Pachira aquatica is a tropical evergreen tree native to Central and South America. It is known by a number of common names including Guiana chestnut, saba chestnut, Malabar chestnut, and money tree. In addition to being grown as a food source and ornamental plant, this tropical tree is also cultivated as a houseplant. Kept in small pots, it will stay in a dwarf size and can be an attractive decorative plant for indoor spaces.
This tree is native to swamps and marshes. The roots flare out at the base to stabilize the tree in moist ground, and the height of a mature tree can vary, depending on conditions where it is growing. The leaves are large, bright green, and glossy, with a five-lobed palmate shape. The flowers, typically hidden by the foliage, have large yellowish to cream petals peeled back like a banana peel and long protruding stamens.
These trees produce edible nuts in large pods that crack open as they ripen. Pachira aquatica can be cultivated as a food source in tropical to subtropical regions in United States Department of Agriculture zones 10 and 11. It can also be used as an ornamental tree in a tropical garden. Shade-loving plants can be chosen as companion plantings to establish around the roots, and these trees can also be paired with tropical vines and epiphytic tropical plants like orchids.
Garden supplies and nurseries sometimes carry Pachira aquatica seedlings for gardeners. Houseplants can be obtained from many stores with stocks of houseplants, especially stores with an interest in Chinese interior design. With houseplants, it is advisable to use rich, well-drained soil that will stay moist without becoming soggy, and to avoid overwatering the plant. Pachira aquatica also favors bright, indirect light and should not be placed in a sunny corner of the house or the leaves may burn.
As a houseplant, Pachira aquatica is usually trained to twine around itself and create a trunk with a braided or twisted look. It is believed to bring good fortune into the home and is sometimes recommended for people arranging their homes in accordance with feng shui standards. The five leaves mirror the five elements of wood, earth, water, fire, and metal. Green plants in general are deemed fortunate additions to the home, especially when they are placed in the corner of the home concerning family wealth and fortune, the location of which varies depending on an individual's astrological chart.