How to Care for Piggyback Plant

Piggyback Plant

There’s a certain magic in the realm of houseplants. Each one carries its tale, its beauty, and its own unique set of requirements. Among these lovely green companions, the Piggyback Plant stands out with its playful name and charming aesthetics.

You might wonder, why is it called the Piggyback Plant. Well, it’s because of its fascinating ability to produce baby plants on the top of its leaves, which seem like they’re getting a ‘piggyback’ ride from the mother leaf. Now, how does one propagate this plant? Let’s dive into that after a brief introduction. Also, here is a detailed article on how to propagate Piggyback Plant

Care Basics of the Piggyback Plant

ParameterCare Details
LightIndirect bright light. Avoid direct sunlight as it can scorch the leaves.
WaterKeep the soil evenly moist. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
TemperaturePrefers temperatures between 60°F (15°C) to 75°F (24°C). Avoid cold drafts and sudden temperature changes.
Soil pHSlightly acidic to neutral (6.0 – 7.5).
Soil TypeWell-draining potting mix with good organic content.
Fertilizer RequirementsFeed with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Avoid fertilizing in winter.
PruningRegularly trim off any yellow or damaged leaves to encourage new growth.
Growth PeriodSpring and summer are active growth periods. Goes dormant in winter.
Difficulty LevelModerate. Suitable for both novice and experienced plant owners.
What You NeedA pot with drainage holes, indirect lighting source, well-draining soil, watering can, balanced fertilizer, and pruning scissors.

Light Requirements

A. Light Requirements for the Piggyback Plant

The Piggyback Plant isn’t too finicky when it comes to light, but like all plants, it has its preferences. It thrives best in indirect, bright light. This type of light exposure mirrors the dappled sunlight it would receive under the canopy of trees in its natural habitat. Too much direct sunlight can cause the leaves to scorch, leading to brown, crispy edges. On the other hand, inadequate light can lead to elongated stems and fewer baby plants being produced.

Piggyback Plant

B. Types of Light Exposure

  • Direct Sunlight: This is where the sun’s rays directly hit the plant without any obstruction. For the Piggyback Plant, direct sunlight, especially during the peak hours of the day, can be harmful.
  • Indirect Bright Light: This is the ideal lighting condition for the Piggyback Plant. The light is bright but not directly hitting the plant. You can achieve this by placing the plant near a bright window but out of the direct path of the sun’s rays.
  • Low Light: While the Piggyback Plant can tolerate low light conditions for a while, prolonged exposure will negatively impact its health. Signs of inadequate light include leggy growth and fewer baby plants.

C. How to Provide Proper Light to the Piggyback Plant

  1. Window Placement: Position the plant near an east or north-facing window, where it can receive ample light but avoid the harsh midday sun.
  2. Use Sheer Curtains: If you only have a south or west-facing window, using sheer curtains can help diffuse the sunlight, making it gentler for the plant.
  3. Rotating the Plant: Every week, give your plant a half-turn. This ensures all sides receive an even amount of light, promoting symmetrical growth.
  4. Artificial Lighting: If natural light is scarce, fluorescent lights or grow lights can be used to supplement the plant’s light needs. Position the lights a few inches above the plant and keep them on for about 12 hours a day.

Planting Techniques

How to Plant the Piggyback Plant

  1. Preparation: Begin by choosing a pot with good drainage holes. This prevents overwatering and root rot. Fill the bottom with a layer of small stones to further ensure drainage.
  2. Soil Selection: Opt for a well-draining potting mix with good organic content. The mix should be slightly acidic to neutral.
  3. Planting: Gently remove the Piggyback Plant from its nursery pot, ensuring you don’t damage its delicate roots. Place it in the new pot and cover the roots with soil. Firmly press down the soil around the plant but ensure it’s not packed too tightly.
  4. Watering: Water the plant thoroughly after planting, ensuring the water drains out from the bottom.

Location for Planting the Piggyback Plant

Location plays a crucial role in the plant’s overall health. Considering the Piggyback Plant’s preference for indirect light, choose a spot that gets bright, filtered sunlight. A spot near an east or north-facing window is ideal. If placing in a room with south or west-facing windows, keep the plant a few feet away from the window or use sheer curtains to protect it from direct sunlight. The Piggyback Plant also prefers a location with consistent temperature and humidity, so avoid spots near radiators, air conditioning vents, or drafty windows.

Piggyback Plant


Water Requirements

The Piggyback Plant hails from damp forest environments, but that doesn’t mean it prefers sitting in soggy soil. It appreciates consistent moisture but is very susceptible to the pitfalls of overwatering.

How Often to Water

Watering frequency depends on various factors such as light, temperature, humidity, and the size of the pot. However, a general rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. Typically:

  • Spring and Summer: Water every 7-10 days. This is the plant’s growth period, so it uses more water.
  • Fall and Winter: Reduce watering to once every 2-3 weeks. The plant is dormant during these seasons and doesn’t require as much moisture.

