How to Revive a Dying Money Tree

How to revive a dying money tree

I love money trees, so I can understand your dismay if yours is dying! If you are anything like me, you probably have had some trouble looking after the money tree as it can be a fussy customer.

Fortunately, I have lots of experience from working in a garden nursery, so I have been able to identify problems with money trees and solve them even if they look like they are dying.

In this article, I share with you my step-by-step process to save your dying money tree…

A dying money tree is usually because of root rot due to overwatering or poor drainage which causes the money tree’s leaves to droop, turn yellow, and drop off. Low humidity and excessively dry soil cause the money tree’s leaves to turn brown with a wilting, dying appearance.

Your money tree prefers to grow in the shade and can scorch brown in direct sunlight.

Essentially what we have to understand is that a money tree dies when it is living in conditions that are contrary to the conditions of its natural environment.

To revive a dying money tree (Pachira aquatica), we need to recreate the conditions of high humidity, and consistently moist soil, and shade the money tree from direct sunlight, so it can recover.

Money trees can tolerate the typical range of temperatures of most homes, preferring a temperature range of 53.6°F and 77°F (12°C and 25°C).

If the temperature is too hot, your money tree typically suffers from drought stress with brown leaves that wilt and drop off. If the temperature is too cold, the leaves also drop off.

As you can see, there are many factors that can be responsible for your money tree dying, so keep reading f learn how I pinpoint each problem and how to revive it…

Why is My Money Tree Leaves Drooping, Turning Yellow, and Dying?

  • Symptoms. Yellow leaves with a drooping or wilting appearance that can eventually drop off.
  • Causes. The pot is too small and the roots have exhausted the available nutrients, and not enough light, the soil has been saturated for too long, which prevents root respiration and potentially causes root rot.

This is the most common reason I come across for a money tree dying…

The reason for the leaves turning yellow is usually because the soil is too damp. Money trees can tolerate damp soil for significant periods, but if your potting soil is saturated, this excludes oxygen from the soil, which prevents root respiration and causes the money tree’s leaves to turn yellow and drop off.

We need to know how money trees grow in the wild so we can save them in our homes…

Money trees are native to Mexico and South America, where they grow in forests that can be seasonally flooded and yet also experience periods of dry weather.

Whilst I find money trees are tolerant of periods of damp soil due to their environmental adaptions I find they do require the soil to dry somewhat between bouts of damp soil.

The problem is that if the soil is consistently saturated rather than just moist, then the water excludes oxygen from the soil and prevents root respiration.

If the roots cannot respire then this interferes with the roots ability to draw up nutrients and moisture which causes the leaves to turn yellow with a dying appearance and eventually drop off.

Saturated soil also promotes the conditions for root rot.

However, if your soil is too damp (and your leaves are yellow), then I have a few reasons for why this might be…

  • Watering too often.
  • Pots without drainage holes in the base.
  • The use of saucers or trays underneath pots prevents water from draining.

Aside from water issues, I have also seen money trees with yellowing leaves (that eventually drop off) due to a lack of sunlight.

We have to remember that our money trees are adapted to living under forest canopies where there is either indirect light or some filtered sun, which makes them ideal indoor plants.

However, if the money tree’s leaves are in deep shade, then this can also be the cause of the leaves turning yellow, as they cannot attain enough energy because of low levels of light. They need a ha[[y medium of bright, indirect light to thrive.

It should be noted that in northerly latitudes with short day lengths with much fewer hours of light in the Fall and Winter, the money tree leaves often turn yellow and fall off. However, this is not a sign that anything is necessarily wrong with the environmental conditions in your home; it is just part of the plant’s reaction to shorter days.

This used to happen to me when I lived in New York. My money tree just couldn’t get enough light in Winter, which was exacerbated by the fact I didn’t have a south-facing window, so my apartment was not the sunniest.

However, I can assure you that the leaves should regrow in the Spring when the hours of daylight increase as long as you take care of the money tree in terms of watering appropriately and keeping at between 53.6°F and 77°F (12°C and 25°C) degrees with some humidity. (Mine were able to regrow in Spring in brighter light).

