Dear Josh, I'm a Money Tree

dbbbgllJune 3, 2014

(Not exclusively aimed at Josh, but any replies welcomed!)

Dear Reader,

I'm a money tree. My owner loves me, but she had a baby in January, and I was a bit neglected over the winter. She survived the first half-year of owning me (she adopted me last spring) based on the advice of you and other great people who have contributed to GW. Thank you, thank you -- your expertise and contributions to these forms have kept me alive!

Have pity on her... After patching some grass in the front year, she overcame her gardening fears and adopted me, an 8-foot tall money tree. (I like to think I am a bit more complex than grass.) While sitting out on someone's sunny porch to wait, hoping for a buyer, I had gotten some sun damage -- some leaves were turning white. But, still, my foliage was lush. She kept me in the shade for a few weeks since she had read that trees like to 'vacation,' but, oh, during that time, I got aphids and ants instead! I still itch at the thought.

She read some more on GW, and then decided to give me a bath. Not only did it feel good to get rinsed down and submerged in a bucket of water, with a spray of neem oil (a tree's perfume), she uncovered something which had been buried deep down below, for months, perhaps years. A rotted trunk. No wonder I had been feeling a bit cantankerous down there. After cutting the dead part away, she read and read some more of GW's great posts, and decided that the soil was poorly draining, and needed to be replaced.

(She hadn't read the posts about gritty mix by Al and Josh -- I tried to tell her, but I think I didn't talk loudly enough for her to hear me.)

Well, her solution wasn't half bad: 2 parts orchid potting mix plus one part perlite. If she could have done it again, she would have tried to get some lava stone, osmocote, etc. Incidentally, whenever she looks at me, it is with this look of mixed trepidation that I am going to gradually sink into a pool of yellow-green sludge. Maybe my chunks of bark are too big. Maybe that layer of sand she put on top to fight fungus gnats is causing me a slow and long suffocation...

Needless to say, after that scare with the ants, she has kept me indoors ever since. And, in a sense, that is when the trouble all started. My lush foliage went from the equivalent of a Pantene commercial down to, er, what said mistress' hair looks like in the early morning. My sun-damaged leaves fell off en masse, though there was new growth. Mistress was happily pruning new shoots at the top, which led to new growth on the bottom. She rarely fertilized during the winter, and then only maybe only with MG (shudder) -- and not only that; the tomato food version. And, fearing root rot, she kept waterings few and far between, watering about 12 cups every 2 weeks.

That is, until the baby came.

In the dead of winter, my waterings became even sparser, and the fertilizer nonexistent.

Day by day, she noticed my slow decline. Leaves were turning grayish-silvery-black, and falling off in great number. The very tips of leaves were yellow. By March, she panicked and hit the GW forums, reading and reading, coming up with one other attempt before resorting to posting herself: She bought a proper fertilizer (Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro), and started using it at 1/2 tsp per gallon. However, the waterings were still about 2-2.5 weeks apart. It seemed as if the worst had passed, and I was suddenly sprouting new leaves everywhere. She was relieved, but not convinced, since she had heard someone write once on the forum of "explosive growth, but then a gradual decline..."

Indeed, many of my new leaves turned brown almost immediately and fell off. An average or 2-3 leaves fell off and are still falling off per day. Color is pale. Veins are visible, and a million fears continue to crop up: iron deficiency? Fungus? Improper soil? Not enough air circulation? Not enough sunlight?

She recently upped the concentration of fertilizer to 1 tsp per gallon. She wants to know: should she water more often? Repot the whole thing?

Thank you soooo much for all your help!!! We don't know who is more endlessly grateful for all your advice -- she or I!

Money Tree (owned by Debbie)

P.S. Picture is of full tree from March. (Will try to post some more, including recent ones, later.)

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A picture of the full tree from March (window is west-facing).

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 12:31PM
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Worrying yellow and black discolorations on leaf tips (also from March), with the orchid potting mix visible in the background (plus regrettable top layer of sand).

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 12:32PM
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Now (early June): Improved, thanks to Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Now (early June): A bigger picture of the whole tree, with an elephant ear in the background. (It is also benefiting from the Foliage Pro fertilizer!)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2014 at 12:35PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello! :-)

How well does the mix and the container itself drain? I think more frequent waterings, and full strength doses of Foliage Pro will help out greatly. Now that my Pachiras are in outdoor shade, I am fertilizing once a week with FP at full strength and watering about twice a week. When watering, I thoroughly flush the mix.

