Jagged, rippled foliage in rich deep green, streaked down the center of each leaf in majestic silver. The Dark Mystery lives up to its name.
Just like most Pilea varieties, the Dark Mystery gives back so much for so little effort. They’re an excellent easy-care houseplant for those of us keen on a new plant with a wildly different look that will stand out in any collection.
Table of Contents
Pilea Dark Mystery Overview
|Scientific Name||Pilea hitchcockii|
|Common Names||Pilea ‘Dark Mystery,’ Lizard Tails Pilea, Serpents Belly Pilea|
|Size and Dimensions (Mature)||Bushy plant with a compact, spherical growth habit, growing 10 inches high and across when mature.|
|Distinguishing Features||Dark green and chocolate-brown leaves with a prominent center stripe of metallic silver. New growth is a warm rose color.|
|In-Home Placement||With a love of humidity and a moderate light requirement, Dark Mystery does well in bathrooms. Avoid direct light.|
Pilea Dark Mystery Care and Growing Conditions
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Pilea Dark Mystery hails from the rainforest floors of Ecuador, where it spreads its silvery leaves under dappled light and thick clouds of hot air and high humidity. To get the best from your little mystery, you need to try and match those conditions as closely as possible.
Dark Mystery does best when grown in rich, well-draining soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. One part good quality potting soil, one part leaf mold, one part coco coir or peat moss, and one part perlite will provide the perfect conditions for these stunning plants. Soil mixes for African Violets are a great choice, too.
Unlike other forms of Pilea, the Dark Mystery is a very thirsty plant and will droop dramatically if you let its soil dry out. Provide evenly and consistently moist soil and water when the top inch of soil is dry.
Avoid tap water with these exotic beauties. Chlorine and mineral salts in the water can build up in the soil over time, damaging roots and causing scalds at the tips of new growth.
Rainwater, filtered water, or distilled is best.
Potted Exotic Pro Tip: Watering from below is an excellent way to keep moisture-sensitive plants like the Dark Mystery Pilea well hydrated. It involves placing the whole plant, pot and all, in a large tub or basin of clean water. The water seeps into the soil through the pot’s drainage holes and avoids touching the surface entirely. This technique gets water right down into the roots where it’s needed most.
This intriguing plant is a tropical specialist and needs a warm environment to match. When grown indoors, they need even warmth of around 75- 80° Fahrenheit (24 to 27° Celsius).
Dark delights like the Pilea Dark Mystery generally enjoy moderate to low light levels. You’ll get the best results growing them in south-facing rooms, but keep them off windowsills and other areas that bask in direct sunbeams. They need indirect light and are easily burned by direct sunlight.
The more humidity you can provide your Dark Mystery, the better. They love 50% or higher and are great candidates for a pebble tray or small humidifier. They also work well in tropical groupings as low-level fillers.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Dark Mystery will grow outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11. They’re very frost sensitive and hate too much direct bright light, so even in those areas, be careful of your planting.
Pot them well, and the Dark Mystery won’t need much supplemental fertilizer. Give them rich soil when you pot them, and you will only need to top up their nutrient levels with a half-strength dose of balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer once during the summer months.
How to Propagate Pilea Dark Mystery
Like other Pilea varieties, the Pilea Dark Mystery can be readily propagated in both soil and water. Here’s how.
Stem cuttings are the most reliable way to propagate your Pilea. They root quickly and readily when placed in water or soil, so it’s not much of a challenge to an old plant into many more!
To propagate a Dark Mystery Pilea from a cutting, you will need the following:
- A Dark Mystery plant
- Shears or scissors
- Rubbing alcohol and paper towel
- A small vessel of clean water
- A small pot of fresh soil blended for Pilea
Select a tip shoot at least four inches long, including at least one point of growth or ‘node.’
Wipe down the blades of your scissors or shears with rubbing alcohol to prevent disease in both the parent plant and your new cuttings.
Place your cutting into a vessel of clean water so that you can monitor the new root growth. Place it in a well-lit area away from direct sunlight, and change the water once a week or when it turns opaque.
Roots will develop in around three weeks to a month.
Alternatively, you can plant the cutting directly into the soil. This results in slower-growing roots, but the cutting will not need to be transplanted at all later.
To do this, allow the end of the cutting to dry out for about an hour, then plant an inch or two deep in the soil. An optional addition is to use a rooting hormone to support new root growth, but Pilea plants don’t usually struggle to put out new growth.
Once the Pilea cutting has three or four inch long roots, you can transplant it into a small pot of soil.
Can You Propagate Pilea Dark Mystery from a Leaf Cutting?
For any Dark Mystery cutting to succeed, it needs a small amount of stem. They won’t sprout roots from a snippet of leaf. The larger the cutting you can manage, the greater your chance of success.
Can I Propagate Pilea Dark Mystery From Seed?
I don’t recommend you propagate your Pilea Dark Mystery from seed. The seeds themselves are difficult to work with and don’t germinate reliably. Given cuttings grow roots with even minimal attention, it’s much more work than it’s worth.
Potting and Repotting Pilea Dark Mystery
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The Pilea Dark Mystery doesn’t need to be repotted often. They have sensitive roots and do quite well in a tight pot.
Aim to repot only every two years or when they start showing signs of being root-bound. You may also need to repot a Dark Mystery if you’ve wound up with root rot.
Always use free-draining, nutrient rich potting soil.
As for your pot, choose a glass, plastic, or glazed ceramic pot. Porous materials like terracotta will cause the soil to lose moisture too quickly.
