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10 Causes of Money Tree Leaves Turning Brown (And Solutions)

10 Causes of Money Tree Leaves Turning Brown (Causes and Solution)

Money tree (Pachira Aquatica) can be hard to take care of as a houseplant because it likes moist soil.

However, keeping the soil of your houseplants moist is a surefire way to develop fungal and bacterial infections.

Money tree leaves frequently turn brown due to poor watering, natural aging, and sunburn. Leaf browning can also be caused by temperature stress, low humidity, nutrient imbalances, diseases, and insect infestations. Maintain bright, indirect light, water when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry, and ensure proper drainage to avoid root rot.

[1] Have You Overwatered Your Money Tree?

Money trees are not easy to overwater. However, because they prefer their growing medium to be slightly moist, these trees do best when watered regularly.

Even so, you don’t want to overwater your plant. Money tree quickly dies if the soil becomes too wet or soggy.

Too much water makes it hard for air to get into the soil, which stops roots from getting the oxygen they need to live. This causes the roots to stop working and can result in root rot.

Even if the growing medium is adequately moist, overwatering can cause your plant to wilt.

Also, keep an eye out for brown or yellowed foliage, especially on the lower leaves, which is often indicative of a disease.

You may also notice the following signs of an overwatered money tree:

  • The soil drains slowly after watering.
  • Mold or mildew growth on the soil’s surface.
  • indiscriminate leaf shedding
  • A rotting odor emanates from the soil as a result of root rot.
  • The stem is weak, swollen, or rotting.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that frequent watering is the only cause of overwatering. However, soil that is too wet or soggy for an extended period can cause it.

The following can cause or make money tree leaves turn brown from getting too much water:

  • Irrigation frequency should not be reduced in colder weather or during the winter.
  • Planting your plant in a medium that is poorly drained.
  • After watering your plant, forget to empty the saucer, cachepot, or drip tray. Money trees dislike having “wet feet.”
  • Water your plant frequently without waiting for the topsoil to dry out slightly.
  • Use a container that is too large for your plant.
  • Planting in a container with few or no drainage holes.

If your plant is overwatered for an extended period, it will develop root rot. This article is a step-by-step recovery guide for an overwatered money tree.

You’ll notice mushy, dark brown, or black roots when removing your plant from its pot. The roots will give off a rotting smell as well.

How to Fix an Overwatered Money Tree

If your money tree has brown leaves and is wilting, do the following to rescue your plant:

  • Stop watering your money tree until the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry.
  • Make sure your money tree is planted in well-draining soil and potted.
  • Relocate it to a sunny location where it will benefit from more light and excess moisture for rapid growth. The additional heat from the bright light will also aid in drying the soil.
  • If the earth takes too long to drain, repot your plant in a peat-based potting mix that drains well. To improve drainage, add some gravel, sand, or perlite.
  • Make sure the container is the right size for your money tree.
  • Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes.
  • After watering your plant, empty the saucer, drip tray, or cachepot ten minutes later.
  • If overwatering has caused root rot, you must take immediate action. Remove any affected roots, wash away the oil soil, and repot your money tree with a new potting mix.

[2] Dehydration Causes Brown Tips and Edges on Money Tree Leaves

Have you allowed your money tree to get too dry? That’s one of the first questions you should ask yourself if you notice browning leaves.

That’s often the case if the lower leaves are brown and crispy. Meanwhile, other leaves are developing brown tips or edges.

Dehydration usually takes its toll on the leaves in the earliest and oldest stages.

Unfortunately, money trees that get too much or too little water tend to show almost the same signs. The soil of an underwatered plant will be dry, and the pot will feel lighter.

The wilted brown or yellowed foliage will also feel crunchy and dry. The entire plant will wilt dramatically. However, if you give it a sip, it should begin to revive almost immediately.

Other common signs include wrinkled, shriveled, or curled up leaves, followed by general stunting.

Underwatering usually happens when you forget to water your plant or when it needs more water than usual.

For example, you’ll probably have to water a fast-growing money tree during the spring and summer months.

