Money Tree Care: A Beginners Guide to Growing Money Trees

How to grow and care for money trees

Money trees (Pachira aquatica), also known as Guiana chestnut, are, in my experience, one of the easiest and most elegant houseplants to grow with their glossy green leaves and braided trunks.

I just love the unique look of their braided trunk, complimented by a crown of beautiful leaves!

Money trees are native to tropical Central and South America, growing under a canopy. Therefore, they are very capable of living at room temperature without direct sunlight and only require watering when the top inch has dried out.

Money trees are also said to bring luck and prosperity to the home! So what’s not to love?

As long as you replicate some of the conditions of the money tree’s native environment by misting to increase the humidity, planting it in well-draining potting soil, and locating it in bright indirect light with a temperature range of 65°F and 85°F (18°C and 29°C), then the money tree should thrive indoors.

Here is a table summarizing the care requirements of money trees:

How to Grow Money Trees:Money Tree Care Requirements:
Location:Locate money trees away from draughts or sources of heat.
Temperature:Optimal temperature range is between 65°F and 85°F (18°C and 29°C)
Light:Bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight scorches the leaves.
Watering:Only water when the top inch of soil is drying out. Typically, water thoroughly every 7 days in Spring and Summer and every 10-14 days in Winter.
Humidity:Money trees need a constant source of humidity from misting, the use of a humidifier, or placing the pot on a damp tray of pebbles to counteract dry air.
Repotting:Use a general, all-purpose fertilizer at half strength in the Spring and Summer. Money trees do not need fertilizer in the Winter as the plant is dormant.
Best Pots:Terracotta and clay pots are best as they are porous and dry out more evenly. Always use a pot with a drainage hole in the base.
Best Soil Mix:Use a mix of 70% potting soil and 30% orchid pine bark-based potting mix for an optimal balance of moisture and drainage.
Fertilizer:Apply. fertilizer at half strength during active growth (Spring and Summer).
Pruning:Pruning is not a necessity, but you can prune the money tree to a desired shape in Spring.
The braided trunk is actually composed of several money trees stems braided together, rather then one plant.
My favorite feature of money plants is the braided trunk! Did you know The braids of the trunk are actually composed of several money tree stems braided together rather than one plant?

Where Should I Place My Money Tree?

Money trees are one of the most sensitive houseplants to temperature fluctuations that I have come across, which can result in the leaves dropping off, so always locate your money tree on the other side of the room from any sources of indoor heat and out of the direct path of air conditioning or forced air as this can dry out the leaves and turn them brown.

Money trees are native to warm tropical climates, so room temperatures are optimal for a money tree to thrive, with the best temperature range for money trees being between 65°F and 85°F (18°C and 29°C).

In my experience, when caring for money trees, temperatures cooler than 55°F (12°C) are likely to result in yellowing leaves that drop off.

Note that we have observed that sometimes the leaves do not fall off at this temperature if the tree is mature and is accustomed to cooler temperatures more gradually.

How Much Light Does a Money Tree Need?

Money trees grow best in bright indirect light or filtered light. However, they can tolerate some shade and still grow.

I personally grow money plants in a room with a south-facing window, which has plenty of light, but ensure the leaves of my tree are not in any direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves brown.

Whilst money trees can grow up to 60 feet in their native environment, money trees are grown as houseplants and juvenile specimens, and they are sheltered from direct sunlight by the forest canopy overhead.

My pro tip: Are you looking to grow money trees, but you do not have space in a room bright enough? When I lived in an apartment, space in my brightest room was at a premium, so I grew my Money tree under fluorescent bulbs and grow lights, which I actually found worked really well!

If your money tree is In too much shade, it grows more slowly, and the leaves appear less glossy and healthy than they should.

I recommend rotating your money 90 degrees every time you water it to ensure even growth and an attractive appearance.

How Often to Water Money Trees

Generally, it is best practice to water your money tree once every 7 days. Money trees need the top inch of their potting soil to dry slightly between each bout of watering generously so that the soil is evenly moist.

Money tree leaves start to turn yellow and drop off if the soil dries out completely and can develop root rot if the soil is constantly saturated, which is why it is important to allow the top inch of soil to dry before watering, as this achieves the optimal balance of moisture.

Water the money tree so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the pot’s base.

I personally allow the dish or saucer underneath your money tree’s pot to fill with water and leave it for 20 minutes or so to allow the soil to draw up any moisture it needs, which ensures the potting soil is evenly moist.

I find this is the best method. However, I must emphasize it is important to empty any excess water from trays or saucers underneath your pot, as the money tree does not tolerate consistently saturated soil.

How Often Do You Water Money Trees in Winter?

It is important to reduce how often you water money trees in Winter to one good soak every 10-14 days. The money tree’s potting soil usually dries out more slowly in Winter as there are fewer hours of sunlight, causing the money tree to grow more slowly and for the roots to draw up less moisture from the soil.

