You might have received a money tree plant for a wedding gift, baptism, birthday or anniversary. It doesn’t grow money, but the legend is that if you faithfully tend the plant, you will prosper, says Rick Pudwell, director of horticulture at Memphis Botanic Garden.

It’s known for bringing positive energy and good luck. But it takes more than luck to keep it healthy and happy. The botanical name is Pachira aquatica, and it’s a tropical species coming from the swamps in Central and South America, he adds.

“It’s a fairly popular houseplant, but not always easy to find in plant shops and nurseries,” Pudwell adds.

The Missouri Botanical Center specifies that these plants are winter hardy outside in zones 10-12, meaning most of the Southern states such as Florida and Hawaii. USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate planting zones. Pudwell says if you are growing on indoors, the temperature cannot go below 50 degrees.

The name money tree comes from an old fable that tells about a poor man gaining good fortune by discovering this tree and then selling its seeds. Within the Feng Shui teachings, this plant is believed to bring good luck to those who plant it in their home or office.

“I think the common name has a lot of appeal,” Pudwell says. “I would say it is average in care for a tropical house plant.”

Care Tips for a Money Tree Plant

Light

Like most tropical plants that adapt to indoor culture, it is tolerant of medium light conditions, but prefers to be near a window,” he says. “You should place it inside near a brightly lit window, but not in the all-day sun.” Direct sunlight could damage it, so go or indirect light. As an indoor plant, you want to see your Pachira aquatica have new growth and green leaves. Too much of anything is a bad thing: Excess water, low light, constant direct light or low temperatures all can take a toll on it.

Watering

Money tree needs include high humidity, so a daily misting with room temperature water is beneficial. Locating it in a bathroom or kitchen where water is used frequently is a good location as long as it has enough light. An occasional shower with warm water will keep the foliage clean and help reduce the chance of pests getting established, he adds.

How much water? The best rule for watering is to stick your finger in the pot up to your first knuckle, he says. If it feels dry, water thoroughly over the surface of the pot until water drains into the saucer under the pot. If it doesn’t reabsorb the water in an hour or so, drain the saucer. Sitting in water too long can cause root rot. Overwatering it can also have bad effects.

To keep your money plant moist, especially during dry winter months, use a humidifier.

Fertilizing

Fertilize with a water-soluble house plant food, at half the strength recommended on the package label. Apply the liquid fertilizer once per month when watering from March through October, he adds. Do not fertilize during the winter months as the days are short and dark, and this could cause weak, spindly growth. Prune as necessary to shape and remove brown growth. Money tree plant care is just knowing basics about houseplants and understanding its needs.

Repotting

For repotting for an indoor money tree plant, a commercially made soil mix that is peat moss based. Add perlite and about 25% coarse sand to the potting mix for good drainage. If sand is not available, pea gravel that is clean would work equally well. Make sure the new pot has drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. When planting outdoors in a frost-free climate, plant under the shade of large existing trees with good drainage and soil of average fertility where it can be watered as needed, Pudwell suggests.

Living Outdoors

Money tree flower and fruit
Outdoors, in the right tropical climate, the money tree can grow to 60 feet. This specimen, thriving in Sao Paulo, Brazil, shows off its brownish fruit and colorful flower. Credit: Mauro Halpern, CC 2.0

“Of course, they can summer outdoors in partial shade and benefit from their vacation under our summery tropical conditions,” he says. Indirect sunlight with limited full sun is recommended. Also, avoid putting the plant in an area where winds could damage it. The night temperatures cannot fall below 50 degrees. They will also require more water outdoors because the pot will dry out more quickly in the heat.

Common Money Tree Care Problems

Pests

There is the potential to get scale insects, mealybugs, spider mites and aphids.

“If they do, I would suggest a systemic insecticide,” Pudwell says. “That will make the plant toxic to pets and anyone else who should graze upon it.” But he says it is never wise to let children or pets eat anything without supervision.

Sparse Leaves or Too Lanky

Keeping it misted or occasionally in a bathroom can help when the tree has gotten too sparse on top and too tall, says the Cherokee County University of Georgia Cooperative UGA Extension Office and Cherokee County Master Gardeners in Iowa.

How Big Can It Get?

In nature, they can be as tall as 60 feet, but indoors, they usually grow 3 to 6 feet, Pudwell explains. Under home conditions, he has never seen one flower. It’s actually a tree in its native habitat, so he believes it would have to grow to a mature size to produce any type of flower.

How Much Do They Cost?

It all depends on the size of your money tree plant. “I would think the range could be $15 for a small specimen up to several hundred dollars for a large one,” he adds.

“From my perspective, it is a good plant to have,” Pudwell says. “It is a little different in appearance than most house plants. Many times they are grown with a braided trunk. This is not natural. It is done when the plants are very young and the stems are pliable. It is quite decorative.”

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