Money Tree Leaves Turning Yellow – Overwatering, Light, Fertilizer or?

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Money tree leaves turning yellow indicate that something is not right, i.e., your plant is stressed. It may be due to overwatering, underwatering, wrong lighting or humidity, pests, disease, inadequate or excess fertilizer, sudden massive temperature shift, etcetera

Nevertheless, sometimes money tree yellow leaves may be a natural aging process, especially with new growths and if it happens to lower older foliage.

We will be looking at the various causes of yellow leaves in money tree plants, mentioning some signs to expect, and giving you fixes or solutions.

Pachira aquatica money tree leaves turning yellow
Money tree leaves turning yellow
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About money tree plant  

Money tree plant (Pachira aquatica) is a popular, easy to care houseplant associated with financial success or good fortune. Here is a quick overview:  

  • Scientific name: Pachira aquatica
  • Family: Malvaceae (mallow family)
  • Common names: Malabar chestnut, money tree plant, money plant, Guiana chestnut, saba nut, monguba, pump, wild kapok or Pachira, provision tree
  • Native habitat: Central and South America
  • Size: grows up to 18 meters (59.1 feet) in the wild and about 1.5m (5ft) as a houseplant
  • Leaves: Shiny green palmate leaves with up to 9 leaflets
  • Light: medium to bright indirect light  
  • Hardiness zone: 10-12
  • Temperature: Prefers 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit but can tolerate slightly lower or higher temperatures
  • Relative humidity: High, 50% and above
  • Soil: Well-drained loamy soils, cactus soil mix, or any well-drained potting mix. However, it can but can tolerate other soil mixes.
  • Propagation: Cutting
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to dogs, cats, and humans

Understanding Pachira aquatic leaves yellowing

Pachira aquatic leaves yellowing may occur on the entire leaf, at the tip, edges, and sometimes the color may be pale green or brown or have brown spots. Also, you may notice yellow spots on the leaf.

This discoloration may occur alone or with other symptoms like the leaves curling, falling off, wilting, dying off, having holes, and so on. Also, it may affect the lower leaves, younger leaves, or the entire plant.

While trying to get answers to why your money plant leaves are turning yellowish, you need to ask yourself some fundamental questions such as:

  • Is it a new plant, or have you had it for some time?
  • Did you move your plant to a new location?
  • Has there been a change in humidity or temperature, including changes in AC or humidifiers?
  • When was the last time you repotted your money tree?
  • Did you recently increase or skip the watering or feeding routine?

Let us now look at the various causes of yellow leaves in money trees and give you some indicators and solutions.

1. Overwatering and underwatering

The most common reason for money tree leaves turning yellow is overwatering or underwatering, i.e., the plants have wrong moisture levels. Let us look at each and what may be pointers that this houseplant is either overwatered or underwatered.

a). Overwatered money tree

The most common cause of yellowing of leaves in money trees and many other houseplants is overwatering. Some of the other signs that may indicate you are overwatering this house plant include the following:

  • The soil is always wet to feel or soggy at times
  • Rotting smell from the growth media (root rot sign)
  • Brown edges or spots on leaves 
  • The potting mix may also attract pests
  • Loss of lower, older leaves

Pachira aquatica doesn’t like growing in very soggy soils as the roots will begin rotting, and your plant will eventually die.

Besides excessive watering, other causes that may result in the soil being soggy or too wet include the following:

  • A rise in humidity – reduces the evaporation rate
  • Poor air circulation
  • Poorly draining soils or wrong potting mixture
  • Wrong pots without draining holes
  • Huge pots

b). Underwatering money trees or dry soil

While too much water causes havoc, too little will also result in several problems, i.e., underwatered money trees will have curly drooping yellow leaves, including yellow tips and edges.

Besides the discoloration, other possible signs of underwatered Pachira aquatica include the following:

  • Parched soil
  • Slow or stunted growth
  • Shriveled and crispy leaves
  • Leave falling off or loss
  • Lifeless appearance

Possible causes of underwatering include forgetting or skipping a watering session, temperature rise or and a decrease in humidity.

c). Solution

To tell if the soil is too dry or soggy, stick your finger into the ground to feel it. If it feels parched and dry, your plant is underwatered. On the other hand, if it is moist and soggy, you are overwatering your Pachira aquatic.

Alternatively, you can use a soil moisture meter. A good brand we love is XLUX by IAGTEK. It is accurate, easy to read, and doesn’t require any batteries. Just insert its probe into the soil and water if the reading is 3 or less.

In case you are underwatering, you need to increase the frequency of watering and check if the humidity went down (causes quicker drying)

On the other hand, if overwatered, consider reducing the frequency, and check if you have the right potting mixture that allows the soil to drain well.  Also, check if there is a rise in humidity (which reduces evaporation).

d). Money tree watering

Ensure you know when and how to water money trees properly. Usually, these houseplants need infrequent, deep watering, and you can water them 1 to 2 times per week, depending on the humidity levels. Alternatively, water your money trees when 50% to 75% of the topsoil is dry.

