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7 Causes of Money Tree Leaves Turning Black (With Solutions)

The money tree (Pachira aquatica) is a classic favorite because of its large, fan-shaped leaves. Unfortunately, many things can cause the beautiful leaves to turn ugly black.

Foliar blight, not watering enough, and fungal leaf spot diseases are common reasons money tree leaves turn black. Pests, cold injury, root rot, chemical salts from excessive fertilizer, and poor water quality can also cause leaves to turn black. Use a suitable fungicide to treat the diseases and eliminate the pests. Remove any excessively blackened leaves and treat as needed.

Fortunately, it’s simple to fix and prevent the issue—and I’ll show you how.

[1] Foliar Blight of Money Tree

Foliar blight is the most common reason why money tree leaves turn black. The fungus Phytophthora palmivora causes the infection.

Small, dark brown to black, wet spots on the leaves are early signs of leaf blight.

As the infection progresses, the swollen spots of dark brown or black will dry out and become papery.

Fungi thrive and spread quickly in moist environments. In addition, the following factors contribute to the problem:

  • Excessive humidity or free moisture in the air.
  • Poor air circulation through your money tree’s leaves and around it.
  • Allowing the leaves to remain wet for an extended period
  • Watering the foliage or using overhead irrigation
  • After handling soil, wet hands touch the leaves.
  • Plant overwatering and poor drainage.

How to Fix

As with most common money tree issues, foliar blight results from poor maintenance. And it often goes away or is controlled when care gets better:

  • Avoid wetting leaves by keeping foliage dry.
  • Ensure that your plants aren’t overwatered or overcrowded.
  • Provide your money tree with enough airflow.
  • If you want your money tree’s leaves to dry completely, water it first thing in the morning.
  • Sterilization of pots and cutting tools can also help prevent the spread of the illness.

To treat leaf blight, eliminate any leaves showing signs of it. As soon as you notice any leaves that appear to be brown, blackened, or otherwise infected, remove them and dispose of them.

It will also help to improve airflow if you prune some of the leaves.

There is no fungicide recommended for Phytophthora palmivora. On the other hand, using a copper-based fungicidal spray can help slow the pathogen’s spread.

[2] Incorrect Watering

Your money tree’s leaves may turn yellow, brown, or black due to various poor watering practices.

When you don’t water your money tree enough, the leaves will turn colors instead of staying green. This is the tree’s way of telling you it’s in trouble.

Leaves can yellow, brown, or even blacken if you overwater or neglect to water your plant.

This can begin with the leaves turning yellow and then brown before eventually dying and falling to the ground due to a lack of water.

Here are some of the most common watering mistakes that can cause the leaves of a money tree to turn black or brown:

(a) Overwatering 

Overwatered Money Tree

The most likely cause of the blackening of money tree leaves is excessive soil moisture.

Even though these tropical plants enjoy moist soil, they do best when the soil is kept wet but not soggy.

It gets worse: Money trees hate it when their feet get wet. Over-watering the soil can lead to root rot and decay, eventually killing your money tree.

When the leaves on a plant turn black, it indicates a severe effect of root rot that may have already reached the foliage.

If you overwatered your money tree, look for yellowing lower leaves. Wet or soggy soil does not guarantee that your money tree will die.

If root rot is caused by too much water, the soil might smell sour. The following can cause overwatering and black leaves:

Not cutting back on how often you water in colder months, especially in winter

  • Insufficient drainage in the soil of your money tree.
  • Leaving the saucer, cachepot, or drip tray full after watering.
  • Putting your money tree in a pot with no holes in the bottom to let water out
  • Planting your money tree in the wrong-sized pot
  • Overwatering your money tree without allowing the top inch or two dries out

(b) Underwatering 

Signs of Underwatered Money Tree

On the other hand, too much water can also make leaves turn black roundabout.

The main difference with an overwatered money tree is that the soil will be bone-dry, and the blackened, wilted leaves will likely feel crispy and dry.

Underwatering usually causes browning of the leaf tips, which can turn black if the problem persists. The pot will also be light in weight.

Underwatering can be a problem if your money tree has become rootbound or is in a pot that is too small.

