How to Take Care of Your Money Tree
Although, the Money Tree does not, in fact, grow actual money on it. However, it does get its common name and popularization from Feng Shui practitioners who believe that they will bring prosperity and good luck to their owners, so this is a pretty decent compromise. This legend derives from the fact that Money Tree’s grow five, glossy leaves in a star-shaped formation on each stalk—five being an important number in Feng Shui since it represents the five elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. These trees also typically feature five slender trunks braided together, where the braids are believed to help lock in the good fortune. With symbolism like this, paired with the fact that they are pet-friendly, Money Tree’s make the perfect housewarming or Chinese New Year gift!
According to Feng Shui, place your plant in the Southeast corner of your office for financial prosperity or in an East window for good health!
△ Money Tree in 10" Nursery Planter
Native to Mexico and Central and South America, but popular in Taiwan and other East Asian countries, the Money Tree, aka Pachira aquatica, Guiana Chestnut, Malabar Chestnut, or Saba Nut, grows in marshy wetlands. Outdoors, and in the wild, Money Tree’s can reach heights of up to 60 ft. tall, producing yellowish-white flowers that develop into large seed pods containing peanut-like nuts after being pollinated by bats (yes, bats!). When roasted, these nuts can taste a bit like chestnuts and can also be ground into flour. Indoors, however, your plant won’t grow much taller than 6-8 ft. and they can even be grown as a bonsai to keep them small. They also won’t flower indoors due to their need for pollination. Knowing this, you can expect your plant to come with five braided stems topped with vibrant green, palmate leaves.
After the trunks are braided, they continue to grow in that formation (with a little bit of assistance in the earlier stages) and, as the plant ages, the trunks will get thicker and thicker, eventually fusing together.
Although they do require some specific care in order to prosper, Money Tree’s are fairly minimal in what they need and can be quite forgiving. Their air-purifying capabilities and low maintenance routine make them a very desirable tree, the shiny green foliage that provides the perfect tropical feeling is just the icing on top. Despite the fact that you won’t actually grow any money (we all know money doesn’t grow on trees now), a Money Tree is certainly worth the money spent on it. Let’s get into exactly what your plant needs to live a long and happy life in your care!
Just like in their natural environment, Money Trees love bright, indirect light. Their relatively broad leaves allow for plenty of surface area to absorb the light that they love and they will produce larger leaves because of these light levels. Essentially, your plant should be placed in a location where its leaves can "see" as much of the sky as possible (some morning or late afternoon sun will be just fine as well) as this will ensure they stay relatively compact while also pushing out new growth.
Money Trees cannot handle prolonged, direct, midday sunlight or very low light. Although they can grow in the full sun outdoors, this can scorch the leaves when done indoors because these outdoor specimens have become accustomed to the conditions and given time to harden off.
△ 6" Money Tree in Washable Paper Planter Bags
Even though your plant may tolerate lower light levels, it would be best to keep it in medium to bright, indirect light, as we often want our plants to stay as full and lush as when we got them and insufficient light will result in poor growth. Light levels also change throughout the year - there is much more light during the longer, warmer days of spring and summer, and a lot less light in the shorter, cooler days of the winter - so you may have to move your plant in order to avoid too much light or not enough light, depending on the time of year.
Lighting Tip: Since plants will always grow towards their light source, rotate your plant every time you water it to encourage upright and even growth!
The lowest light conditions that Money Trees can handle include the following:
- Inside an office building with plenty of fluorescent lights as the primary light source. Please note that this may not produce the strongest, healthiest plant, but they can survive in these conditions (it would be best to mix in some natural light as well)
- In the middle of a room with a regular-sized South, West, or East facing window
- A few feet away from a North-facing window
- Next to a South, West, or East facing window that has obstructions (i.e. nearby condo, overhang, large tree, etc.)
Although they can grow in different amounts of light on the spectrum of indoor lighting, keep in mind that your plant’s growth habits will change depending on the light it is receiving. Check out our Ultimate Lighting Guide to learn all about the light levels in the home and how plants adapt to them. When our plants receive the prime amount of light, their foliage will have strong colouring and the growth will be full and lush. When in their lowest light settings, houseplants will more often tolerate it and retain the shape that they come in or become stretched. The rate of growth will also be slower, the size of the new leaves will probably be on the smaller side, and there may even be some leaf loss, as plants will shed what they can't support.
Lighting Tip: Remember that plants will grow based on how much light they receive, so this is something to keep in mind when you are choosing where to put your plant!
