Sean has been in the industry of gardening and landscaping since 2006. He is also a certified arborist that specializes in plant health.
What Is a Money Tree?
The Pachira aquatica, commonly referred to as the money tree or money plant, is a tropical wetland tree that is native to Central and South America. Money trees can grow up to 60 feet tall in their native habitat, but the houseplant varieties are generally much smaller. The leaves are shiny, green, and palmate, with five leaflets at the end of each stem. They also have braided trunks and other interesting aesthetic elements.
Growing and maintaining a money tree is easy if you follow a few simple guidelines. In this article, we will discuss four key elements:
Money trees prefer well-drained soil. Large containers aren't exactly ideal due to the large amount of water retention; soggy soil is a common and major problem. It can cause root rot, a severe condition that will cause the leaves to yellow, fall off, and ultimately, kill the tree.
Soil that drains well is essential. Clay-like soil will hold too much moisture and promote root rot, and very sandy soil will drain too quickly, not allowing the roots time to absorb water and nutrients. Mixing loamy soil with sand or perlite will facilitate drainage and discourage root rot. The soil should be kept moist but not wet and soggy.
2. Light Requirements
Money trees prefer a mild level of indirect sunlight or artificial light. Direct sunlight for extended periods of time may cause the edges of the leaves to burn. Low light levels may also cause discoloration in the leaves. The tree should be rotated every few days to allow equal lighting to all the leaves.
Fluorescent lighting can be used, but low intensity may be an issue. Grow lamps that require metal halide or high-pressure sodium bulbs are preferred when growing plants indoors and away from windows.
How and When to Water
Money trees prefer being watered thoroughly, but only a few times a month. Allowing the soil to dry out between watering is key. Do not over-water. Thorough watering will saturate the root zone, while excess water drains from the container. This method of watering promotes a healthy root system that won't be shallow and weak.
Avoid the leaves, stems, and trunks when watering. Wet stems and trunks can promote rotting and disease.
How to Test Soil Moisture Level Properly
Testing moisture levels should be determined by weight, not by sticking a finger into the soil. Sticking a finger into the soil does not determine if the root zone is moist or not. Picking up the container and judging by weight is actually much more telling, but it takes time to learn. Get a feel for the weight before and after watering. Testing by weight will become second nature after a few times. Remember to only let the soil remain slightly moist between watering.
What Type of Water Should You Use?
These trees may not respond well to tap water, especially from municipal sources. Municipal tap water is typically treated with chlorine and other chemicals to make the water safe for human consumption. These chemicals and other minerals can be harmful to plants. Use distilled water or reverse osmosis filtered water to water money trees. Well-water is usually safe to water with, but it can also contain concentrated minerals (from the earth) that can cause harm.
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Humidity and Temperature
Money trees need moderate to high humidity due to their native wetland habitat. Keeping the relative humidity at 50% or higher is sufficient. Set the potting container on a tray of wet pebbles to increase the humidity if you live in an arid environment.
These trees also need a warm environment but not a hot environment. The average room temperature should be between 60-75 °F (16-24 °C). Most indoor temperatures fall between the preferred range year around, so temperature is not usually a problem.
Moving a tree to the outdoors—for example, on a porch or patio—will require some time for it to adapt. Start by moving the tree to warmer areas indoors and eventually to the outdoors over a period of several days. This prevents it from going into a state of shock.
Fertilize every two weeks during spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half of the recommended amount on the package. Using half the concentration will reduce the risk of using an excessive amount of fertilizer that can burn the leaves and cause other problems. A few fertilizer granules sprinkled on top the soil will fertilize more gradually compared to liquid fertilizer solutions.
The fall and winter months may cause some die-back to occur, and the tree's leaves will yellow and fall off. This is completely normal; the plant just recognizes that sunlight and temperature conditions aren't ideal for growth, and it is simply going through a yearly phase. Watering and fertilizing needs to be reduced during dormancy.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can a new money tree plant be grown from a stem?
Answer: Yes, some plants can be propagated using cuttings. Apply rooting hormone to the cut end, place in a media that drains well, keep moist, and wait for roots to develop.
Question: My money tree is too tall and bending over. Can I cut the top off?