Signs of Overwatering and Under-watering

  • Overwatering: Yellowing leaves, especially at the bottom of the plant, are a common sign. You may also notice a musty smell, indicative of moldy soil. Over time, overwatered plants may become limp or drop leaves.
  • Under-watering: The leaves will appear dull, and the plant may wilt. You might also observe brown, crispy edges on the leaves.

Tips for Proper Watering Techniques

  1. Use Lukewarm Water: Cold water can shock the plant, so always use room temperature or lukewarm water.
  2. Water from Below: Instead of pouring water on top of the soil, place the pot in a basin filled with water. This allows the plant to draw water from the bottom, ensuring the roots receive adequate moisture.
  3. Check Drainage: Always ensure water drains out of the pot after watering to avoid waterlogged soil.
  4. Adjust According to Seasons: As mentioned, water more frequently during the growing seasons and reduce during dormancy.

Soil and Fertilization

Soil Requirements

The Piggyback Plant prefers slightly acidic to neutral pH levels. A well-draining potting mix enriched with organic matter mirrors its natural environment and provides the right foundation for growth.

Importance of Proper Soil Drainage

Good drainage is crucial for several reasons:

  • Prevents Root Rot: Waterlogged soil can cause roots to rot, a condition that can quickly kill the plant.
  • Allows Roots to Breathe: Roots not only absorb water and nutrients but they also need air. Well-draining soil ensures they don’t suffocate.
  • Prevents Salt Build-up: Proper drainage ensures that salts from tap water and fertilizers are flushed out and don’t accumulate, which could harm the plant.
Piggyback Plant

Fertilization Requirements and Tips for Proper Fertilizer Use

  • Frequency: Feed the Piggyback Plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). In the dormant seasons (fall and winter), refrain from fertilizing.
  • Dilution: Always dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength to avoid nutrient burn.
  • Fertilizer Type: A balanced houseplant fertilizer, typically with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10, works well. However, an organic seaweed-based or fish emulsion fertilizer can also be a beneficial alternative.
  • Avoid Over-fertilizing: More isn’t always better. Over-fertilizing can cause salt build-up in the soil, which can harm the plant’s roots and overall health.

Temperature and Humidity

Optimal Temperature Range for the Piggyback Plant

The Piggyback Plant prefers a temperate environment, similar to its native habitat in the Pacific Northwest’s damp forests. The optimal temperature range for this plant lies between 60°F (15°C) to 75°F (24°C). While it can tolerate brief periods outside of this range, consistently low or high temperatures can stress the plant and impede its growth.

Humidity Requirements

Being native to damp forests, the Piggyback Plant has a natural inclination towards higher humidity levels. Ideally, it thrives in an environment with 50-70% humidity. However, it’s versatile and can adapt to lower humidity levels commonly found in most homes. If the air is too dry, the plant’s leaf edges may turn brown and crispy.

How to Adjust Temperature and Humidity for Optimal Growth

  1. Position Away from Extreme Temperature Sources: Keep the Piggyback Plant away from radiators, heaters, air conditioning vents, and drafty windows, as these can cause sudden temperature fluctuations.
  2. Use Humidifiers: In drier climates or during winter when indoor air tends to be dry, using a humidifier can help maintain the desired humidity levels.
  3. Pebble Tray Method: Place your plant pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, it increases the humidity around the plant.
  4. Grouping Plants: Grouping several plants together can also raise the humidity level in the vicinity, as they release moisture into the air.
  5. Misting: Lightly misting the plant with water can provide temporary humidity. However, ensure the foliage doesn’t remain wet for extended periods, as this can invite fungal issues.

Pests and Diseases

Common Pests and Diseases that Affect the Piggyback Plant

  • Pests:
    • Spider Mites: These tiny pests suck the sap from leaves, leading to yellow, mottled foliage.
    • Aphids: Small, green or black insects, they suck plant sap and excrete honeydew, which can lead to mold growth.
    • Mealybugs: They appear as white cottony masses on stems and leaves and can weaken the plant.
  • Diseases:
    • Root Rot: Caused by overwatering and poor drainage, this disease results in mushy, brown roots and a wilting plant.
    • Leaf Spot: Fungi or bacteria can cause small, brown, or black spots on leaves, especially if the plant is kept in overly wet conditions.
Piggyback Plant

Prevention and Treatment Methods

  • Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect your Piggyback Plant for signs of pests or diseases. Early detection is key to effective treatment.
  • Proper Watering: Avoid overwatering and ensure the pot has good drainage to prevent root rot.
  • Neem Oil: This natural product can be an effective treatment against many pests. Spraying a diluted solution on the plant can deter pests and treat minor infestations.
  • Insecticidal Soap: Effective against aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs, ensure you coat both the top and bottom of leaves during application.
  • Pruning: If a particular part of the plant is heavily infested or diseased, it might be best to prune it off to prevent the issue from spreading.
  • Isolation: If you introduce a new plant to your collection, keep it isolated for a few weeks to ensure it’s not carrying any pests or diseases.


