Money tree, also commonly referred to as Guiana chestnut, is a species of tree native to Central and South America that has become an attractive, easy-care houseplant thanks to its hardy nature. First popularized as a houseplant in Taiwan during the 1980s, the money tree is prominent among those who practice feng shui and is believed to create positive “chi,” or energy, in the home. This alone has made it a staple in offices, banks, and homes alike.
Money trees are most commonly sold as small plants with a braided trunk made up of three, five, or seven stems. The trees are braided by nurseries when they are young and will continue to grow this way as they mature. Rarely are they started at home from seed, but if you do plan to plant the tree outdoors, you should start it from seed in the spring. The trees will grow quickly indoors or outdoors, often adding up to 24 inches a year in height.
|Common Name||Money tree, Guiana chestnut|
|Botanical Name||Pachira aquatica|
Watch Now: How to Care for a Guiana Chestnut (Money Tree)
Can You Grow Money Tree Inside?
Although they can grow up to 60 feet in the wild, money trees kept indoors will typically only grow between 6 and 8 feet tall and can also be trained as a bonsai if you prefer to keep it small. The key to growing a money tree indoors is giving it the right amount of light and water. The good news is that it's difficult to overwater money trees, which makes them ideal for people who tend to kill their plants with too much TLC.
When grown outdoors, money trees produce stunning yellowish-white flowers, which are eventually replaced by large seed pods with peanut-like nuts inside. However, when grown indoors the plant does not flower, as it requires pollination to do so—a task that is typically carried out by bats in the wild. Despite this, when given the proper care indoors, money trees can flourish and increase the positive energy in your home at the same time.
How to Grow Money Tree Indoors
Outdoors, these plants can tolerate direct sunlight, but indoors money trees need specific light requirements. They should be placed in bright to medium indirect sunlight, for at least six hours a day.
If you don't have a sunny window that provides enough light, this plant will also do well under fluorescent light.
Temperature and Humidity
Money trees appreciate mild temperatures and high humidity. Generally, they should be kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and not placed near any warm or cold drafts. Since home environments are typically dry, you can increase humidity around your money tree by placing it on top of a pebble tray filled with water. You can mist the leaves of a money tree regularly or use a small space humidifier.
Money trees should be watered often and regularly, each time the top inch of soil is dry. Typically watering money trees should become more frequent in the spring and summer months and less frequent in the fall and winter. While money trees thrive with lots of water, be careful not to overwater them, as doing so can quickly kill them. The best way to avoid overwatering your plant is to ensure that the potting container and the soil have the proper drainage.
Your money tree needs fertilizer. Fertilize your plant monthly throughout the spring and summer, when the plant is actively producing new leaves, and bi-monthly throughout the fall and winter. A basic fertilizer blend that has been diluted to half-strength will work best.
Pruning and Maintenance
Pruning is an important part of caring for your money tree, especially if you wish to braid it or train the plant as a bonsai or control its size. Regular pruning of the lower leaves can also help to encourage new growth at the top of the plant.
How to Maintain Braided Money Trees
If you have three young, healthy money trees with slim and flexible trunks, you may want to braid them together and pot them as one plant. Or you can braid new and flexible stems on existing plants. Braiding is thought to trap good fortune in its folds. It's a simple process, just like braiding hair, but it also takes practice and a gentle touch to get it right. Here are the steps:
- Stems need to be well over a foot long to successfully braid. Take the plants out of their pots. Snip off excess leaves that may be in the middle of the stem that will interrupt braiding.
- You can begin at the base or the top of the plants when you braid, whichever is easiest for you. From whichever end you start, place a twist tie, ribbon, or piece of string around the ends to keep the stems together which will make the braiding process easier.
- As you braid, keep it loose; tight braiding damages the plant because as it grows, stems thicken.
- Release the braid and see if it stays, but if not, gently and loosely tie it with string, a twist tie, or place a piece of garden tape on it to secure the braid.
- Pot the plant in its new home. Stabilize the braided plants with a stake or two that is also very loosely tied to the stem with string. Do not put the stake in too deeply or it can damage the roots.
- Braiding will stress the plants so place the pot in a partially shady area for about a month to recover.
- After a few months, you can cut off the tape or string holding the braid.
Container and Size
When choosing a potting container for your tree, always ensure that it has ample drainage holes, as money trees don't like their roots to sit in water and can easily develop root rot if proper drainage is not provided. A smaller 6-inch pot is preferred for money trees.
Potting Soil and Drainage
A well-draining, nutrient-rich potting soil is best for money trees. A peat moss-based mixture would be ideal, but a standard quick-draining soil mixture such as regular cactus or flower soil will also work. If the soil requires more drainage, you can amend the mixture with sand or gravel.
Potting and Repotting Money Tree
Repotting your money tree is only necessary if you want your tree to grow larger. If you want your money tree to stay small, keeping it in a small pot is one of the best ways to do so.
Moving Money Tree Outdoors for the Summer
You can move your money tree outdoors in warmer months, but this is advisable for warmer southern regions rather than cooler midwestern, eastern, or northeastern regions.
For two weeks, gradually move your plant outdoors so you don't shock it with the temperature change. Place the plant in the shade for a few hours and bring it back indoors. During the two-week period, slowly move it to sunnier spots before bringing it indoors for the night. Don't place it in full direct sun for too long or the leaves of your money tree may burn. Also, make sure it is not in the direct line of rainfall or the plant could drown if too much water seeps into the pot. A spot with dappled light, but with more sunlight, would be ideal for a money tree.
When to Bring Money Tree Back Inside
In general, bring your tropical money tree back indoors when nighttime temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for a few nights in a row. If the money tree isn't taken indoors in time, the plant may go into shock and experience leaf drop.
Common Growing Problems
Money tree plants are easy enough to grow and maintain, but a couple of problems can crop up. Some simple care tips can alleviate the issues.
Yellow or Brown Leaves
Typically yellowing or browning leaves indicate overwatering or underwatering. One way to tell the difference is to see if the leaves are both discolored and curling, which indicates underwatering. It could also mean you have given the plant too much or too little sunlight so you will need to change the plant's location to see if it helps.
If the stems or trunk is becoming too soft and heading towards mushy, you are overwatering the plant.
If you notice there's no new leaf growth and the plant looks too leggy, it may mean you are not giving it enough light. A new location may help.
What plant pests are common to money trees?
Is it easy to propagate a money tree?
Propagate your money tree using stem cuttings in the spring or summer, when the plant is actively growing. Start by snipping off 10- to 15-centimeter cuttings and placing them in water to grow roots. After a few weeks, once the roots have developed enough, dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and transfer them into the soil. Money trees can also be propagated by air layering, which is a slightly more complicated method but tends to yield better results.
How long do money trees live?
A money tree grown indoors should live a long and healthy life (over a decade) if correctly maintained.
Yard and Garden: Control Scale and Mealybugs in Houseplants. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.