests if the infestation is in its earliest stages.
Here are a few signs that your Creeping Charlie plants are under attack by pests:
- The leaves have yellow spots
- The appearance of bacterial leaf spot
- Honey dew formation on the leaves
- The leaves are turning brown
- Webbing (this indicates the presence of spider mites)
- Holes in the leaves
- The appearance of a black powdery substance
If you notice that your plants are manifesting the above symptoms, it’s time to inspect the leaves under a microscope.
Wrapping Up – Creeping Charlie Houseplant Care
Creeping Charlie is a hardy plant that produces stunning foliage year-round. Compared to other house plants, Creeping Charlie doesn’t require much care or attention. Pay attention to soil moisture, temperature, and humidity and the plant will award you with glossy, showy foliage.