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Diseased Pachira (Money Tree)

Question:

I have had my Pachira (money tree) for about 4 years now and repotted it twice and it was doing beautifully until 3 months ago in August. I moved to a new apartment and had to put the plant outside for the month until I could house it indoors again. During that month, some of the larger leaves turned white (most likely due to sunburn I suppose), bugs ate some of the leaves, and then the wind blew over the plant breaking the pot and exposing roots before I could move it back indoors. After replacing the pot and soil and moving it indoors, most of the dead sun burnt leaves have fallen off, but the new growth looks horrible. It is tiny and twisted, and although green, looks very sickly. Also since repotting in September, some of the older leaves turned a mossy green color with greyish brown speckles before falling off. I am not sure how to remedy the problem because I believe I am watering it correctly and fertilized it with miracle grow when I repotted it. Any help you can give will be appreciated! None of my other houseplants that were outside with this plant before being moved indoors have had any problems (in fact, one of the plants even sprouted flowers and I did not know it was a flowering plant!)

Answer:

We cannot properly compare your Pachira to your other plants for a couple of reasons. One, different plant species have different light and temperature tolerances. Two, I assume your other plants did not undergo broken pots with exposed roots followed by repotting.

It is not widely appreciated how much more intense outdoor sunlight is than indoor light. Even a few hours of direct outdoor sun is enough to damage the foliage of many indoor plants. That explains the bleached and damaged older leaves.

The roots of a plant, however are the heart and soul of any plant. When roots are damaged, the plant will suffer more serious side effects, especially to new growth. I cannot say just how badly the roots of your Pachira were damaged, but they were exposed to outside light and heat, probably got dehydrated and then underwent the trauma of repotting. I don’t know how you repotted, but few people know how to do it properly, so the repotting may have added to the trauma. Common mistakes made when repotting include removing old soil and damaging tiny root hairs, using a pot that is too big or lacks drain holes and using a potting mix that lacks sufficient porosity.

In any case, the stunted new growth is a direct consequence of damaged roots. No fertilizer will help that, so discontinue the Miracle-Gro. If you are providing proper light and are watering appropriately and the Pachira is in the right sized pot with a porous potting mix, then I think you can expect that over the next several months you may see some new growth that is more “normal” looking. The appearance of the new growth isĀ  direct reflection of the health of the roots.

I know this is a lot of information to digest, but I want you to have a complete picture of the issues involved.