Did you know that the braided Money Trees we all know and love are actually multiple Money Trees? These beautifully designed houseplants are, in fact, two to six individual Money Trees (Pachira Aquatica) twisted together, each of which would survive on its own in nature.
Money Tree lovers often wonder how to braid their Money Tree – and the answer is that it’s easier than you think. By gently weaving together young Money Tree trunks, binding the braid, and maintaining it as the plant matures, you can create beautiful braided styles that will last for years.
Wondering if you could learn to braid a Money Tree? With the right techniques and plants, of course you could! Keep reading for a complete overview of Money Tree braiding and some tips to keep your braided tree healthy and beautiful.
What Makes Money Trees Unique?
A Money Tree, also known as Pachira Aquatica, Guiana Chestnut, or Saba Nut, is a relatively hardy plant native to Central and South America. Even though it is a tropical plant, it can be a bit sensitive to overwatering. But aside from that condition, most plant lovers find it easy to grow.
Money Trees can tolerate artificial and indirect sunlight, as well as most indoor temperatures. They are able to grow as a small desk plant or as an indoor tree, which can reach heights of six feet tall.
A tidy plant, Money Trees can also be popular because, when in good health, they rarely shed leaves and do not require continual repotting. Aside from its long life and ease of care, these plants are also special because of their frequently braided stems. This gives the tree a unique, artistic appearance and adds elegance and exotic charm to the plant while maximizing its foliage canopy’s beauty.
Do Money Trees Braid Themselves?
The lovely intertwined stems of a Money Tree can look so perfect that it’s easy to assume that the tree is shaped that way naturally. However, this isn’t so. The braiding of plant stems is a practice that can be introduced to indoor or outdoor plants to enhance their natural beauty, provide structural support, and add cultural meaning.
Nearly any trees or plants with soft, pliable stems can be braided, and it is common to see Hibiscus, Ficus, Azalea, and Bay Leaf plants with braided stems. And for some plants, like Lucky Bamboo and Money Trees, the braiding is so popular, it is rare to see these plants without their famous braids.
Keep in mind that when most people think of braids, they think of a specific, three-strand design, but stem braiding can take a variety of forms. The definition of a braid is basically any decorative, interlacing of strands, and isn’t limited to a particular style of braid.
Some braided plants feature only two trunks, twisted together to form a spiral shape. This can be especially attractive for plants with densely packed leaves that form a “leaf ball” at the top of the structure. However, some braided plants may incorporate up to six strands. Even more intricate styles can include interwoven strands that are then molded into vase or trellis shapes, or even coils.
Since Money Tree stems are thicker at the base and more fibrous than plants like Lucky Bamboo, it is rare to see them braided into intricate shapes. However, it is common to see a Money Tree with several interwoven strands.
These popular styles can be beautiful additions to homes or offices and can add sentimental values to plants given as gifts.
Why Are Money Trees Braided?
There are several reasons that a Money Tree’s stems might be braided as it grows. These reasons may include:
A Fuller Appearance
In the wild, Pachira Aquatica can grow up to 60 feet tall. They are thick-trunked, full of dark, glossy leaves, and even bear “fruit” in large pods that contain edible nuts. However, many domestic Money Trees grown indoors don’t exceed 3′ tall, with some grown as bonsai plants, 16″ or smaller.
Since these plants are tropical in origin and are part of the leaf canopy of rain forest areas, they tend to have minimal foliage at the plant’s bottom. Instead, most of the leaves of the tree are found toward the top.
As a result, solitary Money Trees tend to look tall and wispy, with slender trunks. And while Money Trees have beautiful leaves, they are also long and thin, contributing to a skinnier looking plant.
But when several Money Trees are added to a single pot, the trunks and the spread of leaves appear fuller and lusher, offering a healthy, attention-grabbing appearance.
Since Money Trees tend to be tall and thin, with a cluster of leaves at the top, they can be fragile on their own. While this may increase the likelihood of a stem snapping during pruning, repotting, or relocation, it can also increase the likelihood that the plant will bend under its own weight.
If you are intending to grow a larger Money Tree, between 3′ and 6′ tall, braiding stems together can provide increased stability for the plant, decreasing the likelihood of broken stems or trunks.
Adding increased stability can make it safer to handle the plant without risking harm to its sensitive stems, or causing “plant shock,” with the impact of the movement.
As previously mentioned, an elaborately braided Money Tree can be a sight to see! Twisted or woven using two or more stems, a braided Money Tree can make a beautiful, exotic addition to any space.
