Braided Money Tree Care Guide
Pachira aquatica (also known as water chestnut and Guiana chestnut) is a tropical plant surrounded by legends. The tree is native to the swampy regions of Central and South America, and has long been a revered species as an ornamental in Japan.
Its "lucky" status is, however, much more recent – one common story involves a Taiwanese truck driver who couldn't work during a typhoon and so decided to cultivate five of these trees together in a single pot, braiding the trunks together as they grew.
The beliefs surrounding the Money Tree have their foundation in Feng Shui, a concept heavily based upon the five elements of metal, wood, fire, water, and earth. The five leaves on each branch of the tree represent these elements; in addition, there are five chambers produced in the seed pod. The tree is believed to bring about wealth and good fortune, and are commonly seen in places of business for this reason. As a full-size tree Pachira can grow to 40 feet in height, and also enjoys much popularity as a bonsai, at about one foot high.
The trunk is slender and smooth, with grayish-bark that is green at the growth end. The leaves are bright green, palmate and typically grow in groups of five at the end of each branch.
When grown as a full-size tree, the Money Tree produces whitish, chestnut-like, edible nuts that can be eaten raw, cooked, or ground into flour.
This tree fares best with a mixture of sunshine and shade. It is a tropical so if kept outside you should bring it inside when temperatures dip below 50° Fahrenheit. Ideally this plant will thrive if kept as an outdoor bonsai in spring and summer, and kept inside – with access to plenty of light – during the cooler months.
Even though this is a swampland tree in its native habitat, it is also a hardy species and will do just fine if only watered about once a week. Allow the soil to dry out somewhat between watering's, then give just enough water to moisturize the soil.
If the leaves of your bonsai yellow and droop, it's being overwatered.
If they wrinkle and curl up, under watering is the problem. Misting is good for this bonsai, and it would also benefit from a humidity tray.
Your Money Tree can be fertilized twice a year with a balanced, time-release formula.
The Braided Money Tree is typically a group of five trees woven together. This must be done when they are young and the trunks are still flexible. If you purchase your bonsai already braided, then you must continue to maintain the braid as the tree grows. Continue carefully weaving the ends around each other, and remove new growth from the trunks in order to prevent new branches from interfering with the formation of the tree. When trimming leaves and branches, try to trim evenly among the five trees so that one tree is not overly stressed.
Yarn can be wrapped around the trunks to hold them together tightly as the tree adapts to its configuration. It can take several growing seasons to develop the look that most people associate with a Braided Money Tree.
May be propagated from seeds or cuttings. Take a 2-3 inch cane cutting (a cutting from a leafless branch), from a healthy adult tree. Allow to dry at room temperature for about a day, then the cutting may be planted with root hormone, if desired. Keep the cutting in a well-lit location at 65-75° F. Check for root formation after four weeks, and transplant to a larger container six weeks after the roots form.
Repot every two to three years, using a well-draining bonsai soil mix that contains peat moss or perlite. You do not need to be too aggressive in root pruning this specimen; removing up to a quarter of the root ball is sufficient, focusing on black, mushy, or smelly roots.
Insects/Pests & Diseases
Braided Money Trees are fairly hardy but will occasionally fall victim to scale or fungus. Scale insects, which appear as small brown bumps on the bark or leaves, may be removed manually. Alternatively, you can paint their protective shell with rubbing alcohol to kill them.
Pachira aquatica can also be susceptible to anthracnose leaf spot. Signs of disease normally appear in spring and consist of small discolored spots that progress to larger areas of disease on the foliage. This condition can be treated effectively with fungicide.
Powdery mildew may also be a concern; this fungus shows itself as white spots which advance to a white powdery coating on foliage. To treat this infection, wipe the leaves with a fungicidal soap, and keep the soil at the base of the trunks free of debris.