The money tree is one of the most popular indoor plants, thanks to how easy it is to grow and care for. It is hardy and resilient, and a great choice for beginners looking for easy plants to grow.
If an environmental factor is negatively affecting the plant, or if its needs are not entirely met, it may display signs of distress, such as the wrinkling of its leaves.
The most common causes of wrinkled money tree leaves are poor watering technique, insufficient light, pests, humidity and temperature problems, pot size, transplant or repotting stress, and changes in season.
In this article, we will discuss each of these different causes and how to remedy each one.
Why are the leaves on my money tree wrinkled?
Poor watering technique
If you are not giving the plant the right amount of water, or if you do not know exactly when it needs to be watered, the plant will be unhappy. Wrinkled leaves are one of the signs that you are watering it incorrectly.
Your plant can be underwatered because you are not giving it enough water per watering session, or you are not watering it as frequently as you should. Underwatering can also come about through failure to adjust your watering schedule to the current season, or using potting soil that is too loose and drains water too quickly. Placing the plant in a spot where it gets too much sun will also dry out the soil in the pot very fast, which can also lead to underwatering.
Overwatering, on the other hand, is another watering mistake that plant owners make. It is fairly common, especially for beginners, to be overzealous when it comes to watering their plants. You may mean well, but you have no idea that you are actually doing your plant more harm than good. When the soil in the pot is constantly waterlogged and soggy, the roots are unable to access oxygen and will drown. The drowned roots will die and start to rot, and will no longer be able to effectively absorb water and nutrients to feed the plant. This lack of water and nutrients will lead to impaired functions, such as photosynthesis, further weakening the plant. The leaves will start to droop, wrinkle and turn yellow. Aside from this, the compromised roots will also be susceptible to opportunistic pathogens that will exacerbate the rot in the roots. It will spread even faster to other parts of the plant until the entire plant is consumed by rot.
If your plant is underwatered, soak the soil with water immediately. Continue watering until excess water starts to flow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. This is to ensure that all of the roots have access to water. For the next few days, water the plant more frequently than normal, but only until it has recovered.
If your plant is overwatered, do not give it any more water for a couple of days until the soil has completely dried out, so that the roots can dry out as well. Place the plant in a warmer or drier place if you can, to hasten the drying process.
If you suspect root rot in your overwatered plant, especially if the stems and leaves have started to turn yellow, soft and mushy, you may need to remove the plant from the pot to inspect the roots. Wash off as much as possible of the old, contaminated soil from the roots, as gently as you can. If there are any brown or black roots, you will need to remove them using a sterilized knife or pair of scissors. Spray the remaining healthy roots with fungicide and allow the plant to air-dry for a few hours. When the roots are dry, fill a pot with well-draining potting soil, and ensure the pot has drainage holes. Replant the money tree, making sure the soil is not too dense or compact.
After the plant has recovered from either underwatering or overwatering, the best way to avoid further watering issues is to check the soil in the pot before you water it. If the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Plants need light to photosynthesize and produce food for themselves. So, if you are keeping the plant in low light conditions, you are making it suffer and essentially starving it. The low energy and inability to produce food will cause the leaves to wrinkle. You will also notice that the plant becomes leggy, meaning that some stems will start to grow longer and thinner than others. This is the plant’s way of reaching towards the closest source of light, out of desperation.
Money trees are used to getting plenty of light in their natural habitat, so the best thing is to try to simulate that experience in your home. This is not to say you should place your plant outside under direct sunlight because too much direct sunlight leads to sun damage.
If you are keeping the plant outside, place it under a garden net or under the shade of a large tree. If you keep it indoors, place it near a north- or east-facing window. If the only available window lets in very harsh light, you can diffuse this light by placing a sheer curtain over the window. Remember to rotate the pot every couple of days so all sides of the plant get their fair share of sunlight.
In the winter, when light is scarce, use grow lights to support the plant’s light requirements.
A pest infestation can also cause the money tree’s leaves to become wrinkled. The wrinkling is more often seen when the infestation has become quite severe.
The most common pests that attack money trees are thrips, scale insects, mealybugs and spider mites.
It is important to check your plant for pests every time you water it, so that you can catch any infestation in its early stages. The longer you allow the pests to reproduce and multiply on your plant, the more damage they will inflict. These pests cause wrinkling when they feed on the sap, or juices, of the plant’s leaves. When the leaves lose their moisture and nutrients, that is when they wrinkle and curl.