My Tips for Reviving a Money Tree With Yellow Leaves

  • The first thing I do is scale back the watering to mimic the typical water cycle in their native environment. I was taught that the correct method for watering money trees is to give the soil a really good soak so that excess water emerges from the base of the pot and then allow the soil to feel just slightly moist to a finger’s depth. This ensures the money tree has the right balance of moisture to meet the watering requirements of the plant and allow oxygen in the soil to facilitate root respiration so that the leaves stay healthy and green.
  • Ensure that the money tree’s pot has drainage holes in the base. As we discussed, pots without drainage cause excess water to pool around the roots. It is essential that the money tree’s soil can dry out somewhat between bouts of watering to prevent yellow leaves. I always check to ensure that the drainage holes do not become blocked with compacted soil or any obstruction.
  • Ensure you empty saucers and trays that are underneath the pot regularly. Saucers and trays underneath the pot are a good way to prevent water from spilling in the home after bouts of watering. However, it is important to empty the saucer or tray as often as required so that the bottom of your money tree’s pot is not stood in a pool of water as this causes root rot which turns the money tree’s leaves yellow with a dying appearance.
  • Place your money tree in a room with brighter light or move it closer to a window. Money trees tolerate shade, but if the levels of light are too low, the leaves cannot photosynthesize and turn yellow with a drooping appearance. I must caution that you should not move your money tree into any direct sunlight after a period of shade as the contrast is likely to damage the leaves with a scorched brown appearance. With exposure to bright light, the leaves should perk up and start to look more green in the following weeks.

My Best Tip: I didn’t like the fact the leaves turned yellow and dropped off my money tree in Winter my dark apartment, so I bought grow lights to supplement the natural light. I use them for 2 hours each evening from November to February. Ever since I bought the grow lights, my money tree keeps its leaves during Winter and looks great going into Spring.

My Favourite Watering Tip: I always feel the soil with my finger to detect when the first inch is drying out so I know exactly when to water. I prefer this method rather than relying on moisture meters, which I find are not precise enough.

With improved drainage and a watering schedule that mimics the typical soil moisture conditions in their native environment, the money tree’s roots can recover, and the plant can start to revive.

Occasionally, the leaves all fall off after a bout of water stress. However, the money tree can recover even if completely defoliated as long as its growing conditions are favorable.

(Read my article, Money Tree Care: A Beginners Guide to Growing Money Trees).

Why are My Money Tree Leaves Wilting and Turning Brown and Dying?

  • Symptoms. Leaves turn brown and can appear scorched, with a drooping or wilting appearance.
  • Causes. Low humidity, dry soil, high temperature, or too much sunlight.

In my experience, money tree leaves turn brown because of too much direct sunlight on the leaves or low humidity.

We need to remember that money trees are adapted to growing in the shade under a forest canopy with high humidity. If the money tree is in direct sunlight or the humidity is too low indoors, then the leaves scorch brown and have a dying appearance.

Whilst your Money tree leaves are sensitive to the sun and can grow in the shade, they prefer some bright, indirect light and scorch brown in full sun, so the key is to find the right balance of light in your home.

As the money tree grows in tropical regions of Central and South America, it is accustomed to higher levels of humidity. The humidity in our homes is usually around 10%, which is much lower than the typical humidity of the money tree’s natural environment.

I had this problem with my own money tree as my indoor heating in winter and the air conditioner in summer would both sap moisture from the leaves.

The lower indoor humidity saps moisture from the money tree’s leaves faster then the roots can draw up water which stresses the plant and causes the leaves to turn brown and dried out.

We must remember that money trees are also adapted to a flood and drought cycle of watering in their native environment where the roots can be completely submerged for a time by heavy rains or seasonal river flooding, yet they can also cope with drought.

The money tree’s ability to cope with a range of conditions, from drought to flooding, makes it a great houseplant, as it can recover if you forget to water it occasionally.

However, the money tree is still susceptible to drought if:

  1. The money tree is not watered often enough, and the soil dries out completely between bouts of watering.
  2. It is watered too lightly so that the top of the soil is moist and the water does not infiltrate the soil sufficiently to reach the roots.
  3. The pot is too small and dries out too quickly. A smaller pot means less soil and, therefore, less capacity to retain moisture around the roots of the money tree.

I see all these 3 problems all the time when people tell me their leaves are turning brown.

