The money tree, or Guiana Chestnut, is a popular indoor tree that is supposed to bring good luck. This guide on how to take care of a money tree plant will make sure that yours grows tall and healthy and keeps you from having the most common problems with money trees.
This initial list of care points and the following detailed explanation of each will help ensure your money tree plant thrives.
Caring for a money tree:
- Water when 2 to 4 inches of soil are dry
- Provide bright, indirect light
- Use well-draining soil
- Choose glazed ceramic or clay pot
- Set temps to 60-75°F and 50% humidity
- Feed an all-purpose diluted fertilizer
In this ultimate guide to money tree plant care, I’ll elaborate on each of the care points above, providing actionable tips and sharing pertinent details. If you’ve ever killed a money tree before, those days should soon be behind you!
Money Tree Plant Care
Before I get into that, I’d like to start with an introduction to the money tree or the Pachira aquatica.
Grown natively in South and Central America, the money tree is a swamp-dwelling plant species. Although many indoor gardeners refer to it exclusively as the money tree, other nicknames include the Guiana chestnut, French peanut, and Malabar chestnut.
Why the chestnut and peanut-centric nicknames? Within four or five years, once the money tree reaches maturity, it will produce fruit when the warm days of spring arrive. That fruit is neither a peanut nor a chestnut though.
Instead, it’s a green, oval-shaped pod with five interior chambers and seeds in each one. The seeds will eventually grow and then burst through the pod.
You can roast the fruit that comes from a money tree, and the flavor is chestnut-like. But these nuts themselves are not chestnuts, just to make that clear.
Much more so than their fruits, money trees are beloved for their winding, twisted stems. The braided texture of the stems is said to be what provides luck.
Although money trees can grow positively massive outdoors, inside, they’re far more manageable. The average height is six to eight feet, which is much shorter than the 60-foot outdoor height!
If you’re reading this article on Money Tree care because you’re caring for one that’s potentially dying and you need to save or revive it I recommend reading my related article first. Money Tree Dying? This is How to Save It!
Caring for a Money Tree
Whether you want to invite better luck into your life or you just like the look of the plant, you’d love to grow a money tree. This section will tell you everything you need to know!
Watering a Money Tree
Although still small indoors, a money tree outsizes many plants in your indoor garden. Thus, you need to wait for its soil to get drier than usual before watering, at least two to four inches. That’s between 50 to 75 percent of the soil.
The fingertip test is, as always, your best gauge to determine when it’s time to water the money tree.
Since you’re watering the plant so infrequently, when the time comes for you to do it, you want to water it deeply and thoroughly.
The best rule of thumb is to keep pouring in water until it comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of its pot or container. Then remove the saucer from under your money tree’s pot and dump it of excess water.
The money tree, despite its preferences for deep watering, does not like standing water. Standing or pooling water in the bottom of your money tree container is a common reason money trees die. That’s why a gauge like the fingertip test is so important.
Don’t let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction either, where you’re not watering your plant frequently enough.
How to Know if Your Money Tree Needs Water
An underwatered money tree plant will have crinkled, curled, and yellowed leaves.
Money Tree Light Requirements
The sturdy money tree can handle more light than most plants, but it still prefers bright, indirect light as much as possible.
If you’re a frequent grower of trees in your indoor garden, then perhaps the best method for cultivating ideal light for your money tree is to make sure the money tree’s sunlight is filtered through the natural gaps of the other trees you’ve placed around it.
Quite often I do my best to recreate the natural habitat of the plant or tree I’m growing. In the case of the money tree plant recreating the canopy of the swamps in South or Central America.
At the very least, you need to outfit your window with a curtain so your money tree doesn’t receive direct light.
Direct sun exposure will cause its leaves to dry out and then burn. You can usually remedy the issue by moving your plant to a dimmer area and not repeating that degree of sun exposure.
As you select a spot for your money tree, allow me to give you some pointers. A northerly-facing window provides consistent but not direct light. This could be perfect for your plant.
Southerly-facing windows get direct sun, so never put your money tree in front of one of those. I’d also refrain from a westerly-facing window. Those receive the most sunlight in the afternoon when the sun is strongest.
An easterly-facing window can be okay. These windows get direct sun only in the morning when the light is not as harsh. Then, later in the day, the light becomes indirect.
You can try an easterly-facing window for your money tree, but monitor its sun intake in the morning. If you notice dehydrated leaves that are crispy, curled, or discolored, then move the plant to a northerly-facing window instead.