(c) Overhead Watering and Wetting Leaves

Fungal diseases that cause dark brown or black spots on the leaves prefer free moisture on the foliage.

So, wet leaves for an extended period provide an ideal environment for the growth and spread of fungal infections.

Watering money trees with overhead irrigation is a bad idea. This is because it frequently splashes water on the leaves.

Wetting leaves and overhead watering can be a problem, primarily if your money tree is in an area with insufficient air circulation, temperature, and light.

How to Fix This Problem?

– Fixing an Overwatered Money Tree

Do the following if your money tree is wilting and its leaves are turning black despite your best efforts:

  • Wait until the top 1-2 inches of soil have dried before resuming watering.
  • Choose a pot and planting mix that will allow your money tree to breathe.
  • Examine the roots for signs of decay. Gently remove your money tree from its pot to inspect its roots. Root rot has taken hold of your plant if its roots appear black, mushy, or slimy. 

– Set Up a Good Drainage System

A sound drainage system will solve most problems that may affect your money tree:

  • Maintain the health of your money tree by planting it in the right pot. For money trees, I prefer a high-quality terracotta pot (Amazon link).
  • Make sure the pot’s bottom has an adequate number of drain holes. The ideal number of drainage holes is two to three, each of reasonable size. Allows you to water your plant from below, avoiding overhead irrigation.
  • The pot should have a cachepot, drip tray, or saucer. When you’re done watering, use this to collect any leftover water.
  • Consider installing a water-filtration system in a self-watering pot.

– Well Drained Capacity Soil

The drainage quality can also be significantly affected by the potting mix used.

When you water your plant, the extra water should quickly drain through the soil and pot, not pool around the rootball.

Repot your money tree in a well-draining, nutrient-rich potting mix (Amazon link) if the soil is the problem.

Adding pumice, coarse sand, or perlite to a peat-based mix will improve drainage.

[3] Mineral Deposits (Poor Water Quality)

Many factors can cause your money tree’s leaves to turn dark brown or black, including excessive mineral deposits or chemical treatments like chlorine and fluorides.

As a result, dark brown to black spots are typical on the leaves.

Excess mineral deposits and chemicals in the soil can accumulate to toxic levels, causing the roots to burn.

This eventually impairs normal root function, impeding water and moisture uptake.

If you don’t do anything, the leaves on your money tree will start to dry out, wilt, and fall off because of salt burn and scorching.

Depending on the severity of the situation, the tips or the entire leaf will begin to wither and turn black.

The life of your money tree is usually not in danger unless the salt burn is severe.

Looking at the top of the soil, you’ll probably see white scabs, which are signs of salt stones.

They can come from tap water, water that has been softened, or too much fertilizer.

Solutions

Flush the Soil

Mineral deposits, residual chemicals, and unused fertilizer are examples of contaminants in soil.

These salts can build up over time and become toxic.

If the salt buildup is severe, flush the soil for several minutes. The water will aid in the removal of salt contaminants. After watering, make sure to empty the saucer.

If the soil isn’t well-draining, flush it every irrigation session, whether monthly or quarterly.

Run excess water through the soil, allow the pot to drain, and repeat as needed.

If flushing isn’t an option, consider repotting your money tree and avoiding using tap or mineralized water. You can use bottled or distilled water instead.

Filter the Water

Filter the water with a water filtration system. A self-watering pot with an integrated water filtration system is a one-and-done solution.

You can also leave tap water in an open container overnight or for 24 hours before watering. The chlorine and chemical toxins will be able to evaporate and decant as a result.

Collect Rainwater

Rainwater is ideal for watering money trees because it contains few to no contaminants such as chlorine and fluorides.

[4] Fungal Leaf Spot Diseases

Aside from leaf blight, money trees are susceptible to various fungal leaf spot diseases.

These fungal infections are much more common in poorly ventilated, humid, and wet growing environments.

Optimizing watering practices and providing adequate air circulation are the best ways to prevent most fungal leaf spot diseases, such as:

Anthracnose Leaf Spot 

Anthracnose leaf spot is a catch-all term for various fungal diseases that cause spots and other types of damage to plant leaves. This fungal infection is a threat to your money tree.

Anthracnose leaf spot usually infects money trees in early spring, when the leaves are wet. Small white, pale, or discolored leaf spots are the first signs. Next, you may notice fungal spots on the foliage.