How I Revive Money Trees with Leaves Turning Brown

  • You need to move the money tree to an area of bright, indirect light. If the money tree’s leaves have been in direct sunlight, this is the cause of your brown leaves. The optimal balance of light for a money tree is bright indirect light which ensures there is enough light to keep the plant healthy yet not too much sun that the leaves turn brown. The shade also helps to reduce water loss from the leaves as the plant is likely dehydrated from too much sun.
  • I always snip off any brown, scorched, dried-out leaves if they have been burnt in the sun. The individual scorched leaves do not revive, so it is important to prune them back with a sharp pair of pruners, as this helps stimulate the growth of new green leaves.
  • Always water your money tree with a generous soak rather than a light watering. Give your money tree a generous soak to ensure the water has infiltrated the soil to reach the roots. Drought stress and brown leaves can occur if you’re watering too lightly, as this only moistens the top inch or so of the soil and does not reach the reach where it is required.
  • Water with a generous soak and then wait until the soil is only slightly moist to a finger’s depth. As I stated, this cycle of water mimics the typical fluctuations of soil moisture to which the money tree is accustomed in its native environment and provides the optimal balance of moisture to revive your money tree.
  • Check to see if the roots are pot-bound; if so, re-pot your money tree to a pot the next size up. This is a common problem I see. If the roots are pot-bound, then there is not enough soil in the pot to retain enough moisture for the money tree, which causes the leaves to turn brown as a sign of stress. A larger pot has a greater soil capacity and, therefore, a greater capacity to retain moisture around the roots of your money tree. A larger pot alleviates the threat of drought stress to help revive dying brown leaves.
  • Locate the money tree away from sources of heat, which causes the temperature to fluctuate and out of air currents. Draughts and air currents from air conditioning or forced reduce the humidity and sap moisture from the leaves, causing the money tree leaves to turn brown. I always place my money on the other side of the room from any indoor heating and make sure it is not near my front or back door as this can give you money tree an unwelcome blast of cold air.
  • Increase the humidity around your money tree by misting the leaves regularly. I mist the leaves once a day to create a humid micro-climate around my money tree, which replicates the naturally humid conditions of its native environment and reduces the rate of water loss from the leaves to prevent them from drying out and turning brown.
  • If you live in a climate of particularly low humidity, I recommend using a humidifier in the home to emulate the humid conditions of the money tree’s native environment. Humidifiers are the best way to create the optimal micro-climate around your money tree to help the leaves revive from a brown and dying appearance.

As I said, scorched brown money tree leaves should be pruned back as the individual leaves do not revive, but don’t worry, as this stimulates new growth, and your money tree can look a healthy green again in the following weeks.

I have perosnally found that my money trees with brown leaves can revive quite well from drought stress as long as you recreate the optimal conditions of its native environment by misting regularly to increase the humidity and watering thoroughly to ensure the soil is evenly moist.

The money tree should show signs of recovery after 2 or 3 weeks, with drooping leaves returning to normal.

Some leaves may drop off or not recover from their brown appearance, in which case you can remove the leaves with pruners when you start to see new green growth emerging.

Why is My Money Tree Dropping Leaves and Dying?

  • Symptoms. Money tree leaves dropping and perhaps turning yellow or curling and turning brown.
  • Causes. Cold temperatures or reacting to shorter days in Fall and Winter, low humidity, dry soil, saturated soil, or due to transplant shock.

Do not worry about this one.

Money tree drops its leaves in the Fall and Winter in response to the seasonal changes of cooler weather, lower humidity, and shorter day lengths.

Money trees are evergreen in their native environment and retain their leaves all year round as long as the conditions are preferable. Indoors, conditions are not always optimal, which can cause it to drop a few leaves. If the leaves fall off, I find my money trees perk up with more light in Spring.

However, you should be aware that money trees can also lose their leaves due to a sudden contrast in conditions, such as exposure to cold weather or frost.

In Winter, there are fewer hours of daylight and more variability in temperature due to sources of indoor heat and dry air due to forced air or air conditioning.

All of these factors are contrary to the money tree’s preferred environment of higher levels of humidity, stable temperatures of between 53.6°F and 77°F (12°C and 25°C), and more daylight (its natural equatorial environment, there are consistently around 12 hours of light).

