Friday, March 25, 2011

Pachira Aquatica

Every year as spring arrives I get this urge to buy plants. Well, okay, I get this urge at different periods of the year, not just at spring. But you know; it’s just one more excuse to pop over to the local greenhouse and snoop around for some goodies. And now that I have both indoor and outdoor gardening to enjoy, you can imagine just how plant manic I become this time of year.


Although I’ve been drooling over some of the houseplants on display at different greenhouses around town, I’ve had to force myself to walk away without making a single purchase. It’s not that I don’t want to buy anything; it’s that I shouldn’t. In a little while, I’ll be so busy with all the outdoor gardening responsibilities that it wouldn’t be wise to add any more plants to the indoors; they’ll just end up being neglected, albeit benignly. Still. Neglect is neglect. So, I’ll wait until things settle down a little. Then I make no promises to behave.

But it doesn’t hurt (or cost anything) to look. And the plant that has caught my interest – a plant that I hope to buy soon - is the Pachira aquatica. Since I can’t have one (for now) no matter how much I’d like to, I’ll settle for writing a little about its care info.

The Money Tree

Commonly referred to as the ‘Money Tree’ or ‘Money Plant’, Pachira aquatica is native to Central America, South Mexico and South America where it grows in swamps. Other common names include ‘Water Chestnut, ‘Saba Nut’, ‘Guiana Chestnut’, ‘Provision Tree’ and ‘Malabar Chestnut’, although they’re not used as often over in my neck of the woods.

Pachira aquatica is a popular plant in the practice of Feng Shui, an “ancient Chinese art of positioning objects in buildings and other places based on the belief in positive and negative effects of the patterns of yin and yang and the flow of chi, the vital force or energy inherent in all things.” Feng Shui has been around for a few thousand years and is practiced in China and several other areas of the world.

Large, stalked leaves with many oval leaflets grow from the top of a thick woody stem. This unusual but attractive plant is typically sold in a braided form with several trunks intertwined. I don’t know how quickly it grows, but a ‘Money Tree’ can become very large. And although it’s generally sold as a regular houseplant, every now and then you find it sold as a bonsai.

A wide range of lighting - from full shade to full sun - is tolerated. But even though Pachira aquatica will grow in almost any light condition, it will be happiest in a brightly lit spot where it can receive filtered sun. During fall and winter, you can grow your plant in direct sun without a worry but it should be protected against the strong rays of the summer’s midday sun.

Keep the soil of this plant moist at all times during the growing season, allowing it to dry out only slightly before watering again; water more sparingly during the rest of the year. Pachira aquatica tolerates drying out quite well but you should not make it a habit of letting it dry out completely too often or for extended periods. Avoid over-watering as much as possible or the trunk (or trunks) will eventually rot. To help prevent this from happening, use a potting mix that is airy and drains well.

Dry air can be tolerated for awhile but Pachira aquatica prefers more moisture; provide plenty of humidity to keep your plant happy and prevent spider mite infestations. Make sure there is adequate ventilation to avoid stagnant air; keep the air fresh and in constant motion by running floor or ceiling fans, and by opening up windows regularly. Feed with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every two weeks or once a month during the growing season; do not feed in winter. Repot every year in early spring.

Pachira aquatic is a lovely plant. It requires very little to keep it healthy, which makes it a great choice for beginners and a wonderful choice as a gift. If you don’t have a ‘Money Tree’ already, don’t hesitate to pick one up the next time you see a bunch of them at a local store. It’s worth it.

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