Additionally, the complexity of the braided stem can give the Money Tree an unusual, high-end quality that makes these plants an excellent choice for gift-giving, elevating it above a more basic potted plant.
The popular legend of the Money Tree dates back several centuries to a poor farmer who discovered the Pachira Aquatica growing in his field. He was captivated by its beauty and hoped that selling the plant could help him provide for his family. In this story, the sale of the plants was so successful that he became wealthy, and named the plant the Money Tree.
While this is a beautiful fable, the truth is very different. Money Trees became popularized in the 1980s, gaining momentum due to the appearance of its braided stems. But just because it doesn’t have an ancient history, doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with symbolism.
Money Trees are genuinely believed by many to bring good luck and prosperity. Money Trees typically possess clusters of five leaves, and five is an important number in Chinese culture. Therefore, these plants are often associated with the five elements, Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Space.
The braids are also said to “lock-in” prosperity and success, to keep them from escaping the home. For this reason, it is also common to see them braided with five stems, adding to the symbolic power.
This symbolism has helped make Money Trees popular as graduation and wedding gifts, as a way of wishing good fortune on those embarking on a new beginning. These beliefs have also made Money Trees a beloved staple of Feng Shui practitioners, bringing harmony and success into the home environment.
Does a Money Tree Have to Be Braided?
What if you prefer the more natural look of a Money Tree? Does the plant actually need to be braided? Absolutely not! Braiding a Money Tree is a matter of personal choice, and an emerging trend in gardening is “naturalistic gardening,” sometimes called “extreme naturalism.”
Don’t let the term “extreme” fool you – in this case, it is nothing shocking. The gardening naturalism movement is based on the idea of allowing the beauty of nature to stand on its own – allowing plants to grow exactly as they are and making choices that are appropriate for that habitat.
In keeping with that gardening style, a Money Tree would likely not be braided and would grow to its own natural height and thickness. But what about those who want to learn the braiding technique?
Money Tree Braiding 101
Considered an art by some, braiding the stems of plants and sapling trees can be a fun way to level up your skills as an amateur gardener. And while it can look incredibly elegant, it’s actually much easier to accomplish than you think.
But first, a word of caution. Pachira Aquatica plants don’t easily tolerate changes to their environments, such as being repotted into a new planter or moving to a new location. These types of changes can result in “shock.”
This is because, while plants cannot think or respond to changes in their environments the way we can, they can sense changes, such as different lighting conditions. Since a plant cannot tell if a change may threaten its health, it will often stop growing, go limp, and possibly drop leaves as a result.
These signs mean that the plant is focusing attention on the health of its roots, which are the most essential part of its body. This is important to know because if you are going to be transplanting Money Trees into a new container to braid them, or if they get a bit too jostled in the braiding process, they may appear sickly for a couple of weeks. This is perfectly normal. Don’t make the mistake of overwatering or using excessive fertilizer – that will only make the plant’s health worse.
If the yellowing or limpness continues for an extended time, however, you may need to check for other explanations, like overwatering. For more information on watering Money Trees, you can read this article.
But, if no other issues are present, with patience and proper care, your Money Tree should start to look healthy again in no time.
Braiding a Growing Money Tree
To braid the stem of several Money Trees together, you’ll need to start with young saplings. Unless all of your Money Tree stems are already in the same pot, you will have to repot them into the same container. The container and soil choices you make will help ensure that your growing Money Tree stays healthy.
First, make sure to choose a large enough planter to accommodate all your stems, but do not choose an excessively large pot. Sometimes plant owners assume that a Money Tree will “grow into” a larger planter, but too much space in the planter will allow water to accumulate. As a result, your plant may suffer root rot, and one or more of the stems may die.
Also, be sure that the container has at least one unplugged drainage hole. Without adequate drainage, your plant will likely suffer from overwatering as water collects at the bottom of the pot.
The soil you choose will also be an important factor. Using a soil that is designed to improve plant hydration can be harmful to a Money Tree since they are sensitive to excess water. Instead, consider sandier, well-draining soils, like succulent blends, or soil with perlite and peat moss.
If you are uncertain of the blend to use, read this article for more information about brands to purchase in-store and how to make your own DIY mixture.
Ideally, you will be repotting sapling Money Trees that are about 7″ to 10″ high, and less than 1/2″ in diameter. They should have a bit of mature coloration at the very bottom, but still, be flexible enough to move.
You can test this by gently bending them sideways, as you would while making a braid. If they bend easily, then they will be easy to weave together without breaking.
