The money tree is perhaps best known for its unique, braided trunk. This plant grows from three or more branches, which the caregiver often braids together when the plant is young. While the plant can do well with this braided trunk, this also keeps it small. Gently untangling the base of the plant allows it to grow more freely and reach an impressive height.
The tree is native to Central and South America. In its natural climate, it matures to 60 feet with a broad, umbrella-shaped canopy. While it developed in The Americas, the money plant is very popular in Taiwan, where Feng Shui practitioners believe that it attracts luck and prosperity.
The money tree does best in loose, well-drained soil, although it isn’t as particular about soil type as many other houseplants. When planting, use a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent the roots from sitting in saturated soil. Place the pot on a saucer containing pebbles or gravel. This gives the water somewhere to drain, and the moist rocks will help boost humidity around the plant.
The money tree can be quite large. As long as you transplant it when it begins to outgrow its current container, it can max out at as much as six feet. To control its growth, keep it in a pot that is slightly too small. This will not damage the plant but will help slow its growth. When you do move it into a larger pot, do so early in the spring.
The money tree does best when it receives a good bit of indirect sunlight each day. Although it can tolerate some full sun, too much will damage the leaves. Like many plants, the money tree will begin to lean toward the light source. Rotating the pot frequently keeps it from developing a permanent curve.
Water the money tree weekly through the growing season. The top couple inches of soil should be dry before watering again. The plant requires much less water in the winter. If it starts dropping leaves, you may be watering too frequently. Misting helps boost humidity and keeps dust from settling on the leaves. Depending on the size of your plant, you can place it in the shower or use a spray bottle.
Scale, aphids, and spider mites can all attack the money tree. For light infestations of spider mites or aphids, washing the plant with soapy water can remove the insects. Add rubbing alcohol to the mixture to remove scale.
Aphids are most common if your plant spends time outdoors, although they can infest houseplants as well. Scale insects typically find the money plant during the winter and resemble small brown bumps on the leaves. The first sign of spider mites is usually the webs they spin on leaves and stems.
Root rot develops when you overwater. You may notice mold on the surface of the soil, the plant may develop soft stems and lose its leaves. Remove the plant from its pot, dislodge the waterlogged soil, and snip off any damaged roots. Return to a pot with fresh soil.
If your money plant develops leaf spots, add a fertilizer designed to treat potassium deficiencies.
Leaves that turn yellow are often the result of low humidity, too much or not enough nutrition, or frequent moves. Use a water bottle to spray the plant regularly, follow the manufacturer's instructions when fertilizing, and once you find a spot for your money plant, do not continue to reposition it, except to turn it in place to avoid leaning.
During the winter, the money tree stops growing and needs much less water and little fertilizer. Once it resumes growth in the spring, there are a few ways to manage its size. You can pinch back the new growth at the end of each branch to keep it smaller. To encourage growth, remove a few of the large leaves at the bottom of the plant. This encourages growth at the top.
Propagate the money tree by taking cuttings. Each cutting should come from a healthy branch, be around 6 inches long, and have two leaf nodes. Remove any leaves from the bottom portion of your cutting and dip the end in rooting hormone.
Place each cutting in a rooting compound, such as a 50/50 mixture of peat moss and either sand or perlite. Water the cuttings and cover loosely with plastic to keep humidity high. Water as needed to keep the soil moist. Roots should develop in about one month.
The money plant is a popular housewarming gift, due to a long-standing belief that it brings positive energy and luck into homes. One advantage they have over many other houseplants is their ability to grow well under fluorescent lights. This makes them a good fit for office buildings and other areas where it is challenging to provide adequate sunlight.
P. aquatica and P .glabra are the two Pachiras known as money plants. P. glabara has a bulbose base, but it is otherwse challenging to tell the difference between the two. In the wild, P. aquatica blooms with white flowers that have red-tipped centers, while all parts of the flower of the P. glabara are white. Kept inside, neither one will bloom.