Money Tree Plant (Pachira Aquatica) Care and Growing Tips

Do the names “Saba Nut” or “Malabar Chestnut” bring visions of dollars, coins, and other forms of monetary wealth to mind?

No?

What if I were to mention the Pachira plant?​

Still no mental pictures of riches?​

That might be because you haven't heard these other names for the Pachira Money Tree plant.​

Ah, perhaps now you see the greenbacks dancing behind your eyes! And now you want to know more about this plant for funding your gardening passion.​

Well, it may not bring you the money you desire but it will certainly bring a bit of beauty and uniqueness to your home and garden. Read on for more information about the care and feeding of this distinctive plant.​

History of the Money Tree Plant​

The old tale of the money tree plant's meaning goes something like this: a penniless farmer once prayed for financial assistance, much like I do around bill-paying time.

Soon after he found this mysterious new plant growing in his fields and brought it into his home. He began growing and selling this plant, eventually achieving great wealth and affluence. Hence the name “Money Tree.”​

While this may lead to a desire to fill your house with this Pachira Aquatica plant in the hopes of attracting some dough, this is, after all, just a tale. The plant is native to Central and South American wetlands, and gained popularity in Taiwan during the 1980s when a Taiwanese truck driver began braiding the trunks together, essentially “locking in” luck and good fortune.

Pachira Aquatica

Example of braiding the trunks of pachira aquatica.

When a certain length of the trunks have been braided, the plant will continue to grow in that fashion, though the occasional odd-growing branch may need guidance back into the braid or a bit of trimming. This also makes it a popular plant to train in bonsai, or potted miniature form.​

There is much love bestowed upon the Money tree plant feng shui practitioners as well, as they are believed to create positive energy known as “chi,” as well as draw luck and fortune when placed in certain areas of the home and business. Japanese and Chinese money tree plants often have ornaments and ribbons added to increase these abilities.​

These plants have maintained the reputation established by that old tale in Taiwan: in 2005, these plants added seven million US dollars to Taiwan's agricultural export economy.​

Planting the Money Tree Plant

It doesn't take much to get these babies started. Just a little soil, a little humidity, and a steady warm temperature will have them popping out of the dirt in a few days (though cuttings will take a bit longer.) Here are a few things to keep in mind when planting your money maker.

When to Plant

When your night temperatures remain regularly above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it is generally safe to plant your money tree outdoors. It really appreciates temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. If you don't live in Zone 10 or 11, you will be better off planting and keeping indoors.

How to Plant

You can start your money tree from seed or root from cuttings. Plant the seed approximately one-quarter inch deep in water-saturated soil with the pale “eye” facing sideways.

Where to Plant​

If you're planning on keeping the plant mostly indoors, choose a pot size that will fit your needs and find a slightly humid spot with indirect sunlight in your house.​

If you're aiming to grow the true full-sized tree, try to mimic the wetlands the money tree loves so much: swampy areas, next to rivers, or somewhere that gets lots of water but still some drying-out periods as well. Some sun and some shade during the day would be ideal.

Money Tree Plant Care and Cultivation

Pachira aquatica care is surprisingly easy. The leaves will readily let you know what it needs and what you should change in your care regimen.

Sun

Shady areas or windows with indirect sunlight keep this plant happy. If the leaves begin to yellow, find a sunnier place. While it can tolerate some full sunlight, too much will burn the leaves.

If grown indoors, pay close attention to the health of your plant and change its location as needed throughout the year. Occasionally turning the plant is a good idea, too.

Water

This tree likes a deep drink of water about once a week. Allow the top two or three inches of soil to dry before the next watering. Make sure there is good drainage so that the roots are not constantly swimming, which leads to rot. It likes humidity as well, like what you'd find in a bathroom. Consider placing the pot on a dish of pebbles and water.

