Updated: Feb 7
The Money Tree is one of the most notorious calls we consult about. Below you'll find a comprehensive guide on how to take care of your money tree, as well as some of the most common issues. Before we dive in, here's a call we recently had about potassium deficiencies on a money tree:
The popular Pachira aquatica ‘Money Tree’ is a tropical, wetland tree native to Central and South America where it grows in swamps. It is in the Mallow family which includes the well known Hibiscus and Chocolate plants. The Money Tree matures after 4 to 5 years and can grow up to 60 feet high in its natural environment. These trees can grow edible, chestnut like seeds, but rarely if ever flower and seed indoors.
Since the Money Tree is a tropical plant, it prefers warm (65-85°F), humid environments. The key to growing Money Trees indoors is consistent environmental factors to help the plant acclimate to those conditions.
Often, environmental changes indoors occur during the winter and summer months when the A/C is running. It is important to keep them away from vents or drafts as these drafts can dry out the foliage of the plant. Placing a humidifier near a Money Tree will help keep its humidity levels up, especially during the winter months when the heater is running. It is also recommended misting the leaves daily to keep boost humidity and to prevent the leaves from getting too dry.
Potting and Soil
Money trees like loose organic soil. Although money trees are tropical, they do not like wet feet and therefore need soil and pot with good drainage. Nearly any quality commercial potting soil will meet their needs.
Money trees have delicate roots that like to “breathe,” therefore terracotta pots seem to be their preferred home. But beware, though terracotta is an excellent choice for a money tree, terracotta pots tend to dry out faster than plastic pots, so keep an eye on the soil moisture levels.
The money tree is very sensitive to too much sunlight. This plant has thin leaves that are prone to burning from too much sun. This can even occur with plants grown indoors next to a sunny window. It is best to slowly acclimate the Money Tree to sunny conditions to avoid sun stress. These trees do best in lower light conditions where they are getting at least bright, indirect light most of the day.
Money Trees tend to stretch their top growth in the direction of sunlight. In order to keep even growth in the canopy, rotate the plant regularly so the entire canopy is getting evenly distributed sunlight.
As a tropical wetland plant, you wouldn’t think that the Money Tree would be prone to root rot. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. The roots of the Money Tree are very sensitive to excessive moisture when grown indoors in a pot. Over watering causes the roots to sit in an anaerobic (oxygen deprived) environment, eventually drowning them. These roots will eventually die and begin to rot. If the rot is not removed, it can spread to the rest of the plant’s root system, eventually leading to the death of the plant. Signs of root rot on a Money Tree are browning or yellowing that begins at the mid-vein in the center of the leaves, followed by leaf drop. If this is the case we're more than happy to verify root health for you by booking a quick checkup.
Let the soil of the Money Tree completely dry out before watering again. When watering, water thoroughly around the circumference of the pot until water runs out the drainage holes of the pot. This will ensure the entire root ball gets watered.
If you choose to keep your money tree in a tray, immediately dump the excess water out of the tray after watering. Very few plants like to sit in water and money trees are no exception.
It is important to get on a consistent watering schedule and don’t make any sudden changes to this schedule. A moisture meter is a helpful tool in determining when to water again. Most of these meters have a gauge of readings: ‘dry’, ‘moist’ and ‘wet’. Water when the meter reads almost ‘dry’ and avoid a ‘wet’ level.
In order for roots to stay healthy, it is important that they do not stay dry for too long. Roots that stay dry for long periods of time are not able to take up soil nutrients properly, which will eventually lead to the plant becoming nutrient deficient.
Money Trees are notorious for shedding their leaves during times of stress or when dormant during the winter months. The best thing to do after your plant drops its leaves is to not put any more stress on the plant by over fertilizing, re-potting or moving the plant to a different spot in your home. Try keeping the plant's environment consistent and new leaves will form once the plant recovers from stress or breaks dormancy. Dormancy usually begins in the fall when the plant senses the shorter day length and ends in early spring when the days become longer.
Money Trees are usually sold as 2-3 trees braided together. If one tree dies or is suffering from disease, it will have to be unbraided from the others and removed from the pot so the other two are not affected as well.
It is possible to grow the Money Tree as a bonsai. This is essentially what we are already doing when we choose to grow the naturally large plant indoors. Keeping the plant contained in a small pot will stunt the plant’s growth.
Pruning a Money Trees is common when grown as houseplants because these trees can grow to be quite large and take up a lot of space if allowed. The Money Tree has a tendency to stretch near the top, so pruning back regularly will promote fuller growth and an even canopy. Often, multiple branches will grow from where a cut is made, promoting fuller growth, opposed to leggy growth.
Pruning a Money Tree should also be done to remove any dead or diseased foliage. This will allow the plant to put its energy towards new, healthy growth and to prevent the spread of disease.
When pruning, it is best to do so in the Spring when the plant is out of winter dormancy and in its active growing stage. Pruning early in the spring will allow for fuller growth sooner to be enjoyed the rest of the growing season.
Use a sharp pair of trimmers and make a clean cut right above a node. A node is where new leaves and branches form. The part of the branch that has been cut off can be propagated by placing it in water or soil until roots form. Using a rooting hormone when propagating can add a quicker and better success rate to cuttings. Clonex is one of the best rooting hormones on the market
Fungal & Bacterial Infections
Foliage bacterial or fungal infections are common on the Money Tree because of the warm, humid environment this plant enjoys. The most common fungal infections are Anthracnose and Powdery Mildew.
Signs of an Anthracnose infection are necrotic lesions or yellow ‘halo-like’ spots on the leaves, curling of the leaves and eventual leaf drop. Signs of Powdery Mildew are white, web-like patterning on the leaves, leaf curl and eventual necrosis of the entire leaf.
These fungal spores could have already been on the plant when purchased or may be living in the soil and can be easily spread in warm, high humidity environments with little air flow. Infections can be treated with a copper foliar spray.
Insect infestations are another common problem to look for on Money Trees. These pests can include aphids, mealy bugs, mites, scale, fungus gnats and whitefly.
These insects often live on the underside of leaves. Symptoms are tiny, white or brown dotting on the top of the leaves or a sticky residue from the insects sucking the sap out of the leaves.
Insects are best treated with horticultural oil that suffocates the insects. This should be applied on the top and bottom of leaves as well as the top layer of the soil where larvae might be living.
Letting the soil dry out between waterings will help prevent the spread of fungus gnats as these insects like a moist, warm environment.
Our specialists can inspect your plants for insect damage and correct course of action as well, feel free to book an appointment here.
The Money Tree is a heavy feeder of potassium and magnesium and often shows signs of deficiencies in both if not fertilized regularly. Feeding your Money Tree with a balanced fertilizer through spring and summer will help ensure it does not become deficient in any nutrients. The Money Tree's thin leaves can be sensitive to over fertilizing and show signs of this through burnt leaf tips. Ensure you are applying fertilizers at the recommended ratio on the packaging.
Getting personalized help for your Money Tree
If you have any more questions about how to care for a Money Tree, we will be happy to assist you in a virtual appointment with one of our Plant Specialists.
Please click on one of the options below to book an appointment.