When watering, let pour water around, not on the trunk itself (may encourage root rot), and do so until excess water flows through the drain holes at the bottom of your pot.

Also, discard any excess water on the saucer, drip tray, or cachepot as the water may soak the soil in the pot again.

2. Too little light or too much direct sunlight

Money trees require moderate to bright direct light for at least 6 hours a day, and too much or too little may contribute to the yellowing or browning of its foliage.

a). Too little light

Money trees can adapt to lower lighting conditions but will grow more slowly. However, if the light is too little, these houseplants will struggle to photosynthesize, and chlorophyll will reduce, resulting in the yellowing of leaves.

Also, they may wither, and the plants will be weak and have stunted growth, and it is likely to happen if your house doesn’t allow light in or during winter when light intensity and duration go down.

b). Excessive direct sunlight

Pachira aquatica will tolerate bright indirect light very well. However, too much direct sunlight may result in scorch marks and leaf burn, especially at the edges, especially during midsummers.

Also, the leaves will be dehydrated, and the scorching sun will lower the chlorophyll levels, making the leaves look paler or yellow, or brownish, starting from the edges.

c). solution

If the issue is too little light for one or the other reason, solutions will be placing your plant near the south-facing windows as they will let the plant have light for a longer time.

Alternatively, if your house doesn’t allow sufficient light or you can move your houseplant, invest in a grow light that costs a few dollars. Brands like GE Grow Light LED by Savant Systems Inc. are a good pick. Its energy-efficient, affordable, highly rated, and will last for about 25000 hours.

You can couple it with Dr. meter LX1330B Digital Illuminance Light Meter and ensure the light is between 10,000 and 25,000 lux. This is the range for bright, indirect light.

On the other hand, you can move the plant to have indirect light, a neutral location, or a plant glass terrarium to prevent direct, scorching sunlight.

3. Low humidity

Money tree grows best at temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity of at least 50%., i.e., they love higher humidity than the typical home humidity which is usually 30% to 50%.

Therefore, exposing them to low humidity over a long time may cause leaf yellowing or brown, especially at the leaf edges, and they may fall off if you don’t fix the humidity.

Since humidity and temperature are related, your Pachira aquatica may turn yellowish during winter since a drop in temperature reduces the amount of water air can hold, lowering humidity.

Some of the ways to deal with humidity changes include the following:

  • Mist your plant a few times a week to help raise humidity
  • Place their pot on a pebble tray but ensure the water doesn’t soak into the planter.
  • Remove plants near air conditioning or heating systems
  • Don’t place your plants in cold areas with drafts
  • Buy a humidifier during drier seasons. Any cool mist brand like AquaOasis™ Cool Mist Humidifier (best-seller Amazon) will do. It is affordable, quiet, runs for 24 hours before a refill, and is easy to clean. LEVOIT and Pure Enrichment® MistAire™ are also good brands.
  • Bathe them

4. Excessive or inadequate food or fertilizer

The other possible cause of yellowing and browning of money tree leaves may be inadequate or excessive fertilizer feeding.

a). Inadequate food

Not feeding your money tree plant with the right and enough fertilizer may result in a deficiency of some essential nutrients. For instance, inadequate amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, manganese, and iron will result in the yellowing of leaves.

Also, other nutrients, including copper, sulfur, zinc, and molybdenum, may make your Pachira aquatica leaves yellow or brownish. Other telltale signs of nutrient deficiency include the following:

  • Stunted growth
  • Spindly foliage with leaves curling downwards may turn brownish, especially on ledges and tips, a phenomenon known as tip burn
  • Abnormally green foliage

b). Excessive fertilizer

While too little is inadequate, excessive fertilizer feeding is also detrimental and may cause yellowing and wilting of lower leaves. Also, they may turn pale in color.

Other symptoms that may indicate over-fertilization include the following:

  • Visible fertilizer crusts on the soil surface
  • Leaf burn
  • Leaf tips and margin browning
  • Slow or no growth
  • Foliage loss
  • Death

c). solution

To solve the issue, you need to follow a proper feeding routine. Usually, a money tree requires feeding once a month during summer and spring when growing new leaves.

We recommend any balanced, water-soluble, or liquid plant food for indoor or potted plants. When using it, follow instructions. We use Perfect Plants Liquid Money Tree Fertilizer. It is specially formulated with NPK ratios perfect for Pachira plants. I add a teaspoon of this concentrated liquid fertilizer to a gallon of water and use it to water the plant, once a month.

If you are feeding too much, you need to reduce and, if too little, increase. Also, before you provide fertilizer, always ensure the soil is damp.

However, please don’t feed your Pachira aquatica during winter as the plant isn’t growing, i.e., it is dormant.

5. Older leaves may turn yellow

Sometimes, the yellowing of money tree leaves is normal if it occurs to older leaves. You will notice new growth in such a case as some older leaves gradually turn yellow and then brown. Also, they may decay, and the issue is more during autumn.