How to Fix

When the soil is bone-dry, the leaves frequently turn brown. So give your money tree a good soaking if that’s the case. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill a basin or sink three to four inches deep with lukewarm water before beginning.
  2. Remove the outer pot (saucer) from your plant and let it soak in the bath for as long as you like.
  3. Wait 30-45 minutes or until the soil is sufficiently soaked.
  4. Empty the drip tray or cachepot after about ten minutes.

You should repot your plant if it’s rootbound or in an overly small pot.

[3] Sunburn

You might have heard that Money Trees are plants that like to be in the sun. This is because they can survive in the sun’s rays outdoors.

But indoor money trees need to be shielded from direct sunlight.

Otherwise, the leaves will get sunburned and turn crispy brown, especially around the edges.

Sunburn usually looks like big brown spots on the leaves. However, sunburned money tree leaves can turn brown in extreme cases.

How to Fix

There’s a good chance that your plant’s leaves are turning brown because of sunburn, so it’s essential to check its location.

You can do this by using a light meter (Amazon link) at various times of the day and over a while.

Sunlight shouldn’t hit your money tree more than 6 hours a day.

Relocate your plant to an area that receives medium to bright, indirect light if that’s the situation.

You might want to cut off leaves that are all brown and burned from the sun. Their original green color will not return.

[4] Diseases

Money trees are disease-prone. Watch out for these diseases, especially if your plant is too moist:

  • Anthracnose Leaf Spot: This fungal disease often appears on mature leaves as dark brown to tan spots. Although they usually only affect the lower or inner leaves, these fungi can quickly spread throughout the plant.
  • Root Rot: Overwatering, fertilizer burn, or other causes of root damage can result in this opportunistic fungal disease. Affected roots are usually mushy, spongy, and brown or black in appearance. The rootball will have a somewhat pungent odor.
  • Powdery Mildew: White spots on brown leaves indicate powdery mildew infestations. Leaf drooping, curling, and wilting are other signs to watch for.

These fungal infections cause rapid wilting and browning of the leaves. If left untreated, your money tree will die.

How to Treat Money Tree Diseases

  • Anthracnose leaf spot disease can be prevented by adhering to good sanitation practices. Remove and dispose of diseased parts, such as leaves, twigs, etc. Pruning dead and decaying plants regularly can also help.
  • Fungal root rot is a much more severe problem. You’ll need to remove the diseased roots and repot your money tree in new soil. A fungicide treatment may also be helpful.
  • Use a fungicide that contains propiconazole to treat your money tree for powdery mildew (Amazon link). Additionally, increase circulation and lighting in the room.

[5] Pest Infestation

Pests like whiteflies, fungus gnats, spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects can attack money trees.

Bugs that are sap-suckers can cause yellowish-brown spots on the foliage of your money tree because they’ve drained it of its vital juice and life.

Eventually, the entire tree’s leaves will turn yellow and brown, resulting in catastrophic damage to your money tree.

Pest NameDescription
WhitefliesWhiteflies hide on leaf undersides from predators and elements. Their eggs are a circle of pale dots. They feed on sap, damage foliage, and turn leaves brown.
ScaleScale insects also drain leaf juice. They cause brown spots that grow over time. Bugs on leaf undersides. 
Fungus GnatsFungus gnats are mosquito-like bugs with slender legs, blackheads, and transparent or gray wings. They resemble fruit flies but are larger and have thinner legs. Gnats indicate soil may contain their larvae and eggs. The larvae can cause severe root damage, resulting in nutrient and moisture deficiency and leaf browning.
Spider MitesSilvery stippling and dots on leaves indicate spider mites. Backs of leaves have cotton-like webbing. They grow fast in hot, dry conditions. Brown spots and patches appear due to leaf damage.
MealybugsMoney trees attract mealybugs. They drink sap and turn leaves brown. These bugs secrete honeydew that promotes sooty mold growth.
AphidsAphids prefer to hide on the backs of leaves. They sip sap and deprive your plants of nutrients, causing their leaves to yellow and then brown. Distorted, stunted, or curled leaves, as well as sooty black mold, are common symptoms.

Solution for Money Tree Bugs

It is critical to inspect your money regularly for signs of pests. If you find any insects, you should immediately prune and isolate your money tree.

