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Adored for both its small stature and history as a good luck symbol, the money tree can be an excellent addition to your home interior. These trees can grow more than 30 feet tall, but the small, cultivated houseplant version can grow on even a small desk space. Money trees are low-maintenance and can work well as ornamental potted plants in any area of your home.
Fast Facts on Money Trees
Money tree, Malabar chestnut, French peanut, Guiana chestnut, Provision tree, Saba nut
Central and South America
Mixture of full sun and partial shade
Average mature height (indoor)
Less than 30 feet tall
Neutral or slightly acidic
Frequency of watering
Once every one to two weeks
Nontoxic to both cats and dogs
Ideal humidity level
50% or higher
Though its scientific name is Pachira aquatica, money trees have many familiar names in various parts of the world, including the Guiana chestnut, Malabar chestnut, saba nut plant, and the money tree bonsai. The money tree’s native habitat is in Central and South America. It loves swamps and wetlands and does very well in tropical climates. This is why it’s best to keep money plants as indoor plants—they cannot survive winter temperature drops.
You can identify a small potted tree as a money tree by its stalks with five long green leaves. These five leaves are said to represent the five elements in feng shui: water, earth, fire, wind, and metal. Very rarely, these plants may feature stalks with seven leaves, which is considered a sign of intense good fortune.
A smaller species of money tree, Pachira glabra, is often commercially cultivated and sold under the name of the Pachira aquatica. These seem to develop thicker trunks faster, and the nuts they produce are smaller than those of the original money tree. You can find these tropical plants in pots all around Taiwanese and East Asian businesses and offices, present for their symbolism of positive energy, good feng shui, and wealth.
How to Grow Money Trees Indoors
Though money trees don’t require specialized care, you should take a few steps to ensure that your plant is comfortable in its new setting.
Money trees thrive with indirect light and minimal bursts of direct sunlight. You should rotate them to ensure they’re not exposed to too much direct sunlight. Money trees prefer bright sunlight, but they should not be exposed to bright light immediately after you bring the plant home. If they are placed in direct sunlight too quickly, it could cause their leaves to burn.
You can use a simple potting soil mix for your money tree, as these hardy trees don’t require carefully blended nutrient mixtures. Create a well-draining potting soil by mixing peat moss with any standard potting soil mix for an exceptionally nutritious option. Remember to add some gravel or a few stones to the potting soil.
When working with a money tree, you’ll usually need to plant it in a pot equipped with drainage holes. These drainage holes ensure that water doesn’t sit in the soil but drains out, leaving the soil moist when you water it.
Money trees don’t have deep root systems, so planting them in a pot that’s only a few inches deeper than their roots is fine. You can even use a potting mix that includes perlite, a type of volcanic glass that helps with good drainage. Just make sure the holes in the bottom of the pot allow for enough drainage to prevent sitting water.
Money trees love temperature ranges between the mid-60s and mid-70s. Don’t worry too much if you experience a heatwave or a short cold snap that rolls through in the winter months. Money trees are resilient, and this brief period of temperature fluctuation should be no problem.
In your potting mix for your money tree, you can include natural fertilizers, such as eggshells, chicken manure, cow manure, and your own compost from decomposing organic matter. If you’d rather go the store-bought route, you can also use a premade fertilizer mix from a company like Miracle-Gro, easily acquired from your local home improvement center or nursery. This will feed your money tree for six months at a time.
Water your money tree by thoroughly dampening its soil weekly or when the top two to four inches of soil are dry. Sit it in the sink to drain, or use a pebble tray underneath the pot to catch the excess water. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering sessions. Because money trees are prone to root rot if their roots sit in too much water, it’s important to avoid overwatering.
Still, these little trees love high humidity—they’re from the swamp, after all. In the summer when central air conditioning can dry out ambient air, consider placing a small humidifier near your money tree or misting the leaves to keep it moist. To help your money tree survive the dry weather of winter, place its pot on a pebble tray. This allows more moisture to get to the soil directly, which decreases the need for high environmental humidity.
How to Propagate Money Trees
You should be able to observe new growth on your money plant in the spring and summer. Once you know that your plant is producing new growth, you can choose to propagate your money tree if you wish. Here’s how:
- Choose a stem about five inches long, and ensure that it has a few leaves or leaf nodes on it before you snip it off. Make sure you use sterilized sharp scissors or pruning shears when propagating.
