The money tree (Pachira Aquatica) is a tropical wetland tree that is often kept for the belief that it brings good fortune and financial success.
Because of this, it can be quite upsetting when your money tree is struggling, as you may think you are going to experience bad luck. However, it is more likely that your plant is unhappy due to an issue with its environment.
Money Tree leaf browning can be caused by a variety of factors, including over-watering, under-watering, low humidity, and too much direct sun.
Some other potential causes for brown leaves on a money tree include:
- Pests causing leaf die-off
- Exposure to hot temperatures for an extended time
- Scorched leaves due to too much direct sunlight
- Inadequate sunlight
- Natural aging of the plant
Methods to stop leaves from turning brown on your tree will vary depending on the cause, so read on for some tips on how to figure out what is causing this issue and how you may be able to fix it.
Why are my leaves turning brown on my money tree?
First of all, your tree may simply be going through the natural process of aging. As most plants age, they will allow older leaves to die off to make room for new, healthier growth.
If the brown leaves on your tree are mostly on the bottom of your plant, and the top of the tree is putting on new, healthy growth, this may be the case.
If the brown leaves are widespread, scattered throughout your plant, or irregular in their colour change (e.g. brown spots are forming rather than the leaf being uniformly brown), then there may be cause for concern.
As mentioned before, the most common reasons for leaves turning brown on a money tree are related to watering amounts and frequency.
As plants naturally found in wet, tropical areas, money trees are used to occasional flooding and standing water. However, when overwatering occurs too frequently, or the plant is underwatered and allowed to dry out too much, it will become unhealthy.
Overwatering, especially when combined with poor drainage, can cause roots to rot, preventing them from delivering the required nutrients to the plant.
To prevent poor drainage, plant your tree in a pot with holes in the bottom to allow excess water to run off after watering.
A plastic nursery pot is fine, which can then be set into a larger, more decorative pot to match your style. Water your money tree thoroughly once every three weeks, or whenever the first two to three inches of soil are dry.
Underwatering can be just as severe as overwatering for your plant. This might include:
- Not adding enough water each time you water your plant
- Allowing soil to dry out too much between waterings
- Low humidity in the air, resulting in a lack of moisture
- A combination of any of the above
As mentioned before, your money tree should be watered once the top couple of inches (5 centimeters) of soil in the pot is dry, about once every three weeks.
If you allow your plant to go longer than this without watering, the roots will dry up and die off, starving your tree of the nutrients it needs to survive.
Your tree may also be underwatered if you only give it a little water each time. You should thoroughly soak your plant with each watering and allow excess water to drain off.
If your plant has been underwatered for a while, gradually increase the amount of water you give it to avoid shocking the plant.
You may also have dry air in your house which is an issue for the money tree that is originally from tropical regions. If just the edges or tips of your leaves are turning brown, your money tree is likely suffering from a lack of humidity.
To add humidity, you can place a humidifier next to your plant or mist it manually every couple of days. Be sure not to over mist as you can cause tissue rot on the leaves and stem of your plant if it remains constantly wet!
Pests may be another cause of your plant looking unhappy. Pests that love to target the money tree specifically include fungus gnats, spider mites, and whiteflies.
Also check: How Often to Water a Money Tree?
To determine if pests are the cause of your plants’ decline, check for pests or signs that pests are present. This may include:
- Fine webbing (like spider webs) on the stems of the plant may be a sign of spider mites
- Honeydew (sticky-like sap) is secreted by whiteflies after feeding on the plant
- Fungus gnats (tiny, fly-like insects) exiting the soil, especially following watering
- Presence of actual pests on and under leaves, on the stem, or within the soil
If you suspect that pests are the cause of your trees’ leaves turning brown, be sure to separate your plant from others (ideally put it alone in its own room) to prevent the pests from affecting other plants in your house.
Once you examine your plant closely and determine if pests are the issue, and what they might be, you can do some more research to figure out how to best tackle them.
As a species used to warm, tropical forests, money trees are sensitive to extreme temperatures of hot and cold. Ideal temperatures for money trees are between 53.6°F and 77°F (11-25 degrees celsius).
Usually, this should be easily attainable if you keep your house at a comfortable temperature.
However, if the tree is right next to a window it may be exposed to extreme temperatures during the summer and winter.
If you think temperature is the cause of brown leaves on your tree, move it to a more appropriate location in your home and see if conditions improve.
Leaf burn is another issue that can occur if your plant is right next to a window. Due to the magnifying properties that glass has on light, your plant leaves risk being scorched by the sun if it is in too much direct sunlight during the day.
Proper placement for your money tree is in a bright area with indirect light, meaning sunlight is only on your plant for limited times if at all.
If your plant is in a place with direct sunlight, it should only be in direct light in the morning and later in the day, when the sun’s intensity is lower.
Inadequate sunlight is also an issue that can cause brown leaves on your money tree, so proper placement is essential for a happy plant!
Should you remove brown leaves from a money tree?
You can safely prune brown or dying leaves and branches from your tree without worrying too much about the impacts it might have.
Because your money tree has a sturdy, woody stem rather than a soft herbaceous one like other plants in your collection might have, it can more easily withstand the stresses of pruning.
Even a healthy money tree may be pruned occasionally to help it maintain a nice, attractive shape.
When done correctly, pruning will actually stimulate growth. By removing unhealthy and unproductive branches on a tree, you allow the plant to allocate more resources to growing new, healthy one.
This means money trees will often grow back fuller and healthier after pruning. By removing any brown leaves that have been impacted by pests or diseases, you will also be protecting the rest of the tree, and any nearby plants, from potentially developing the same issues.
