The money tree --- a tropical plant with dark green, glossy palmate leaves -- is believed to bring good luck and financial fortune to its owner. Money trees make attractive, decorative houseplants, and are robust and easy to care for. By observing some simple guidelines, you can ensure that your money tree thrives and contributes -- if not money -- a splash of lush greenery to your household.
The money tree -- botanically known as Pachira aquatica and also called the Malabar chestnut, Guiana chestnut, and the saba nut tree -- is indigenous to Central American wetlands. Money trees are often used in feng shui design to increase "chi," or positive energy flow. The leaves bear a rough resemblance to hands and are considered particularly lucky if they feature five or more "fingers." Money trees are often sold with the trunks braided for decorative effect.
Money trees are non-fussy plants that are resistant to pests and most diseases. However, you should use a good-quality commercial potting soil that drains quickly; money trees are susceptible to root rot. Bright, indirect light is ideal, but avoid placing your money tree in direct sunlight, which could scorch leaves. A balanced, all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, applied once a month, will provide ample nutrients; it is not necessary to fertilize in the winter, when the plant is dormant. Prune the growing tips of your money tree to keep it houseplant-sized.
Money trees should not be over-watered; according to GFlora.com, watering two to three times a month is sufficient. It is permissible to allow the top layer of soil to dry out to about an inch in between waterings. Waterings should be infrequent but thorough; water until the overflow comes out the holes at the bottom of the planter and then empty the saucer. Don't allow the plant to sit in standing water.
To maintain the moderate to high humidity required by your money plant, spray it weekly with a plant mister. Avoid using very cold water; tepid water is more suited to the money tree's tropical pedigree. Guide to Houseplants recommends using a pebble tray -- both functional and attractive -- to ensure sufficient humidity. Cover the bottom of a tray with a layer of small, pleasingly colored stones, and cover with clean water. Set the money tree's container in the tray, making sure water doesn't come up over the edges of the saucer.
Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.