House Plants/Pachira aquatica (money tree) trunk shriveling
I purchased my Pachira aquatica about four months ago and there's been new leaves consistently. I've been watering it once a week and turning the entire pot once a week to try to ensure that it receives even light.
The pot is 14" square at the top and about 11" deep (I included a ruler in one photo for scale). There is a drainage hole in the pot. When I potted the tree, I put one large and relatively flat rock in the bottom of the pot for weight (it doesn't seal the drainage hole), added the tree, filled with potting soil and then covered the top of the soil with rocks.
Two weeks ago leaves from one stem started to turn brown and drop. I just discovered that the base of that stem appears to be shriveling. There are still new leaves growing from the other stems.
What should I do? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
You made the very common mistake of repotting a plant that did not need to be repotted. The extra soil that you added is, like a sponge, absorbing and retaining water for too long. As a result, the roots are slowly rotting and have been for some time. The shriveled stem cannot be saved and will gradually become dry and woody and leafless. You can remove it or leave it, however you see fit, but it cannot be saved.
Now you have to be concerned about further root and stem rot. Remove all of the stones because they are preventing necessary evaporation and entry of oxygen into the root zone. For the same reason, remove all soil that you added to the top of the original rootball. If this looks unattractive, you can use some Spanish moss to lightly cover the soil surface.
There was no reason to use anything to partially cover the drainage hole. I understand you were trying to prevent the soil from washing out of the hole. In fact, after a small amount of soil washes through initially, it stops and is no longer a problem. The stone may be contributing to the problem of keeping the soil too moist, but I do not recommend removing it at this point.
Once you have removed the stones and the excess surface soil, allow the top inch of rootball to dry or the leaves to start to wilt a bit before adding just enough water so that it reaches that level of dryness again in about a week. You will have to experiment with water volume a bit before you can determine the right amount of water. The important thing is to allow the soil to dry out properly every week or so. This will prevent further root rot. Providing lots of sunlight and warmth will also help your Pachira.
I have written detailed articles on repotting and on Money Tree care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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