The reason money tree leaves turn yellow is often because of root rot due to overwatering or because of low light. Money trees prefer the top 2 inches of the soil to dry out between bouts of watering and need bright light. If the money tree is in too much shade or the soil is saturated the leaves turn yellow and drop off.
If the leaves turn yellow and brown, often with brown spots, this is an indication that the soil is too damp, usually because of overwatering.
Money tree leaves turn yellow and drop off in Winter because of the shorter day lengths and the lower light intensity.
Without bright light, the money tree does not have enough energy to support the leaves causing them to turn yellow and drop off.
However, the leaves should regrow in the Spring with more light.
Money tree leaves often turn yellow and drop off after repotting due to transplant shock.
Keep reading to learn why your money tree (Pachira aquatica) leaves are turning yellow (and brown and drop off) and how to save it…
Money Tree Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown (and Fall off) Due to Overwatering
The most common reason for money tree leaves turning yellow is because of root rot due to overwatering. Money trees prefer the soil to dry slightly between bouts of watering. If the soil stays saturated, the roots start to rot they cannot transport nutrients to the leaves which causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off.
Money trees are native to Mexico and South-Western USA and grow in environments that experience seasonal flooding, yet also experience periods of extended dry weather in the Summer.
Therefore money trees tend to thrive on a soak and dry style of watering, where the potting soil is watered thoroughly but allowed to dry out slightly before watering again.
If the potting soil is consistently saturated, then the excess water excludes oxygen from the potting soil which prevents root respiration.
The money tree’s roots need to be able to access oxygen in the pores in the soil in order to respire.
If the roots cannot respire then this interferes with the root’s ability to uptake moisture and nutrients to transport to the leaves.
If the leaves do not have access to nutrients or moisture, the money tree’s leaves turn yellow and brown and drop off as the money tree does not have the resources required to support the leaves and keep them healthy.
If the money tree’s roots are in saturated soil for too long, this increases the risk of root rot and fungal diseases which all turn the leaves yellow, often with brown spots and cause them to drop off.
Sometimes it is not overwatering specifically that is causing your money tree leaves to turn yellow and brown but the soil is still too damp because:
- The saucer or tray underneath the pot (to stop water from spilling into the house) has not been emptied and excess water has pooled around the base of the pot, preventing the soil from draining properly.
- The use of a decorative outer pot or a pot without drainage holes in the base can also prevent water from escaping the pot properly and cause the money tree’s leaves to turn yellow because of root rot.
Money trees grow in well-draining soil in their native habitat, so it is essential that water can drain effectively from the pot to prevent the leaves from turning yellow.
How to Save a Money Tree with Yellow Leaves due to Overwatering
- Reduce how often you water your money tree to emulate their natural environment. If you are watering your money tree more often than once per week, then overwatering is the reason for the money tree’s leaves turning yellow. Only water your money tree when the top 2 inches of the soil feels somewhat dry. Feel the potting soil with your finger to see if you can detect moisture. If the potting soil is still damp, then delay watering for a few days. If the potting soil feels as though it is drying out, this is the perfect time for watering.
- Re-pot the money tree to a pot with drainage holes in the base. It is essential that excess water can drain from the pot after watering. Pots without good drainage, promote the conditions for root rot and yellowing leaves. Make sure the drainage holes are free from obstruction, compacted soil, or a mass of roots.
- Empty any saucers, trays, and outer pots of any excess water, regularly. A relatively small amount of water pooling around the base of the pot prevents excess water from draining from the soil, resulting in root rot and yellow leaves. Make sure that you empty anything underneath your pot, after watering to ensure good drainage.
The key to reviving a money tree with yellow leaves due to overwatering is to establish a watering cycle that mimics the money tree’s native conditions. Allowing the top 2 inches of the soil to dry before watering again allows oxygen back into the soil for root respiration.
This allows the roots to respire (roots need to ‘breathe’ in order to function properly) which reduces the stress on the plant and allows the roots to draw up the moisture and nutrients that the leaves of the money trees require to stay green.
If the money tree has been in saturated soil for too long then the roots can become too damaged due to root rot, at which point it is difficult to save the money tree.
If your money tree continues to decline despite reducing the watering and the money tree has the right balance of light (bright, indirect light is best for money trees when indoors) and if the leaves are not falling due to shorter day lengths in the Winter then take the money tree out of its pot and inspect the roots.
