Does your money tree look sad and unhealthy? Then your plant might be struggling with a major health issue.
Money trees, also known as Pachira aquaticas, are generally easy-to-care-for, sturdy houseplants. But that does not mean they cannot be vulnerable to several issues, especially if not given proper care.
You are probably reading this in an effort to establish why your money tree’s trunk has gone soft. Well, there are many possible reasons your plant may suddenly look limp and soft. Hopefully, this guide will help you find the answers to revive your plant!
What does a healthy money tree trunk look like?
Money trees are popular for their braided trunks and green palm-like leaves, which can lend your indoor garden a tropical vibe. Under favorable growing conditions, these plants have woody stems that are strong and hard to the touch.
Unfortunately, your money tree can become vulnerable to certain plant diseases, and if you are not careful, it can lose its vibrant foliage and become unsightly. And, if you pinch one of its trunks and it feels soft, then you might be dealing with a serious problem.
Root rot is the most common reason behind a soft and mushy money tree trunk. This fatal condition can also lead to other damage, such as drooping leaves, defoliation, and increased risk of pest infestation. Other issues, such as a lack of sunlight and overfeeding, can also influence the health of your plant.
So, let us discuss these issues one by one.
Why is my money tree’s trunk soft?
No one wants to see their indoor plants rotting! Soft trunks in money trees is a classic sign of overwatering; however, other stressors might also be contributing factors. If you are not sure why your money tree looks so sick, check out the common causes below so you can find the right solution to save your plant!
Soggy soil is the number one culprit in most cases of drooping leaves in houseplants. There are several reasons the soil becomes soggy, and one of them is overwatering. Unfortunately, a lot of gardeners without enough plant care knowledge are guilty of this practice.
How can you tell if a money tree is overwatered?
Like most indoor plants, money trees do not like their sensitive roots to sit in waterlogged soil. Roots need oxygen to breathe, and a water-saturated environment inhibits the supply of oxygen in the soil. Roots that are not able to breathe will begin to decay, and this can be further exacerbated by bacterial and fungal pathogens in the soil.
Root rot prevents the plant from taking in the water and nutrients it needs to grow and produce new leaves.That is why money trees with root rot issues become weak and vulnerable to pest infestations. The disease also makes the trunks go soft and mushy, which is not a good sight!
2. Poor pot drainage
Just like overwatering, using pots with poor drainage can also lead to root rot. So, even if you are not overwatering your money tree, it is still possible to drown the plant if the container does not have a way for excess water to flow out. The water pooling at the bottom of the pot eventually kills the roots and then the entire plant.
Another thing to keep in mind is that drainage holes can get clogged over time if you do not regularly check and clean them. For this reason, we recommend adding pebbles into the pot before putting in your soil mix, to prevent such blockages.
Choosing the appropriate pot size is also essential. Money trees do not need an extra large pot, and this will only keep the soil wet for longer than necessary.
3. Dense soil
Compacted or clay-like soil is another reason your money tree can become susceptible to root rot. Garden soil with poor drainage can easily become muddy and oversaturated, leading to irreversible root damage.
Sandy soil is not beneficial, either, because it drains a little too fast. Money trees require a slightly moist soil to stay hydrated. Hence, the perfect potting mix for your houseplant should retain enough moisture so that it does not easily go muddy or bone dry. For example, you can choose a peat-based soil with a succulent mix, or go for a regular garden soil with added sand and perlite to improve aeration.
Remember that plants are dependent on their soil for the nutrients they need to survive. Thus, it is important to give some consideration to the soil type to ensure that your money tree grows healthily.
4. Low light conditions
Sunlight is one of the most important factors that influence the growth of your plants. It is the driving force for a plant’s metabolic process, known as photosynthesis. If your money tree is not receiving sufficient light, it will not grow at its maximum potential, regardless of the amount of fertilizer or water you give it.
Aside from compromised growth, a lack of proper light will also keep the plant’s roots moist for extended periods as the soil will dry more slowly. This means that your money tree will be more likely to develop root rot and fungal infections, just like with overwatering, if you do not correct the problem right away!
