Pachira aquatica, better known as the money tree plant, has a reputation for being one of the easiest trees to grow indoors. A low-maintenance, pet-friendly plant with attractive, hand-shaped leaves, money trees are commonly used to add some green in homes as well as offices, lobbies, restaurants, and other public spaces.
This tropical tree doesn’t actually grow money, but it does grow large, green pods containing edible chestnut-like seeds in its native tropical habitat of Central and South America—hence one of its common names, Malabar chestnut. While money trees can grow up to 60 feet tall in nature, they can also be kept as bonsai plants or manageable indoor trees growing up to eight feet in height.
A very similar species, known as Pachira glabra or saba tree, is often sold interchangeably as money tree, although the two species differ in their fruits and flowers. Sadly, 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 in feng shui, thought to bring good financial fortune when placed in the southeast section of your home—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.
Best Growing Conditions for Your Money Tree
Before purchasing your money tree, take a moment to consider that—fingers crossed!—it will 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-size plant, but if the space you have in mind is on the small size and you plan to keep this plant for the long haul, you may want to consider going with a small money tree to care for as a bonsai plant instead.
Place your money tree in a spot with lots of bright, indirect light, like a south-facing or west-facing window, but take care to keep them out of direct sunlight, which can sunburn the leaves.
Like their fellow tall houseplants, fiddle-leaf figs, money trees are sensitive to being moved around and sudden changes in environment. Choose a spot for yours 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 in winter, too.
Money trees prefer spaces that don’t drop below 65 degrees at night.
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, it’s actually a great environment for the plant, with the extra warmth and steam from your shower. If you decide to keep your money tree out of the bathroom, it’s a good idea to keep a humidity tray underneath the plant.
To do this, fill a shallow tray that’s larger than your plant’s pot with a layer of small pebbles, then pour water into the tray until the water is just below the top of the pebbles. Place the plant in its container on top, making sure that the bottom of the container isn’t making contact with the water. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity of the air around your plant. Be sure to add water periodically to the tray.
How to Care for Your Money Tree
Despite its naturally moist jungle habitat, it’s important to ensure that you’re not overwatering your money tree. Wait until the top few inches of soil have dried before watering your money tree deeply, making sure that water flows out of the hole in the bottom of the container. However, too-dry soil can also cause leaf drop, so be careful not to wait too long between waterings.
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.
Skip feeding during winter, when your money tree plant grows more slowly.
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. Handle the plant gently to avoid causing leaf drop.
Examine the root ball and cut away any rotten or damaged roots with a clean, sharp blade before potting up into a new container one size larger than before. When repotting, use a very well-drained soil such as a mix of equal parts coarse sand, peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite.
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.
How to Propagate Your Money Tree
Money tree cuttings are relatively easy to grow into new plants using a soilless rooting medium and rooting hormone. You can purchase ready-made 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 enough small containers with good drainage holes and soilless rooting medium to fill the same number of pots as you have cuttings for.
Step 2: Fill the pots with rooting medium and water until it is moist.
Step 3: Using a clean, sharp blade, cut a healthy, six-inch section of a branch with at least three leaf nodes from the mother plant. Snip the bottom few leaves off of the cutting.
At this point, you may may choose to put the cuttings in a glass of water for a few weeks, then pick up the process with 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, then gently pat the soil around the base of the cutting so that 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 the cutting to root, which should take four weeks or so. You can check the progress with a gentle tug on the stem—when you feel resistance, your plant has rooted. At this point, you can remove the bag and care for the new plant as usual.