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Publication #FPS479

Pilea microphylla Artillery Plant1

Edward F. Gilman2

Introduction

A multitude of minute, lime green leaves on short, arching stems gives artillery plant a fine-textured, fernlike appearance (Fig. 1). Growing only 8 to 12 inches tall and quickly forming spreading clumps up to two feet wide, artillery plant makes an attractive tropical ground cover. The common name is derived from the forcefully ejected pollen from the rather inconspicuous flowers on this brittle and succulent plant.

General Information

Figure 1. 

Artillery plant


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]
Scientific name: Pilea microphylla
Pronunciation: PYE-lee-uh mike-roe-FILL-luh
Common name(s): artillery plant
Family: Urticaceae
Plant type: herbaceous; ground cover
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: mass planting; container or above-ground planter; edging; suitable for growing indoors
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: .5 to 1.5 feet
Spread: 1 to 2 feet
Plant habit: spreading
Plant density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: obovate
Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: green
Flower characteristic: year-round flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: dry or hard
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun; plant grows in the shade
Soil tolerances: extended flooding; alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 24 to 36 inches

Other

Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: potentially invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Growing in full sun but preferring light shade, artillery plant needs well-drained yet moist soils and should only be watered when the soil dries. Plant on 18- to 24-inch centers to establish a quick cover. Plants may be pinched occasionally to encourage bushiness but this is seldom necessary. Light applications of fertilizer are recommended.

Artillery plant can become a weed since seeds germinate in the landscape. It is best used as a ground cover planted in a mass in a bed beneath existing trees. Do not mix with other ground covers or low shrubs since it will spread into these areas.

The cultivar 'Variegata' has leaves blotched white and pink.

Propagation is by cuttings which root easily.

Artillery plant is occasionally bothered by chewing insects.

Pests and Diseases

Plants are subject to root rot in poorly drained soils.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FPS479, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date September 1999. Revised June 2007. Reviewed June 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.