A braided money tree (Pachira aquatica, USDA zones 10-12) is a beautiful and inexpensive accent to a home or office; in fact, it thrives under fluorescent lighting. Although the branches of the money tree do not naturally entwine themselves, this plant can sustain and tolerate braiding well. The money tree plant, which can reach heights of 20 to 30 feet tall, may also be grown as a bonsai version of the larger plant.
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Keeping Your Money Tree Healthy
Braiding is most successful when the money tree is healthy. If necessary, repot the houseplant in a larger pot where the roots can spread out, and water it appropriately. The soil should be kept slightly damp, but not wet, and never totally dry. Watering once every two or three weeks is sufficient for most plants. If the leaves of the money tree turn brown, you need to water more. Don't worry if the leaves tend to break off easily, as that is typical for money trees.
Be careful, however, to avoid repotting your plant just before beginning to braid it. These plants dislike environmental changes and will need some time to get used to their new container.
Starting the Braid
Braid the stalks when there are at least three of them and they are green or less than 1/2 inch in diameter. Begin by sicking two stakes on either side of the money tree; each stake should reach as high as the leafy part of the money tree. Gently start the braid from the base of the plant by crossing one branch over the another, just as you'd braid hair.
Keep the braid slightly loose, leaving enough distance between each successive crossing of branches so that the money tree does not snap. Work your way up until you reach a point where there are too many leaves to continue.
Tie a string loosely around the end of the braid, and tie the ends of the string to the two stakes. This will keep the braid in place as the money tree grows.
As the Money Tree Grows
It may be several months before you can continue the braid. When the new money tree growth has at least 6 to 8 inches, remove the string and extend the braid a little more. Tie it off once again and anchor it with the stakes.
At some point you may need to replace the money tree stakes with taller ones. Also, don't forget to repot when the plant has grown appreciably. The only way the money tree can keep growing taller is if the root system has room to expand.
The money tree's growth will level off at some point when it is between 3 and 6 feet tall. You can cap its growth by keeping it in its current pot. When the money tree has reached the size you want, remove the stakes and untie the string.
Braid Slowly and Carefully
Remember to keep the pace slow so that you don't stress the plant. If you accidentally snap a branch while braiding, put the two ends back together immediately, and wrap the seam with medical or grafting tape.
Be careful, however, to avoid wrapping too tightly up and down the rest of the stem, as this can damage the branches and cut into their skin. When the branch has fully healed and fused together, you can remove the tape.