The money tree, Pachira aquatica, is a sought-after house plant that has attractive umbrella-like leaves and an easygoing nature. It’s often sold with a braided trunk.
Pachira aquatica goes by many names – water chestnut, guinea nut, Guiana chestnut, provision tree, French peanut, Malabar chestnut, Mexican fortune tree, dollar plant and saba nut. Part of the Malvaceae family, it’s a tropical evergreen tree, native to central and south America, where it can reach 20m tall and produces edible nuts. Despite its damp native habitat, it doesn’t need a huge amount of watering – it can store water at the base of its swollen stems.
According to the Chinese art of feng shui, a properly placed money tree is considered to bring prosperity – good fortune is said to be trapped within the trunk and the five-lobed leaves are also considered lucky. Money trees are therefore often given as wedding or housewarming gifts. The braided trunk isn’t a natural feature – in plant nurseries, the supple young stems of young plants are braided together before they turn woody.
How to grow a money tree
Pachira aquatica is easy to grow. Just give it a warm spot in bright, indirect light. Water only when the top few cm of compost is dry, and provide some humidity if possible.
Growing money trees: jump links
- Where to grow a money tree
- How to care for a money tree
- How to propagate a money tree
- Money tree problem-solving
- Where to buy a money tree
Where to grow a money tree
Pachira aquatica does best in bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight as this will scorch the leaves. Provide a temperature of between 12-24°C.
The money tree thrives in a humid environment, so a bathroom is an ideal place for it. It also does well under fluorescent light, so it’s great for office environments.
How to plant a money tree
Your money tree should be fine for a while growing in the pot it came in, unless it has roots bulging out of it. Repot in spring if necessary, into a slightly larger pot, using peat-free cactus or house plant compost.
Caring for a money tree
Take care not to overwater your money tree – Pachira aquatica can store water at the base of its stems. Water only when the top 5cn of soil have become dry. Ensure that any excess water has drained away afterwards. Water less in winter, when the plant is not actively growing.
The money tree does best in a humid atmosphere. Mist the leaves regularly, or stand on a pebble tray that’s topped up with water. Feed once a month with a balanced fertiliser every few weeks, from spring to autumn. Wipe the leaves occasionally to remove accumulated dust.
Pachira aquatica grows fast, but you can prevent your plant getting too big by pruning or pinching out the growing tips if necessary. Keeping it in a smaller pot will also help to contain its growth.
Repot when the roots fill the pot, into a slightly larger container. If the plant is too big for that, replace the top 5cm layer of compost every spring.
How to propagate a money tree
The easiest way to propagate a money tree is via stem cuttings in late spring or summer. Cut off a stem that’s 10-15 cm long and put in at least 2cm of water. Once a bundle of roots has developed, plant in a small pot of peat-free cactus or house plant compost.
Growing a money tree: problem solving
Your money tree may drop leaves if it’s moved around too much. Once you’ve found the right spot for it, try to keep it there. Leaf drop can also be caused by overwatering (or more rarely, underwatering), so check your watering regime.
Yellowing or wilting leaves could also be caused by overwatering. The money tree suffers when sitting in soggy compost as it causes the roots to rot. Allow the compost to dry out before watering again, and let any excess water drain away when you have done so.
Leaves can snap off if they get too heavy – don’t worry, more will grow back.
Brown patches could be caused by sunburn. Move your plant out of direct sunlight.
Mealybugs may be a problem – look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils. Keep checking the leaves, as mealybugs can be hard to eradicate
You may also spot scale insects – small, brown sap sucking insects that are around 6mm long. Wipe off as with a cotton bud or cloth soaked with an insecticide containing fatty acids.
Advice for buying a money tree
- Don’t forget that money trees thrive in quite warm conditions, so check to make sure you can give it the growing environment it needs
- Check the plant over for signs of sap, which could indicate recent pruning or pests. Ensure the leaves are lush and healthy looking
Where to buy a money tree online