Next, employ one or more of the following measures to keep things under control and treat the problem:

  • Manual removal: Using a washcloth or cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol, wipe down the stems, leaves, and other plant parts. It is most effective against mealybugs.
  • Hose/wash them off: Wash the leaves of your money tree with a strong stream of water. Most bugs, including mealybugs, aphids, gnats, and whiteflies, should be deterred by this method.
  • Insecticidal sprays: There are many ready-to-use insecticidal sprays you can use. I highly recommend organic soap or oil sprays containing neem oil, pyrethrin, rosemary oil, vinegar, mild dish soap, etc. 
  • Insect traps: I usually use yellow sticky traps to eliminate whiteflies. However, they are also effective against fungus gnats and their adult flies. 
  • Natural predators: Natural predators can also be used to get rid of money tree bugs, though this isn’t the most effective method. I use generalists like ladybug larvae and green lacewings when I need to get rid of soft-bodied bugs like spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects.

[6] Old Leaves

Most of the time, money tree leaves turn brown because they are old. However, newer, more vigorous leaves will eventually take their place. This is a natural and inevitable part of aging.

Inevitably, even the healthiest money tree will eventually have some brown leaves. The oldest leaves tend to be at the bottom of the tree.

If the leaves on top of your money tree start to turn brown, you may be dealing with something other than natural aging.

What To Do?

Nothing. It’s not a big deal unless you see a lot of brown leaves. You can prune off partially-browned old leaves if they are unsightly.

As the plant depletes its resources, the old leaves usually turn yellow first. Eventually, they’ll turn brown and fall off the plant. 

[7] Fertilizer Burn

Although money trees require some attention, they are not heavy feeders. As a result, it is straightforward to overfertilize your plant.

Unfortunately, too much fertilizer will burn the money tree’s tender roots. As a result, the foliage will become dry and brown. The leaf tips and edges are the first to turn brown.

Solution

The simplest solution for too much fertilizer is to flush the growing medium thoroughly. This will aid in the diluting and washing away of excess fertilizer salts.

[8] Nutrient Deficiency

Again, money trees are not voracious eaters. However, a lack of vital nutrients can inadvertently cause leaves to turn brown. Malnourished foliage appears weak and yellow before turning brown.

Solution

When it comes to fertilizing your money tree, a small amount can go a long way.

On money trees, I recommend using a standard, water-soluble liquid fertilizer.

However, ensure that the fertilizer is diluted to half the recommended concentration.

[9] Temperature Stress and Frost Damage

Money trees are native to hot, humid regions of South and Central America. Temperatures in these areas are usually consistent throughout the year.

Money trees are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 9b-11, but they do not tolerate frost or temperatures below 30°F (-1°C).

Any temperature stress, such as a sudden temperature change, frost, or drafts, will cause the leaves of your money tree to turn brown.

This is usually a problem if you frequently bring your houseplants outside during the warmer months.

Solution

  • Relocate your money tree to a location where the temperature stays between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 and 24 degrees Celsius).
  • Keep your money away from drafts, both cold and hot.
  • Don’t expose your money tree to extreme temperature swings.
  • Move your money away from fireplaces, heaters, air ducts, and other draft sources.

[10] Transplant Shock

Your money tree’s leaves may also turn brown soon after transplanting or repotting. However, it’s usually nothing to be concerned about.

Repotting your money tree is undoubtedly stressful. This is especially true if you have to prune leaves, manipulate the root system, or perform other invasive procedures during the process.

What to Do?

As long as you’ve repotted your money tree in a proper pot and used a suitable potting medium, it should be able to recover.

Next, focus on taking good care of your plant by ensuring it has enough airflow, humidity, light, etc.

How to Revive a Money Tree with Leaves Turning Brown

  • The first step is to remove any severely damaged brown leaves. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruning snips.
  • Remove any dead or fallen plant debris from the soil’s surface.
  • Maintain a light moisture level in the soil at all times. Check the soil moisture every 2-5 days, and water again once the top 1-2 inches of soil have dried.
  • Make sure that your money tree is growing in a well-draining potting mix.
  • Adopt good gardening and sanitation practices, such as not touching wet plants with dirty hands and sterilizing garden tools.
  • Avoid direct sunlight, drafts, and frost on your money tree.
  • Allow for adequate air circulation and humidity levels.