A common problem I see all the time is that money tree leaves can curl, dry out and drop if they are not watered often enough or watered too lightly. The soil should not dry out completely between bouts of watering.

You see, what happens is if the soil is too dry, the money tree’s leaves curl to reduce their surface area and drop off as a survival strategy to prevent losing too much moisture.

Money tree leaves turn yellow and drop off if the soil is saturated rather than evenly moist.

Saturated soil prevents root respiration and interferes with the root’s ability to uptake moisture and nutrients, which causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off.

If the soil around the money tree’s roots is saturated, without good drainage for too long, then this causes root rot, at which point I’m afraid it can be very difficult to save the money tree.

Another cause of leaf drop I encounter is when a money tree is moved from one location to another, particularly if it experiences a significant contrast in conditions.

Money trees adapt to the level of humidity, sunlight, airflow, and temperature of their location, and if there is a sudden change in conditions, the leaves drop as a sign of stress. (They can be quite fussy!)

How I Save a Money Tree That is Dropping Leaves…

To save our money tree that is dropping leaves, we need to recreate some of the conditions of the money tree’s native environment with higher humidity, stable temperatures, moist soil, and consistent watering.

The more closely you can emulate the money tree’s natural environment and create more favorable growing conditions, the better the money tree’s chance of regrowing its leaves.

  • If the money tree has lost its leaves in winter, then it often grows back in the spring in response to more light. However, it is important to ensure the environmental conditions are more favorable for the leaves to regrow.
  • I always increase the humidity and ensure the money tree is not directly in any air currents for air conditioning or forced air. Money trees prefer higher levels of humidity (at least 30% humidity) than the typical humidity level of most homes (which is around 10% humidity). A great tip I heard from a specialist grower was to place your money in the bathroom, as the natural humidity favors the plant.
  • To increase humidity, my favorite option is to use a humidifier, as you can precisely control the humidity level to suit your money tree. A great tip I heard from a specialist grower was to place your money in the bathroom, as the natural humidity favors the plant. If your money tree is small enough, then what I have seen work is placing the pot on a saucer or tray of water with pebbles in the water, ensuring the bottom of the pot is above the water line supported by the pebbles (to prevent root rot). The evaporation from the water in the saucer creates a humid micro-climate that mimics the money tree’s naturally humid environment.
  • Money trees prefer a temperature range of between 53.6°F and 77°F (12°C and 25°C). Indoor temperatures can fluctuate drastically due to heating, so try to find a location for your money tree away from any sources of heat or excessive cold; as long as the temperature remains relatively stable, the money tree should adapt, and the leaves can regrow.
  • Water money trees as often as required so that the soil feels moist but not saturated. I always water with a generous soak so that excess water trickles from the pot’s base. This style of watering ensures the moisture reaches the roots where it is required, and this creates the optimal balance of soil moisture and replicates the conditions of the money tree’s native environment.
  • Ensure the money tree’s pot has drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape after watering. Pots without drainage cause water to pool around the roots, and money trees do not tolerate saturated soil for long periods. As we discussed, saucers and trays are useful for preventing water from spilling in the home, but it is important to empty the saucer or trays often to prevent the money tree’s pot from sitting in standing water, which causes root rot. What I have done is prop my money tree on pebbles above the waterline is a good way to prevent this problem and also creates a favorable humid micro-climate around the money tree.

I can assure you that money trees are far more resilient than you might think, and I have personally revived several that lost their leaves during Winter.

Once you have identified the probable cause for your money tree’s leaves dropping and created more favorable conditions, the leaves should grow back in the next few weeks or the following Spring when there is more light.

Why is My Money Tree Dying After Repotting?

  • Symptoms. Leaves wilting, turning brown, and perhaps falling off.
  • Causes. Roots take time to establish in new soil to be able to draw up moisture and nutrients, which can cause the money tree to have a dying appearance temporarily.

In my experience, it is very common to have a stressed-out money tree after you repot it. But do not fear! My own money tree started to wilt, with a few leaves falling off, but it perked back up after a few weeks…

The reason for a money plant dying after repotting is that the roots are not yet established in the new soil and, therefore, cannot sufficiently uptake moisture and nutrients to keep the plant alive. If the soil is too dry after repotting the leaves wilt and drop off with a dying appearance.

