If you saw a money tree, or Pachira aquatica, in its native habitat of Central and South American swamps, you probably wouldn’t recognize it. The tree can grow up to 60 feet tall (versus a max of 3 to 6 feet indoors), and that ubiquitous braided trunk isn’t a natural feature. When grown in a nursery, the supple young, green trunks are slowly braided by cultivators before they harden and turn woody.
Money trees prefer bright, indirect light and moderate-to-high humidity. Direct sunlight can lead to leaf-scorching, but the plants can do relatively well in low light. Exposure to too many drafts, though, may cause leaf loss. Heater vents and hot, dry air also need to be avoided.
If you can’t keep your money tree in a bright, steamy bathroom, make it a humidity-enhancing pebble tray by filling a shallow tray with small rocks, adding water to partially cover the rocks, and setting the plant on top.
Money trees can survive outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12, but otherwise need to be houseplants.
To avoid root rot, a money tree needs a sandy, peat-moss-based soil and a pot with good drainage. Although it likes humidity in general, you should let its soil dry out between watering. A good schedule for most environments is to water when the top 2-4 inches of soil are dry. Water thoroughly, until water flows out the drainage holes of the pot, and pour out the excess from the tray so that the roots don’t sit in water.
During the growing season, fertilize once a month with a liquid plant food at half strength, but skip fertilizer in the winter.