Best Soil for a Money Tree
The money tree is well-suited for standard potting soil, but the soil must have excellent drainage.
It’s not a bad idea to augment the drainage and aeration of the soil with a few soil amendments. Let’s discuss your options.
Peat moss is one soil amendment for the money tree. Referred to as sphagnum moss, peat moss is highly absorbent, which is what you need. It can also retain nutrients so you might be able to go longer between fertilizing periods (which is something I’ll talk about later).
Unlike many types of soil amendments, peat moss does not last forever. It can expire after six months to two years. If you do use it, then for every one part potting soil, add one part sphagnum.
Sand is also recommended for the money tree. It too is very absorbent, and the small particles disperse in the soil to increase its aeration.
If you decide to add sand to your money tree plant’s soil, add just a sprinkling, please. Anything more than that can cause the sand to compact, and it will dry out the soil so you’re forced to water your money tree more frequently.
I always recommend that the pH of your soil amendments be compatible with the pH of your houseplant. In the case of the money tree, its pH range is 6.0 to 7.5, which is neutral.
Peat moss can be neutral or acidic depending on which variety you buy. For example, Canadian sphagnum moss has a pH range of 3.0 to 4.5, which is too acidic for the money tree.
Best Type of Pot for a Money Tree
As a houseplant that detests standing water yet shouldn’t be left to dry out, a semi-porous pot is the ideal solution for your money tree.
You have two options here, and both involve clay and ceramic. You can either buy an untreated clay or ceramic pot with a plastic liner or you can search for a glazed ceramic or clay pot.
Allow me to explain the benefits of each. Plastic is nonporous. That means it won’t absorb liquids such as water in your money tree’s pot.
If its entire pot was made of plastic, that could be a problem. Since untreated clay and ceramic are very much porous, the inclusion of a plastic liner allows the plant to retain some moisture, but not to an excessive degree.
Glazing ceramic or clay increases their nonporousness somewhat. You won’t have to worry about the thirsty pot materials sucking up too much moisture, putting you in an overwatering scenario with your money tree.
I always caution indoor gardeners to select a pot that already has drainage holes. It’s much easier to block the holes if necessary rather than have to put holes in the bottom of the pot yourself.
There are plenty of plants that thrive in pots that don’t have drainage holes but the money tree is not one of them.
And yes, these materials are very fragile. Since a large plant like the money tree will require an equally large pot, please handle it with care.
Money Tree’s Ideal Temperature and Humidity
The money tree doesn’t need much in the way of thermostat adjustments. Like many people, the plant prefers an average room temperature of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unlike most people, the money tree doesn’t care much if the temps keep climbing from 75. You must remember, this is a plant from the South and Central Americas where the temperatures are usually quite toasty.
At 80 degrees, the money tree is fine. At 85 degrees, this tree is also okl. Once you get past 85 or 90 degrees, the plant is reaching the danger zone but it unaffected.
It’s when the temperature reaches 100 degrees that it’s too hot for the money tree or Pachira aquatica.
That’s not something you should have to worry about, as your home would be a sauna at that temperature, but if you ever find your money tree suffering from heat stress, bring it into a cool environment immediately.
Replenish with water and your plant should be okay in a matter of hours to a day, perhaps longer if the stress was severe.
Since it isn’t frost-hardy in the slightest, cold temperatures will lead to cold shock. It won’t take long before the plant cell walls could freeze, or tissue death could occur.
What about the humidity requirements of the money tree? These too don’t demand extra effort out of you, as a relative humidity of 50 percent is preferable.
Most homes and offices have an average relative humidity between 30 and 50 percent anyway.
Best Fertilizer for a Money Tree
All-purpose plant fertilizer is a great source of food for a hungry money tree.
I’d recommend comparing labels to ensure the plant’s fertilizer has an equal balance of macronutrients.
Macronutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients support a healthy plant in many ways, such as strengthening cell walls, providing energy, and encouraging photosynthesis.
The macronutrient balance will be listed numerically, such as 10-10-10. If all three numbers are the same, you’ve found a great fertilizer for your money tree.
How to Fertilize a Money Tree
When the money tree’s active growing season begins in the spring, apply fertilizer once per month. Moisten the soil until it’s damp before fertilizing. Dilute the fertilizer to at least half-strength, but I’d suggest following the dilution instructions on the label.
Continue the fertilizing schedule throughout the summer and into the autumn. You can stop fertilizing the money tree in the winter, as it goes dormant then.
Common Issues with the Money Tree
Are you mystified by your money tree? Is it just not growing right and you don’t know why? Allow me to help in this section!