Reasons for Pruning the Piggyback Plant

  1. Aesthetic Maintenance: Pruning helps maintain a desirable shape and size, ensuring the plant remains visually pleasing and doesn’t outgrow its space.
  2. Health: Removing diseased, yellowed, or damaged leaves can help prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
  3. Promote Growth: Pruning can stimulate growth and make the plant denser. By cutting back leggy stems, you can encourage the plant to grow more vigorously.
  4. Propagation: If you wish to propagate new plants, you can prune healthy stem cuttings to use.

How to Prune Them

  1. Tools: Always use sterilized pruning shears or scissors to avoid transferring diseases.
  2. When to Prune: The best time to prune the Piggyback Plant is during its active growing season in the spring or early summer.
  3. Technique: Cut just above a leaf node (the small bump where leaves, branches, or aerial roots might grow). This promotes new branching and growth from that point.
  4. Limit the Amount: Don’t prune more than 20-30% of the plant at one time to prevent stressing it.

Recommended Varieties

The Piggyback Plant, scientifically known as Tolmiea menziesii, primarily has one popular cultivar, but there are a few different varieties within the houseplant trade.

  1. Tolmiea menziesii ‘Taff’s Gold’: This variety boasts attractive, variegated leaves with a golden hue. They’re particularly striking and add a splash of color to any collection.
  2. Tolmiea menziesii ‘Cool Gold’: Another variegated variety, ‘Cool Gold’ has pale green leaves with creamy yellow patches.

Remember that different varieties might have slightly varying care needs, particularly concerning light. Variegated types often require more light to maintain their vibrant colors.

Piggyback Plant

Common Problems Faced in Care and Maintenance of This Plant

  1. Leggy Growth: This often occurs due to inadequate light, causing the plant to stretch towards the light source. Solution: Move the plant to a brighter location and consider pruning to promote denser growth.
  2. Brown Leaf Tips: This can be due to low humidity, over-fertilization, or tap water with high salt content. Solution: Increase humidity around the plant, use distilled or rainwater, and ensure you’re not over-fertilizing.
  3. Dropping Leaves: A common response to sudden environmental changes, like temperature fluctuations or transplant shock. Solution: Ensure consistent care, gradually acclimatize the plant to new conditions, and avoid placing it in drafty areas.
  4. Lack of “Babies” or New Growth: Insufficient light or nutrients can lead to reduced propagation on the mother leaf. Solution: Adjust lighting conditions and ensure you’re feeding the plant during its growth period.
  5. Overwatering: This is a frequent issue and can lead to root rot. Symptoms include yellowing leaves and a musty soil smell. Solution: Ensure the pot has proper drainage, and always check the soil moisture before watering.

Tips For Better Care

Taking care of the Piggyback Plant is rewarding, especially when you observe its unique propagation mechanism in action. Let’s delve into a list of care tips, segmented into basic and advanced levels, to ensure your plant thrives.

Basic Level Tips:

  1. Consistent Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Use the top-inch dryness rule to prevent overwatering.
  2. Lighting: Ensure the plant receives bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch its leaves.
  3. Regular Inspection: Routinely check your plant for signs of pests or diseases. Early detection and treatment can prevent major issues.
  4. Proper Potting: Use a pot with drainage holes, and ensure you’re using a well-draining soil mix.
  5. Maintain Humidity: The Piggyback Plant appreciates higher humidity. Use methods like misting or placing the pot on a pebble tray to maintain moisture in the air.

Advanced Level Tips:

  1. Rotating the Plant: Rotate your plant every few weeks to ensure even growth, as plants tend to grow towards the light.
  2. Bottom Watering: Occasionally water from the bottom to ensure the deeper roots get adequate moisture and to prevent salt buildup in the soil.
  3. Optimal Feeding: Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, diluted to half strength, every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
  4. Pruning for Shape: If you’re aiming for a particular plant shape or size, periodic pruning can help achieve that. Remember always to use sterilized tools.
  5. Propagation: If you’re keen on propagating, ensure the “baby” plants growing from the leaves have formed roots before detaching and planting them.
Piggyback Plant

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why are the tips of my Piggyback Plant turning brown?

This can be a result of low humidity, over-fertilization, or the use of tap water with high mineral content. Increase humidity, cut back on fertilization, and consider using distilled or rainwater.

My Piggyback Plant isn’t producing babies. What’s wrong?

This can be due to insufficient light or nutrients. Ensure your plant is in a bright, indirectly lit location and feed it with a balanced fertilizer during its growing season.

How often should I repot the Piggyback Plant?

Typically, you should repot every 2-3 years or when the plant outgrows its current pot. If you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes or the soil drying out too quickly, it might be time to repot.

The leaves on my Piggyback Plant are turning yellow. What could be the cause?

Yellowing leaves can be a sign of overwatering, especially if accompanied by a musty smell. Ensure proper drainage and avoid keeping the soil waterlogged.

Can I grow the Piggyback Plant outside?

While the Piggyback Plant is primarily an indoor plant, it can be grown outside in temperate climates, preferably in shaded areas with well-draining soil.

About Christopher Evans

Hello, I'm Chris, the green-thumbed Founder of I'm passionate about bringing the beauty of nature indoors through houseplants and indoor gardening. Let's create healthier and more beautiful living spaces, one plant at a time!

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