The Q&A Archives: I need help with my Pachira Aquatica please.

Question: Hello gardening expert,

I wrote to you before when I had just bought my Pachira Aquatica plant. My concern then was that the plant was in a ceramic pot with no drainage holes, and since I'd just bought the plant I did not want to transfer it right away so as not to stress it. From what I read about the plant I've been very careful about watering it, especially since there's no drainage holes. The pot is about 9 inches diameter and 7 inches height and the plant has 5 braids. The plant looked very healthy and was producing new leaves continiously. This week I noticed that one of the braids looked a little shrively, and I checked the base, just above the soil where the brading starts and I noticed that it is starting to feel soft in one spot. I think this is what I read about people complaing that their plants have root rot. I guess it's my turn now.

I was planning to transplant it in the summer in a pot with a drainage hole. Should I transplant it right away ? Would it help now? Or is it too late and the whole plant will soon rot altogether and die?
Right now from what I can see it's just one of the 5 braids that looks sick. Should I just cut that one braid of the plant with a sharp knife just above the soil, and then see what the root part looks like, if I can take the rotten part of it out without disturbing the rest of the plant. This sounds easier said than done.
I don't know what to do? Can something be done or am I just going to sit there and watch this beautiful plant die right before my eyes?
If all else fails, can I cut the branches from a healthy part at the top and put them in water to root , then plant them to start a new plant ? Or I can't root this plant that way? Please let me now what to do? Thank you very much for your help.


Vivian B.

Answer: Let's see if we can shed a little light on the subject: Pachira aquatica is commonly called water chestnut, Guiana chestnut, Malabar chestnut, money tree, and saba nut. In the wild, Pachira aquatica is a wetland tree that grows in freshwater swamps associated with tropical estuaries. It often grows alongside rivers, where its branches arch out over the water. Pachira aquatica prefers a site that is flooded much of the time and may develop stilt roots under such conditions. Like most swamp trees, it is likely to grow faster if planted where the water will recede and let the roots get some oxygen now and then.

Now that you know a little more about your plant, you can understand that a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot will be helpful, but it is not absolutely necessary at this point in the plant's life. When you get around to repotting, you can choose a new pot with drainage. At this point, simply water your plant by immersing the pot in a larger container of water until the soil is thoroughly saturated. Allow it to soak for about 15 minutes and then pour off any excess water by tipping the pot slightly. You can allow the top of the soil to begin to look dry before thoroughly watering again. As for the soft spot and the withering of one stem, I'd take a wait and see attitude. It could be that you've been so careful with watering that air pockets have formed within the root mass of the plant and that single stem is not getting the moisture it craves. Water as described above and see if the stem doesn't plump up in a few weeks. If so, great - if not, I'd allow it to die back on its own and then carefully cut it away from the rest of the braid. Since your Pachira loves growing in water, it shouldn't develop the root rot that so many other plants are prone to.

Continuous production of new foliage is good. It means your plant is getting the right exposure to light and is responding to favorable indoor temperatures.

Hope this answers all your questions. If not, feel free to drop by again.

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