Unfortunately, a whole host of pests will make their home on your beautiful money tree leaves, sucking away sap from the plant until it’s a shell of its former self. Here’s an overview.
Known as the blackfly or greenfly, aphids include 5,000 species, and about 400 species will eat crops. Aphids leave honeydew deposits.
These insects encourage the growth of mold on your plants and are disease vectors to boot!
Hand-flicking aphids will work, as will using essential oils or neem oil.
Teeny-tiny but oh so detrimental, scale insects include 8,000 different species. They usually produce wax as a defense mechanism.
To kill these microscopic bugs, take a cotton swab, dip it in rubbing alcohol, and apply directly to the scale infestation on your money tree.
Thirstily lapping up greenhouse plant juices, mealybugs are a natural enemy of the money tree. They spread diseases, so an infestation must be dealt with post-haste.
Cotton swabs with rubbing alcohol work on mealybugs as well, and you can also mix dish soap with rubbing alcohol for an even more potent combination.
Tiny, white, and winged, the whitefly manifests most frequently on the underside of a houseplant’s leaves. Their numbers include over 1,500 species, so they’re a serious problem for many indoor gardeners.
With a water and dish soap mixture poured into a spray bottle, whiteflies shouldn’t stand a chance.
The arachnid known as the mite is under a millimeter in size. That makes them hard to spot until they infest a houseplant like the money tree. Their size also makes them easy to kill, as rubbing alcohol will once again do the trick.
Besides pests, keep an eye out for plant diseases in your money tree. A weak plant is one that often becomes the target of insect infestations, after all!
The plant disease root rot is caused by overwatering.
The roots are starved of oxygen and oversaturated in water, which causes them to die. Later, the plant will begin looking wilted and discolored.
By removing dead roots and reducing watering frequency, an affected plant might survive. Root rot can be deadly.
When moisture builds up in a money tree’s pot and the plant lacks sunlight, oedema can occur. Blister-like spots will appear across the money tree’s leaves, and those leaves will also turn brown and saggy.
Moving the plant to a newer, drier environment and modifying watering habits might treat oedema.
The fungus mildew appears on money trees that are too damp. You might spot mildew on the soil, several inches deep into the soil, or on the plant’s leaves.
By wiping away surface-level mildew and reducing standing water in the money tree’s pot, the fungus might not return. If powdery mildew becomes too advanced, you must dump the plant’s soil.
Anthracnose Leaf Spot
Another fungal disease, anthracnose leaf spot will have brownish or blackish spots across the foliage. The affected leaves usually die.
The best treatment is a fungicidal spray. In the future, maintain good watering habits to prevent future recurrences of leaf spot.
- Leaves falling off: By the time a plant’s leaves fall off, those leaves have usually become discolored. I’d recommend checking the temperatures in your home or office. Even if your thermostat is set correctly, drafts such as from a radiator, an air conditioner, or an old door can cause temperature fluctuations that the money tree can’t handle.
- Leaves turning yellow: Amend your watering habits, and if not that, then the lighting you’re providing for the money tree when its leaves are yellow. If neither of those are the causes, then it could be that you’re overfertilizing this plant. Fertilizer burn from the salts in fertilizer can cause symptoms like withered, browned, or yellowed leaves.
- Curling or drooping leaves: When the leaves of your money tree remain on the plant but are in poor shape, cut back on the watering frequency. Your plant is likely on the verge of root rot if it doesn’t already have it.
Money Tree Common Questions
If you still have some lingering questions or concerns about bringing home a money tree of your own, allow me to dispel them in this FAQs section.
Is the Money Tree Toxic to Pets?
Do you have pets in the house? You usually have to choose your houseplants quite carefully, as many plant species are toxic to cats and dogs alike.
The money tree is not one of them. Although nibbling on its leaves can cause an upset stomach, the plant itself is not poison.
How Long Do Money Trees Live?
Owning any plant is a commitment, and that’s true of the money tree as well. With the care that I outlined in this guide, your money tree could live for as few as 10 years to as many as 15 years. That’s about the lifespan of a pet!
Do Money Trees Purify the Air?
It does indeed! The money tree or Pachira aquatica can lessen chemicals in the air.
Many houseplants have the added benefit of cleaning the air of toxins so you and your loved ones can breathe easier. It’s great to know that the money tree belongs to the air purifying plant club.
Besides the benefit of being lucky, money trees are supposed to help you sleep better and lessen your anxiety and stress according to Feng Shui practitioners. The money tree is a great all-around houseplant!