The money tree with its braided trunk is usually an appealing sight, but the health of your money tree has gotten so bad that it’s starting to die. In this article I’m going to share with you the most common reasons money trees die as well as how to save your money tree from each of these common issues.
Why is my money tree dying? Your money tree is dying because you’re watering it too much or too little. Bright sunlight, temperature extremes, low humidity, disease, and pests can also kill a money tree.
If you discover that something is wrong with your money tree early enough, you might be able to bring it back from the brink of death. This guide will tell you everything you need to know, so keep reading!
Table of Contents
- How to Save a Dying Money Tree
- The Problem: Overwatering
- What to Do About It: Water When At Least Half the Soil Is Dry
- The Problem: Underwatering
- What to Do About It: Water More Frequently But Still Only After the Soil Dries Out
- The Problem: Too Much Sunlight
- What to Do About It: Provide Bright, Indirect Light
- The Problem: Temperature Fluctuations
- What to Do About It: Keep Temperatures Comfortable and Consistent
- The Problem: Low Humidity
- What to Do About It: Increase Humidity Over 50 Percent
- The Problem: Pests
- What to Do About It: Identify and Remove Pests
- The Problem: Disease
- What to Do About It: Quarantine and Treat Your Plant If Possible
How to Save a Dying Money Tree
If you follow feng shui the money tree, when placed in certain areas of your home, is supposed to bring you great prosperity. The trunk of the trees are often manually braided and it’s believed that good luck is trapped inside the braids of the money tree’s trunk.
When the luck of your money tree turns bad and it starts to die, finding a quick solution to the specific issue is key. Per the intro, let’s look at the chief causes of money tree death and present solutions to each one so you can save your money tree.
The Problem: Overwatering
If I had to wager a guess, I would say that the issue with your money tree is that it’s being overwatered.
Watering a plant too frequently is an easy mistake for any indoor gardener to make, especially when you’re still new to things.
The money tree has rather unique watering requirements that only complicate matters.
What do I mean by that? You’re supposed to water this twisting tree very deeply, allowing the water to exit the drainage holes.
Since you inundate it with so much water at once, indoor gardeners can assume that the money tree always needs that much water or that it should be watered very often.
This is a recipe for disaster. An overwatered indoor plant begins to die from the roots up. The once healthy roots suffocate due to all the standing water.
The roots will become mushy, and the stench of death will be apparent.
The stems of your money tree will become soft as well. The leaves can develop oedema as water swells up the tissue. Eventually, the leaves can even burst.
If not, then the leaves will shrivel up and can become discolored.
What to Do About It: Water When At Least Half the Soil Is Dry
Once your money tree has root rot, death can be rather swift.
I can’t promise that you can save your indoor plant. If most of its root system has perished, then the plant’s fate is inevitable. You’ll have no choice but to say goodbye to this money tree.
Should the money tree still be worth saving, here’s what you can do.
You and another person and perhaps even a third person should dislodge the money tree from its pot. One person will hold the twisted trunk of the tree while the other grabs the base of the pot.
Now it’s time to assess your plant. Healthy plant roots look white and feel firm. The more of these healthy roots you see, the better.
Using clean gardening shears or pruning scissors, trim as many brown or black roots as you can. Only cut up to the white parts of the root.
Disinfect the shears between cuts using bleach or 70 percent rubbing alcohol. A soak lasting a few minutes should suffice.
After pruning the dead roots, cut away any foliar damage as well. The dead leaves and stems are not growing back.
Fill a fresh pot with soil and put the money tree in its new home. Moisten the soil.
In the future, only water the money tree when at least half of its soil is dry.
Some indoor gardeners wait until 75 percent of the soil has dried, and I’d recommend that for you as well given your overwatering habits.
The Problem: Underwatering
Some indoor gardeners assume that because overwatering causes root rot that underwatering is not nearly as deleterious.
It’s true that underwatering doesn’t lead to the spread of disease. That doesn’t mean your money tree can’t die though.
It very much can, due to dehydration.
Water is a critical part of the plant puzzle that is photosynthesis. Without enough water, your money tree can’t produce the energy that it uses to sustain current growth and add on new growth.
