5 Signs a Money Tree Needs Watering

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Brock Ingham
Brock Ingham

With braided trunks and their lush, glossy leaves, a Money Tree (Pachira Aquatica) is said to bring prosperity and wealth into your home. You’ll need to keep it in good shape however if it’s going to get that job done – and the key to this is watering. How do you water a Money Tree properly?

Potted Money Tree in need of water
Potted Money Tree in need of water

A Money Tree in need of water will display limp stems and curling leaves that turn yellow. In extreme cases, leaves will turn yellow or fall away completely. A pattern of under-watering will also result in poor overall growth for the money tree as long-term stress in the plant develops.

When to Water a Money Tree

How often this will be changed depends on a few things. In the summer or during spells of dry weather, soil loses moisture quickly, so you might need a top-up once or even twice a week. In the winter, or when the weather is humid, each watering lasts longer. Larger plants in big pots will also need less frequent watering – their pot will hold more water than those in a small ones.

Light levels also play a part. Money plants use their water in a process known as photosynthesis, where they use the powerful light of the sun to use that water to produce sugars. A cloudy week means the money plant just doesn’t get as much photosynthesis done, and water requirements are lower. Low light is also cooler, in general, so there’s less water lost to evaporation.

“The best method for determining when to water is to test the soil with your finger to a depth of two inches, If the soil is dry, it probably needs to be watered.”

Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, Horticulture Educator at the University of Illinois.

Best Way to Water a Money Tree

For a Money Tree in need of a good, deep drink, I recommend watering from below. This tactic is a great way to rehydrate pretty much any indoor plant, but it’s especially good for money trees. In the wild, they grow in areas prone to flooding and rising water, so they are well adapted to soak up fresh water and efficiently move it from root to leaf.

How to Water From Below:

You will need:

  • A basin or tub at least half as deep as the pot is tall
  • clean water, preferably rain, filtered, or distilled water

Step One: Remove the Money Tree from the basin

First, remove your money tree from its saucer or drip tray and place it in the basin.

Step Two: Fill Basin

Fill the basin with water until the level is at least halfway up the side of the money tree’s pot. You may need to hold the pot steady in the water for a few minutes as water works its way into the pot through the drainage holes.

Step Three: Rest the Money Tree

Once the plant has stabilized in the basin, allow it to rest in the water for about half an hour. Top up the basin as needed to ensure the water level remains halfway up the pot. This allows all the organic material in your potting blend (especially coco coir or peat) to fully absorb as much water as possible.

Step Four: Drain the Water

Remove the money plant from the basin and allow to drain for 15 minutes or so, until all excess water has emptied from the pot.

Step Five: Keep an Eye Out for Overflow

Return the money tree to its spot, checking its drip tray periodically and empty them as needed.

Glossy Money Tree leaves
Glossy Money Tree leaves

How to Tell if a Money Tree Has too Little Water?

Money trees are adapted to the conditions of the steamy tropical forests of Central and South America. While their native range is known for abundant rainfall, what’s less commonly understood is just how quickly that water is lost

The lush forest is a landscape of fierce competition, with each tree and vine snatching its share, and the soil itself is free-draining. As a result, a surprising amount of rainforest plants are drought-hardy. The money tree’s signature woody stems are a result of this, as they have specialist tissue within the trunk for storing water.

The downside to this is that when a money plant shows signs of dehydration, it’s already in trouble. It’s torn through those stores and is starting to die. It’s best to get on top of the problem before signs start to show. If you’re worried your money tree is in need of a drink, here’s a few things you can check for:

1: Dry or Compacted Soil

The first thing to check is the soil. It’ll dry out long before the money plant itself starts to look sickly. Watch for:

  • dry soil that is flaky, crumbly or dusty
  • compacted soil pulling away from the pot
  • a pot that is unusually light when lifted

2: Curled or Wilted Leaves

Another symptom of under-watering is curled and wilted leaves. The tip of the leaf curls under, and the edges may also start to fold. In time, the whole leaf will start to wilt, drooping sadly downwards.

