Pachira Aquatica - was doing wonderfully, not anymore?

Castle Rock, CO

Hello everyone,

About 10 months ago I purchased a Pachira Aquatica plant. It was very small at the time. I purchased the correct soil and fertilizer and fertilize it approximately once a month. It literally exploded into growth. The leaves grew large and a deep shade of green, at a rate which was quite amazing. It was like a bustling tree, literally!

Unfortunately, all of a sudden I noticed that the lower leaves were turning brown. Thinking it required some pruning, I removed the older, dead leaves. As the last 2-3 months have gone by, it's losing more and more leaves and has is beginning to look very sparse. New growth is coming through, but about 60% of the leaves have died and fallen off. The new growth turns brown pretty rapidly - as soon as they reach full size, whereas before they would not brown for months and months. I really love this plant, and I'm not sure what to do. As I'm in Colorado and it's been really chilly here the past few months, I moved it from a rather shaded kitchen into the living room where there is a more sunlight and it will have more warmth. There are no mites or insects of any type.

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks very much in advance.


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Can you post a picture? Things like browning leaves can be caused by so many things, even with a picture it might not be possible to tell exactly what it is, but it can certainly help narrow things down.

Here are a couple possibilities for you to consider:
--You mentioned that the growth exploded. This could mean that the plant is now a bit too big for the pot it's in and has become rootbound. When a plant is rootbound, it is nearly impossible for it to get enough water, and it will slowly die from underwatering
--Conversely, the symptoms of overwatering are very similar to the symptoms of underwatering. Once the weather turned cool, if you kept watering at the same frequency you had been during warm weather, you are probably overwatering the plant.
--Moving it into sunlight when it was used to being in a darker room could be causing the leaves to get sunburned
--If it's catching a cold draft from a window or a warm draft from a heating vent blowing directly on it, that could also be causing the symptoms you're seeing.
--Did your indoor humidity drop when the weather turned cold and you started running your heat for the winter? I know CO is pretty dry all year round, but if it was noticeably more humid indoors in the summer/fall than it is now, that could do it too.

Castle Rock, CO

Hi ecrane3. Thanks for responding. I've posted 1 large picture that contains a "before" pic showing it full and healthy (left pic), and two pics from this morning :-(

Since the summer, the temperature has dropped around 10 degrees in the house and is now around 65 degrees (I put the heat up today a bit as I wasn't sure if the the temperature was the problem). In terms of watering, I wait until the water has dried before I water each time as per the instructions that came with it. The humidity has dropped about 10% to around 30% right now in Colorado - it's really dry. I'm not sure about the pot size - perhaps from the pic you could let me know if it's ok or too small.

The drop in growth and loss of leaves seems to have coincided with the winter coming. New growth is very healthy though - but they don't grow to the full size and deep, rich green colour that early growth did - and brown/die very quickly.

Thanks so much for any help you can give.

Thumbnail by irini
Castle Rock, CO

Oops, so sorry - I uploaded the wrong pic - here is the correct one.

Thumbnail by irini
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

It's possible you may have a combination of some of the things I mentioned going on.

--The plant does look a bit on the big side for that pot, so it may be rootbound and in need of being moved to a larger pot. I'd pop it out of the pot and take a look--if the roots are all circling around the outside of the rootball then it's time for a new pot.
--I'm also curious about how you're watering it--are you leaving water in the tray underneath the pot? Most plants don't like that, it can cause root rot. Since this one has the species name "aquatica" maybe it is OK with that sort of conditions though (I've never grown this one, so I don't know for sure, I just know for most plants you need to drain water out of the tray when you're done watering so that the plant doesn't have wet feet all the time).
--In your second picture, the closeup of the leaves looks like sunburn to me, so that could be a side effect from moving it to an area that gets more sun than it's used to. I don't know if that's the only thing that's going on, but I'd move it to somewhere that it doesn't get as much direct sunlight.
--I also think I see a stippled pattern on those leaves, which could indicate spider mites (they're easy to miss...check the underside of the leaves with a magnfiying glass, if you see little teeny tiny brownish red dots, that's what you've got)
--I don't think 65 degree indoor temperatures would be bad for it. I would still worry about whether it's in the path of cold drafts from a window or warm drafts from heating vents, you didn't mention if either of those could be happening, but I still think something like that could be contributing.