If the roots appear rotten and slimy in texture, have a bad smell, and appear yellowish then snip these roots back to healthy growth with a sharp pair of pruners.
Wipe the blades of the pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant between each cut to prevent potentially spreading pathogens from diseased growth to growth that is otherwise healthy.
Remove and discard the soil and repot the money tree with new potting soil and resume a normal watering schedule.
The money tree is likely to drop its leaves due to shock and may not survive, but cutting back the diseased roots might save the plant by stopping the rot from spreading. The chance of survival depends on the extent of the damage caused by root rot.
Money Tree Turning Yellow and Falling off due to a Lack of Light
Money tree leaves turn yellow and droop if they do not have enough light. Money trees are adapted to growing in bright, indirect light, or filtered light in their native environment. If the money tree is in too much shade, it does not have enough energy to support the leaves, causing the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
Juvenile money trees (the size of houseplants) typically grow in under the canopy of a forest in their natural environment.
Too much direct sunlight whilst the plant is immature causes the leaves to scorch brown, but not enough light can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
The optimal conditions for money tree are to be in a room that is bright but with indirect light.
Money trees also thrive in some morning sun followed by afternoon shade, particularly in cooler climates, where the sun is not as strong.
If the money tree does not have enough light the rate of growth slows down and eventually the leaves turn yellow and drop off (particularly the lower leaves)as the money tree tries to conserve energy.
How to Revive a Money Tree with Yellow Leaves due to Lack of Light
- Place your money tree in a room with bright indirect light or morning sun followed by afternoon shade. Some filtered light throughout the day is also a good way to replicate the money tree’s natural light conditions, as long as the sun is not too harsh. If you are in a hot and dry climate, bright indirect is ideal whereas in cooler climates with less light, the money tree prefers some morning sun with afternoon shade.
- Mist the money tree to help it revive. If you have to move the money tree to a different room, to provide more light, mist the leaves generously with lukewarm water every other day. This helps to create a humid micro-climate that replicates the money tree’s tropical environment and should help to mitigate any shock from being moved suddenly.
- Water the money tree generously when the top 2 inches of potting soil feel dry. Always water with a good soak so that excess trickles from the base of the pot. This ensures the water has infiltrated the soil and reached the roots where it is required. Waiting for the top 2 inches of soil to dry replicates the typical moisture levels in the money tree’s natural environment to provide enough water and avoid root rot. Misting, and watering properly helps to mitigate transplant shock if you need to move the money tree to a different room with more light.
By recreating the natural light conditions of the money tree’s native environment with bright, indirect, and misting the money tree regularly and watering properly, the money tree’s yellow leaves should show signs of recovery.
Sometimes the leaves may drop off if they have turned yellow, but treat the money tree as normal and with the right light, humidity, and watering conditions and the money tree should regrow new leaves in the Spring and Summer.
(Read my article, how to Revive a Dying Money Tree).
Money Tree Leaves Turning Yellow and Falling Off in Winter
The reason for money tree leaves turning yellow in Winter is a reaction to the shorter day lengths. Money trees are evergreen in their natural environment but their leaves often turn yellow and drop in Winter in reaction to cooler temperatures and less light, particularly when they are indoors.
Money trees retain their leaves all year round in their native range as the conditions are relatively consistent.
However as a houseplant, it is not uncommon for the money tree’s leaves to turn yellow and drop off during Winter, usually because of the lower light levels, but temperature can also be a contributing factor.
If this happens to your money tree do not worry as the leaves should grow back again in the Spring, in response to bright light and longer day lengths.
It is important to keep misting your money tree often in Winter as the humidity often drops due to indoor heating which dries the air.
The dry air saps moisture from the money tree leaves which can cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop.
It is also important to regulate your watering in Winter as money trees typically require watering less often during the Winter dormancy, particularly if their leaves have dropped off.
In Winter wait until the top 2 inches of the soil dry out before watering your money tree, which usually takes significantly longer in Winter compared to Summer. Typically water your money tree every 3 to 4 weeks in Winter.
You should also be mindful not to place the money tree in close proximity to any indoor sources of heat which can cause the temperature to fluctuate significantly, as this can also be a contributing factor to leaves turning yellow and dropping off.
