If you're looking to add to your indoor plant collection, or are considering becoming a plant parent for the first time, the Pachira aquatica, or money tree plant, has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the easiest houseplants to grow and maintain.
The money tree plant is virtually indestructible, pet-friendly, and can grow to a real statement size (around three metres.) Because of its natural resilience, you'll likely come across this tropical tree in offices, commercial venues, and other public spaces.
Ensure your money tree has the right amount of water, light, and humidity and you'll be rewarded with its beautiful canopy of shiny green leaves and distinct braided trunk.
Read on for everything you need to know about this super popular houseplant.
What is a money tree, and are they actually lucky?
Money tree plants are native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. They can grow up to 18 metres in their native habitats, and are sometimes cultivated for their nuts, which can be ground into flour, or used in a similar way to cocoa in hot drinks. More commonly, the money tree is sold as small, ornamental potted plants.
According to Chinese Feng Shui tradition, the leaves of the money tree plant can capture happiness and good fortune (each stalk holds five leaves said to resemble hands) and it stores its treasures in its braided trunk, making it a popular gift for housewarmings, birthdays or weddings.
The money tree plant at a glance:
• Botanical name: Pachira aquatica.
• Other names: Malabar or Guiana Chestnut, French Peanut, Saba Nut, Dollar Plant.
• Height and growth rate: Fast growing, usually with a maximum height of around three metres.
• Light: Bright, indirect light, does well under florescent light.
• Watering: Avoid overwatering, water only once the top of the soil has become dry.
• Temperature: Average household temperatures.
• Toxicity to pets: Non-toxic.
• Plant parent level: Beginner, thrives indoors and requires comparatively little care.
How to care for your money tree plant
Pachira prefer bright but indirect sunlight like next to a south or west-facing window. As with most plants, too much direct sunlight will scorch its leaves (if the leaves begin to yellow, that's your signal to find a more shaded spot). Gently rotating your plant every so often can help with a more even light distribution. A money tree can thrive particularly well in fluorescent lighting, which makes it a great choice for an office or commercial setting.
Overwatering will make for a very unhappy money tree plant, so be careful how often and how much watering you do. A good rule of thumb is to water generously but infrequently – so water your plant until the water runs from the drainage holes, but stick to once every week or fortnight, or once the top 5cm of soil becomes dry. Fertilise every two weeks using a liquid plant food diluted by half. Remember to water less frequently in winter, when the plant is not actively growing.
Money tree plants thrive in warm and humid environments. They are pretty content with average household temperatures between 16-24°C, but avoid exposing them to temperatures below 10°C. Mist the leaves regularly to maintain a level of humidity, or stand on a humidity tray.
How to make a humidity tray: Place a layer of pebbles into a shallow tray and fill with water until the waterline sits just below the top of the pebbles. Place your plant pot onto the pebbles ensuring it doesn't touch the water. As the water evaporates, it'll increase the humidity of the air around your plant. Remember to periodically top up your water.
Money tree plants require minimal maintenance, which make them perfect for beginners. Simply prune dead, damaged, or dying leaves when you find them, and use a damp cloth to remove accumulated dust from the leaves. Pachira aquatica tend to grow very quickly, but you can prevent yours from getting too big by pruning its tips more regularly, or keeping it in a smaller pot.
Common problems with a money tree plant (and how to fix them)
Yellowing or wilting leaves: Since money tree plants require generous but infrequent watering, they can be susceptible to root rot. To help prevent root rot, make sure your planter has excellent drainage, and never leave water sitting in the saucer under your plant pot. If you think you've overwatered your Pachira aquatica, allow the compost to dry out before watering again.
Dropping leaves: The money tree plant can be temperamental if moved around frequently, and usually responds by dropping its leaves. Once you've found the right spot for it, try to keep it there, and only rotate gently if sunlight distribution is uneven.
Unwanted pests: As with most houseplants, a money tree plant can attract unwanted pests like aphids and mealy bugs. Most can be repelled by regular application of neem oil.
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