- Firmly grip the stem to stabilize your blade before cutting it.
- Place the cutting in water to facilitate root growth on your money tree stem. You’ll be able to watch your cutting grow roots.
- When the plant has grown enough roots to support itself, place it in potting soil mixed with plant food.
- After repotting, keep the soil for your new money tree moist.
How to Braid or Prune Your Money Tree
Many money-tree beginners believe the plant’s characteristic braided trunk is shaped that way naturally. Actually, these are several plants whose stems have been intertwined while they’re still young and flexible.
Use the following steps to braid and propagate a new money tree with the distinctive look associated with these plants.
Choose Your Seeds or Seedlings
If you’d like to braid your money tree, you should start with three seedlings. Look for younger seedlings with more flexible trunks and repot them together. You can also grow money plants from seeds if you wish. You should plant seeds about a quarter of an inch below the soil’s surface.
With your money tree trunks growing together in the pot, carefully and gently braid or weave them together as you desire. You can use a cord or string to tie the trunks together at the top after braiding loosely. Move the string higher as your plant grows, and when you’ve achieved your desired braided trunks, remove the tie.
You may have to prune your money tree throughout the braiding process. Use pruning shears and cut off unwanted or damaged leaves or stems right beyond the nodes while leaving the nodes intact so that new growth can continue. You can choose to have a tailored and shaped money tree or let the leaves grow and spread as they will—the choice is yours.
Common Issues with Money Trees
While money trees do not face as many diseases and illnesses as other common household plants, there are still a few common issues you’ll want to be aware of.
Overwatering is the most likely culprit if your money tree begins to drop its leaves. However, like other plants that prefer specific temperatures and do well in indirect sunlight or low light, there are other potential suspects. These can include cold drafts in your home, pests, or even stress from being repotted. Improper lighting and unhealthy potting soil can also cause leaf drop.
If you’ve noticed that your money tree is suddenly dropping its leaves, try to adjust its environment slowly. Allow the plant to settle into its new environment for a few days if you’ve recently repotted it, and adjust your temperature and humidity as needed. You can also experiment with watering and sunlight exposure until your plant shows stability in its regrowth.
Root rot is a major fungal infection common among plants that require moist soil. The key to avoiding root rot is ensuring the soil gets enough moisture without remaining wet.
Most pots with drainage holes have a small attached or unattached tray underneath so water can flow out. If your pot has one of these but isn’t large enough to catch the excess water, place your money tree in the sink or on a tray of pebbles after watering. You can also get a pot with a larger drainage tray.
Money trees attract insects that love to sup on their sap, including spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, and fungus gnats. These pests can cause yellow leaves and eventual leaf drop. If you have issues with these pests, try applying neem oil to the soil to repel them. You can also spray the trunk and leaves of your money tree with neem oil to suffocate aphids on the leaves.
If pest problems get out of control, you should call a pest control professional to handle the issue on your behalf.
Money trees are excellent options for adding cheerful greenery to your home, especially if you’re a houseplant newbie. Like succulents, these little trees don’t require much attention and aren’t picky indoor plants. If you wish, you can propagate these lucky charms so that you have a whole garden of them in your home. Just keep an eye on how much you water your money plant and whether it has any pests, and the rest should be smooth cultivating.
Money Tree Care FAQ
Where should I place a money tree in my house?
You should put your money tree in an area with bright but indirect sunlight. The plants also do well in fluorescent light, so you can keep them in a bathroom or an office without any issue. You should avoid placing them near vents where they could sit under drafts.
How do you maintain a money tree?
To maintain your money tree, you should prune it by trimming away wilted, yellow, or otherwise unhealthy leaves. You should also check for pest activity regularly, especially during the growing season (spring and summer). Keep your money plant well drained and the soil moist. You can give it plant food about twice a year to encourage strong growth.
How do I know if my money tree needs water?
If your money tree needs water, you will notice dried-out, curling, and perhaps yellowing leaves. The soil will be abnormally dry and feel especially dry and crumbly to the touch. You should water your money tree if you see abnormal leaves and haven’t seen any new growth in a while.