However, it should be noted that because of indoor heating the temperature at night can increase indoors which can dry out the money tree’s potting soil quickly, therefore I recommend using your finger to test the soil to detect when the top inch of the soil dries and water accordingly.

In my experience, it is better to use your finger to tell when the soil is dry rather than water meters, as I have found these devices less accurate than just feeling the soil for yourself.

Mist the Leaves Every 2-3 days to Increase Humidity

Typically, money tree leaves should be misted every 3 days or so indoors to counteract the dry air from air conditioning and indoor heating.

I have also used a humidifier and placed the pot on a damp tray of pebbles for constant humidity with good results.

Money trees are native to the humid tropical forests of Central and South America, therefore it is important to create a humid microclimate around the leaves of the plant to mimic the conditions of its humid natural habitat.

However, in my experience, money trees are more adaptable to the lower levels of humidity indoors than most tropical plants, and most problems occur in Winter because of the use of indoor heating, which dries out the air and turns the leaves brown and crispy, hence the importance of misting the leaves at this time of year.

In particularly arid climates, such as where I used to live in Southern California, the money trees can suffer. It is better to use a humidifier for constant higher humidity.

How Often to Repot Money Trees

Money trees need repotting every 2-3 years on average.

I always recommend repotting a money tree in the Spring as this is when the plant is at its most resilient to the stress of transplanting; however, I have also successfully repotted in Summer, but whatever you do, avoid repotting in the Fall or Winter when the plant is dormant.

Repot the money tree into a pot that is only 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the previous pot to avoid over-potting (which causes the soil to retain too much moisture around the roots for the money tree to tolerate).

Re-pot your money tree into the potting mix as quickly as you can whilst trying to disturb the roots as little as possible to avoid any unnecessary stress. I have found that money trees are more sensitive to root disturbance than other houseplants.

Give the potting soil a good soak after repotting and mist the leaves diligently for the next few weeks to reduce water loss whilst the roots adjust to their new environment.

If your money tree does drop its leaves after repotting, then it should regrow again in the following weeks, which is why it is best to repot in the Spring while the money tree is in active growth.

Best Pots for Money Trees

My personal favorite pots for money trees are terracotta or unglazed clay pots as they are porous, which allows the potting soil to dry more evenly and prevents root rot.

Choose a pot with a drainage hole in the base to allow excess water to drain away efficiently.

Always choose a pot that is proportional to the size of the money, as small pots dry out too quickly, and excessively large pots dry out too slowly for the plant to tolerate.

While I have had the most success growing money trees in terracotta and clay pots, it doesn’t make a huge difference (as long as you have a good, well-draining potting medium), and you can grow money trees in ceramic pots if desired.

Best Soil Mix for Money Trees

Pine bark potting mix (on the left) mixed with ordinary potting soil is the best soil mix for money trees.
Pine bark potting mix (on the left) mixed with ordinary potting soil is the best soil mix for money trees.

From my experience the best potting mix for money trees is a mix of approximately 70% potting soil to 30% pine bark-based orchid potting mix. This potting soil has the balance of retaining enough moisture to sustain the money tree and allowing for good drainage to avoid root rot.

However, I have also used perlite or horticultural grit rather than orchid potting mix which still works well.

It is essential to amend the potting soil before planting or repotting money trees, as ordinary potting soil retains too much moisture to tolerate and can increase the risk of root rot and fungal disease.

The reason why I personally prefer using pine bark chips for money trees is that they have a large particle size, which creates a porous, aerated soil structure to allow oxygen to reach the roots for root respiration and to allow excess water to drain away so that the potting mix does not become saturated.

This replicates the preferred soil conditions of the money tree’s native environment.

How and When to Use Fertilizer

Feed money trees once every 2 weeks with a general, all-purpose houseplant fertilizer at half strength throughout Spring and Summer to support healthy growth.

Do not use fertilizer in the Fall or Winter, and do not feed more frequently than once every 2 weeks or use more than half-strength fertilizer as this can burn the money tree’s roots and cause excess salts to accumulate around the roots.

Money tree with a yellow leaf.
Money tree with a yellow leaf.

If you use too much fertilizer, the leaves can turn yellow, in which case read my article, How to Save A Money Tree with Yellow Leaves.

Do Money Trees Need Pruning?

Money plants typically do not require pruning, as their growth is usually far more modest when grown indoors.

I have had one of my money trees for 5 years and have not needed to prune it once as the growth rate is relatively slow.

However, if you have a money tree that has grown too big for the space in your house, then use a sharp pair of pruners to shape the tree to the desired size in the Spring.

Sometimes branches can die back, in which case you can just cut them back to healthy growth at any time of year

If you have any problems with your money tree, read my article, How to Revive a Dying Money Tree.

Any questions about your money trees? Comment down below, and I will answer!

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