Pachira Aquatica commonly known as the Money Tree or Malabar Chestnut originally was native to central and South America growing in swampy regions. Today Taiwan grows them for commercial purposes and exports millions of dollars worth of money trees per year. The first braided bonsai versions started to appear in Japan during the 1980’s and soon the popularity spread to the rest of East Asia and then the western world. In the wild money trees can grow up to 60 feet tall, they have flower buds the size and shape of a banana and fruits (nut pods) like a coconut.
Light and Temperature
Pachira Aquatica is a tropical plant so it can tolerate just about any temperatures above freezing. Above 100°F growth will slow a bit but the plant will not be harmed. On the low side brief freezing will do some damage but no serious harm will come until 27°F-28°F for more than a few days.
As a tropical plant the money tree needs quite a bit of light but may get sunburned during the summer if left in full sun. They will also do just fine in up to full shade if kept outdoors.
The Money Tree likes just a small amount of water at a time, keep the soil slightly moist by watering about once a week. Also misting every few days is a great way to care for some houseplants like this one.
The Malabar Chestnut or money tree needs a free draining soil with lots of organic material for nutrients. Mix 2 parts aged compost (or 1 part compost and 1 part humus), 2 parts coarse builders sand and 1 part perlite to make an ideal medium.
For additional nutrients replenish the soil with a diluted balanced liquid fertilizer every few months during the active growing season from early spring through late fall.
Pruning and propagation
Pruning is largely unnecessary except to create a certain look. When and if you do decide to prune cut some of the excess shoots off and plant them in an even mix of compost and perlite. Rooting compound goes a long way with these plants so apply liberally and watch your cuttings grow.
Problems and pests
Pachira Aquatica is a hearty plant that does not succumb to most of the usual houseplant afflictions. The only problems you might run into are watering issues and scale. Under watering will cause the leaves to yellow and drop off. With over watering you may see what look like healthy green leaves falling off. Scale on the other hand is a very serious problem for all your plants not just any that might be infested. Scale spreads rapidly and can be almost impossible to control. If you think you have scale quarantine the plant immediately to prevent the spread to other plants. There are many different types of scale that are affected differently by the different compounds that you may try but stick to it for a month or so before writing the plant off completely. The most commonly used agents to eliminate scale are rubbing alcohol applied directly to the insect with a cotton swab or insecticidal soap mixed with water and sprayed over the whole plant. Some other more experimental methods include spraying tobacco extract onto the plant, buy some rolling tobacco and soak it in water overnight strain it and put it into a spray bottle. Use rubber gloves when handling the solution as it is extremely toxic and be careful what plants you use it on the money tree should be able to handle it but some other plants such as tomatoes that are susceptible to tobacco blight can be harmed more than the pests.
Prepare your work space with your pot, the soil mix described above, a bowl of room temperature water and a pair of sharp scissors. I also like to have a large plastic cup or a pitcher on hand as well.
First remove the money tree from the old pot and fluff the root mass a bit to shake of some of the dirt and pebbles. If you are re-potting from the pot it came in there may be some rocks glued to top of the root mass, remove these. Set the plant in the bowl of water so the root mass can soak while you continue.
Prep your pot by putting some screen over the drainage holes if you like or you can use a large pebble, this will prevent the soil from escaping when excess water drains from the pot. Then fill the pot with your soil mix to about 2/3 full.
Now back to the plant, remove it from the water and pull away and rotting, dead, or broken roots. You can also trim back the healthy roots a bit with your scissors.
Set the root mass on top of the soil and fill in the rest of the pot around the tree. Water thoroughly and you are all done.