Keep in mind, though, that houseplants like the money tree cannot tolerate the scorching heat of the sun. Thus, you should never leave your plant exposed to direct, full sunlight. Diffused, bright light should suffice to promote proper growth and stronger stems. In most cases, placing your money tree near a bright, east-facing window should give it the best lighting conditions.
5. Too much fertilizer
Fertilizing your money tree during the growing season is essential to ensure that it receives the macronutrients required for faster growth. But be careful – excessive fertilizer can be harmful to your plants!
Money trees are known to be light feeders, meaning they do not need a lot of fertilizer to grow. If you are giving your plant more than the required dosage, it will likely suffer from root burn. This condition occurs when the excess fertilizer accumulates in the soil as a salt buildup, drawing moisture away from the roots. Without a healthy root system, your plant will struggle with nutrient uptake issues, leading to brown leaves and mushy trunks.
How to fix your money tree’s soft trunk
Now you know the possible reasons your money tree’s trunk feels soft and mushy, it is time to address these issues one by one.
1. Ensure proper watering
In their natural habitat, money trees thrive in freshwater swamps and on river banks. This simply means that they do not do well in bone dry soil. Gardening experts recommend watering a money tree roughly once every two weeks to keep it hydrated. To avoid overwatering, try to allow the top layer of soil to dry out before you give your plant a drink, without letting all of the soil dry out completely.
2. Use pots with drainage holes
Drainage holes allow the excess water to seep out of the plant’s container after watering. This ensures that the water does not pool at the bottom of the pot and drown the plant’s delicate roots. Your plant can then enjoy a bit of moisture without its roots being completely soaked. They will be healthier and, in turn, produce stronger stems and leaves.
3. Provide indirect sunlight
Proper light exposure yields a better quality of plants. Money trees love indirect sunlight, so make sure that you do not deprive your plant of this basic need. There are many options for providing good sunlight exposure without the plant getting burned. As mentioned before, east-facing windows are ideal for growing money trees. Other windows with bright sunlight might also work, as long as you hang curtains to filter the intensity of the light.
You can also place your money tree beside a tree or on a covered patio. As long as it receives sufficient light without the intense heat, it should do just fine!
Some growers suggest artificial grow lights if you do not have a good spot to place your houseplants. Grow lights provide the same light spectrum as the sun, but without the harsh heat, making them a great option for your indoor money tree.
4. Fertilize once a month during summer
Your money tree will derive great benefit from a balanced fertilizer with an nitrogen-potassium-sodium (NPK) ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. We highly recommend using a liquid fertilizer like the Money Tree Fertilizer by Perfect Plants or CNS17 Nutrient Fertilizer by Botanicare to ensure vibrant growth and better quality leaves.
Importantly, do not apply fertilizer during the cold months, as this is when your money tree becomes dormant. Plants are more vulnerable to damage in the winter and will likely suffer from root burn if you fertilize them.
5. Treat root rot
Although root rot is a serious condition, you may be able to save your money tree if the damage has not extended to the entire root system. If you see any white, firm roots remaining, then you can revive your plant by following these steps:
- Remove the plant from its current container. This will allow you to get a closer look at the roots. Make sure not to hold the mushy trunk when pulling out your plant, or you will damage it further.
- Trim away any dead roots using a sterilized pair of pruning shears. You should also prune damaged leaves or stems. Do not use these damaged parts as compost. As this will spread fungal disease to other, healthier plants.
- Transfer your money tree to a new pot with fresh soil mix.
- Use a fungicide of your choice to treat the root rot disease. Follow the instructions and recommended dosage on the packaging.
- Water your plant, but avoid misting the leaves.
- Monitor your money tree regularly to keep track of its recovery. Continue treatment for 7-10 days until the fungal disease is eliminated.
The most common cause of soft trunks in money trees is root rot. While this condition is often serious and can be fatal, you can still save your money tree if you intervene early enough. Follow the tips mentioned in this guide and you will hopefully be able to nurse your plant back to full health.
However, if the roots are severely damaged, then your only hope may be to propagate a few healthy cuttings and start afresh. With patience and proper care habits, you can grow the new trunks into healthy money trees and avoid the same problems in the future!
Image: istockphoto.com / Renata Tyburczy