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Dying Money Tree? Crucial Tips to Save Your Pachira Aquatica

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Do you have a dying money tree (Pachira aquatica) and you are at a loss for how to save it? I’ve found that there is a tremendous amount of conflicting advice and misinformation on this plant, and I’m here to help set the record straight so that you can understand how to turn your dying money tree around and help it thrive once again.

Before going into the care of this plant, it is always very helpful to get clues on the care from its botanical name and also from its growing conditions in its native environment.

The botanical name for Money Tree is Pachira aquatica. The specific epithet aquatica means that it grows in or near water.

Money Tree is native to swamps and river banks in Mexico, Central America and South America.

DYING MONEY TREE? HERE’S WHAT GOING ON

1. POTTING MIX MOISTURE

TOO DRY

As you can probably gather from the facts above, this is NOT a drought tolerant plant. Allowing your potting mix to go completely dry (especially if you do this repeatedly) will result in a very quick downfall.

Potting mix that is too dry will result in yellowing of the lower leaves on your plant. The entire plant itself may also droop in extreme cases.

dying-money-tree-pachira-aquatica

Feel your potting mix with your finger (avoid using soil moisture meters since most of the inexpensive ones are junk), and if it is completely dry, give your plant a very thorough soaking.

When you neglect your plant and the potting mix goes really dry, before the lower leaves turn completely yellow, they will look like the photo below.

Take a look at the lower leaves.

dying-money-tree-pachira-aquatica

This my own money tree that I allowed to get too dry, and you can see the lower leaves are starting to turn yellow. The veins are still green, but this is not considered chlorosis since the newest leaves are healthy and green.

Note that once the lower leaves started to yellow a bit, as a result of very dry potting mix, the foliage will not turn green again even after you “fix” your watering.

If your plant is extremely root bound, it may also make it very difficult to keep your plant hydrated enough, so it will be time for a larger pot at that point.

Also be careful of small pots as they will dry out pretty quickly and will need more frequent attention to watering.

“OVERWATERING”

If I had a dime for every time a site online mentions “overwatering” as the cause for every single plant woe, I could probably retire by now.

If you are supplying your plant with enough light (more on that later), you have drainage holes and a well draining potting mix, it is difficult to “overwater.”

There are many other factors that affect how quickly potting mix dries out. I talk about all of these factors and more in my book, Houseplant Warrior: 7 Keys to Unnlocking the Mysteries of Houseplant Care, published by Countryman Press.

FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM WITH WATERING

What conditions does your money tree like when it comes to soil moisture? Here are my general rules of thumb:

  • Never allow your potting mix to dry out completely if you can help it.
  • DO allow the top inch or so of your potting mix to dry out. If you have a larger pot, you can even allow the top couple inches to dry out.
  • Always have a drainage hole(s) in your pot.
  • Use a well draining potting mix. A good general mix is 2-3 parts of a good all-purpose potting mix and 1 part perlite.
  • Never allow your plant to sit in water (such as in the saucer under the pot) for extended periods of time.
dying-money-tree-pachira-aquatica

DO NOT WATER WITH ICE

It’s sad that I need to even say this, but do not use ice to water your money tree.

This plant is sometimes sold with a label that instructs the plant owner to use ice to water the plant. This is a horrible idea for many reasons:

  • These plants do not like cold temperatures and they can be damaged.
  • If you have your plant slipped into a decorative pot with no drainage holes, and you have your plant growing in dim conditions, it can result in water accumulating at the bottom. If you’re not routinely checking and emptying accumulated water, then your plant will start to rot. I’ve worked with many people who have also killed their moth orchids in this exact fashion.
  • Ice may even work for a while, if your plant is growing in a smaller pot, but once you repot into a larger pot, the amount of ice recommended on the label will no longer be sufficient to moisten all of the potting mix.

Moral of the story: Don’t use ice to water.

dying-money-tree-pachira-aquatica

In order to truly grow a beautiful specimen, it requires very consistent conditions, particularly with watering and light.

And that takes us to another important topic…light.

2. LIGHT

Many sources will say that this plant doesn’t tolerate direct sun. This is also false. Pachira aquatica often grows in sunny locations outdoors.

Indoors, the light intensity is a lot less, so your plant can very easily take (and benefit from) some direct sun indoors.

You don’t have to place your plant in the sunniest window that you have indoors, but an Eastern or Western exposure will be great for your Pachira aquatica.

Your plant may shed some lower leaves during dark periods of the winter, so if you can move your plant to a brighter location during this time, or supplement with a grow light, it will benefit your plant.

3. PESTS

Pests can be another reason why your money plant’s leaves are yellowing. These plants can be prone to spider mites, so look out for fine webbing on the foliage, very small, crawling mites, and a mottled yellowish appearance of the leaves.

Check out my blog post on treating spider mites in houseplants for more information.

dying-money-tree-pachira-aquatica

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and are able to turn that dying money tree around into a full, beautiful specimen. Do you have a money tree? Comment below. I’d love to hear!

Carol

Thursday 4th of August 2022

How do I tame my money tree to make it smaller and more compact. Mine is huge!!

Raffaele

Saturday 6th of August 2022

Hi Carol, you can always just trim it up a bit!

Jaime Haney

Thursday 4th of August 2022

Oh yes I've had a few money trees and I've killed each and every one. I'll take your advice the next time I pick one up. The last time I bought one though, it came in a tube filled with water. I kept the tube filled but it still yellowed and died.

Do you think the kind of water you have matters? I have well water and I've noticed a lot of plants I just cannot keep alive while others thrive. I am also not able to keep cuttings going in my water even with weekly changes, they eventually succumb.

I enjoy your posts, thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Raffaele

Thursday 4th of August 2022

I'm glad you enjoy my posts Jaime! Yes, the quality of the water matters. Depending on what exactly is in your well water, certain plants may or may not like it. You can maybe consider some kind of filtration system, or even use distilled water for certain plants that are not thriving with your well water. Experiment and see what works!

Inez Moton

Thursday 4th of August 2022

Thanks. My Panchira was doing well. It looked like your last picture here til this spring the leaves started drying out and falling off from the bottom. Now it's anorexic with about 7 branches left after 2 years! I hope to bring it back*

Raffaele

Thursday 4th of August 2022

You can definitely bring it back to life with consistent care. Good luck, Inez! :-)