Remove these pests by making a solution of one tablespoon of neem oil and a gallon of water and spraying it on the plant. You can also use a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol to wipe down the leaves. Another option is a pesticide, but make sure it is safe to use on your money tree. Repeat the treatment once a week for a month to make sure that all of the pests have been eradicated.
Remember to keep the infested plant far away from your other healthy plants so that the pests do not spread while you treat the infestation.
Humidity and temperature problems
The money tree’s natural habitat is the rainforests of some South American countries, meaning that they are used to warmer weather and higher humidity than normal. To keep your plant healthy and happy, try to keep the temperature and humidity around it as close as you can to what it might experience in the wild.
The humidity needs to be above 50 percent and the temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the plant is kept in low humidity, dry air, or temperatures in the extremes, this can result in the wrinkling of its leaves.
If the humidity is a little low, you can mist the plant with water once in a while. You can also place the plant’s pot on top of a pebble tray filled with water. When the water in the tray evaporates, it moistens the soil in the pot as well as the plant’s leaves. You can also group the plant together with other plants that enjoy humidity so that together they can create a microclimate around themselves. You could also just purchase a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity in the room.
In the summer, when it is too hot outside, place the plant in a shaded area or under a garden net. During winter, take the plant indoors so that it is not exposed to frost. While indoors, keep the plant away from heating vents, furnaces, radiators or air conditioners. The drafts and extreme temperatures from these can also dry out the plant and cause wrinkling. Also make sure that the plant is not too close to doors or windows that lead to the outdoors, because cold drafts can get through the cracks and will also dry the plant.
Pots that are either too small or too big can cause your plant’s leaves to wrinkle.
If the pot is too small, the plant will become rootbound. When the roots are pressed up against each other, they will not be able to effectively absorb the nutrients and the water they need from the soil.
When the pot is too big, you will need more soil to fill the pot. More soil means more water is absorbed, and when more water is retained, there is a greater chance of overwatering and possibly root rot.
It may be tempting to use a bigger pot so that you do not need to repot as often, but ideally, you should use a pot that is only two inches larger than the actual plant. If the roots start becoming crowded and you need to repot the plant, choose a pot just one size larger than the current one. You will know the plant is rootbound when the roots start growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. The plant’s growth will also slow down and become stunted.
Avoid using plastic or steel pots; choose clay or terracotta pots instead. Clay and terracotta are more porous materials and will allow oxygen to penetrate them and reach the soil more easily. Plastic and steel will keep water in the soil for longer, and will not allow oxygen to pass through.
Transplant and repotting stress
When a money tree is grown in a greenhouse or nursery before it is sold, its living conditions are ideal and as close to its natural habitat as possible. When you take the plant home, remember that the moment it leaves the store, its conditions are completely different. The temperature, humidity, watering and lighting conditions will be very different in your home than they were in the nursery.
These environmental changes will stress the plant and one of its responses to the stress is the wrinkling of its leaves.
Repotting the plant can also cause a stress response such as wrinkled leaves because it is traumatic to the roots. Do not be surprised if the plant’s leaves droop and wrinkle when it has just been repotted.
Whether you have just taken a plant home from the store or you have just repotted it, the best way to help the plant recover from the stress is by supporting it with the best possible growing conditions. Keep it away from extreme temperatures and humidity, water it properly, give it lots of bright, indirect light, and keep it away from pests that may damage it.
Changes in season
Another reason your money tree’s leaves may wrinkle is a change in season. Just because the cultural care you provide in the summer is working for the plant, that does not mean the same conditions will work throughout the year.
The plant will want more water in the summer and will need a lot less during the winter. You can fertilize the plant in the summer but refrain from doing so in winter.
As mentioned above, place a grow light over the plant in the winter to provide it with the light it needs when natural sunlight is scarce.
The key is to help the plant adapt to any changes in conditions.
The money tree is a popular houseplant because it is easy to grow and care for. It is hardy and resilient and does not need very close attention for it to be happy.
When the leaves of the money tree are wrinkled, it means that there are one or more environmental factors causing the plant stress. You need to correctly identify the cause of the problem to resolve it properly.
The most common causes of wrinkled money tree leaves are poor watering techniques, insufficient light, pests, humidity and temperature problems, incorrect pot size, transplant or repotting stress, and changes in season.
Learn to adapt to the changes around the plant so that you can save it from unnecessary stress that will affect its overall health. The sooner the cause of the problem is addressed, the faster the plant will be able to recover and return to its former glory.
Image: istockphoto.com / Stanislavchyk_Misha