Your plant will tell you early on when it’s thirsty, but it’s up to you to pay attention and respond accordingly.
Some of the signs to watch out for are as follows:
- Growth slows or stops altogether
- The leaves become wrinkly
- The leaves turn yellow or brown, with the latter especially apparent around the leaf tips
- The leaves can fall right off the plant
- The soil feels bone-dry
These problems might seem minor at first, but without remediation, I must stress that plant death could follow.
What to Do About It: Water More Frequently But Still Only After the Soil Dries Out
You need to water the money tree more often than you have been.
You can’t make up for lost time though, so don’t feel like you should water the plant every day.
Use the fingertip test–where you insert your clean fingers into the soil–to gauge how much moisture is in the pot.
If you can feel inches into the soil and it’s quite dry, then it’s time to replenish the money tree’s water supply.
Remember, when the time comes to water, do so generously. Pour in water until it comes out of the drainage holes. Be sure to use a tray under your money tree’s pot to prevent messes.
The Problem: Too Much Sunlight
The money tree hails from South and Central America, which has led some indoor gardeners to hastily assume the plant needs as much sunlight as possible.
This is erroneous. After all, the money tree is indeed from those areas, but it grows in swampy regions.
Thus, direct sunlight is going to be too harsh on this plant.
An indoor money tree may only reach heights of six to eight feet compared to the 60 feet that a Pachira aquatica can grow outdoors. You need to shield your plant from very bright conditions.
If you don’t, then the money tree will begin to suffer and possibly even die.
You’ll notice symptoms like white spots throughout the foliage. These areas look like someone spilled a bottle of bleach on your precious plant.
The white spots can become yellow and later brown. The texture of these spots is thin and papery as well as very dry.
The money tree is actively being sunburnt. These dead spots will never become healthy again, sadly.
Without stepping in, the entire plant can fry.
What to Do About It: Provide Bright, Indirect Light
If your money tree has already spent a few too many days in direct sunlight, the best thing you can do for your plant at this point is prune it.
Grab your trusty gardening shears and clip the leaves either entirely or partially depending on the extent of the damage.
As I mentioned before, these dead parts won’t grow back. Your money tree is needlessly wasting energy maintaining the dead leaves. That energy should go towards recovery.
You’ll have to provide a shady, cool spot for the money tree for the next several days as it hopefully bounces back from the very hot conditions it was exposed to.
In the future, the right type of sunlight for the money tree is bright, indirect light. I’d recommend affixing a curtain to a window.
A northerly or easterly-facing window will never receive direct sun, so those options are perfect for the money tree.
Periods of shade are a-okay for this plant too but will cause slow growth, so try to keep those shady periods to a minimum.
The Problem: Temperature Fluctuations
The money tree has rather simple temperature requirements. Keep your home or office between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and this plant will be happy.
Sometimes though, that’s easier said than done.
Perhaps your heater goes out at home and the temperatures plummet. Your money tree could be left in a hot office every night because your building turns off the AC once everyone goes home.
Putting your money tree too close to a radiator, a return vent, a drafty window or door, or even your refrigerator can create air drafts that the plant shouldn’t be exposed to.
The money tree is relatively heat-tolerant, but only to a degree.
When temperatures rise too far beyond 80 degrees, the same types of symptoms can manifest as what you’d see if your plant was burning in direct sun.
You already know that this can be deadly for the money tree.
Given its native environment, the money tree is far less cold-tolerant than it is heat-tolerant.
In temperatures too far below 65 degrees, the tree can shed most of its leaves at once. This is a sure sign of duress.
What few paltry leaves are holding on could freeze if the temperatures are low enough. The water within the cell walls can freeze and then rupture.
In cold enough temperatures, the entire plant can die.
What to Do About It: Keep Temperatures Comfortable and Consistent
As you’ll recall, the optimal temperature range for a money tree is between 65 and 80 degrees. That’s a comfortable room temperature range that shouldn’t require too much tinkering with the thermostat.
What if it’s too late for that and your plant has already exhibited severe signs of cold stress?
