Pachira aquatica or Money tree hails from the tropical wetlands of Central and South America and are among the uniquely popular houseplants. They can reach up to 3-6 feet high when grown at home. Featuring woody stems and large compound leaves at the top, Money trees are generally sold commercially with trunks of many plants braided together, giving them a unique appearance and a more substantial tree form.
Money tree, also known by other names like Malabar chestnut or Guiana chestnut, has low care needs and is adaptable to varied conditions, as long as it gets the right mix of moisture, humidity, and light. When disturbed too much at the roots or if frequently changed its location, or exposed to hot and cold drafts, you will notice your Money tree dropping its leaves in protest. If you see the leaves turning yellow and the stems starting to rot, it is an indication that there is too much water in the soil, either due to overwatering or an improper drainage system.
What is Root Rot?
Root rot is the condition whereby the root system of a plant starts deteriorating due to diseases caused by the presence of pathogens, mostly soil-borne fungi. Money trees, along with most plants, including both woody and herbaceous ornamental houseplants are vulnerable to root rot. If noticed early, the plant can be saved. At the later stage of root rot, the disease can cause your plant to die.
Soil-borne fungi such as Phytophthora spp., Fusarium spp., Pythium spp., and Rhizoctonia solani have a wide host range and can cause root rot in a number of different plants. When the soil is soggy for long, it is an ideal environment for the growth and development of the fungi spores, most of which can survive for long periods.
Signs of Money Tree Root Rot
While Money tree needs a good amount of water, it also needs the water to drain well and not collect in the soil. When the soil is soggy from too much water, root rot of your plant can occur. You can tell when your Money tree is suffering from root rot by observing the plant on the outside and checking the root system below the soil. The following are the signs indicating that the Money tree is fighting root rot conditions.
One of the common signs of root rot in a plant is wilting leaves. When there’s root rot, the roots are unable to absorb and distribute nutrients to the rest of the plant, including the leaves. This lack of essential nutrients and water causes the leaves to look withered, malnourished, and wilted.
Leaves Yellowing or Discoloration
A healthy Money tree features leaves that are exquisite dark green in color. The leaves can start discoloring, changing from dark green to yellowish to brownish when there is water accumulation in the soil, which are signs of root rot. Always keep a check for any signs of discoloration of the leaves to swiftly take action and prevent any serious damage to the plant.
The slow growth of your Money tree during the colder winter months is natural and expected. In such cases, you don’t need to worry. Only when you start to observe the plant isn’t growing at its usual pace at other times of the year, you will need to investigate if there’s root rot. Disruption of proper water and nutrient transportation leads to overall slow or no growth of the plant.
Moldy, Rotting Smell
When there’s root rot, the plant gives off an unpleasant odor. When there are soggy conditions with a lack of oxygen, it can lead to the growth of bacteria, which can cause a bad smell. If you doubt your Money tree is suffering from root rot, try to sniff the base of the plant above the soil. A stinking bad odor is an indication that the soil is waterlogged and there could be root rot.
Investigate The Roots
In case your Money tree demonstrates any symptoms listed above, you need to start examining the roots to see if there’s root rot.
To do this, you need to first loosen the soil and carefully take the plant out of the container.
Brush off the soil, break it apart, to reveal the roots.
Check for diseased roots which will be soggy, mushy, and covered with wet soil. Black or brown roots indicate root rot, unlike the firm and white healthy roots.
Root Rot in Money Tree – Causes and Solutions
The main reason for root rot is overwatering. Watering too much and too often can cause water retention. The roots remain in soggy conditions and wet roots then get attacked by root rot.
Money trees can be watered once in 7-10 days and not too frequently.
The frequency of watering depends on the season, the pot material as well as where you keep the plant in your home.
Ensure the soil has dried out on the top before you water again.
Overwatering coupled with poor drainage systems can lead to root rot. Even if you have been watering at normal rate, when the water isn’t able to drain down, it collects and pools in the soil, causing conditions ripe for root rot of your Money tree.
Always check and use pots that have a sufficient number of drainage holes.
You can elevate the pot and place a saucer below so that excess water can freely filter down.
Every time you water the plant, throw away the collected water from the tray.
Adding an activated charcoal layer, which can absorb excess water, can also help prevent waterlogging.
Wrong Soil Mix
The type of soil used for planting your Money tree plays a crucial role. If you notice that the water drains slowly through the soil, taking a long time to filter, your soil is probably too compact. This causes water to not drain down easily, leading to waterlogging conditions.
Use a potting mix that has good drainage capacity in addition to being able to retain the water long enough for the roots to absorb and function efficiently.
Potting mix that contains peat moss is ideal.
Mixing sand can also improve drainage.