How do you get rid of brown leaves on a money tree?
To prune your money tree, be sure to use clean, sharp gardening shears. Using shears that have not been properly cleaned and were previously used to cut a plant with any pests or diseases can run the risk of transferring those pests to your money tree.
Using sharp shears will also make it easier for you to make clean cuts without ripping or tearing any additional tissue, which leads to faster healing and regrowth for the plant.
Trim off any dead or dying branches with brown leaves while holding the shear blades at a 45-degree angle to the stem. You can leave about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) of growth on the stem to allow the branch to grow back healthier.
Because pruned branches will regrow, the direction of the angle of cut is important. If you angle the cut down towards the ground, the new growth will grow in that direction. Be mindful of this when making any cuts on your money tree.
How do you manage pests on a money tree?
As mentioned previously, the most common pests you are likely to find on your money tree include fungus gnats, spider mites, and whiteflies.
These pests will impact your tree in various ways, causing its health to decline and its leaves to turn brown and die. Before you can start treating pests on your tree, it helps if you identify them so you know what you are dealing with.
Fungus gnats live in the soil, feed on the roots of your tree, and thrive in moist, wet conditions. They are more likely to appear if your tree is overwatered and your pots have poor drainage.
If you see these small flies emerge from the soil whenever you water your plant, you have a fungus gnat issue.
To manage them, you can try and kill eggs and larvae that remain in the soil.
Applying a solution of 4:1 water to hydrogen peroxide, or diluted neem oil, to the soil can help to kill off eggs and young bugs.
Spider mites are another common issue that money trees have. These pests feed on the leaves of your tree and will cause leaf discoloration and death.
Unlike fungus gnats, mites are more likely to occur if you have low humidity or dry conditions in your home. To manage them, wash the leaves of your tree using a diluted mixture of water, neem oil, and mild soap (Castile soap works well).
This will both wash the mites off the leaves (using the soap) and help prevent future issues (using neem oil).
Warmer conditions in your house are more likely to attract whiteflies to your plant. Whiteflies suck the sap from your money tree and although may not kill it completely, they will cause it to look unhealthy.
Young whiteflies should be removed from the underside of leaves by applying a similar soap and water solution to the one recommended for spider mites.
Try one litre of water to one teaspoon of mild soap to start, and add in a little neem oil if you have it. Adult whiteflies can be managed using sticky cards that are placed on the soil or near your plant to trap the flies.
Like all bugs, whiteflies have natural predators. If you don’t mind having a few harmless ladybugs around, introducing them to your whitefly infestation will help reduce the population.
Other pests that may impact your tree include mealybugs, soft brown scale, and aphids. No matter what pest is present on your plant, it is a good idea to isolate it (temporarily) from other plants in your home.
By doing this, you reduce the risk of pests spreading to other plants, causing a larger infestation that is harder to control.
Even if you fail to properly identify the pests impacting your tree, you can still try and manage them. Regular spray applications of diluted neem oil help to deter pests and keep your tree healthy. Other things you can do include:
- Manually removing any pests from leaves and stems by washing them with mild soap and water
- Flushing of soil to remove any eggs or larvae
- Repotting your plant to remove any potentially contaminated soil and see if there is damage to the roots
- Pruning of dead, dying, or infected branches to avoid spreading to the rest of the plant
- Ensuring proper care and conditions for your plant to make it less susceptible to pest infestations
Can money trees have diseases?
There are a couple of diseases that may cause brown leaves or leaf spots to develop on your money tree.
As mentioned before, root rot is a fungal disease that can occur if your plant is overwatered or sitting in standing water, which starves the roots of oxygen.
Improving drainage and reducing the amount of water given to your plant can help prevent this. Repotting the affected plant in fresh soil and removing any rotten roots can help your tree recover faster.
Anthracnose leaf spot may be the cause of brown spots on your leaves. This fungus can spread quickly through the plant and should be managed as soon as it is noticed.
Using clean shears, prune the affected areas off your plant and dispose of them to prevent spread to the rest of the tree. Inspect and prune your tree regularly as needed.
White spots appearing on already brown leaves may indicate powdery mildew is present. Leaves may also wilt, curl, and droop if they are infected.
A mixture of mild soap, baking soda, and water applied to the leaves may help with the management. If the powdery mildew is only present on a few leaves, you can try and prune them off to stop the infection.
What does an overwatered money tree look like?
If you water your money tree more than every three weeks (21 days) or suspect it may suffer from poor drainage, there are a few things you can check to confirm it is overwatered.
Remove your plant from the pot so you have access to the roots. Healthy money tree roots are firm, white, crisp, and have no foul smell.
Roots with root rot will be brown or black (or even grey). Rotten roots will also be mushy and soft, and often have a bad smell to them.
If your plant is overwatered, you should correct the drainage issues and alter the watering schedule. You should also place your overwatered plant in a warm, sunny location for a few days to help it dry out.
If the condition is severe, you can repot your plant into a new, well-draining soil mix. Be sure to rinse off any old soil and remove affected roots to help encourage new root growth.
Can brown leaves turn green again?
Leaves on a money tree turn brown when the healthy plant tissue starts to die or has been damaged in some way, such as by sunburn or a pest.
Because of this, it is unlikely that brown leaves will turn green again, even if you correct the issues that caused the leaves to turn brown in the first place.
As mentioned before, there is no need to allow the brown leaves to remain on your tree. You can safely remove them (following proper procedures), to improve both the aesthetics and health of your plant.