You don’t need to worry if the discoloration occurs due to aging as it is normal. However, we recommend you remove any old leaves to give room for new ones to grow.

6.  Pot or root bound

If you haven’t repotted your money plant for the last two to three years, yellow leaves may be a sign that it is root-bound.

Check for other symptoms such as roots growing through drainage holes, or you can slide the plant out to see if the roots have curled, i.e., they don’t have space for growth.

Pot-bound plants have roots close to each other. They don’t get enough nutrients. Therefore, your money plant’s lower money tree leaves turn yellow or brown.

If your plant is pot-bound, the solution is to repot it. However, we recommend repotting during spring or summer when the plant is growing and not winter.

7. Sudden huge temperature fluctuation 

The ideal temperature for money tree plants ranges from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it can tolerate temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).

Therefore, these houseplants are not frost-resistant, and extreme coldness will stress or even kill your money tree. That is not what we are talking about now. We are telling you that a sudden, massive change in temperature, even within the tolerated range, may cause foliage yellowing.

To solve the yellowing due to considerable temperature fluctuation, stop sudden colossal temperature fluctuations and place them near cold drags, radiators, fireplaces, or other heating systems.

8. Pest infestation

While unlikely, pests such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, or even scale may cause money tree leaves to yellow because they suck sap or juices from plants, weakening them. You may notice yellow or brown spots or even curly leaves.

Here are signs of the various pests that may attack your Pachira aquatica.

a). Aphids

  • Aphid colonies on young stems, leaves, or buds
  • Wilting and distortion of young shoots and leaves
  • Yellowing followed by the premature death of young plants
  • Honeydew
  • Distorted or wilted leaves

b). scale

  • Stunted growth
  • Leaf yellowing
  • Brownish pockmarks
  • Leaf drop

c). Mealybugs

  • Leaf yellowing
  • Stunted growth
  • Honeydew that will promote black sooty mold growth

d). Spider mites

  • Tiny brown or yellow spots
  • Slow or no growth in case of severe infection

A common denominator in all the above pests is yellowing leaves, either spots or the whole leaf. Therefore, they are an unlikely but possible cause.

Solution

Treatment or solution depends on the bug responsible. Here is how to manage the various pests:

  • Spider mites – Use insecticidal soap in severe and mild cases or go for neem oil (an insecticide natural oil).
  • Aphids – Apply a mild solution of dish soap and water two to three times a week for about a fortnight. Also, spray what to knock them off, use neem oil and other essential oils.
  • Mealybugs – Make a solution of water, dish soap (Dawn), and rubbing alcohol and spray it on the plant.
  • Spider mites – Use a horticultural oil spray

For neem oil, we have had a good experience with Bonide Ready to Use Neem Oil. It will kill insects, their eggs, and larvae. It is a fungicide, insecticide and miticide.

Bonide also has a good horticultural oil spray while if you need an insecticide, we recommend Garden Safe Brand Insecticidal Soap.

With these products, you should be able to pests. Also, they will help control some diseases like powdery mildew, rust, botrytis, anthracite, black spots, etc.

9. Disease and conditions

Various diseases and conditions may be a reason why your money tree leaves are turning yellow. What to expect depends on the exact disease and conditions. Common ones include the following:

a). Downy mildew

It starts with the upper leaf having pale green or grayish fuzzy spots that will turn yellow. These angular-shaped spots are bordered by leaf veins that begin on the lower part of the leaf.

As it progresses, expect the leaf to be necrotic and turn brown, or it may remain yellow, making them a possible cause of yellowing.

Treatment is by pruning the plant, using copper-based fungicides, the irks of Bonide Copper Fungicide, promoting circulation, keeping foliage dry, and so on. They need moisture to thrive.

b). Septoria leaf spot

This fungal infection begins small, and the houseplant will have many grayish spots with brown edges on the lower leaves but slowly works itself upwards. The spots will grow larger, turn brown or yellow, and make the leaves wither and fall prematurely.

To manage Septoria leaf spots, remove any affected leaves, use organic or chemical fungicides and wash your hands when you touch infected foliage.

c). Bacterial spot infection

If your money tree has circular greenish-yellow spots whose centers turn brownish on young leaves, it may be due to a bacterial spot infection. Afterward, spot areas will fall, leaving holes or making the leaves look twisted and deformed. 

This condition isn’t common on Pachira aquatica like in tomato and pepper plants, including their fruits and leaves. However, it may occur.

Finally, while it is not easy to treat or cure this condition, you can manage it by burning, hot composting, or burying the affected pant to prevent the spread of this deadly bacterial infection.

How to revive a dying money plant

To effectively revive your money plant, which is dying and has yellow leaves, you need to know the underlying cause. We covered various reasons and gave you solutions or treatments. However, some cases may not be easy to salvage, such as severe root rot or some infections.

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