Can I save this money tree?

supercetJanuary 5, 2014

Here's the background to this sorry looking tree:

I was given this cutting a couple of years ago. It never really took off but it didn't die either. It always had about 2-3 leaves at a time, and then one by one they'd drop and there was always new growth. I thought I was under watering it, but usually when you do that the leaves are brown and crunchy, at most these were yellow and always normal texture. Before I went away for Christmas all the mature leaves had dropped - that had never happened before, all of them gone at one time. But there was new growth, a couple of baby leaves poking up at the top. I came back 10 days later to this sad sight. The house sitter said he watered it but when I stuck my finger in the soil it was bone dry. More than anything, this has huge sentimental value to me. I really, really don't want it to die. Is there anyway to save it?

(sorry but I don't know how to stop it uploading / displaying the photo sideways. ?)

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Well, the tissue is still green...and if the trunk is firm all the way down to the roots, it could certainly survive. What is the pot and the mix like? How much light does it get?


    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 8:17PM
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It's by a west facing window so it gets plenty of light. The soil is probably standard houseplant potting soil (my friend potted it for me and it looks the same as my plants potted in Miraclegro potting soil.)

The stalk is firm and green all the way to the soil, but I haven't dug further down to check out the roots.

I did some more research and saw they don't like cold drafts, and I wonder if that's why it's never really thrived? Although it gets full sun and I'm in Los Angeles at night that spot would be cold with it being by a glass door to the balcony, and the door is usually cracked a few inches for my cats to slip out, even overnight. So there definitely would have been a draft (sure, not an east coast winter draft, but it does get down to the 40s overnight for a lot of the winter).

If I cut the stalk back but with no new growth present won't that just kill it?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 8:07PM
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clio, in what order did it lose its leaves? From bottom up? or from top down? Or all at the same time.
The first two would indicate a watering problem; but the last would indicate an environmental problem (like a glass door "usually cracked a few inches").
"Good morning, Clio. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to devise a way by which you can keep your plant, your cats and yourself in peaceful co-existence. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck."
With acknowledgements and apologies to "Mission Impossible".

This post was edited by ronalawn82 on Mon, Jan 6, 14 at 22:30

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 10:29PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

It's possible that a cold draft could affect it, especially if the plant has been used to warmth. Really, though, the 40F's shouldn't zap the growth like that. My own Pachira is left out in Autumn until the nights get too cold. As the temps drop, the plant slows and turns a pale green. But once inside its vitality returns.

Don't prune it now. Let it re-leaf completely, then prune it around Father's Day next Summer.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 11:43PM
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ronalawn82 - I can't say in what order it loses it leaves because it's never had more than about 3 or 4 at a time! But I'd say the bottom leaves go first, with the new ones growing above it. But really I think at most it's had about 5 leaves at any given time so it's hard to say whether it loses them from the top down, bottom up. But just before Christmas it lost the big leaves and looked the most sparse it ever has, it has never lost all the leaves at once, but because I could see several new leaves growing at the top I wasn't too concerned about it, except of course I then went away for 10 days and in that time it deteriorated. It's those new leaves that are now brown. You can see while I was gone one of them grew to a couple of inches long but is now brown and hanging down.

greenman28 - but with it being so dead / dying at the top I feel like if I leave it alone that brown area at the top is just going to spread down to the rest of the stalk and by Father's Day I'm just going to have a brown stalk. I've attached a better photo so you can see the top part more clearly.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 4:32PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

You can trim the tip back to healthy tissue if you want.
But if it's dying, it'll continue to die regardless. If its going to re-sprout, it will sprout at the first healthy node.

Give it as much light and possible.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:02PM
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clio, the second photograph shows that the top shoot has declined further. Additionally, there is some 'furrowing' on the topmost internode - even on the second node down. I have found that the symptom is associated with moisture stress.
I would cut off the top two nodes. Given adequate light and the right watering - amount and interval, the stalk would side-shoot.
Make a slanting cut across the piece you have cut off. Use a good light source and a magnifier to examine the section. Any colored (black, gray or brown) 'dots' would indicate that the conducting tissues might be blocked up.
The usual causes are bacteria (black/gray) or fungus (rusty/brown or red).
If it does not recover, it would indicate that the problem is in the potting mix.Cut back the stalk to provide one or two cuttings which you can start anew.
You can then remove the stump from the container, examine the root system and if you can identify the problem, you might be able to get it growing again.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:52AM
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ronalawn82 - thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I have a little hope now ; )

I will cut it back per your instructions. I didn't explain to the housesitter not to let it sit in the saucer if it's filled with water and I have a feeling that happened. When I water it, it drips straight into the saucer and I pour that out, but I didn't tell him about that. He probably watered it a couple of times and it sat in the wet saucer for a day or so.

A couple of questions:
Does the degree of the slant matter?
What do you call "the right watering"?
Will feeding it fertilizer or super thrive help?

(I feel like I'm about to conduct major surgery without a medical license. A life is at stake here!)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 2:26PM
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