How to Repot Pilea Dark Mystery
To repot a healthy Dark Mystery, you will need:
- A Pilea Dark Mystery
- A new pot no more than two inches wider than the old one
- Potting Mix
- Small trowel or spade
- Plenty of clean water
Start by preparing your soil blend and the new pot. Put a layer of fresh soil in the new pot, ready to receive the Pilea.
Tap the plant from its old pot and loosen the roots to remove depleted soil.
Next, place the Pilea in its new home and fill around the root mass. Tap the pot firmly to allow the soil to work between the individual root fibers.
Water your Pilea deeply. Top up the soil level if it has settled during watering, ensuring the roots are covered, and the plant is firm in its pot.
Allow the pot to drain thoroughly, then place it back in the plant’s original location. Re-potting can be stressful, and it’s best to allow it to recover in a familiar spot.
How to Repot a Pilea Dark Mystery With Root Rot
Repotting a Dark Mystery stricken with root rot is essentially the same as repotting a healthy one, with a few minor differences.
First, inspect the roots. Healthy roots are pale in color, firm to the touch, and smell of nothing much in particular. At most, Pilea sometimes have a mild peppery or spicy fragrance.
Sick roots are brown or black and practically disintegrate when touched. They may also be slimy and smell like rotting eggs or fish. Use sterile scissors or shears to trim away dead or decaying roots and remove as much old, infected soil as possible before potting the plant.
The other big difference is in the pot. For best results, match the size of the pot to the size of the roots. If only a small amount of healthy roots are left, opt for a smaller pot. Otherwise, a new pot of the same size is sufficient.
Always use a new pot. Pathogens contributing to root disease can linger in old pots, even after heavy disinfection.
Common Problems with Pilea Dark Mystery
The Dark Mystery Pilea, while it wields an authoritative and powerful name, is still susceptible to some common plant pests and diseases. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.
Pilea Dark Mystery plants need more frequent watering than other Pilea. It prefers a very high humidity that’s tough to reach in most homes, and in dry conditions, it’ll tear through the water in its pot even faster.
The first sign you need help is that the plant will wilt quite dramatically. While it will revive promptly once watered, repeated wilting will cause brittle stems, crispy tips, and dry brown leaves. You’ll also see very little new foliage.
To avoid root problems, ensure your Dark Mystery is potted in free-draining soil. This will prevent soggy soil from developing. Keep them in small pots, too. Large containers often allow water to stagnate out of the root system’s reach and provide ideal conditions for disease.
Bacterial and fungal leaf spots are often a result of poor ventilation combined with a high humidity level. These diseases produce brown spots on the foliage that often spread or blister and can kill it outright. Keep the air fresh and moving around the plant, especially around new leaves.
Spider mites, aphids, and scale all love to nibble the tender tissue of the Dark Mystery. Their dark leaves are very attractive to pests, and you’ll need to check them regularly. The dark leaves of this Pilea also make it more difficult to spot those destructive little buggers, so inspect the foliage carefully.
Wiping down the leaves of the Pilea with neem oil is a great preventative. You can also kill interlopers by diluting a teaspoon’s worth of pure Castille soap in a gallon of water and spraying the resulting liquid over the entire length of the plant.
Creative Ways to Present Pilea Dark Mystery in your Home
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The Pilea Dark Mystery is a visually stunning and unique plant that portrays a vibe most other plants can’t. So, why not use it as a tool to spruce up your space in some creative and unique ways!?
The compact nature of the Dark Mystery and its fondness for small pots makes it an ideal companion for tall alocasias, like the Stingray Alocasia, or to place on shelves nearby big blowsy Philodendron or Monstera.
Group them with tall plants at the back and these small shade lovers at the front for a pocket jungle right in your home.
The broad silvery stripe and the darker green and chocolate leaves provide a spectacular contrast, and the larger plants will help maintain the medium light levels these plants crave.
Their fondness for moist soil and compact spaces make the Dark Mystery a quirky choice for a dish garden. Pair it with a sprawling family member like the Pilea Silver Sparkle (Pilea glauca) for a crisp contrast between small sweet green leaves and jagged lizard’s tails.
Pop these unique wonders into a charming pot, and they’ll make a great bathroom counter companion. They love the warmth and humidity of bathrooms and will reward you with abundant growth.
It’s also non-toxic, so it’s an excellent choice if you share your bathroom with young children or have cats roaming freely throughout your home.
Other FAQ About Pilea Dark Mystery
Is Pilea Dark Mystery Toxic to Pets?
Do I Need to Prune My Pilea Dark Mystery?
The Pilea Dark Mystery Plant doesn’t need regular pruning, but you may want to trim away older foliage – especially lower leaves that may seem to get a bit ragged over time.
Does Pilea Dark Mystery Grow Best Indoors or Outdoors?
The Dark Mystery really doesn’t do very well outside in most of the United States. It’s chill sensitive, needs constant moisture, and will only survive in a very limited range. For most, it’s best kept as an indoor plant, where you can take advantage of the limited effort involved with Pilea Dark Mystery care.
How Do I Get My Pilea Dark Mystery to Flower?
With some dedicated attention, you might be able to coax a Dark Mystery to produce small, pink clusters of unremarkable pink flowers in the late spring. However, they typically don’t flower indoors at all.
The best way to encourage flowers and blooms is to keep the Pilea in a humid environment and be attentive to their watering. Bright indirect light will help encourage growth, but be sure to maintain moist soil. They’ll use much more water when their light source is stronger, and a flowering plant is even more demanding.
Fertilize frugally in the early spring, and if your plant is mature, you may well see a bloom.