Some ideal light examples include the following:
- Next to, or close by, a South, Southwest, or West-facing window that has sheer curtains for some bright, indirect light (the curtains keep the leaves from getting burned)
- About 5 ft away from a large South, Southwest, or West-facing window without curtains
- Directly next to a North or East-facing window
Try not to be concerned about every yellowing leaf on your plant, they are all a part of the natural process. If there are no pests on your plant and it is pushing out healthy growth, your plant will gradually shed its older leaves over time.
Of all plant care requirements, light levels have the greatest impact on plant growth, so it is important to understand the light levels in your home and what you have available for your plants. For Money Trees, too much sun can result in scorched leaves and too little light can result in loss of leaves as well as smaller, thinner new growth. If you want your plant to remain full and bushy, consistently pushing out new growth, keep it in brighter light. Use clean, sharp scissors to trim any dead, discoloured, damaged, or diseased leaves and stems as they occur, which is only natural.
Remember to dust off your plant's leaves every so often! This allows the plant to perform photosynthesis more effectively since the dust will block some of the light that the plant should be receiving. Gently wipe off the leaves using a soft, damp washcloth or wash off your plant in the shower - avoid using leaf shine as this will clog the pores on the leaves.
As a plant adjusts to lower light levels, or to its new home, it is very common for there to be some leaf loss, but we want to avoid excessive leaf loss. Once you have found the perfect spot for your Money Tree, a location that is suitable to all of its needs, try not to move your plant around after doing so. These beautiful, tropical plants don’t enjoy change very much, just like most humans, and can shed their leaves in response to these changes. Stability is key so, if your plant is happy, don’t mess with it! If you absolutely need to move your plant, don’t be surprised if it loses a few of its leaves, especially if your plant is being moved from a brightly lit location to one that receives medium light.
Keeping their low-maintenance care routine going forward, Money Trees are around a medium on the thirstiness scale. Despite the fact that they have “aquatica” in their name, and that they are found in areas that typically flood, conditions indoors are much different than in their natural habitat. Allow your plant's soil to dry out about half way before watering again. This should take about 1 - 2 weeks but the frequency of watering will depend on the light your plant is receiving, the time of year, the warmth and humidity of your home, the size of the pot, as well as the pot that the plant is planted in. Generally, no two plants will be on the exact same watering frequency, everybody's home is different!
When in doubt, let the soil dry out a little longer and wait until the leaves begin to droop slightly, which can be an indication that your plant is thirsty (feel the soil to confirm this). Avoid letting the leaves become too droopy as this could result in leaf loss.
When it comes time to water, water your plant fully until the soil is moist and there is water coming out of the drainage holes, dumping any excess water. If the soil is not absorbing the moisture, try aerating the soil with a chopstick, or you could try bottom-watering your plant instead. This method of watering is where you let the plant sit in a bowl of 2-3 inches of water for at least 45 minutes until the soil is moist. Remove the plant from the bowl and let any excess water drain out. Wait until the soil is mostly dry before watering again. For more information on watering plants, check out our Watering Guide.
Your Money Tree may need to be repotted every 2 years, or sooner if they are in a smaller pot. It is best to check the state of the roots in early spring and decide for yourself whether a repotting is necessary at that point. Repotting will depend on the growing conditions as well so don’t be too quick to repot!
All-in-all, expect to water your plant more often in the spring/summer months (watering when the top couple inches of soil are dry) when the days are longer, warmer, brighter and plants are actively growing, and less often in the winter months (watering when the top 50-75% of the soil is dry) when the days are shorter, cooler, darker and plants are usually dormant. You should also expect to water a plant that is receiving higher light more often than the plant that is receiving lower light. If your plant is kept in lower light, it will be wise to watch how often you are watering your plant, waiting a few more days if you are still unsure.
Soil that is kept overly wet can result in leaf drop and root rot, but on the other hand, soil that is kept too dry can lead to yellowing, browning, and overall droopy stature. Either case could lead to a long-term decline in the overall health of your plant and when a plant is stressed or unhealthy, this could invite a whole other set of problems, such as pests or disease. Water deeply, but infrequently, keeping an eye on the look of your plant as well as the feel of the soil (or the weight of the pot). Plants will often indicate what they need and we just need to respond appropriately!
Something Money Tree’s can be a little finicky about is humidity. Although they can be ok in normal humidity levels, it would be ideal to keep them at least at 50% (or a little higher) and then, for temperature, if you are comfortable, your plant is comfortable. Remember that your plant is still a tropical plant and will love those jungle-like conditions! Since our North American homes of very little natural humidity (thanks to central heating), to increase the humidity levels you can:
- Place the nursery pot (or decorative pot) on top of a bed of pebbles that are just covered in water, this increases the ambient humidity in the air around the plant
- Mist your plant multiple times daily to increase the humidity around your plant
- Purchase a humidifier and keep it in the same area as your plant when turned on
- Group plants that prefer similar humidity levels to increase the ambient humidity in a section of a room.