Water is not just critical for the biological functions of the plant, but also serves as a structural element. The same cells inside the leaf that store water also serve to keep leaves pert and upright. This structural support is known as turgor pressure. Poor turgor pressure is a very clear indicator that your plant is dehydrated, especially if the woodier structures like stems or branches start to wilt too.

3: Yellowing Leaves

Yellow leaves are never a good sign. They signal a stress response in your money plant. The valuable pigment chlorophyll is removed and relocated, as the money plant gives up on keeping that particular leaf alive. Oldest leaves tend to be sacrificed first, but the youngest, most tender growth often yellows too.

4: Leaf Drop

Money trees respond to stress by dropping their leaves, in addition to allowing them to yellow. They’ll get rid of what they consider dead weight, and concentrate on sustaining a smaller selection of growth.

This may happen before or after they yellow, or not at all. They’ll also shed leaves if the temperature is off, their growing environment is too drafty, or if the roots are damaged. It can be challenging to work out exactly what the money plant is annoyed about. But what’s life without a little mystery?

5: Slowed Growth

If you wind up in a pattern of under-watering, the money plant may not show immediate symptoms of stress but it will in time slow its growth. After all, if it only just has enough water to stay alive it can’t invest in new foliage or roots, and will stay the same size and shape for far longer than it ought to.

Healthy looking Money Tree leaves
Healthy looking Money Tree leaves


How to Tell if a Money Tree Has too Much Water?

It’s one of the great cruel ironies of indoor gardening that a plant with too much water is often identical to one that’s dying of thirst.

A healthy root system needs oxygen to survive, and a pot that is more bog than soil will result in dead and rotten roots. Once they’ve succumbed the money plant just can’t get that water from the pot to the leaves.

Key to telling the difference is the state of the soil. A thirsty plant has dry soil, and when lifted the pot will be far lighter than expected. An over-watered plant will have soil that is always wet, and that might reek of rotting eggs or sulfur. The pot will be heavy and the soil completely sodden. Water pooling on the surface of the soil or collecting for weeks in drip trays also suggest the problem is too much water, rather than a lack of it.

Always check the state of the soil before watering. It’s often the difference between life and death.

How Much Water Does a Money Tree Need?

Money trees love water. They do very well to be watered heavily, but allowed to dry out in between watering. How much this is in terms of volume will differ depending on the weather, time of year, or the size of the plant.

This is why watering from below is an ideal way to water a money plant. It allows them to take up exactly as much water as the plant and the soil will safely hold, and no more. But for larger specimens it can be hard to wrangle them into a large enough tub, if you can find one at all. You can water the money tree from above, with a few caveats.

First, make sure they get enough. Remove the pot from its tray and thoroughly drench the soil until water flows freely from the drainage holes. Avoid watering the trucks, especially if they’re elaborately braided – this can trap water against the bark and cause patches of rot.

Wait a few minutes, then drench again. Dry soil is often
hydrophobic, it will not readily absorb water. By watering twice like this you give the soil a chance to soak up everything it can.
Secondly, always let the excess drain away before putting the money plant back in its saucer. This will prevent water accumulating at the roots.

How to Use a Moisture Meter

It’s taken me many years to become confident in my watering, but you can make a short cut by using a moisture meter.

This is a small, palm sized device with one or more long metal probes. When the probes are inserted into the soil, the water content of the soil is assessed using a mild electric current. They’re very precise, making them a great tool for the scientifically minded gardener. They’re also great if you’ve had problems with watering larger plants, as the long probes on a moisture meter can assess water levels deep in the soil.

Final Thoughts

Watering your money tree doesn’t need to be a trial. Water deeply, but let it dry out a little between watering, and make sure any excess drains. Understanding their biology and the conditions they like best will help make the whole process easier, too. And honestly, there’s no better feeling than getting it right and watching your tree thrive. I always feel more prosperous when my money tree is doing well!

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