The Bonsai Money Tree is considered by many to be a symbol of good luck and prosperity for those who own one. Its binomial name is Pachira aquatica, and it is also known as Malabar chestnut, Guiana chestnut, provision tree, saba nut, and Pumpo.
Commercially, these trees are marketed as money trees, money plants, and braided money trees. That last moniker is earned by virtue of the five separate trunks that are gradually braided together to form a single twisted unit.
Since the Bonsai Money Tree is actually five trees in one, many would assume care of this grouping of trees to be more arduous than care of a single bonsai tree of another sort. This is an incorrect assumption since they are easier to care for than are many other bonsai trees.
|Scientific/Botanical Name||Crassula ovate|
|Description||The tree is native to southern Africa. It has thick branches and fleshy leaves. Known commonly as jade tree, it can tolerate drought or wet conditions.|
|Position||The tree needs full summer sun if grown outdoors. Inside, it should be kept on a warm and sunny windowsill. Bonsai money trees should not be exposed to frost.|
|Watering||Keep watering to a minimum to encourage small leaves. The more water the plant is given, the larger and fleshier the leaves become. Allow the soil to dry out before watering during the winter months.|
|Feeding||From March to October, feed with a bonsai fertilizer. As an alternative, apply slow-release fertilizer pellets every eight weeks.|
|Leaf and Branch Pruning||Prune in the spring to desired shape. The tree grows rapidly, so pinch-out regularly. Large trees may require weekly pruning/pinching.|
|Re-potting & Growing Medium||Re-pot in the spring. When the tree is newly re-potted it should be kept in a warm and shady location, and watered sparingly until it becomes properly established. Use well-draining bonsai soil that contains akadama.|
|Wiring||Pinching-out and pruning are usually enough to shape the tree. If wiring is to be carried out, do so during the dormant period. Care must be taken to ensure wires do not cut into the branches.|
|Notes||The people of the Orient believe that growers of the jade tree are granted good fortune.|
Making Crucial Decisions
Before a gardener plants the Money Tree, he or she must make several critical decisions.
How tall does the gardener want the bonsai tree to grow?
The answer to this question will dictate the size of the pot in which the bonsai will be planted.
Does the gardener want this bonsai tree to grow outdoors or indoors?
This decision will affect the planting location of the bonsai tree. Gardeners should also decide on braiding design and other shaping decisions ahead of time, although this may also be done after planting.
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Regardless of whether this tree is to be planted inside or outside, it will need to be planted in a well-draining environment and in well-fertilized soil. Outdoor bonsai Money Trees should be planted in partial sunlight and indoor bonsais should be placed near a window that receives bright, indirect light.
These trees cannot withstand temperatures lower than 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so gardeners should take proper precautions to ensure the continued health of the bonsai tree.
While the soil in which the Money Tree is planted should never be allowed to completely dry out, this type of bonsai tree is hearty and does not need to be watered on a strict schedule. All a gardener has to do in order to properly water a Money Tree is to pour enough water onto the soil of the bonsai tree to moisturize the soil once every seven to ten days.
Gardeners may also find that their bonsai tree’s leaves will benefit from gently spraying the leaves with water daily. Fish meal or a well-balanced liquid fertilizer mix are good sources of nutrients; gardeners should employ a fertilizer during every other watering. As hardy as this tree can be, gardeners should carefully avoid over-watering them.
Pruning is essential to the aesthetic nature of the Money Tree since most bonsai gardeners value this type of tree for its five-braid design. When new growth threatens to impede the ability of the gardener to continue to shape the braid, the bonsai gardener must carefully prune the new growth from the tree in order to maintain the distinctive braid pattern. These trimmings can be rooted so that gardeners can cultivate even more Money Trees.
Gardeners should also trim any damaged, dead, or unhealthy leaves from the tree as this will enable the tree to dedicate nutrients to healthier sections of the tree. When trimming a tree for aesthetic reasons, gardeners should remove an equal amount of leaves from each trunk so that one particular Money Tree is not taxed.
Roughly one third of the leaves should be trimmed to enable new growth in the tree; gardeners should not be alarmed at the whitish, milky sap that weeps from the tree as a result of this trimming. Gardeners should end the trimming session with a watering to aid the tree in recovering from being trimmed.
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This particular type of bonsai tree’s braided design is often the largest appealing factor for bonsai gardeners. Many bonsai gardeners purchase their Money Trees already braided and thus must only maintain the braid as the tree grows.
Most commercially-purchased Money Trees come with instructions about how to maintain the braid, but the key fact to remember is that braiding a Money Tree takes time. Whether a bonsai gardener is continuing to shape a pre-existing braid or is cultivating a braided bonsai from five Money Trees, the braid will take several growing seasons to properly form.
Wrapping yarn tightly around the braid will help keep the trunks tight together, and plastic zip ties are helpful in slowly bending the trunks. As with all bonsai trees, patience is a virtue.
Regardless of a gardener’s decision about the particular size at which the Money Tree will be maintained, these bonsais require repotting once every one to three years.
Gardeners should always repot at midsummer in a pot that is slightly larger than the previous one to allow for growth. Before transferring the bonsai to the other pot, the gardener should trim approximately a quarter to half of the root system depending on the size at which the gardener wants.
Root pruning is rather imprecise, so gardeners may want to err on the side of caution by not cutting back too much of a tree’s root system. As with the initial potting, gardeners should ensure that the tree is planted in fertilized soil in a pot that drains well.
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Miscellaneous Tips For Maintenance
Indoor Bonsai Money Trees flourish under fluorescent light in a room temperature between 70 to 75 degrees. Rotating the bonsai tree on a lazy Susan while pruning will help the gardener trim the tree evenly. These trees thrive when taken outside during the spring and summer and brought indoors during the Fall and Winter (particularly if temperatures drop below 40 degrees).
Some people believe the Bonsai Money Tree brings financial and emotional luck and prosperity to those who possess them; others believe these trees favorably influence positive energy in a room.
Whatever an individual’s beliefs, bonsai gardeners will enjoy caring for this tree because of its hardy nature and its easy maintenance. While some bonsai trees will die if they dry out even slightly, this particular tree can last a couple of weeks without water.
Depriving this tree of water for longer than a week and a half is not good for the plant, but this bonsai tree recovers more quickly than do other bonsai trees. They are also easy to trim, although gardeners should be careful when they trim so as not to disturb the braid.
Gardeners should also remember that successful braiding takes time and that grace and beauty cannot be rushed. Novice gardeners should purchase their Bonsai Money Trees commercially since these trees are likely to come with helpful instructions that will assist these beginners with their bonsai.