If you think about it, transferring a money tree (or any plant) from one pot to another can cause significant stress as the roots have to adapt to a new set of soil conditions quickly. It’s kind of like us moving house!

I discovered that usually the problem is drought stress as the roots are not able to draw up water as efficiently straight after repotting which can be significantly exacerbated by other environmental changes such as lower humidity and increased temperatures.

Repotted money trees often show the typical signs of stress associated with drought with wilting leaves that can drop off, and the plant can have a dying appearance like mine did.

If a money tree is dropping leaves, it is a sign that the leaves are losing more moisture than the roots can uptake, so as a survival strategy, the money tree drops its leaves until the roots can establish and draw up water from the soil more efficiently.

Once the roots have established sufficiently to draw up the moisture the plant requires and the money tree’s immediate survival is taken care of, it regrows its leaves if favorable conditions are.

My Tips for Reviving a Dying Money Tree After Repotting…

  • The right watering schedule is crucial after repotting a money tree as it is important to prevent the soil from drying out too much so the roots have plenty of access to water whilst they adjust. Water as often as required so that the money tree’s potting soil is evenly and consistently moist (but not saturated) to mitigate any drought stress as the roots are establishing.
  • Increase the humidity with a humidifier or by misting the money twice a day. A humidifier is the most effective way to ensure the right level of humidity around your money tree (around 30% humidity is optimal) By creating a humid micro-climate around your money tree, the rate of transpiration (water loss) from the leaves should be significantly reduced which helps to alleviate drought stress. Even if the leaves have dropped, a more humid atmosphere around your money tree creates the optimal conditions for new leaves to grow.
  • Maintain a reasonably cool temperature and keep the money tree out of draughts or air currents. As drought stress is the biggest threat to your money tree after repotting, I learned that a cooler indoor temperature, away from direct sunlight, can help reduce evaporation and help save the plant.

As long as you take good care of your money tree by recreating some of its preferred natural conditions, the leaves should perk up, and new leaves should begin to emerge in the next few weeks as the roots adjust.

Personally, I found that increasing the humidity made the biggest difference when reviving my money tree after repotting. My wilting leaves started to look better after 2 to 3 weeks.

In the Spring, after it started to recover, I used a general all-purpose fertilizer at half strength to give my money tree the resources it needed to revive.

I must caution you that it is not a good idea to use fertilizer while the plant is still stressed, so wait until it shows signs of recovery.

Pro tip: Always repot your money tree in Spring, as this is when the plant is most resilient. I have gotten away with repotting in Summer before, but I learned that it typically shows more signs of stress later in the growing season when you repot your tree.

(Read my article on how to save a money tree with yellow leaves).

If you have any more problems with your money tree, I’d love it if you leave a comment below, and I’ll help you out!

Key Takeaways:

  • Usually, the reasons for a dying money tree are overwatering, underwatering, low humidity, excessively hot or cold temperatures, or too much sun. Money tree leaves turn yellow and drop off due to root rot caused by overwatering, whereas the leaves wilt and turn brown due to low humidity and dry soil.
  • Money tree leaves turn yellow and droop due to excess water around the roots, which causes root rot. Overwatering, or pots without drainage holes in the base, are the most common reasons for a money tree developing root rot, causing the leaves to turn yellow with a dying appearance.
  • Brown leaves on a money tree indicate the soil is too dry or the humidity is too low. Money trees are native to the tropics and prefer at least 30% humidity and consistently moist soil. If the soil is too dry the money tree’s leaves wilt, turn brown, and drop off with a dying appearance.
  • Money trees drop their leaves if the soil is too dry or too wet, the humidity is too low, the temperature is lower than 53.6°F, or due to a lack of light. In Fall and Winter, money trees can drop their leaves due to fewer hours of daylight. However, the leaves regrow in Spring if conditions are optimal.
  • To revive a dying money tree, recreate the conditions of the money tree’s natural environment with 30% humidity and temperatures between 53.6°F and 77°F and water the money tree as often as required so that the soil is consistently moist. Once the conditions are preferable, the leaves should revive and perk up in the following weeks.

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