Infections Caused by Pathogens
The primary culprit of root rot is soggy soil due to waterlogging. Another reason can be the use of soil that was already infected. When you use an old soil mix or old pots to plant the Money tree, if the soil was infected earlier, the pathogen can easily attack the new plant, resulting in root rot.
Use new pots and new soil to plant your Money tree.
Whenever you get a new plant, check thoroughly for any infection or disease.
You can take an extra precautionary measure by keeping the new plant separated from others in your house.
Wrong Pot Size
Using a big pot to plant your money tree isn’t helpful. The bigger size allows too much water retention, which can then result in the roots remaining soaked at all times.
Choose a pot that perfectly fits the size of the Money tree after allowing a little space for the plant to breathe.
As the plant grows, you will need to repot it again to accommodate its growth and size.
Money trees grow their best when the temperature ranges between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27 degrees Celsius). During periods when the temperature drops, there is less intake of water by the plant. The reason being that decrease in temperature slows down chemical reactions. Thus, less intake of water and sticking to the same watering as before will result in soggy soil and cause root rot.
You can either:
Shift the plant to a spot where the temperature is higher while maintaining the same watering schedule.
Or keep it in the same temperature condition, but water your Money tree less frequently.
Watering During Winter Months
Winter months are dormant periods for the Money tree. The lack of light in winter results in slow or no growth of your Money tree. That’s why the plant doesn’t need the same amount of water as during its growth season.
Bring down the frequency of watering during winter.
If you watered weekly earlier, you can water once in 10 to 14 days.
Check the soil is dry before you water again.
How to Treat Money Tree Root Rot?
Once it’s confirmed that your Money tree is suffering from root rot, you will need to take quick actions to save the plant before the infection progresses and leads to fatal conditions. Depending on the degree of the rot, the following steps need to be taken to bring the Money tree back to life and good health.
Removing Infected Areas:
After carefully removing the plant from the pot, break away all the soil from the roots and rinse it gently under the water to reveal the roots.
Use sterilized scissors or pruning tools to cut off the damaged portions which will be mushy, black, or brown.
Discard the soil completely, as root rot pathogens can spread from infected soil.
Immerse the roots in fungicide to get rid of any pathogens that might still be there.
You can also trim off or remove damaged foliage.
After a thorough process to rid of any damaged roots and proper treatment of your Money tree, you will now need to replant it in a new pot with new soil.
It is best to use a pot that is slightly bigger than the plant, and having many drainage holes.
For further precaution, dip the pot in bleach for half an hour or so, before rinsing and drying it.
A drainage layer can be placed and then new soil poured to fill the pot halfway.
Use the right soil mix that is not too compacted – water won’t drain properly, and not too loose – water will drain out too quickly for the plant to absorb.
Without disturbing the roots, gently place the Money tree and then fill the pot with soil.
Place a tray below the pot to ensure the water has a way to filter down.
Caring After Root Rot Treatment and Repotting:
Water just a little when repotting and then stop till the top layer of the soil dries out completely before watering again.
Money trees can get bothered by any change in its environment, so it might take some time to adjust to being repotted. Ensuring all the other conditions remain the same as before will help ease your plant.
Trimming off portions of the top growth will aid in quick recovery, saving energy from new growth and using it for recovery instead.
How To Prevent Money Tree Root Rot?
Take all the necessary points discussed above regarding watering needs for your Money tree so that waterlogging doesn’t happen. When confused about whether to water or not, check if the soil is dry and if not, wait for another couple of days.
The best way to water your Money tree is by not following a strict regime. Since different factors affect water consumption by the plant, it is advisable to be intuitive regarding watering your Money tree.
Aerate the Soil
Loosening the soil from time to time can help to make it dry faster and drain effectively. You can also create air space by poking small holes in the top of the soil. Aeration helps more oxygen to reach the plant roots.
Sufficient sunlight not reaching portions of the plant can cause uneven growth and the soil to stay soggy. Rotating the plant every few weeks or whenever you water, can allow equal exposure to sunlight.
Bright, indirect light is what your Money tree prefers. If there isn’t much light in the present location, consider moving to a better area. Creating a screen or using curtains can help filter light if sunlight is too bright.
Some houseplants prefer to not be disturbed too often. But that doesn’t mean you stop observing it. Always check for any signs of stress or disease, like any changes in the leaves. When you catch the signs early on, rescuing and reviving your Money tree becomes easier and plausible. Something as simple as keeping a strict check on your watering process can prevent your Money tree from dying due to waterlogging and root rot.
Ranjan Singh Moirangthem is a media professional based in India, currently working as a freelance copywriter. Growing up in a hill station and now living in a concrete jungle, he finds solace in the green corners of the city, be it parks or his housing society garden. He’s even passionate about plants and gardening and shares his experience by writing in-depth and well-researched articles for our readers.