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Pachira aquatica, better known as the money tree plant, has a reputation for being one of the easiest trees to grow indoors. This tropical tree is commonly used to add some green in homes as well as offices, lobbies, restaurants, and other public spaces. A money tree is a low-maintenance, pet-friendly plant with hand-shaped leaves. It grows large green pods containing edible chestnut-like seeds and is native to Central America and South America.
While money trees can grow up to 60 feet high in the wild, they can also be kept as bonsai trees or manageable indoor trees, growing up to eight feet high. A very similar species, known as Pachira glabra, or saba tree, is often sold as money tree, although the two species differ in their fruits and flowers. A money tree grown as a houseplant is unlikely to flower, but you can still enjoy its full, hand-shaped leaves indoors.
When shopping for a money tree, you'll notice that several plants are often sold growing together in a braid. This is done when the stems of the young plants, which are thicker at the bottom to help conserve water, are still green or no wider than a half-inch across.
Money trees are a favorite houseplant for feng shui, and they're thought to bring good financial fortune when placed in the southeast section of your home—or the area associated with money. In feng shui, it's bad luck to place a money tree in your bathroom, as its positive energy may be drained away. Keep reading to learn how to grow and care for your money tree.
- Botanical Name: Pachira aquatica
- Common Name: Money tree, Guiana chestnut, Malabar chestnut
- Plant Type: Broadleaf evergreen
- Mature Size: 20–30 feet high
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
- Soil Type: Moist to wet potting mix
- Soil pH: 6.0–7.5
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
Despite its native habitat of moist jungle, your money tree doesn't like to be overwatered. Wait until the top few inches of soil have dried before watering deeply, and ensure that water flows out of the hole in the bottom of the container. However, too-dry soil can also cause leaf drop, so be be sure to water your money tree at least once or twice a week.
Feed your money tree with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength in the spring and summer growing season, always after you've already watered the plant. Fertilizer typically isn't needed during the winter, when growing slows.
Repot your money tree every two years, or when you see roots growing out of the hole in the bottom of the container, ideally during spring or summer. Examine the root ball, and cut away any rotten or damaged roots with a clean, sharp blade before repotting into a new container one size larger. Use a very well-draining soil, such as a mix of equal parts coarse sand, peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite. Handle the plant gently to avoid causing leaf drop, center the tree in and on top of the potting mix, and carefully fill in with more soil around it.
Then, water the newly repotted tree thoroughly; let the water drain; and place it in a shaded area for a few weeks, away from direct sun. Once the tree has gotten over potential transplant shock, move it to a sunny area, where it typically likes to be.
Best Growing Conditions for Money Trees
Before buying a money tree, take a moment to consider that—fingers crossed!—it could grow from the small, tabletop-sized plant you purchased into a mature tree of six to eight feet in height. You have some time to prepare your space to accommodate a large plant, but, if the space you have in mind is petite and you plan to keep this plant for the long haul, you may want to consider going with a small money tree instead.
Place your money tree in a spot with lots of bright, indirect light, like a south- or west-facing window, but take care to keep it out of direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves. Like their fellow tall houseplants, fiddle leaf figs, money trees are sensitive to movement and other sudden changes in environment. Choose a spot away from cold drafts, which can cause leaf drop. It's a good idea to keep them away from the hot, blowing air of your ventilation system during colder months, too.
Money trees grow best with moderate to high humidity. While putting a money tree in your bathroom might be less than ideal in terms of feng shui principles, it's actually a great environment for the plant. The extra warmth and steam from your shower or tub mimics the plant's natural habitat.
If you decide to place your money tree outside of a bathroom, keep a humidity tray underneath the plant. To do this, fill a shallow tray that's larger than your pot with a layer of small pebbles, and then pour water into the tray until the waterline hits just below the top of the pebbles. Place the plant in its container on top, making sure the bottom of the container doesn't make contact with the water. As water evaporates, it'll increase the humidity of the air around your plant. Be sure to add water periodically to the tray.
Your money tree will rarely need pruning aside from cutting back a specimen that's grown larger than your space can accommodate, unless a portion of the plant is damaged. Healthy cuttings with a few leaf nodes can be used to propagate new plants.
After cutting away damaged roots, wipe your blade with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol to prevent spreading disease.
How to Propagate Money Trees
Money tree cuttings are relatively propagate into new plants by using a soilless rooting medium and a rooting hormone. You can purchase readymade soilless mix from your local nursery or garden center, or you can make your own by blending equal parts peat moss or coconut coir, coarse sand or bark, vermiculite or perlite, and a small amount of fertilizer.
Step 1: Gather rooting hormone, pruners, and small containers with drainage holes, and enough soilless rooting medium to fill the containers.
Step 2: Fill the pots with rooting medium and water until moist.
Step 3: Using a clean, sharp blade, cut a healthy six-inch section of branch with at least three leaf nodes from the mother plant. Snip the bottom few leaves off the cutting.
At this point, you may choose to put the cuttings in a glass of water for a few weeks, and then pick up the process at Step 4 once you see roots growing from the stem to increase your chances of rooting success.
Step 4: Dip the bottom end of the cutting in rooting hormone. Use a chopstick or pencil to poke a hole a few inches into the growing medium. Insert the cutting into the hole, and then gently pat the soil around the base of the cutting so it stands up on its own.
Step 5: Tent a clear plastic bag around the potted cutting, sticking chopsticks or pencils into the soilless medium to hold the sides of the bag away from the plant, if necessary. This will increase the humidity around your cutting.
Step 6: Keep the potted cutting out of direct sunlight, and be sure to keep the soil moist while you wait for it to root, which should take four weeks or so. Check progress with a gentle tug on the stem—when you feel resistance, your plant has rooted. At this point, remove the bag, and care for the new plant as usual.
Common Growing Problems
Droopy, yellow, or brown-tinged leaves could indicate a few problems with your money tree. The most common issue tends to be improper watering: Be sure to water thoroughly yet infrequently (once or twice per week), and ensure your pot has a drainage system.
Low humidity may also cause droopy or discolored leaves. Boost humidity by misting your money tree regularly, and keep it out of direct sunlight to avoid burning the leaves.
Pests like spider mites, scale, and mealybugs can impede the growth and health of your money tree. Remove them by blasting leaves with water (cover the pot and soil before you do this), dab leaves with rubbing alcohol, or use an insecticidal solution. You could also prune and dispose of heavily infested in a tightly sealed bag. Be sure to sterilize your pruning tool, too.