Money Tree Turning Yellow After Repotting
The reason money trees turn yellow after repotting is usually because of transplant shock or because the soil drains too slowly for the money tree to tolerate. A sudden change in conditions after repotting, damp soil, and any interference with its root system can cause the money tree’s leaves to turn yellow and drop off.
Larger pots contain more soil and dry out at a much slower rate, so if you have repotted the money tree into a pot that is significantly larger than its previous pot, additional soil may be drying out too slowly for the money tree to tolerate, which results in yellow leaves.
Money trees grow naturally in well-draining, porous, aerated soil which allows water to drain effectively.
If the potting soil has been firmed in around the money tree’s roots after repotting then this causes water to drain at a slower rate and excludes oxygen from around the roots.
If the roots do not have access to oxygen due to compacted soil, the roots cannot respire and function properly which prevents them from transporting water and nutrients to the leaves cause them to turn yellow and drop off.
Also, it is important to repot your money tree to a pot with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape and empty any saucers or trays of excess water regularly to ensure good drainage.
If the repotting of the money tree is in conjunction with moving the plant then the shock of being moved can also contribute to the leaves turning yellow.
How to Save a Money Tree with Yellow Leaves After Repotting
To save a money tree with yellow leaves after repotting, emulate the money tree’s natural conditions by misting to increase humidity, and water thoroughly, and repot the money tree in aerated soil that is amended with perlite or pine bark to increase drainage.
- Re-pot your money tree in well-draining potting soil (add perlite). Normal, unamended potting soil can often retain too much moisture for a money tree to tolerate and also retain significantly more moisture than the potting soil that the money tree was planted in previously. Add up to 1/3 perlite or pine bark to the potting soil (by volume of the pot) to replicate the well-draining soil conditions of the money tree’s native environment.
- Only re-pot money trees in a pot one size up from the previous pot to avoid yellow leaves. Larger pots contain more soil and dry out much slower. Plant your money tree in a pot that is 2 inches of so bigger in diameter to ensure the potting soil dries out at a similar rate to avoid root rot and yellow leaves.
- Avoid compacting the potting soil when repotting your money tree. In their native environment, money trees grow in aerated, porous well-draining soil so that water can drain away from the roots effectively and so there is space for oxygen so that the roots can respire and stay healthy.
- Always re-pot money trees in pots with drainage holes in the base. Good drainage is essential to avoid excess water pooling around the roots of your money tree. Ensure that the drainage holes are clear and empty any saucers or trays underneath the pot regularly.
- Water the money tree generously after repotting and misting the leaves to mitigate transplant shock. Repotting interferes with the root system and it can be difficult for the roots to draw up moisture and nutrients immediately after repotting which can also turn the leaves yellow. Give the money tree a good soak (let the top 2 inches of soil dry out between bouts of watering) and mist the leaves every other day.
The leaves may turn yellow and droop temporarily after repotting as the root system takes time to establish in the new potting soil. As long as the money tree has been watered generously after repotting and the leaves misted regularly the money tree should recover.
Sometimes the leaves drop off after turning yellow, however, they should regrow again in the Spring and Summer months.
It is important to note that the best time of year for repotting money trees is in the Spring as this is when the plant is at its most resilient.
To learn more read my article, Money Tree Care: A Beginners Guide to Growing Money Trees.
- The reason for money tree leaves turning yellow, brown, and falling off is because of overwatering. Money trees need the top 2 inches of the soil to dry out before watering again. If the soil is consistently saturated the money tree develops root rot which causes the leaves to turn yellow with brown spots and drop off.
- Money tree leaves turn yellow if they are in too much shade. Money trees need bright indirect light for the leaves to stay healthy. If the money tree does not have enough light then it does not have enough energy to support the leaves which turns them yellow and causes them to fall off.
- Money tree leaves turn yellow and drop off in Winter because of shorter day lengths and lower light intensity. If the money tree does not have enough light, it drops its leaves to conserve energy. The leaves should regrow again in the Spring.
- Money tree leaves turn yellow and drop off after repotting due to transplant shock. Repotting interferes with the money tree’s roots which temporarily prevents them from uptaking moisture and nutrients which causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off. The leaves should regrow as the roots establish in new potting soil.