If there are stems lower on the trunks that would interfere with the braid, cut them off close to the trunk with sharp, disinfected pruning shears. Using dirty shears can transfer disease to your plant, so ensure that your cutting edges are clean. Set aside any leaf and stem “cuttings” from the sides of the plant for later propagation.
Do not cut off leaves and stems that won’t interfere with your braid, such as those toward the top of the plants. Leaves are essential for the health of your Money Tree, and they will help your plants obtain the energy they will need to keep growing.
When you are ready to start your braid, be careful to keep the weaving loose. As the trunks thicken and mature, they will grow closer together, creating the tighter appearance of the braided plants you see in stores. However, if you pull the braid too tightly at this stage, you may injure the plants.
Gently braid your way up about 2/3 of the way up the trunks and carefully let go of the stems. If they stay in place, you can leave them as they are. But if they begin to come unbraided, use a bit of garden tape or thick yarn to keep the formation. Don’t tie them together too tight, though – it is important not to damage the trunks or cut into their skin.
If the newly braided plant appears to lean, you may consider a plant support (like these from Amazon). This will help keep your Money Tree straight as its trunks thicken and mature. If side stems grow on the braided sections, you may prune them away to maintain the appearance.
In about four to six weeks, you should be able to gently cut and remove any gardening tape or yarn that held the braid in place. The braid should stay, and there should be no damage to the trunks or skin.
How To Keep a Money Tree Braided?
Although you have successfully started your Money Tree braid, your work isn’t done yet. As your Money Tree grows, you will need to maintain the braid.
In ideal conditions, which are warm and humid, with plenty of indirect light, Money Trees can grow very quickly. However, most household conditions aren’t quite that perfect. But be patient, if your Money Trees leaves continue to look green and healthy, and the stems look green and firm, your plant is healthy and growing.
With average Money Tree growth, it may take a few months before you can continue the braid. But once you see about 6 to 8″ of new growth, you should gently continue your braid, as you did before. Once again, do not pull the braid too tight and, if needed, gently bind the braid in place with gardening tape or yarn.
As your Money Tree grows, you may need to repot the plant. It is safe to do so while the plants are still growing but be careful not to pull on the trunks or damage the root system.
Eventually, your Money Tree will stop growing, typically between 3′ and 6′ in height. Once it is done growing, your braiding work is done, and your tree will remain braided for the rest of its life. Want to encourage your Money Tree to grow to its maximum height? Check out our article here.
Can You Braid a Mature Money Tree?
As a Money Tree matures, its trunk will become medium brown or beige and grow firm and a little rough to the touch.
In fact, if you look at braided Money Trees in stores or greenhouses, you may notice that the trunks at the bottom are darker and more mature than those at the top. This is because the plant was braided as a sapling, and the braids were continued as the plant grew.
Mature, unbraided trunks are usually resistant to bending and movement. At this point, it is not advisable to try to braid the trunk of the tree. If the trunks do not bend properly, they may snap, leaving you with an injured plant.
If this happens, your tree may slowly recover, growing new stems and leaves. You can propagate the section of the plant that broke. However, it’s better to purposely propagate your plant than to be forced to do so because of accidental damage.
The one exception to the rule about braiding mature Money Trees might be found in the case of a purchased Money Tree that is growing past its original braid. If you purchase a braided Money tree from a greenhouse and notice that it has started to grow green, unbraided trunk above the braid, there is potential for additional braiding.
If this is the case, you may follow the instructions above and continue to weave the braid once the new growth is long enough to do so.
How to Braid a New Money Tree
What happens if you have waited too long to braid your Money Tree? The trunks of your tree are already too firm to braid without danger of harming the plant. Can anything be done?
Yes! Remember the cuttings we mentioned before? Propagation can be a great way to add new plants to your collection, allowing you Money Trees from saplings and experimenting with braiding techniques as they age.
One of the easiest ways to propagate a Money Tree is to use cuttings of stems and leaves. Some of the best cuttings to use are stems with a few leaves already on them, such as those removed from the base of a Money Tree braid. Ideally, these cuttings should be fresh, and not more than several hours old, to be most successful.
Lightly dipping the bottom of your cutting in root hormone (like this one from Amazon) can help increase the growth rate of the new plant, but don’t place the hormone mixture above the portion of the stem that you will plant in the soil.
It is possible to plant two or three of the cuttings in the same pot. However, do not plant them closer than a couple of inches apart, or the roots may become too crowded. Once you plant your cuttings, pat down the potting mix around the base of the stem, or stems.
Lightly water the cuttings, and soon your new Money Tree should begin taking root. But, resist the temptation to uproot your plants to continually check on growth, which can damage their newly forming roots.
