Pachira aquatica is a commonly found houseplant called a money tree. The plant; also known as Malabar chestnut, Guiana chestnut or Saba nut in various parts of the world. Money tree plants often have an unusual braided trunk and are a low maintenance option for lowly/artificially lit places.
The trunk braids and leaves have symbolism because many people believe that they bring good luck and success (financially). The leaves bear a rough resemblance to hands and are considered particularly lucky if they feature five or more “fingers.” But even if such considerations aren’t meaningful to you, you can definitely still enjoy this plant for its fun and unusual trunk, lively green leaves, and relatively low-maintenance watering needs.
Pachira Money Tree Money tree plants are indigenous to Central American wetlands. The trees can grow up to 60 feet in their natural abode but are more commonly small, potted ornamental specimens. Money trees are often sold with the trunks braided for decorative effect.
The plants get their name because the Feng Shui practice believes it will bring luck to the owner and also believed to increase “chi,” or positive energy flow
Money tree plant care is easy and based upon just a few specific conditions. Let’s learn more about how to grow and care for the money tree houseplants.
About This Plant
Your first time seeing the money tree plant or Pachira aquatica, in its native habitat of Central and South American swamps, you probably wouldn’t recognize it because it might look strange to you or like every other plant. The tree can grow up to 65 feet tall (versus a max of 3 to 6 feet indoors), and that universally braided trunk isn’t a natural feature. When grown in a nursery, the supple young, green trunks are slowly braided by cultivators before they harden and turn woody.
Myth About the Money Tree
The braided money tree is considered to symbolize the five fundamentals of the Feng Shui elements: water, metal, wood, earth and fire. Most commonly, the money tree consists of five intertwined trees. The plant also symbolizes great wealth and is seen to bring financial luck and fortune to the owner. It is a very popular indoor plant for work or home.
Where to Grow the Plant?
Money trees prefer bright, indirect light and moderate-to-high humidity. Direct sunlight can lead to leaf-scorching, but the plants can do relatively well in low light. Exposure to too many drafts, though, may cause leaf loss. Heater vents and hot, dry air also need to be avoided.
Money trees can survive outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12, but otherwise need to be houseplants. In colder regions, you should only grow this plant indoors, as it is not considered cold hardy. The Pachira money tree is a perfect addition to the interior landscape and lends a tropical feel. If you want to have some fun, try starting your own Pachira money tree from seed or from cuttings. These plants do best when they are in full sun to partial shade. The best temperatures are 60 to 65 F. (16-18 C.). Plant the tree in peat moss with some gritty sand.
If you can’t keep your money tree in a bright, steamy bathroom, make it a humidity-enhancing pebble tray by filling a shallow tray with small rocks, adding water to partially cover the rocks, and setting the plant on top.
How to Propagate
With clean pruning shears, cut off the tip of a stem with at least two leaf nodes. Dip the cut end in hormone rooting powder, and place in a standard potting mix. Keep the soil moist with regular misting until the cutting roots, in approximately 4 weeks.
Money Tree Bonsai
This tree often comes as a group of five trees braided or twisted together. To maintain the shape, or to guide the trunks into a braid yourself, wrap some sturdy string around the tops of the trunks to bind them together tightly as they grow.
Taking Care of Your Money Tree
Money trees are non-fussy plants that are resistant to pests and most diseases. However, you should use a good-quality commercial potting soil that drains quickly; money trees are susceptible to root rot. Bright, indirect light is ideal, but avoid placing your money tree in direct sunlight, which could scorch leaves. A balanced, all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, applied once a month, will provide ample nutrients; it is not necessary to fertilize in the winter, when the plant is dormant. Prune the growing tips of your money tree to keep it houseplant-sized.
In its native tropical swamp habitat, a money tree can easily reach heights of 60 feet. A money tree grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 10 through 12 won’t get that tall but can still grow to 30 feet, so choose a planting location with plenty of headroom. If potting your plant, expect it to stay a more manageable 8 feet high.
- These plants like a moderately humid room and deep but infrequent watering.
- To avoid root rot, a money tree needs a sandy, peat-moss-based soil and a pot with good drainage. Although it likes humidity in general, you should let its soil dry out between watering.
- Water the plants until the water runs from the drainage holes and then let them dry out between watering. Money trees should not be over-watered, two to three times a month is sufficient. It is advisable to allow the top layer of soil to dry out to about an inch in between watering. Do not allow the plant become waterlogged.
- A good schedule for most environments is to water when the top 2-4 inches of soil are dry. Water thoroughly, until water flows out the drainage holes of the pot, and pour out the excess from the tray so that the roots don’t sit in water.
- To maintain the moderate to high humidity required by your money plant, spray it weekly with a plant mister. Avoid using very cold water; tepid water is more suited to the money tree’s tropical pedigree. Guide to Houseplants recommends using a pebble tray — both functional and attractive — to ensure sufficient humidity. Cover the bottom of a tray with a layer of small, pleasingly colored stones, and cover with clean water. Set the money tree container in the tray, making sure water doesn’t come up over the edges of the saucer.
