For People Who Want to Know More About the Care and History of Pachira Aquatica

Pachira aquatica is an incredibly common, affordable, and wonderful houseplant around the world. In this post, we will dig into its care, where it grows naturally, some common issues, and more.

Table of Contents

Why is Pachira aquatica commonly called the Money Tree?

Pachira aquatica has lots of common names. The one that I’m most familiar with in the houseplant trade is the Money tree, but it is also commonly called Guiana chestnut, Provision tree, water chestnut, and Malabar chestnut.

Several sources say that the Money Tree earned its common name because long ago a man gained wealth by discovering this tree and selling its seeds.

Is it true? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that it is still regarded by many as a lucky plant to grow that can bring wealth and prosperity to its owner. It is for this reason that it is still referred to as the Money Tree!

Pachira aquatica holds a special place in my own heart. When my wife and I got married 5 years ago, we had a unity ceremony as part of the wedding where we planted a Pachira aquatica as a symbol of our new life together taking root and growing. 🙂

Pachira aquatica unity ceremony
June 2017, Our Pachira aquatica Unity Ceremony – Wonderful Memories 🙂

Where is Pachira aquatica found in nature?

It is native to Central and South America, growing in wetlands.

Indoors, Pachira aquatica can grow to 6 to 8 feet, but it can reach nearly 10 times that size when grown outdoors.

Pachira Aquatica Tree
Pachira aquatica Tree, Photo by: missgeo, iNaturalist, Source

According to the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (linked to CABI website), the Money Tree is mature enough to flower and fruit at 3 to 4 years old.

The flowers open for only a single night, similar to an orchid cactus (Epiphyllum spp.).

Pachira Aquatica Flower
Pachira aquatica Flower, Photo by: axel-f-m, iNaturalist, Source

The fruit is said to be edible both raw and roasted and is supposed to taste similar to a chestnut, which is probably where many of its common names originate.

Pachira Aquatica Fruit
Pachira aquatica Fruit, Photo by: Lester Fonseca, iNaturalist, Source

Is Pachira aquatica a good houseplant?

Pachira aquatica is an excellent houseplant, which is why it is so incredibly common around the world. It is loved for both its ease of care and its beauty.

The Money Tree is also commonly used in bonsai, producing gorgeous little bonsai specimens.

How do you care for Pachira aquatica?

Pachira aquatica Care Summary

In-depth care is below this chart

Humidity:Normal household humidity levels
Light:Bright indirect light to direct sun
Pot:Any pot with a drainage hole
Potting Mix:A well-draining mix
Water:Water when nearly dry
Fertilizer:Fertilize at a diluted strength a few times during active growth

Temperature and Humidity

The Money Tree prefers temperatures that are also comfortable to us, so normal household temps.

They do like humidity as they grow in the warm, wet tropics, but I haven’t done anything to amend the humidity for this plant.

My home is typically somewhere between 40% humidity (in winter) up to 60% humidity (in summer). So far, the plant seems happy with that and I do not have a bunch of browning leaf tips or other signs of low humidity issues.

Light Preference

Pachira aquatica will do well in bright indirect light with a few hours of direct sun. East or West-facing windows where some direct sun shines through the window in the morning or in the afternoon can be great homes for these trees.

They can also grow in lots of bright light, but should be acclimated there first to prevent burn.

Money Trees, as with most houseplants, will suffer much more from a lack of light. If you aren’t sure whether your tree is getting enough light and see it start to decline, try moving it to a brighter area.

Potting Mix and Planter Preference

Pachira aquatica can happily live in any planter that has a drainage hole to remove excess water and isn’t more than an inch or two larger than its root ball.

It prefers a well-draining mix so it doesn’t sit super wet for long periods of time. This mix does not need to be as chunky or aerated as some other tropicals that have much more water-sensitive roots, but P. aquatica will rot if kept wet for too long so some drainage is necessary.

I have mine in a mix of 2/3 potting mix to 1/3 orchid bark and perlite. It seems pretty happy with that currently.

I read somewhere that Money Trees can do well in a succulent-type mix meant for desert plants, and I would highly advise against that. These plants are not desert plants.

They live and thrive in the tropics near swamps, rivers, and other pretty wet conditions. If you put this plant in a desert-like mix, it would need to be watered constantly. Don’t do that to yourself or your plant!

When does Pachira aquatica need to be watered?

The Money Tree wants to be watered when the potting mix is nearly dry. It prefers to have some level of moisture all the time, but not sopping wet conditions.

With my large tree, I insert a moisture probe about halfway into the pot. If it reads dry, I thoroughly water it.

If you do not prefer to use a moisture meter, I would stick a finger into the potting mix as far as it will go and only water when it feels nice and dry.

When does Pachira aquatica need to be fertilized?

Pachira aquatica can be fertilized consistently through the growing season or anytime the plant is growing. A well-balanced fertilizer at quarter to half strength applied weekly or every other week should be sufficient.

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What varieties of Pachira aquatica are available?

The only variety commonly available (that I’m aware of) is the classic, green Pachira aquatica. This plant can nearly always be found in garden centers and big-box stores here in the U.S., at least.

However, there is a variegated plant that is rarely available and carries quite a high price tag. It is beautiful and perhaps one day will be more available.

What are some common issues that Pachira aquatica may face?

Leaf drop

If lower leaves turn yellow and fall off without becoming smelly or mushy, it could be that Pachira aquatica is drying out too much.

If the leaves anywhere on the tree begin to yellow and become mushy, it is often a sign of too little light, too much water, or both.

If the stem becomes mushy, the plant isn’t likely to survive. This is a more advanced stage of root rot that is pretty difficult to come back from.

Browning leaf tips

Browning leaf tips are usually a product of either underwatering (the plant staying too dry) or the humidity being too low.

Pest issues

Pachira aquatica is fairly pest resistant. The two most common pests for P. aquatica are probably spider mites and scale.

Spider mites are more of an issue when the plant is stressed due to lack of light or improper watering.

To learn how to identify and treat these and other pests, check out this post by clicking here: What Pest is on My Houseplant & What Can I Do About It?

Happy growing!

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