Exposure to drafts should also be avoided, which can lead to drooping or leaf loss. These drafts can be due to heating or air conditioning vents, cold window panes, radiators, or open windows and doors in the wintertime. Increased humidity can also help if your plant is drooping despite the fact that it is in bright light and is being watered appropriately.
For fertilizer, the Money Tree is not too picky and really doesn't need it too often, seeing as they grow quite easily. Fertilize every once a month through the growing season, or spring and summer months, and then do not fertilize throughout the fall and winter. Following the directions, use a general-purpose, liquid, balanced houseplant fertilizer that any greenhouse, garden centre, or plant shop offers! Make sure the soil is damp before fertilizing, otherwise it could burn the roots, and that the fertilizer is properly diluted. Finally, never fertilize a plant that is already stressed out (i.e. soaking wet, extremely dry, lost a lot of leaves, etc.), as this will only enhance the stress.
Money Trees are non-toxic to ingest, by both pets and people! In fact, the seeds can actually be roasted and consumed, and the flowers and leaves can be cooked like vegetables. However, it is always recommended to keep your pets and children from ingesting any houseplants, but you can feel comfortable and safe having these beauties around your home in the potential case where someone feels like having a snack.
Common Pests & Problems
Money Trees are generally unbothered and have a great reputation for being very easy to care for, living for years and years. However, they can experience a few issues throughout their lives so let's go over the most common ones:
If you spy any webs, bumps or spots on your plants, it’s possible that your plant is putting up with some unwelcome visitors, such as spider mites, mealybugs, or thrips. This problem can quickly become apparent through yellowing leaves or deformed new growth. Shower your plant with some lukewarm water and remove as many of the adult bugs as you can, then spray your plant with insecticidal soap every 7-10 days, until you are sure they are gone. Please see our Pest Tips & Tricks for further assistance on how to get rid of these pesky insects.
Plants that are already unhealthy from poor lighting, nutrient deficiency, issues with soil moisture, or other improper care are especially susceptible to pests. Make sure you are caring for your Money Tree as it needs, not too much attention or too little!
Yellowing or browning leaves:
If this is not due to the natural yellowing and shedding of older leaves, it might be due to any of the following:
- Moisture issues → if it is overwatering, the plant will have soggy stems and yellow, soft leaves with potential brown spots, if it is under-watering, the plant may have droopy, crispy leaves with compacted soil.
- Improper lighting → Money Trees can adapt to lower light levels but growth may slow and leaves may be shed. Use a grow light to bump up the light your plant is receiving or move it to a place that receives medium to bright light
- Humidity levels → Low humidity can cause brown edges, which can be followed by entire leaves turning yellow or brown and shedding. Bump up the humidity by referring to the Humidity section above.
This is primarily due to lower light levels, too much water (or not enough), low humidity levels, or any combination of the three. Follow all the guidelines above to make sure your plant is in the perfect location for its needs!
If it isn’t a humidity or watering issue, your plant may be experiencing sunburn. Even though Money Trees can handle morning sun or late afternoon sun, avoid keeping your plant in a spot that receives too much direct sunlight.
A common fungal issue, powdery mildew presents itself as a fine, white coating that can spread all over the leaves. If it occurs, remove the most infected leaves and avoid getting any more regular water on the leaves (i.e. avoid misting) and spray a mixture of 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap, and 1 gallon of water on the leaves. If this doesn't work, a household fungicide could be used to kill the spores and prevent the spread, just make sure to do so in a well-ventilated area and to read the label carefully. Make sure you are watering your plant appropriately, the room it is in has good airflow, and it is kept in bright enough light!
Inconsistent moisture, overwatering, exposure to cold temperatures or an environmental change are the most common causes of leaf drop for Money Trees. Your plant will tolerate some time in between waterings but be careful to not let the soil go bone dry and then soaking wet too often. Otherwise, make sure any changes are made gradually and that you are meeting the general needs of your plant.
In essence, the care of the Money Tree is really rather simple, they are tolerant of lots of light levels, home conditions, and don't require frequent waterings. We try to stay very thorough in our care guides so these will always cover everything you may experience while owning a Money Tree, but it doesn’t mean your plant will have those same experiences, and your plant may be just fine in your home in slightly different conditions than we have outlined. That is probably because you are caring for it in ways that are appropriate to those conditions. These are just the basic rules to follow if you are ever unsure as to how to care for your plant or if it is experiencing any issues. Otherwise, if your plant is just fine how it is, leave it be!