How to Choose the Best Soil and Container for Your Money Tree
Money trees (Pachira aquatica) are bright leafed tropical plants known by some to bring prosperity and luck. You can make the best of that good fortune by providing your money tree with the right soil and the right container. Get it thriving, and who knows how much luck that this charismatic little plant can draw into your home!
Money trees need a soil blend that is both readily draining and capable of retaining moisture. No matter what blend you choose, make sure you house your money tree in a pot with plenty of drainage holes that is the right size for your growing plant.
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Why is it important using good soil when planting a money tree?
It’s easy to overlook soil quality when it comes to potted money trees. It’s tucked away in the dark, after all. But good soil is a critical part of your plant’s care.
If the potting blend does not hold water well, the tree will become dehydrated. But one that’s too heavy or that drains poorly is just as hazardous. It risks creating stagnant conditions beneath the surface, harboring noxious fungi and risking root rot.
Poor soil will also reduce slow the growth of the money tree. It needs mildly acidic soil in order to access micro-nutrients – especially iron, manganese and zinc – and without them leaves are stunted or turn yellow.
What types of soil are there?
There are plenty of options out there for the indoor gardener, making it difficult at times to chose the right mix for you. Most will fall into one of four groups – general potting soils, specialist potting soils, organic additives and inorganic additives. Let’s take a look at the more popular options.
General Purpose Potting mixes
A general purpose soil blend is a mix of a variety of different elements, suitable for a wide range of plants. They usually contain dirt, organic material and other elements that are designed to allow drainage and support growth.
Many premium blends include slow release fertilizer, fish or seaweed emulsions, or bark chips to improve drainage and texture. They’re good all-rounders, so if you’d rather not fuss with special blends or mixing your own a high quality general purpose potting blend will be fine for your money plant.
Specialist Soil Mixes
A specialist soil blend is one designed for a specific type of plant, with their specific needs in mind. Cacti, orchids and roses are good examples of plants that are often given specialist soil mixes, but be careful – these blends are entirely focused on the needs of one type of plant, and the wrong choice can be a death sentence. A cactus will not survive in orchid mix, for example, and an orchid will go through a slow, sad demise in cactus blend.
That said, you can often use a succulent or cactus blend for money plants as they share similar needs for good drainage. Just be ready to water more frequently than you would with other soils.
Inorganic Soil Additives.
Inorganic additives are minerals, stones and the like. They’re usually selected to provide extra drainage or to improve the structure of the soil. Some common additives include:
Perlite is a form of expanded volcanic glass that’s fluffy in texture, quite light and airy. It’s a fantastic additive to potting mixes of all types. It provides excellent drainage, and because it does not degrade over time it retains this property for the life of the blend. It’s one of my favorite additives for indoor plants.
Vermiculite is a mineral holds water, making it an excellent additive to support your money plant’s moisture sensitive roots. It also allow excess to flow, giving it fantastic drainage properties too. It’s a reliable all-rounder.
Pumice stone is a coarse, crushed up gravel made from volcanic rock. It’s light and airy, and provides great drainage. It actively wicks water from the soil and can help counter some of the effects of over-watering. It’s best to stick to perlite if you’re in drier parts of the country, but for many pumice stone is a serviceable choice.
Coarse sand is a contentious additive. It promotes drainage, and like the preceding additives doesn’t break down but remains in the soil. I’m not a huge fan of it for money trees. It has a tendency to compact over time, and provides little other support. It’s best left for desert plants, like succulents or cacti.
Organic Soil Additives
Organic soil additives derive from plant or animal sources and break down over time. What each brings to the soil varies, but almost all help retain moisture and break down readily to help keep the soil fertile. Organic additives include:
Moss is a valuable addition to your money plant’s soil. It comes in compressed blocks or in bags and needs to be re-hydrated before use. Moss is prodigiously good at holding water, keeping your mix moist without being soggy, and releases acidity and nutrients as it breaks down.
Coco coir is the fibrous outer husks of coconuts, dried and shredded. Like moss, it’s excellent at absorbing and retaining water. It’s also 100% sustainable, as it’s a by-product of the coconut industry, so it’s a great choice if you’re environmentally minded in your gardening.