Answer: No. Cutting the top off causes significant stress. Insert a stake or something rigid next to the plant and tie both firmly together. Move the money tree to a sunnier location or supplement with more lighting if the tree is bending or “reaching” towards the source of light.
Lee on February 22, 2020:
I’ve had my money tree for almost 1 year but moved it during the holidays to replace it with Christmas tree into a darker warmer room and now it’s losing loads leafs with only 2 green Stems and the braided part at bottom is soft so I assume I watered too much. How can I revive it?
Hunter on March 26, 2019:
How tall dose a money tree get
Rachel on March 20, 2019:
I’ve had my money tree for a little less than a year. She has grown at least a foot, but recently she looks a tad wilty (particularly her new baby leaves sprouting). Any ideas if her spot hasn’t changed and I’m watering less with the winter?
Tricia on September 01, 2018:
I have had my money tree for over 10 years! It is now 8 ft tall and has to be staked because the trunk is so small!
Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on April 01, 2017:
Hi Sean, Such an interesting article. A lady who was renting a cottage from me some time ago, had a money tree in a container. She called it a money plant. It was thriving, when her husband was offered a job with double his present salary. I suppose it was just a coincidence, but I was impressed.
Dawn from Maryland, USA on November 09, 2014:
I have two money trees and I love them. I'm not so good with plants so I'm glad to read this.
Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on November 17, 2013:
Amy - It all depends on preference. A large one will give a room or area an instant boost in appearance...but will cost quite a bit more while requiring more space and care compared to a younger tree. A younger tree will cost less and be quite a bit easier to care for.
Maybe buy a small one and see if it will thrive within a certain area first. If it does, then you could go ahead and purchase a large one.
Amy on November 14, 2013:
I'm looking to pick up a money tree, is a larger more mature tree a better investment or a newer younger tree?
Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on June 28, 2013:
Thelma - It may go through a little shock after transplanting depending on how mature it is. The younger the money tree, the better it can cope with being transplanted. Moving it out of direct sun should definitely cut back on scorched edges.
freeradicalsteve - Glad I could help! Best of luck with your tree!
pstraubie48 - How large is the tree? Usually the containers that come with it are a bit too small. I immediately transplanted mine into a terra cotta pot after purchase.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on June 28, 2013:
I am so glad that I came across this. I have a money tree that I have had since December and it seems to be happy. I do wonder though how long I should leave it in the container it came in when I purchased it.
Thanks for sharing.
Angels are on the way to you this morning...ps
Steve Dines from Gravenhurst, ON. on May 20, 2013:
Our money tree has brown tips on the leaves, now I know why. Will be moving away from the window. Many thanks. Good hub.
Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 10, 2013:
I think I have to replant my money tree because it is on direct sunlight. I hope it will not die when I transfer it to another place. Thanks for sharing this informative hub. Have a lovely weekend!
Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on August 17, 2012:
Melis Ann - Thanks! Changing to a purified/distilled is definitely worth a shot. I have well water along with a faucet that draws from a filter, so I have yet to run into water-related problems with my money tree. Let me know if changing the water works out!
Melis Ann from Mom On A Health Hunt on August 16, 2012:
Never thought it could be the tap water that is making my money tree unhealthy, but it makes a lot of sense. Useful hub.
Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on June 07, 2012:
chrissieklinger- I would suggest buying one if the nursery carries money trees. I had to order mine online since I couldn't find any nurseries that carried any around my area.
chrissieklinger from Pennsylvania on June 06, 2012:
I have lots of plants in my house but have never seen this particular one. I will have to look into whether our local nursery sells them.
lj gonya on June 06, 2012:
Mine was over two feet tall when I got it, so it had a head start. My kids accuse me of being a houseplant killer, so I'm hoping that I can keep this going!
Sean Hemmer (author) from Wisconsin, USA on June 05, 2012:
lj gonya - Thanks! I can't wait until my money tree reaches a few feet tall. My tree is 2 years old and still pretty small. It has grown quite a few more leaves compared to last year though.
lj gonya on June 05, 2012:
Good hub. I have a money tree that I got as a gift three or four years ago and haven't transplanted it because it seems to be doing fairly well. You are so right. It doesn't need a lot of water, and I do keep it in indirect light. It is about four feet tall now.