You want to bring the money tree into a warmer spot immediately so it can thaw out, so to speak.
Don’t provide brighter light than necessary but do crank up the temperatures a bit.
Give the money tree several hours to warm up. Then you can remove the dead leaves and stems.
The Problem: Low Humidity
If you’ve read this blog, then you know that humidity is in every room we’re in. You’ll recall that the average rate of humidity in a home or building is between 30 and 50 percent.
For some indoor plants, that suffices. For many more though, it’s not enough humidity.
The money tree is in the latter camp.
Humidity is moisture, and without enough moisture, the money tree begins to dry out.
You should now be aware of how detrimental this can be. If not, then reread the section about underwatering symptoms in the money tree.
It would take very dry conditions for the money plant to outright die of low humidity, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen!
What to Do About It: Increase Humidity Over 50 Percent
So what level of humidity does the money tree require?
It needs humidity over 50 percent.
Normally, I’d suggest moving an indoor plant to your bathroom. However, the rules of feng shui dictate that it’s in poor taste to grow a money tree in the bathroom, as it won’t deliver good fortune.
In that case, you’re best with a humidifier to create more moisture.
The Problem: Pests
Now here’s a very serious plant killer: pest infestations.
The list of pests that are attracted to the money tree is thankfully short. It’s only mealybugs and aphids you have to worry about.
Let’s talk more about both insects so you know what to look out for.
The unarmored mealybugs are part of nearly 300 pest species. Most of them will suck up plant juices and spread diseases, so the last thing you want is a mealybug problem. Your money tree could end up dead.
Mealybugs aren’t known for flying, but they can. So too can aphids, which are part of roughly 4,000 species and counting.
Aphids also love to suck up the juices of indoor plants until the poor plant is dry.
What to Do About It: Identify and Remove Pests
Both aphids and mealybugs are incredibly tiny, so identifying single insects can prove challenging.
The mealybug is between 1/20th and 1/5th of an inch. You can confirm that mealybugs have invaded the money tree if you see a segmented bug with a long body, rear waxy filaments, and a cotton-like covering.
Aphids are between 1/16th and 1/8th of an inch. They have soft bodies that are often pear-shaped and come in colors from gray to brown, yellow, red, black, and green.
To remove aphids, you can mix water and dish soap in a spray bottle. Neem oil is effective against these critters, as are essential oils.
If you don’t mind manually flicking the insects right off the money tree, that’s an option too. Ladybugs will consume aphids, so you can add a few red insects to the fray.
A potent mixture of water, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol should take care of most mealybugs you see on the money tree.
The Problem: Disease
The last potential cause of money tree death is disease.
As the money tree doesn’t attract too many pests, it doesn’t succumb to a lot of diseases either. Root rot is one, which I talked about earlier.
The other three diseases are oedema, powdery mildew, and anthracnose leaf spot.
Oedema is caused by high levels of moisture and a lack of sunlight. The money tree could suffer from symptoms like wilting, drooping, foliage color changes, and leaf shedding.
The trademark of oedema is the appearance of corky areas across the money tree’s leaves.
The second disease that can afflict the money tree is powdery mildew.
This fungal disease leads to the development of white, fuzzy spots across the money tree’s foliage. The plant will also wilt and the leaves could curl.
Finally, anthracnose leaf spot is not one but several fungal diseases that the money tree is especially likely to develop.
The leaf spots will start small and grow in size, eventually leading to foliar death.
What to Do About It: Quarantine and Treat Your Plant If Possible
If you suspect your money tree has anthracnose leaf spot, oedema, or powdery mildew, separate it from the rest of the plants in your indoor garden.
You can’t always treat plant diseases, but in some of these cases, it’s possible.
For instance, you can treat oedema if you improve money tree care. Avoid waterlogged soil and provide adequate lighting for the plant.
Controlling your watering habits will also prevent powdery mildew. You’ll have no choice but to prune the affected leaves in the meantime (and disinfect the cutting tools using bleach or rubbing alcohol).
To treat anthracnose leaf spot, prune dead foliage and apply a fungicidal spray.