Pachira Aquatica, or the money tree, is a very popular houseplant, recognized easily by its braided trunks and vibrant green leaves.
This makes it a perfect species to make into a bonsai, as it already thrives as a houseplant, and because braiding the trunk is a common practice, this makes for great possibilities when it comes to shaping it into an ornamental bonsai tree.
The money tree is a forgiving plant to start with if you are just getting started with the art of bonsai.
Other types of bonsai tree can be difficult to look after to start with, as it can take a few weeks for the plant to display signs of distress or new growth.
At a Glance: What You Should Know About the Money Tree Bonsai
It’s worth starting off by saying that there are two plants that are mainly called the money tree: Pachira aquatica, and Crassula ovata (see also Gollum Jade (Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’): How to Grow and Plant Care).
The latter is a succulent plant, and while it is sometimes cultivated as a bonsai and has similar symbolism to the former, it is not the focus of this article.
The money tree, or Pachira aquatica, goes by many common names, including the Provision tree, French peanut, the Good Luck Tree, the Japanese money tree, and the Malabar chestnut, among others.
As you might guess, there is some symbolism attached to this plant. Keeping the plant in your home is supposed to bring good fortune into your life, and the braided trunk is believed to ‘trap’ prosperity.
As most money trees have five leaves, if you find a stalk with seven, this is believed to be incredibly lucky.
When grown as a bonsai, most money trees grow to a maximum of 30cm tall, and about 10cm wide, depending on the shape you start with.
This is a pale comparison of what the money tree is capable of in its native environment, where it can grow to 65 feet without much trouble.
Money tree bonsai live anywhere from 10 to 15 years at a maximum if given the right care, which is a relatively short time when you consider that some bonsai trees can live for hundreds of years.
Growing a Money Tree Bonsai: Seed or Cuttings?
When it comes to starting off a bonsai tree instead of buying one, you have two options, no matter what species you go for.
You can either grow them straight from seed, or speed up the process by using a cutting.
Seeds will be a slow and difficult process, and this is the case for most species that are typically cultivated as bonsai trees. Quite often, it will be difficult to get any success, even with the right conditions.
You may also find it difficult to purchase viable seeds, as growing a money tree from scratch isn’t as practiced as buying one that’s already at least a juvenile plant.
You can take cuttings from existing money trees, using semi-hardwood shoots, and it’s fairly easy to encourage them to grow roots.
You can do this in soil, or in water. Just note that the roots which are grown in water tend to be much weaker than those that are grown in soil, though they do grow much faster.
If you already have a money tree, you may also sometimes see shoots at the base of the trunks. When they are big enough, you could simply transplant them.
How to Look After a Money Tree Bonsai
All bonsai trees have different requirements, depending on what species was selected to begin with.
This determines the level of care that you need to take with your bonsai tree,and when it comes to growing a money tree as a bonsai, it is fairly easy.
Sunlight and Position
Money trees are suited to the environment we have indoors, as they aren’t cold tolerant.
They will withstand some lower temperatures, but as long as your home stays within a normal range, it should do fine.
When it comes to keeping these lovely plants, you’ll need to do so in the brightest possible place you can. Preferably, somewhere with as much indirect sunlight as possible, so the leaves won’t scorch.
You can bring it outdoors in the summer months if you prefer, but you’ll need to remember to bring it indoors again before the temperature gets too cool.
Watering and Feeding
If you look at the trunk of a money tree, you’ll notice that it is quite thick, right? These trunks store water for the plant, and as such, they don’t need a huge amount of water at any one time.
It’s very easy to overwater a money tree, especially as a bonsai tree, so make sure that the soil is absolutely, completely dry before you decide to water it.
Money trees do enjoy some humidity, though. You can achieve this by putting the plant on a tray filled with water and gravel, making sure the water cannot touch the roots and drown them.
As the water evaporates, it raises the humidity level.
Money trees do benefit from fertilizer. While you could use a regular bonsai mix, it’s better to use a general liquid fertilizer, as they will have different amounts of each nutrient.
Feed it when it requires water during spring – never do so dry, as this will burn the roots – and stop feeding it in autumn.
How to Repot a Money Tree Bonsai
Like most bonsai trees, if a money tree bonsai needs repotting, you should wait until spring, and only every few years.
If you’re planting it back in the same pot, discard the old soil, cut back the roots by no more than a quarter, and repot in fresh soil that drains well.
How to Prune a Money Tree Bonsai
The best time to cut back the leaves on a money tree is to do so in the last few weeks of winter. You shouldn’t need to do this very often, or by much, but enough to shape the tree how you want it to look.
If you are wiring the tree, keep an eye on the trunk. Braided trunks can grow into each other and crush themselves, so imagine the same thing happening with wire. Take it off the trunk before this can happen.
Pests to Watch Out For
Pachira aquatica or the money tree is fairly robust. No particular disease is a real problem, unless you count root rot, and this is preventable.
When it comes to pests, fungus gnats and spider mites can terrorize your money tree, so keep a vigilant eye on it. If you do see signs of pests, use a pesticide, but follow the instructions exactly.
You can also use neem oil, but make sure it is organic. Not only that, but bear in mind that just because something is organic does not mean it is not harmful.
Make sure to wear gloves and protective glasses when handling pesticides, as the alternative of something going wrong is far worse than the mild inconvenience of a couple of uncomfortable seconds.
Why is a Money Tree Braided?
Money trees are braided, as it is believed that the braided trunk will ‘trap’ fortune and bring you good luck. It also fills out the tree’s appearance, (technically more than one tree), balancing out the ratio of foliage to trunk.
Where to Buy a Money Tree Bonsai
Money tree bonsai are readily available from garden centers and specialist bonsai stores. To get the healthiest tree possible, always go in person and choose it yourself, checking for pests or damage.
It’s also worth going to a specialist bonsai store, as they have the knowledge and the time to look after each specific bonsai properly.