Pachira Aquatica

Mexican Fortune or Braided Money Tree

The Pachira aquatica has many common names including Mexican fortune tree, braided money tree, malabar chestnut, guiana chestnut and a few others.

Growing in it's natural habitat - this native to south and central America plant grows in swamps up to 20 metres tall, which is surprising considering how well it's adapted to become an easy to care for indoor tree.

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Pachira money tree

In South America and other warm climates the pachira is grown for it's edible nuts, in east Asia for good fortune, and in Europe and the US for their attractiveness as an indoor tree species. Grown braided as a house plant edible nuts will not fruit.

These have been cultivated in Taiwan to produce the braided types in various sizes including successful bonsai’s, which are exported to Europe, US and other countries.

How it looks: The obvious interesting feature is the trunks of the money plant are braided which are thick and woody (like any other tree) with bark. The upper section of the trunk produces green branches with long thin petioles (stalks) and palmatley compound or whorled leaves (five or more leaflets attached like fingers) sitting at the top of the petiole. So, the plant has a mixture of a tree and palm appearance. The lush linear leaves are glossy in appearance and have darker green visible veins, adding to it's attractiveness as a house or office plant. The smaller bonsai trunks look very thick compared to the size of the rest of the tree.

Flowering: The Mexican fortune tree produces attractive white flowers and edible nuts. However, they will not bloom indoors.

Displaying: A plant over 4 feet tall can add some charm to many places within a home - especially in large rooms, near patio doors, near a fireplace, in a conservatory, or within a hallway. They also make fantastic reception area and office plants, as long as the correct conditions can be provided.


Origin: South and Central America.
Names: Mexican fortune tree, money tree plant and others (common). -- Pachira Aquatica (botanical/scientific).
Max Growth (approx): 10ft tall.
Poisonous for pets: Non-toxic to cats and dogs.

Pachira braided trunk
Pachira money tree
Pachira ariel view
Picture of leaves

Mexican Fortune Tree Care

Temperature: Room temperatures from 65-75ºF (18-24ºC) are suitable, and no lower than 50ºF (10ºC).
Light: Try your best to provide the plant with as much light as possible - without direct sunlight which can scorch the leaves. During the winter the amount of daylight time decreases, which will naturally tell the plant it's time to rest and slow it's growth down, so do not become concerned about it no longer producing new shoots and leaves.
Watering: Thoroughly water the plant once the soil becomes dry and remove excess water from the pot tray. During the winter the pachira will slow it's growth right down and will not need to be watered anywhere near as much like in spring and summer. Do not over-water or have the plant in a pot which can become waterlogged.
Soil: A peat moss based mix is suitable. A good mix can be made with 2 parts peat and one part perlite or sand (for drainage).
Re-Potting: Re-pot once every two years, during spring. The pachira wont need a pot much bigger than the one it resides in now, if it's grown more, otherwise the same pot will be fine. Keeping the tree small requires the plant to stay in a small pot with only a soil change.
Fertilizer: A balanced liquid fertilizer diluted should be fed to the plant every 2 weeks which will encourage growth and healthy leaves. Feed from spring and stop just before winter or when growth really slows down, whichever comes first.
Humidity: Above average room humidity is the best growing conditions to grow a money plant. During the summer increase levels with a humidity tray (tray with pebbles and water which the plants sits on) or a humidifier. During the winter avoid the plant becoming affected by dry air from artificial heating.
Propagation: Propagate using 5 - 7 inch long stem tip cutting with at-least one node and only 1 or 2 sets of leaves. Use rooting hormone on the cut and re-pot in moist potting mix. For best results try and provide temperatures of 75 - 80บF (24บC - 27บC) and increase humidity. Don’t move the cutting from the pot until you see plenty of new growth, which could take 6 weeks or so (depending on the conditions it's growing in).
Pruning: You can prune the tree down to the size you find suitable if the foliage becomes overgrown. Leave half inch of stem above a node and petiole with a leaf attached when cutting a stem.

Common Problems

  • Leaves yellowing and dropping: Two possible causes could be over feeding or over-watering. Stop both activities and resume watering first "once the soil has become dry" and hold out using fertilizer for a month or two. Once the plant recovers reduce the amounts of both food and water compared to how you provided these previously. The odd lower leaf or two will turn yellow and fall from time to time, which is natural.

  • Leaf tips and edges turning brown: When it's only the tips turning brown it's quite often due to too much dry air. If the tips, edges or both have turned brown then it could be any one of many possible incorrect conditions including too much or not enough water or light (direct sun for too much), or even overfeeding or cold drafts. It's going to have to be a process of elimination to find the cause.

  • Leaves dropping: Leaves dropping can be caused by sudden changes in temperature and lighting conditions becoming lower. If you have recently bought the plant or moved it to a new location this can cause leaves to drop.

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