- During the growing season, fertilize once a month with a liquid plant food at half strength, but you should ensure you stop the use of fertilizer in winter.
- The Pachira plant rarely needs to be pruned but as part of your annual money tree plant care, take off any damaged or dead plant material.
- The plant should be repotted every two years in a clean peat mixture. Try not to move the plant around a lot. If the soil is too dry, your plant will let you know by dropping its leaves. Money trees will tolerate some shade but do best when given copious amounts of sunlight
- Money tree plants dislike being moved and respond by dropping their leaves. Also keep them away from drafty areas. Move your Pachira money tree outside in summer to an area with dappled light, but don’t forget to move it back in before fall.
Repotting a Money Tree Plant
- Keep the soil for your money tree moist to wet. Plants grown in a container need repotted when their roots thrust out of the base of the container. Other signs that’ll indicate it’s time for a new pot are slow growth and unusually rapid water usage.
- Pour enough potting mix into the new container so the top of the root ball is 1 inch below the rim. Center the tree on top of the mix and gradually fill in around it, tamping lightly with your fingers to eliminate air pockets.
- When the potting mix reaches the rim, water the tree until liquid drains from the drainage holes. A mix containing peat may need watering several times before it’s completely moist. If the potting mix settles more than 1/2 inch below the rim, add enough to cover the root ball while leaving 1/2 inch of space for future watering.
- Move the tree to a cool spot out of direct sunlight for two or three weeks and keeping the potting mix consistently to prevent transplant shock. You can move your money tree back to a sunny spot once the danger of transplant shock passes.
- When grown outdoors, gardeners prize the money tree (Pachira aquatica) for its showy, fragrant flowers and tasty, peanut-like fruits. Many people also grow money trees indoors Although they typically don’t bloom inside, Feng Shui teaches that money trees bring prosperity and good fortune to those who keep them as houseplants. Like all plants, money trees grown in containers need periodic repotting to thrive.
Preparing for the Move
- Repot the money tree in spring or summer, when it’s actively growing. Water it well, let it drain for an hour while you prepare its new container, and cover the work area with newspapers.
- Choose a pot 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter than the current one, with at least one drainage hole in its base. To prevent potting soil from washing out of the pot when you water, cover the drainage hole with a coffee filter or fine-mesh screen.
Potting Mix Options
- Repot the tree with fresh potting mix formulated for moisture-loving plants. A soilless mix containing peat, pine bark and vermiculite or perlite works well. Homemade potting mix is less expensive than commercial brands. To make your own, mix equal parts peat moss, perlite and coarse (or builder’s) sand.
Lifting the Tree
- It the money tree is small, place the thumb and forefinger of one hand around the base of its trunk and with your open palm resting on top of the soil. Lift and invert the pot with the other hand so the tree slides out.
- Don’t pull on the delicate trunk if the tree resists. Instead, bang the base of the pot lightly against the work surface to loosen the rootball until it slides out easily. Get help, if necessary, to lift a large money tree onto the work surface, and place the pot on its side before sliding the tree free.
- Examine the rootball for tangled, encircling roots or mushy, dark roots. Tease the tangled ones apart with your fingers and cut away encircling or mushy ones with a clean, sharp knife. Wipe the knife blade down with a clean rag dipped in rubbing alcohol between cuts so it doesn’t spread disease.
Guide to Pruning a Braided Money Tree
The braided money tree is a favorite houseplant. It has five leaflets per stem that resemble an open hand. The taller the plant the thicker and more dark green the leaves. The money tree is a native of wetlands and swamps and hence it likes moist soil and environment. The large leaves of the money tree should be pruned if a lot of new leaf growth is desired. However, unless the plant is sickly in appearance, pruning is not really necessary.
Care and Pruning
The money tree is actually a chestnut tree that produces large, edible chestnuts. However, when grown indoors it produces neither nuts nor flowers. It is a very easy to grow plant that need not be pruned unless excessive growth is desired. Pruning the plant at the top helps to give it a more bushy appearance. The soil for the plant needs to be well drained and moist. Though its natural habitat is near water, too much watering is not recommended. When kept moist and well watered the plant grows very rapidly. You can add river sand to the soil as it helps with the drainage. The plant likes medium light, but a little shade is also advised.
Braiding the Money Tree
As the money tree grows it needs to be continually braided. Place it in a well lighted area but not in direct sunlight and it will grow swiftly. Keep removing the leaves on the lower area of the trunk and braid regularly while the trunks are flexible. Keep the leaves concentrated at the top of the tree with pruning. Also use a ¼ strength water soluble plant food or fertilizer once a week. Though the tree grows even more quickly outdoors, it needs to be kept away from direct sunlight as this can easily cause leaf-burn. When repotting the plant use a cactus soil mix.
Money Tree Problems
Money trees are hardy plants that require very little light or water and are generally easy to care for. However, they are susceptible to problems that afflict houseplants in general. Common problems with money trees begin with improper care and disappear when care improves, although pest infestations also occur.