Castle Rock, CO

1. I popped the plant out to look at the roots and the main roots are in the center with tiny capillaries stretching out from it - not touching the sides of the pot, though some of the tiny capillaries "just" the sides/bottom.
2. The water does collect in the bottom of the pot but is usually gone by the next day as I water it enough to soak the soil but not collect a lot in the bottom.
3. The brown leaves aren't from the sun as the reason I moved it from the shaded kitchen to the warmer sunnier area is because the leaves were browning, then falling off. I'm at a total loss there.
4. Check with a magnifying glass - no mites or "sign of life" of any type :-)
5. No drafts to speak of where it used to be as it was up on a high counter.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

OK, sounds like it doesn't need to be repotted. When you looked at the roots, did they look nice and healthy and white, or were they more brownish or mushy looking? If they were all white and healthy then it's probably not an overwatering issue. But if some of them looked brownish, I'd probably change what you're doing with the water, I'd water it, let the water collect in the tray, then empty the tray right away rather than letting it sit. I'm not sure if that'll make a difference or not, but it's definitely worth trying. And since the plant won't use water as quickly during cooler weather, it could be overwatering that's causing at least some of the problems you're seeing.

The sunburn that I'm seeing on the leaves isn't brown--it's the whitish looking edges on the leaf closeup. I can't think of anything besides sunburn that makes leaves look like that, so if that was there before you moved it to the sunnier area then I'm stumped as to why they look like that.

One more thing that may be going on (although I would expect brown edges on the leaves instead of white edges) would be salt/fertilizer buildup. Because of the way you're watering it (letting water run down into the tray and then sit there to be reabsorbed), you're never really flushing out any excess fertilizer, etc. This won't cause problems at first, but over time all that leftover fertilizer, plus any dissolved minerals from your water will all stay right there in the soil because it doesn't have anywhere else to go. Some plants are more sensitive to this than others, but you'll eventually see problems with most plants. You might consider repotting in some fresh potting mix, then to keep the salt from building up as much, every so often instead of watering the way you are now, give it a good flushing through with water, this will wash out a lot of the excess salts in the soil and keep them from building up as quickly again.

Palm Bay, FL(Zone 9b)

Irini, I'm having the same problem. Mine was growing beautiful until about two weeks ago, and then it started to go downhill. Right now I've cut off most of the leaves and hope it comes back. We had a cold spell, and maybe the house was too cool for this plant. It might be tropical and used to high humidity. I'll have to search the web and see what comes up. Just wanted to let you know you are not alone :)

(Zone 7a)

I looked online about these plants and they do require high humidity. They suggested a tray with rocks under them with water in the rocks. And misting was mentioned several times.

Castle Rock, CO

Thanks very much everyone. I've repotted with fresh soil, purchased a mini humidifier to raise the humidity and put up the temperature of the house a couple of degrees. The things we do for our plants, LOL. imadigger, I'll let know know if that solves my problem - hopefully so! :-)

bristol, United Kingdom

i have a single plant (one trunk) can i buy some more and intertwine them?

Paris, Canada

I have a pachira aquatica aswell I need info on how to care for it it leaves when I purchased it were yellow and some we're green but really dry. So then I searched it up to see if I could get any info but each ę website was telling me something different so I was wondering if one of my fellow gardener a could give me some advice on how to get its leves green and healthy again and also how to care for it.
Thx a bunch

Paris, Canada

I have a pachira aquatica aswell I need info on how to care for it it leaves when I purchased it were yellow and some we're green but really dry. So then I searched it up to see if I could get any info but each ę website was telling me something different so I was wondering if one of my fellow gardener a could give me some advice on how to get its leves green and healthy again and also how to care for it.
Thx a bunch

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