Native to the swamps of Central and South America, the money tree (Pachira aquatica or macrocarpa) reaches 60 feet in its home countries, but it seldom surpasses 8 feet when grown indoors. Its 8- to 12-inch glossy leaves are hand-shaped, with three to nine “fingers” (leaflets) on each. Also known as the water or Guiana chestnut and often sold as braided bonsai, the tree seldom blooms or fruits as a houseplant. However, it may be persuaded to do so if planted outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12.
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Flowers and Fruits
When growing under its preferred conditions, a money tree that is at least three to four years old may produce cream-colored, night-blooming, vanilla-scented flowers from late spring through early winter. Each bloom opens five narrow 12-inch petals in the evening to reveal a 3- to 4-inch shaving-brush-like cluster of 200 to 250 red-tipped, cream-colored stamens. The flower will fade by mid-morning of the following day.
If pollinated, each bloom is succeeded by a brown, football-shaped seedpod which can expand to 12 inches in length. About four to five months after the flower’s fading, that pod will be packed with 10 to 25 white-striped, brown, edible nuts, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter.
Grow Money Tree Outdoors
Due to its tolerance of excess moisture, the money tree is a suitable choice for homeowners with less than well-drained property. If you wish to grow it outdoors in the zones where it is hardy, select a site which is:
- on the bank of a river or other body of fresh water
- in full or partial sun
- sheltered from winds
- flooded occasionally, but not underwater all year
- at least 23 feet away from other trees
If your tree is growing in a less moist location than that indicated above, ensure that it receives at least 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week. Feed it with an organic fruit tree fertilizer such as 7-4-2, scratching 1 cup of the supplement into the soil beneath the canopy once every three months from spring through fall. The tree seldom requires pruning.
Although a money tree can survive conditions down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit, it may drop its leaves when exposed to temperatures that cold.
Grow Money Tree Indoors
When grown as a houseplant, the money tree can tolerate a variety of light levels from bright, indirect light to full sun. However, if you intend to move it to a brighter exposure, do so gradually to prevent its foliage from burning. To keep the tree healthy:
- Make sure its container has drainage holes.
- Fill that container with a mix of 3 parts general purpose potting soil and 1 part sand.
- Water the soil enough so that it remains moderately damp from spring through fall.
- Maintain a temperature between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Feed the tree once every two weeks during that time with a general purpose plant food -- such as 24-8-16 -- at half-strength, mixing 1/4 teaspoon of the crystals into 1 gallon of water.
If you move the plant outdoors during summer, bring it back inside when the temperature threatens to drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Stop feeding the tree during winter, and keep it in a cooler location during that season, where the temperature still remains above 45 degrees. Water it only when its soil has dried to 1 inch beneath the surface. With the return of spring, resume watering and feeding the tree as usual.
Because indoor air usually is drier than what this tree prefers, set it atop a humidity tray and mist its foliage frequently with rainwater or spring water.