If you find your money tree plant is dying, it may be due to too much watering. It can be really hard to resist grabbing the watering can when the plant drops leaves. This often happens after the initial change of environment, like repotting, so sit on your hands if you must to keep that watering can on the shelf.​

As if this weren't maddening enough, the winter months will mean even less watering as growth slows.​

Fertilizer

If you are growing a bonsai tree, you can generally skip the fertilizer. Once or twice a year should be fine. For the larger trees, every other watering is a good time to add some half-diluted liquid fertilizer during the warmer months. You can dispense with fertilizer during the winter.

Repotting​

Every couple of years the plant will need repotting in a peat mixture, sometimes to a larger pot if you're going big. This will give the roots fresh soil and renewed drainage. Do your best not to move the roots too much as you repot.

Don't be surprised if your plant lets go of a few leaves in the process. They really don't care for being moved from their comfy containers. (I feel much the same about my bed. And my recliner.)

Pruning

The larger versions of this tree won't really need much pruning, except for a few lower leaves once a month or so.

If you are growing in the bonsai form, however, that's a different story. Trimming and pinching back new growth is essential to keeping the miniature size of the tree. While a little new growth should be retained for the health of the tree, regular care should be given to keeping the new buds in check.

Harvesting

Wait, harvesting? From a money plant? These don't actually put out dollar bill seed pods, do they?

Well, no. Wouldn't it be fantastic if they did, though? They do develop seed pods that pop open when the seeds within get big enough. After the pods have burst, the seeds can be roasted, fried, or devoured raw.

Money Tree Seeds

The seed pods of the money tree plant. source

They make a good bread flour when ground, too. You can grow more money trees to give to your friends and family as gifts for luck and fortune.​

Pests and Diseases

While this plant is pretty hardy against most bugs and diseases, there are a few that could become problematic. Here's a short list and what to do about each issue.

Pests

Apids

Aphids are a well known sap-sucking insect that can reproduce asexually at a frightening rate. If your money tree is outside, ladybugs love to munch on these pests. For inside plants, insecticidal soap should help stem the tide.

Mealy Bugs​

Mealy bugs look like cotton pieces that enjoy sucking the sap out of your tree. The females can lay up to 500 eggs in as little as a week! The “honeydew” they leave behind opens the door to other fungal infections. Insecticidal soap or a solution of sodium dodecyl sulfate and isopropyl alcohol can take care of this pest.

Diseases​

Anthracnose

This can refer to leaf spot, blight, and a host of other similar issues that weaken the tree and predispose it to other nasties. It's caused by a few related fungi that can infect through the air or splashing water. =

To prevent anthracnose:

  • Double check your watering habits and keep leaves dry when watering.
  • Remove any diseased leaves.
  • Fungicidal sprays are usually unnecessary except in extreme cases, like witnessing the same blight throughout your garden.​

FAQs

Q: Is the money tree plant a small plant or a large one?

A: It can be either, depending on how you decide to grow it. These trees can grow up to 60 feet in their native lands! If you want it to grow tall, then start off by giving it a large pot and plenty of room to do so.

Go as large or perhaps a bit larger in pot size as you think you might need to save excessive repotting later. A bonsai tree requires a much smaller pot.​

Q: Which form should I grow, bonsai or full size?

A: A lot of factors figure into the decision to grow a full money tree plant or a bonsai one, such as personal likes and dislikes, space available, how much money you want to be wading through in your living room (just kidding.)

In all seriousness, if you want to grow a bonsai tree yourself, this requires a whole different set of learning and skills in order to train the tree. However, you can also purchase a bonsai tree already trained that just needs the odd pinching and trimming to keep it miniature.​


One of the best things about gardening is that you are always surrounded with green. Sure, it might not be in the form of that greenback dollar, especially if you have a passion for exotic (cough-expensive-cough) plants. While the money tree may not foot the bill for your fern fetishes, it will lend your home a bit of braided beauty and grace. And maybe even a bit of luck.

Be sure to share your good fortune and experiences with the money tree here in the comments. Spread the luck to your friends by sharing this article with them. Thanks for stopping by!​