Money trees are often recommended in feng shui for the fortune they can bring to a home. This is thought to be because of their five-lobed leaves, which symbolize a balance between all elements. They are tropical and won’t do well in colder climates outdoors, but make good indoor plants with proper care. An interesting side benefit is that their nuts can be eaten when prepared properly.
There are at least two trees commonly sold as lucky money trees. One is the Malabar chestnut, or pachira insignis, also called Guyana chestnut. The other is a Chinese money tree, or pachira aquatica, and sometimes is found bonsai-style with braided trunks and called a braided money tree or a money tree plant.
These tropical-origin trees shouldn’t be kept outdoors in most parts of the United States, except for Hawaii and Florida, or if your climate is subtropical. The Malabar chestnut originates in South America, while the Chinese money tree is native to Asia. Avoid frost exposure; brief periods of low temperatures may not kill these trees but they may shed all their leaves and suddenly become dormant if it gets too cold for them.
If you have a Malabar chestnut, place it in a location with some protection from drying winds. Full sun to partial shade will work for this sturdy tree. For a Chinese money tree, partial shade will work fine as it does not require a lot of sun.
You may need to repot money trees you buy commercially, especially if they are in highly decorative pots or have small rocks glued to their trunks, as is sometimes the case with Chinese money trees. Loose potting soil mixed with one-third sand will provide good drainage for both kinds of trees if potted. If grown outdoors, be sure the soil is well-drained.
Money trees of both kinds will suffer if over-watered. For Malabar chestnuts, water more often, keeping a regular schedule of about once weekly. For Chinese money trees, water only when the soil has dried out completely between waterings. When you water, soak the soil so that it is moist to the touch. The leaves will begin to curl if over- or under-watered. Cut back watering for both kinds of money trees to once every two to three weeks in the winter.
Fertilize either tree lightly with all-purpose or houseplant fertilizer in the spring and regularly throughout the summer, at a rate of once lightly each month. Pinch off dead or diseased leaves if they occur, and inspect any indoor plant regularly for bug or disease problems.