Plants in this large group are grown for their colorful, often interestingly patterned and textured leaves; flowers of most are inconspicuous. Many are popular houseplantsbut where hardy, they also make nice outdoor potted plants or even ground covers for shady areas. Outdoors, they'll grow in moist soil in dappled morning sun to full shade.
P. cadierei. ALUMINUM PLANT. Perennial. Native to Vietnam. Prominent silver markings on the oval, quilted-looking dark green leaves explain the common name. Leaves are 3 in. long; plant grows erect to 1215 in. tall, 69 in. wide. Pinch periodically to induce bushiness. Dwarf 'Minima' is less than half the size of the species.
P. involucrata. FRIENDSHIP PLANT. Perennial. Native to Central and South America. Grows just 1 in. tall, spreading to 1 ft. wide. Broadly oval, tooth-edged, heavily quilted leaves to 1 in. long are bronzy green above, purplish beneath. Pinch periodically to induce bushiness. 'Moon Valley' is more upright, to 1 ft. tall and wide, with larger green leaves featuring prominent bronze veins.
P. microphylla. ARTILLERY PLANT. Annual or short-lived perennial. From Florida, Mexico, West Indies, South America. Trailing, succulent stems form a mound to 1 ft. tall and somewhat wider. Bright green oval, tiny leaves ( in. long) are crowded along the wandering stems. Tiny flowers eject pollen forcefully, hence the common name. Outdoors, can spread widely and become a pest. 'Variegata' has leaves variegated with white, pink, and green.
P. nummulariifolia. CREEPING CHARLIE. Perennial. Native to West Indies and Panama, south to northern South America. Fast-growing, trailing plant to 6 in. tall and 2 ft. wide; perfect for hanging baskets. Roots at the nodes and spreads to make a good ground cover where hardy. Rounded light green leaves to about in. wide are deeply quilted, with prominent veins and scalloped edges.
Indoors, they like bright, indirect light and high humidity. Make sure soil is well drained, and let it go somewhat dry between thorough soakings. Feed every other week in spring and summer and once a month in fall and winter with liquid houseplant fertilizer. Mealybugs are common pests; dispatch them by dabbing with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.