Do you want the tree as tall as it is? You could always chop the taller trunks down, which means that the foliage will be able to get sunlight more easily.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 2:59PM
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My money tree was a got to have it purchase. Not knowing
How to care for it when I got it home n noticed one of the trunks
was dead n holo so i plucked it out n repotted for a 3 inch pot
To a 7 inc round 7 inch deep with miracle grow moist control now i hav
What started from buying it as a five trunk braid to 3 braidz
My husband is trying his best to revive it for me. Where did i go wrong?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Hello again this is how my roots look is it to late should
I give up on this guy n buy a new one? Try at 1 more time
I had killing another plant.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 2:02PM
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lol that was good reading

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 2:44PM
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Omg I'm nearly crying here! Somebody save it! :)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 3:13PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I'd honestly toss those and get a new plant.
The one piece on the far right seems to have a few might be able to save it, but it will take a long time.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 5:45PM
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Dear Josh,

Thanks for replying!

The mix is 2 parts orchid potting mix (mostly bark) and 1 part perlite. It seems to drain much better than the original mix, which seemed to hold moisture (maybe due to peat moss), and which I like to blame for the root rot in the original tree.

The pot came with the tree, and it has one hole at the bottom. There is a layer of pebbles about two inches thick at the bottom of the pot. I haven't watered to the point where water seeps into the saucer -- should I?

I'll definitely try out the increased waterings with full-strength Foliage Pro. I tried yesterday, and it almost seems greener today already!

Pardon this rather obvious question, but how should I apply water to the plant? I have been giving 2-cup installments in a squirt bottle spaced every few hours apart.

I've been misting it every few days, and letting my watering jugs sit full for a few days to get rid of chlorine.

It never occurred to me to trim down the tree, but that's a good idea I should look into.

Do you think I need to repot into a better soil mix?

Thanks for all your input and advice.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 11:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a


First, no need to continue misting. That won't help at all. I've never misted my Pachira, and they are as lush as any I've seen.

Secondly, the pebbles at the bottom of the pot should be removed. That will actually impede drainage. So, yes, this month would be a perfect time to re-pot the tree, remove the pebbles, and get it into a fresh mix of fine-grade Orchid Mix and Perlite. If lava rock (scoria) is available, some of that would improve the mix even further.

When watering, you should totally saturate the entire volume of the mix, until water is rushing out the drain hole. Pachira love to have their roots flooded, and then quickly drained (so oxygen can return to the root-zone). You could keep a turkey baster with you to remove excess water from the saucer as you pour water/fertilizing liquid into the container.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 2:22AM
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Hello again!

Thanks so much for your advice.

Ah, that solves the mystery of how to prevent the wooden floor from getting watered too! That is a wonderfully clever solution. Can the excess fertilizer solution be recycled on other plants?

Would it be too late to do the repotting in July? I have to go away for a month, for reasons out of my control.

It's nice to know that the misting is totally unnecessary. It's funny, from reading these forums, you get everything short of the kitchen sink.

Should I be incorporating neem oil or some other insecticide/fungicide into the care routine?

Well, I'm not the kind of person who has pots on every sill and table. I've just got three (money tree, elephant ear, and aralia), and I want to take extra good care of them. :)

Thank you immensely!


    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Photo Synthesis

There's no need for using an insecticide/fungicide unless you actually have an insect or fungus problem. I never mist my money tree either, and it grows just fine. They don't mind tap water one bit, so you don't really need to leave water sitting out.

There have been times when I've poured leftover fertilized water onto other plants, but I wouldn't advise it. Fertilizer is so cheap and the leftover water contains whatever dissolved minerals from the initial watering. So reusing it would be adding those dissolved minerals to your other plants, which would only complicate things.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 5:32PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Tommy is correct, the recycled water that comes out of the pot (effluent) has a lot of the old salts/minerals that you want to flush from the mix. However, you could certainly dump it amongst outdoor flowers or in the garden.

Father's Day is a very good day to re-pot, and if you can re-pot very early in July, you'll still be able to enjoy some good growth for the two months after. Sooner would be better, of course.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 5:55PM
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Thank you Josh and Tommy!

I'll be back June 30, so I will aim to repot before July 4th.

One more weird question: a gardening book I read once said that you should dust the leaves periodically, so they can breathe. (Admittedly, I've done this only, like, once all year.) Is this actually true?

You guys are awesome!


    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 11:52PM
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Photo Synthesis

I've never dusted the leaves on my money tree. But to be fair, since I primarily grow mine outdoors, I do occasionally spray it down with the water hose sprayer. I do clean the leaves of some of my other plants that have leaves that are more noticeable when they're dirty/dusty.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 12:48AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Same here, Debbie.
I seldom wipe down the leaves, but I do spray them off occasionally...especially during the Summer outdoors. I think that wiping the leaves off every few weeks wouldn't be a bad idea.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:49AM
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