Money trees are the common name for the potted version of Pachira aquatica, or the Malabar chestnut tree. The name "money tree" can also refer to the outdoor version of the plant. Traditionally thought to bring good luck into a home, the container trees are often cultivated as bonsai and given as housewarming gifts. The trunks of the container trees are braided together to "trap" the good luck. The leaves are stripped from the trunk, save those left on top to form the canopy. Money trees are attractive, hardy and slow-growing, making them a popular indoor plant.
Origin and Habitat
Pachira aquatica is native to Central and South America. It can be found as far north as Mexico and as far south as northern Brazil. Money trees thrive in tropical areas with high levels of humidity and consistently warm temperatures. For this reason, they are often grown as houseplants, although they can be grown outdoors in parts of California and Florida. Still, they are hardy enough to handle brief periods of cold temperatures as low as 28 degrees F, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers Association.
Money trees vary widely in appearance depending on where they are grown and how they are cultivated. In the wild, they can get up to 60 feet tall, according to Floridata, with a wide, spreading canopy. In home gardens, these trees remain much smaller--only about 15 feet tall--and grow more like a shrub. When grown in containers, they are usually cultivated as a bonsai, with a smooth, foliage-free trunk. The leaves are long, dark green and compound. The bark is smooth and greenish-brown in color. The flowers are creamy white, with very long, drooping stamens tipped with red.
Money trees thrive in rich, fertile soil. Although outdoor plants do well in areas that are wet, indoor plants cannot tolerate as much water. Container plants that have too much water quickly develop fungal diseases. For that reason, container-planted money trees should be placed in soil that is well-draining. Commercial potting soils that are designed for cacti and succulents work well for P. aquatica trees. Choose a pot that is 2 inches larger in diameter than the root ball. Set the tree so that the top of the root ball is equal to the surface of the soil, and water until the water drains out of the bottom of the container. Trees planted outdoors should be placed in an area that receives some protection from drying winds, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers Association, and watered directly after planting.
Money tree grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. They do best when the soil is kept consistently moist. Indoor plants should be watered whenever the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. Outdoor plants should be watered enough so that the soil always feels moist. Outdoor money trees can even grow in areas that are flooded for some of the time, according to Floridata. These plants are only hardy outdoors, however, in United States Department of Agriculture growing zones 10 and 11. While the tree can briefly tolerate below-freezing temperatures, it will probably respond by dropping its leaves.
Money trees are extremely hardy and do not usually suffer from serious insect pests or diseases, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers Association. Indoor container plants can sometimes suffer from common houseplant pests, such as mealybugs, scale or spider mites. Rinse the insects off the tree with a strong stream of water, which will also get the dust off the leaves.