Overwatering and too much sunlight are the most common causes of problems with money plants, though they can also suffer from scale insects, mealybugs, and aphids. Bugs can be treated with a systemic insect control, or horticultural oil spray.
Leaves falling off of a money tree generally indicate that the plant is being improperly watered. The color of the leaves tells you if you need to increase or decrease the amount of water you are giving your plant. If the leaves are turning yellow and dropping off, you are giving too little water. Although money trees tolerate a wide range of conditions, they are tropical plants and receive regular rainfall in their natural environment. If green leaves are falling off of the plant, you are overwatering and can cut back.
Lack of Leaf Growth
If you would like to encourage the growth of more or larger leaves, prune the largest leaves. New leaves will grow back in their place. This is especially recommended for plants with too few leaves.
Money trees are not susceptible to many pests, but scale insects afflict even the most resistant plants and can be hard to treat. Scale insects appear as mounded dots with hard shells and may be found on all parts of the plant. Because they produce a sticky substance called honeydew, the first sign of scales is often leaves that feel sticky to the touch. Scales drain sap from the plant and their honeydew leaves the plant more susceptible to fungal infections. Insecticides may control scale infestations.
Mealybugs are related to scale insects and also affect money trees. Unlike scale insects, mealybugs are soft-bodied and have long legs and antennae. They harm the plant in similar ways, by draining the sap and coating the plant with honeydew that encourages fungus growth. Yellow, sticky leaves may be the first sign of infestation. Mealybugs on houseplants can be treated with insecticides. Dr. Lindquist of Ohio State University recommends not using the same treatment three times in a row, as bugs may become resistant. As with scale insects, affected plants should be quarantined.
How to Care for a Sick Money Tree
Commonly called a money tree for its use in the practice of feng shui as a bringer of good fortune, Pachira aquatica is a tropical tree commonly used as a houseplant and bonsai specimen. The plant features clusters of showy oval evergreen leaves and can bear edible nuts. Often seen with braided or twisted trunks, a money tree can have the misfortune to fall prey to insects or mistakes in care that can leave it sick.
Inspect your sick money tree for signs that it is being either over watered or under watered. Leaves on a money tree that are over watered become yellow and droopy. Too-dry trees exhibit leaves that are wrinkled and curled.
Repot your money tree in equal parts potting soil, peat and perlite in a pot with a drainage hole to avoid having its roots sit in water if your plant shows signs of being consistently wet. Allow soil in the new pot to dry completely between watering.
Move your sick money tree plant to a location that receives bright sunlight in either the morning or late afternoon. Spots and blisters on the leaves of the plant are signs that the sunlight is too intense for the plant. Yellowing in older leaves is a sign of insufficient light. A money tree can be damaged when it is left out in the cold — below 50 degrees Fahrenheit — or in a spot that is too warm — above 86 F. The preferred temperature range for a money tree is from 77 to 86 F.
Add an all-purpose fertilizer once a month to a money tree with all-over yellowed leaves. The exception is a bonsai-sized money tree, which only needs added nutrients once in the spring and once in the fall. Leaves wilting and dropping from the money tree can be a sign of over fertilizing.
Examine stems and leaves for specks, webbing, sticky residue, white bumps and branch dieback — all signs of either spider mite, mealy bug or scale infestation, to which money plants are particularly susceptible.
Set the plant in the shower and wash residue and webbing off the leaves and stems with a gentle spray of lukewarm water. Spray both sides of the leaves with insecticidal soap to eliminate mites and mealy bugs.
Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab and dab it on the small bumps — scale insects — on the stems of your money tree if it is lightly infested. Use a spray with the active ingredient pyrethrin, a plant-derived insecticide, on plants with larger infestations. The spray works on mealy bugs as well.
How to Stop a Money Tree From Dying
A money tree, or Pachira aquatica, is the indoor version of the Malabar chestnut tree. In the wild, this tree can grow to heights of 60 feet. As landscape plants, they usually remain around 15 feet, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. When potted, grow as high as 7 feet. The potted plants are most often referred to as money trees. Traditionally thought to bring good fortune to the owner, they are sometimes given as housewarming gifts.
Check the environment. Make sure the plant is protected from hot, drying winds. This includes any heating vents for indoor plants. In addition, this tropical tree should not be exposed to freezing temperatures.
Test the soil moisture. These trees prefer soil that is continually moist. Wrinkled leaves indicate a lack of water. Water potted money trees once a week, but do not let the soil get overly wet, as this may lead to root rot. Yellow leaves show you the plant is getting too much water.
Remove from its pot a money tree that is wilting all over; replant it in new, fresh potting soil.
Examine the leaves. Many houseplants, including money trees, suffer from insect pests such as spider mites and mealybugs, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. If you see tiny bugs on the leaves, stems or all over the plant, take the money tree outside and knock the bugs off with a strong stream of water. Then, spray the plant with an insecticide.
Look at the light at the plant’s location. Place your money tree where it is exposed to several hours of bright, but indirect, sunlight. Too much direct sunlight may scorch the leaves, causing them to drop.
Give your money tree some food. Fertilize it with a light, water-soluble fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium once a month during its growing time – spring through summer.