Even with ideal conditions of warmth, indirect light, humidity, and water, it may take several weeks before the roots begin to form. And it may take several months before you have the required 7″ to 10″ trunks to begin braiding.
This may seem time-consuming, but this process will allow you to have a continual supply of Money Trees to grow – braiding them, and propagating them on your own schedule, and improving your gardening skills along the way.
What if One Trunk Appears to Die?
It sometimes happens that one trunk in the Money Tree braid will appear to sicken or die. While it can be sad to see one of the trees in the braid start to get sick, it does not mean that the whole Money Tree will die. You might wonder why only one tree in a braid would begin to die.This is because plants, even those propagated from the same source, have different levels of heartiness.
In fact, you can visit flower shops and stores and notice that some plants grow more successfully than others, even under the same conditions. You may have accidentally overwatered the plant, or it may have started to develop blight.
If the trunk is only slightly soft, it is possible to save the deteriorating plant by adjusting your treatment conditions. But if it starts to turn dark brown or black at the base, or if it seeps liquid when gently squeezed, it will not recover.
By taking healthy cuttings from the dying tree and repotting the rest of the braid, you may be able to protect your plant and grow a new Money Tree.
However, the one thing you cannot do is leave the dying trunk in place. Once a Money Tree trunk begins to rot, it will expose the rest of the plant to mold, bacteria, insects, and dangers that could kill your entire Money Tree.
If you’ve found a trunk in sorry shape, it is time to take action. Get some sharp, disinfected scissors and well-draining potting mix. You will need to propagate what you can and replant the healthy portions of the plant.
If your Money Tree is heavy, you may want to lay the planter on its side, running your finger around the pot’s inner rim and gently moving the planter back and forth to loosen it.
Once the plant is free, look at the roots and trunks. If one of the stems is squishy and discolored, the roots will be clearly rotted and will be squishy, slimy, and unpleasant smelling. Trim away the dying roots and very carefully cut free the dying plant, so as to not damage the healthy roots. Then, you should be able to gently pull it from the braid.
If the dead plant does not come out of the braid neatly, you can cut through the mushy trunk to separate it. But be careful not to cut or nick the other trunks in the process, or they may develop rot, as well. When you are done, there should only be healthy trunks and roots remaining.
If you found that the other trunks had root rot as well, you should also consider pruning the top of the plant, cutting away about 2/3 of the leaves and branches. While it may be frustrating to see your plant lose so many pretty leaves, reducing the size of the plant allows it to conserve energy for healing.
If you want to reuse your previous planter, wash and dry it carefully with a diluted bleach mixture. Any leftover mold or bacteria at the bottom of the planter can re-infect your healthy plants.
If healthy leaves and stems remain on the dying trunk, set them aside for propagation. Then replant the healthy trunks from you Money Tree in a pot with adequate drainage holes and well-draining potting mix.
After this experience, your Money Tree will likely go into shock and look unhealthy for a few weeks. Be careful not to overwater or fertilize at this time and be especially careful about direct sunlight.
While you will not be able to replace the lost trunk with a new section of braid, your other braided trunks may survive, and any gap left behind may close in time. In a few weeks, you may begin to see signs of new leaf growth, which will tell you that the rest of your braided Money Tree is on the road to recovery.
Tips to Keep Your Money Tree Trunks Healthy
I’ve written a large article about Money Tree Trunk issues. If you’re seeing any problems with your tree and have questions, consult this article for answers. But some quick tips for Money Tree care are as follows:
Don’t water on autopilot! Instead of automatically watering your plant on a particular day, you should always make sure to check the soil first.
This is because the season, indoor humidity, and other issues can impact the amount of water needed. This can lead to overwatering, if you just add water on a set routine.
To check the moisture, insert your finger into the soil and feel for dampness. If the soil feels moist, do not water the plant until the soil feels dry 1-2″ down. You can also consider using a moisture meter.
Additionally, avoid pouring water directly on the trunk of the Money Tree. Water sitting on the trunk can invite the growth of mold and bacteria. This is also true when misting the tree with water. Instead of allowing the water to stand on the trunk and leaves, mist the air around the plant to increase humidity.
Also, always remember to remove dead leaves from the planter. These leaves can trap moisture and mold in the pot, causing bacteria to grow close to the trunk of your plant.
While it seems like a lot to remember, Money Trees are forgiving plants.
With patience and healthy plant care habits, your Money Tree can grow for years, bringing exotic beauty to your home or office, and making beautiful gifts for those you love.