The spots will enlarge over time, resulting in large, dark brown or black blotches on the leaves. The infected leaves on your money tree may die and fall off.

Typically, the fungus overwinters or lies dormant in dying or dead plant matter. So, clearing debris, not overwatering, and keeping the leaves dry are all part of prevention.

Septoria Leaf Spot 

Another common fungal infection that can affect your money tree is the septoria leaf spot.

Unlike leaf spots caused by fungi, this one looks like many small, well-defined yellow spots on the leaves.

Yellow spots usually start on the lower foliage and progress up your plant. As the disease progresses, the areas will turn from yellow to dark brown and black.

If you don’t do anything, the whole leaf may turn yellow, brown, or black before it falls off early.

It is important to note that bacterial leaf spots can also infect your money tree. Water-soaked, dark brown to black spots appear on the leaves.

They usually have a yellow halo and spread faster than fungal leaf spots.

How to Treat Leaf Spot Diseases?

You should remove and destroy all infected leaves, regardless of the type of leaf spot. Then, carefully snip all affected foliage using a sterile pair of pruning scissors.

To reduce the leaf spot disease, optimize care and growing conditions.

Both commercial and homemade fungal leaf spot diseases effectively treat and control commercial and homemade fungal sprays. I suggest the following:

Use Baking Soda

Apply a baking soda solution to mild cases of fungal leaf spots. Fortunately, you can make your own at home:

  • Add one tablespoon of baking soda and a quart of water into a spray bottle
  • Add a few drops of mixed dish soap and ½ tablespoon of canola oil
  • Shake the spray bottle and apply liberally

Use Pathogen-Specific Fungicide

If the infection is severe, use a fungicidal spray specific to the infecting fungus.

Copper-based fungicides are commonly used to treat and control Anthracnose and Septoria leaf spots in young and small money trees.

For large money trees, a dormant Bordeaux spray is a better option.

[5] Pest Infestation

Money trees, like most houseplants, are susceptible to common pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and scale insects.

In addition, most are sap-suckers, causing extensive damage and appearing yellow, dark brown, or black spots on foliage in feeding areas.

Due to heavy infestations, the spots usually grow and darken, resulting in large black patches on the leaves.

In addition, sap-sucking pests excrete honeydew, which causes a black sooty mold to form on the leaves.

Eventually, almost all leaves will wither, curl, and turn black.

How to Get Rid of Pests on Money Tree

Shower the Plant

Take your money and spray as many bugs as possible with a steady stream of lukewarm water in the shower or outside.

This is usually effective against mealybugs and aphids.

Spray Homemade Solutions

  • Remove any heavily infested leaves.
  • Use neem oil or dish soap to spray.
  • Make an oil spray combining mild liquid soap, vegetable oil, and water.
  • Soak visible bugs in rubbing alcohol with cotton swabs.
  • Spray repellent with garlic or hot pepper.

[6] Root Rot

Signs of Money Tree Root Rot

Your money tree may have root rot if the lower leaves turn black. Also, the soil may have a rotten-egg odor to it.

Overwatering and poor drainage are the most common causes of root rot. Other common symptoms, aside from blackening foliage, are:

  • Wilting leaves despite constantly moist or wet soil.
  • Leaf yellowing.
  • Weakened, swollen, or rotting stem at the base.
  • Stunted growth.
  • Black or brown, mushy roots.

How to Treat Money Tree Root Rot

Hold Off On The Water For A While

Holding off on watering can help treat mild cases of root rot. Instead, move your money tree to a brighter location with plenty of airflows to help the soil dry faster.

Repotting is the ultimate solution to most cases of root rot. Use fresh potting soil and a new, well-draining pot.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to saving your money tree from root rot.

[7] Overfertilization

When you feed your money tree too frequently, it accumulates harsh fertilizer salts in the soil. These chemical salts will eventually burn and damage the roots, resulting in brown leaves.

How to Fix Overfertilization

The best way to fix an over-fertilized money tree is to flush the soil multiple times. This will help wash out excess fertilizer salts.

If overfertilization is extreme, consider repotting your money into a fresh, nutrient-rich potting mix.