Horticultural charcoal is having something of a moment, with many self professed plant experts tossing fistfuls of the stuff into every mix they devise. It’s not entirely unfounded – horticultural charcoal absorbs hazardous chemicals, and encourages beneficial microbes in the soil. It’s also nice and chunky, and provides great texture and drainage.
The catch is of course that charcoal also locks away beneficial chemicals, like fertilizer. These properties are also short lived when compared to the lifespan of the soil, and as it breaks down can become very acidic.
That said, it’s not a bad idea to toss a little into your money plant mix if you have some handy. Money plants thrive in acidic soils, and are sensitive to root problems that can be mitigated by charcoal’s chemical-catching properties.
Commercial composts are much like home composts with the dial turned right up. They’re generally produced in high temperature industrial composters, the output of which is a rich, nourishing material.
Be cautious with compost, as it’s often heavy and lacking in texture. It’s also very high in nitrogen – when mixed through other material this is good for growth, but too much will damage the money tree’s delicate roots.
I’d suggest skipping commercial composts. But if you have a compost bin at home, adding a few tablespoons of well rotted material will give your blend a real fertility boost.
DIY soil mixes
“The best potting soil for growing indoor plants will usually be a recipe mixture that gives ideal conditions for moisture, drainage, and nutrient-holding capacity, porosity, and plant stability,” writes Dr. James M. DelPrince, associate professor at Mississippi State University. “Most potting soils used by commercial nurseries are custom blends or recipe mixes.”
You really will get the best from your money tree with a custom blend that’s right for it. Here’s a couple of my favorites to get you started.
Recipe 1: Water Holding Soil Mix
This blend is great for money plants grown in offices or homes with aggressive climate control. HVAC systems result in lower humidity, so your money tree will need extra support to stay hydrated.
For this blend, mix:
- two parts potting soil
- one part perlite,
- one part vermiculite
- one teaspoon of Gia Green Flower per 4 L of growing medium
- two parts peat moss or coco coir.
Recipe 2: Fast Draining Money Plant Soil Mix
If you’ve got a track record of over-watering plants consider a fast draining blend to protect your root system.
For this blend, combine:
- one parts potting soil
- one part peat moss or coir
- one part pumice stone
Choosing the Right Container
When choosing a new pot, drainage is critical. You’ll need at least three drainage holes for your money tree’s new pot, evenly distributed around the base of the pot. This gives water peculating through that well-draining soil somewhere to go. Without holes, even the best structured soil will wind up boggy and stagnant.
Material is important too. Plastic is great for water retention, and terra-cotta or unsealed ceramic helps draw excess water away from the roots, great for gardeners known to be a bit overenthusiastic with the water can.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do money trees need re-potting?
Money trees prefer to be re-potted once every two or three years. They benefit from being slightly root bound. Their roots are so sensitive to shock that they’re better off in a tight pot than being handled each year. I go into more detail about how and when to re-pot a money plant here.
Why is drainage so important to money trees?
In their natural range, money trees grow on riverbanks and around freshwater estuaries. They have evolved to be around clean, free flowing water.
Water added to a pot has different properties. It quickly stagnates, and can breed all manner of nasty bacteria and fungi. It needs to flow in order to keep the money tree in good health.
Is it difficult to blend my own potting soil?
No, mixing your own potting soil is child’s play – about as difficult as cooking a mud pie!
I don’t have a particularly fancy setup for my mixing – just a bucket or two, a decent spade and the bags of assorted soils and additives. It’s just a matter of adding the components in the right ratio. Usually I use an old takeout container and count the scoops – each full scoop is one ‘part’, and I can scale up as needed.
Should I add rocks to the money plant’s pot?
Rocks are, in my opinion, more trouble than they are worth. They take up too much space and impede root growth and do little to improve the water retention properties of the soil. Too many, especially at the bottom of the pot, can lead to a perched water table, a state of affairs that can lead to over-watering. They’re also deeply obnoxious to deal with when re-potting, as the can become entangled in roots and difficult to remove.
There are better additives out there that provide the same benefits with far fewer drawbacks – perlite, pumice and vermiculite, for example.
There’s something almost magical about getting the right soil mix to a beloved money tree, especially if you’ve had problems with them in the past. The perfect blend can take a cantankerous plant and make it so easy to manage, easy to water and well nourished. Sometimes, as they say, you have to make your own luck!