there are certain plants that continue to pop up in beautifully styled homes in magazines or blogs or instagram. first it was the delicious monster, then it was the fiddle leaf fig, and now it’s the Chinese Money Plant aka Pilea peperomioides. this is probably the most interesting one of them all, not just in looks but also because of the amazing story behind it.

the unusual little plant started popping up in households all over Britain in the seventies, which puzzled botanists as the species had not even been officially identified. eventually they traced the origin of the plant to a range of mountains in the Yunnan province of China. but HOW did it get to Britain? how indeed. in 1983 the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew published a newspaper article asking if anyone had any leads on the introduction of the plant, to which a family from Cornwall called the Sidebottoms (you can’t make this up) answered. their au pair Modil Wigg was from Norway, and their daughter Jill who had holidayed with the Wigg family had brought a plant home with her sometime in the 1960s. so, that traces the routes to Scandinavia, but HOW did it get there? turns out…

A Norwegian missionary, Agnar Espegren, brought the plant to Norway from China in 1946. In 1944 the Norwegian missionaries in China had had to leave. Agnar Espegren and his family, then living in Hunan province, were taken by an American plane to Kunming in Yunnan where they stayed about a week awaiting further transport to India. During this brief stay in Kunming Mr Espegren obtained a live specimen of the plant (possibly from a local market) and packed it in a small box, which was then brought together with his family and all their baggage to Calcutta where they stayed for nearly a year. The Espegren family arrived back in Norway in March 1946 with the plant miraculously still alive. Mr Espegren subsequently travelled widely in Norway and often gave basal shoots of the plant to friends. In this way the plant was effectively distributed around Norway where it is now widespread as a window sill plant, and where it is known as ‘the missionary plant’.

well, i suppose we must all thank Agnar Espegren, and 9-year-old Jill Sidebottom, for making this sweet little plant a still flourishing part of window sills all over Europe. i hope that i can find one in South Africa somewhere… anyone have any leads for me feel free to direct them my way (or i might be forced to publish a newspaper article).

UPDATE: you can buy them here.

photo by Mieke Verbijlen

photo by Mieke Verbijlen

photos by Frida Ramstedt for Trendenser

photos by Frida Ramstedt for Trendenser

photos by Bart Kiggen for All Items Loaded

photos by Bart Kiggen for All Items Loaded

photos by Amanda Wright

photos by Amanda Wright

photo by Belle Fleur de lis

photos by Belle Fleur de Lis

photo by Lisettes Perler

photo by Lisettes Perler


  1. These are gorgeous! I was just thinking I need a new plant – thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

  2. I have always wanted one of these in my house! Perfectly shaped leaves that are spaced out so well! Looks pretty tough so it’s hard to kill!

  3. Dear MM,
    Here in Belgium, you can not buy this great plant.
    it’s a tradition to give one to somebody you really like (friends/family).
    When you receive one, you ought to multiply them, so you can give this new plants away!
    Kathy O

      • Hi I know this is many years later, but I only saw your blog now and am a fellow Capetonian living now in Johannesburg. This is my all time favourite, the Pilea and I have a few and have passed on some babies to friends. I find with the present intense heat they do droop somewhat and I have to stop myself watering them as I know they do not like being overwatered. Anyone have ideas on how to make the stems a little more erect. Lovely blog and love to Capetown

  4. I have it too. It’s funny plant. I got my seedling from a friend who got it from a friend. :) First I thought the plant is rare as I hadn’t seen it anywhere before but turns out it’s pretty common. Thank you very much for sharing the story!

  5. I had seen them in Ikea some years ago and thought they were interesting but didn’t pay too much mind to them. over the summer I took a trip to Bermuda and they were EVERYWHERE. suddenly, in what I though was their native habitat, they were glorious and unmistakeable. they are most certainly one of my favorite greens.

    • It’s such a lovely plant. I’m in Singapore and I can’t find this plant too. Can you send me a cutting? :)

  6. Hi There,

    Did you have any luck finding one of these in South Africa? I’m in Melbourne, Australia and I can’t find it anywhere! The only place I’ve found it is in the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’m so tempted to snatch a cutting of it! Hehe!

  7. Nicky Page Reply

    Hi Diana
    did you have any luck finding this plant in cape town? I would love to know where, if you did.
    Many thanks, Nicky
    P.S your blog rocks

  8. I love this plant and been searching in garden centers to no joy, can I get a cutting from someone as I love this plant.

  9. Have you found the plant? I was lucky enough to find it here in Denmark..sometimes you can find it at bigger plant shops or you can ask them to order it for you:) Here it is also sold on pages like gumtree (in Cape Town)..Good luck hunting:)

  10. J’adore cette plante, hélas je ne la trouve pas en jardinerie… Si vous savez comment je peux me la procurer, n’hésitez pas à me le faire savoir !!

  11. My mom has had this kind of plant all my life. She always called it a “pepperoni” plant. I always thought it was the funniest name. Now I have learned where it came from.

  12. Hi there

    Just found your blog as I was searching for some history on this plant. I just wondered if you found it and I found some seeds online that can be shipped. Let me know if you are still searching, maybe email me and I’ll send through the place I found them.

    Best, Rach

    • Rach I too have been searching for info – it’s a fascinating story, huh?! I’d love it if you could share with me the place you found that ships seeds if that’d be OK? Would really appreciate it. Thanks!

    • Hi Rach,
      What is your email? Would love to contact you to grab the site that can ship seeds! Have been searching for months!!

  13. patricia warjri Reply

    lovely story behind a lovely plant..! so glad i got a pot of my own?

    • I was just at a greenhouse in wayyyyy upstate New York. I was looking for something green because I was depressed with mud season. I saw the money plant and fell for the shiny leaves and wonderful shape. Didn’t know it has a history!

      • I live in upstate NY….where did you get yours? I would love to find one.
        Thanks :)

  14. Ahhhh also looking for one for ages none of the nurseries in cape town have, please share if you find any. Best,

  15. I got 2 baby Pilea Peperomioides Plants I call it, MY Peppy Plant on Etsy from Gil’s Plants 2 months ago. There is another seller, Pileadaycare who sells them on Etsy periodically, but for way more money. There is also Peppers Greenhouse in DE that sells them for a very reasonable price, but they have a YEARS WAITING LIST, I put my name on that list too, but I’m in no hurry to collect another one as I have 2 babies that are growing wonderfully. Once my plants are mature I will sell newborns too.

  16. persephone Reply

    I saw this plant for the first time in a swiss bakery in bhutan, probably in thimpu (maybe paro). I fell in love with it, yet they didn’t know it’s name. so I did some detective work online for a long time online until I finally found it, and ordered it from the internet. I love the story behind it!

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