Pachira, also often called the Guiana chestnut, is a tree-like perennial native to Central and South America that is cultivated as an ornamental houseplant. The similarity with chestnut Pachira is given by the special shape of the dark green leaves. The great flexibility and length of the stem shoots allow them to be shaped, to give the desired shape, for example, by braiding them into a pigtail. It is in this form that this plant is most often found on sale.
General description with photo
Pachira is a thermophilic slow-growing tropical perennial, which belongs to the Malvov family (according to other botanical sources – to the Baobabs or Bombaxovs). Due to the downward-expanding shape of the trunk, which acts as a caudex for the accumulation of moisture, it is called one of the variants of the bottle tree. In a favorable natural environment, it reaches a height of 20 m, at home, its growth is limited to 2-2.5 m, although some specimens exceed the 3-meter mark. But most often the growth of a flower is deliberately limited by pinching the tops of the shoots.
The bottle stem is smooth, leafless; a leaf rosette is formed in its upper part. The bark gradually changes its color from green to woody gray-brown. Leaves with long petiolate, five-lobed, regular oval-elongated shape with a pointed tip, have a pronounced venation.
It begins to bloom in July and continues to bloom until November, and sometimes longer. But, unfortunately, the Pachira flower can be seen only in natural conditions or conditions close to them. In indoor culture, the tree usually does not bloom. Unlike plants close to this genus, leaves during flowering and after it does not drop. The exotic inflorescence is a large panicle with many colored stamens, carried on a long peduncle. The color of the flower is multicolored, from white, greenish or pale pink to bright tropical colors. Its aroma is reminiscent of vanilla.
After flowering, large fruits ripen in place of the buds, the size of which can reach 15-20 cm. The ripe fruit splits in the center, exposing edible (not in all species) nut seeds, the number of which can be 10-25 pieces.
Pachira nuts can be eaten in any form, including raw. They are boiled, fried and made into drinks that taste like chocolate. The local population also uses leaves and flowers for food.
Types of Pachira with a photo
The genus includes 24 varieties, most of which produce edible fruits. Only 3 of them are grown at home.
Pachira aquatica (water)
This variety is also often referred to as saba nut. This is the most common type of plant in indoor plant growing. With a growth of 3 m, the diameter of its crown reaches 1.5 m, but more often the tree is limited in growth, giving preference to its decorative forms. Caring for Pachira aquatic at home is simple, but requires special attention to watering. Askew of the irrigation regime in any direction is very undesirable, especially with regard to overflow, which can become destructive. The color of the flowers is pale but depends on the variety. It is extremely difficult to achieve flowering in indoor conditions. The fruit is a large oval berry with edible nuts.
In culture, it is much less common than the previous species, it has to creep liana-shaped shoots. In houses and greenhouses, it is grown as an ampelous plant.
Another rare cultivar, a characteristic feature of which is silvery stripes on a green leaf.
In the flower market, Pachira is often sold under the name money tree, bottle tree or Chinese tree.
Home care of Pachira
Pachira is a tropical rainforest plant, and its care should be based on the conditions of its natural growth.
It is desirable to provide the plant with bright diffused light. On windows of east, southeast or west orientation, it can be grown without shading. If the window is oriented to the south, you need to stick tracing paper on the glass or protect the Pachira from the midday sun with a light transparent curtain. In any case, do not allow more than 3 hours of exposure to direct sunlight on the crown.
On the north window, the tree will feel good in summer, but in winter it may not have enough light. This will lead to a strong elongation of the trunk and the loss of the main decorative element – the caudex thickened from the bottom. If this fact is not fundamental, then Pachira can be grown in the back of the room. But any change of location must be gradual.
The soil is required to be light, with neutral acidity, and not too nutritious. From ready-made compositions, you can focus on substrates intended for growing bonsai, palms or dracaena. Self-preparation of the soil mixture is quite difficult in terms of the correct selection of components, as one of the options, you can mix leaf and sod soil in equal parts, and then, depending on the density and acidity, add quartz sand and fine-grained brick chips to this mixture.
The root system has a superficial occurrence, so it does not need deep capacity. However, it is necessary to provide a height for laying high drainage, which at the same time will play the role of a massive element so that the bowl does not turn over under the weight of the tree.
In a pot that is too deep, the Pachira will constantly hurt and grow poorly.
Guiana Chestnut is tolerant of a fairly wide range of temperatures, but the optimal regime in the summer is + 20 … + 26C. With the onset of winter, the temperature should be lowered by 5-8C. If you provide cool content in the range of + 14 … + 16C in winter, this will well compensate for the lack of light, and the Pachira will not stretch out. In winter, the plant should be kept away from batteries and other hot air-drying appliances. Drafts should be avoided at any time of the year, but in winter they are especially destructive.
Proper watering is one of the main conditions for the successful cultivation of this exotic. The soil in the pot should never dry out through and through, but overflow for Pachira is even more dangerous than lack of moisture. A plant can survive drought due to the moisture accumulated in the caudex, but excess water can damage its tissues and cause rotting of the root system. Summer watering should be twice as intense as winter.
For irrigation, you should use soft, settled water, heated to room temperature or even 1-2 degrees above it. It is produced along the contour of the container, protecting the barrel as much as possible from water getting on it. The easiest way to solve the problem is using the method of bottom water supply through the sump. In this case, it is necessary to ensure that immediately after this, the remaining water is removed or the bottom is raised to prevent contact with water.
This point of care can be the most difficult to accomplish at home. The plant is moisture-loving, but does not tolerate spraying along the trunk, this can quickly cause the appearance of putrefactive spots. At the same time, the leaves respond with gratitude to moisture. Therefore, it is necessary either to find a way to humidify the air by installing moisture sources in the immediate vicinity of the flower or to grow the tree in conditions of low humidity, to which it is sufficiently tolerant, provided that the correct watering regime is observed.
The plant is able to take in nutrients in virtually all types of existing dressings. However, it should be remembered that for successful growth, and especially for the decorative type of tree, it must have a limited supply of food. Otherwise, its trunk will lose its original shape. The optimal feeding regime is once a month, and only during the vegetatively active season.
This is the easiest and fastest way to deliver food. But fast delivery for this plant is not entirely desirable, therefore, it is recommended to deliver liquid formulations by drip method using a reservoir with a tube (the easiest way is to buy a ready-made device).
In this case, we are not talking about regular planned feeding, but about the treatment of a diseased plant. Especially for Pachira, there are tablets and general tonic medications produced. The method of transporting them to their destination is indicated on the manufacturer’s packaging.
We are talking about separate feeding of the lower and upper parts of the plant due to their different structure and different perception of the compositions. In this case, the foliage can be fed with liquid fertilizer by spraying on the leaf, and the root part and trunk – in the usual way through the soil.
As already mentioned, the nutritional value of the soil should be moderate, therefore, if a transplant is carried out in the current year, then the plant may not need additional measures to enrich the substrate.
In winter, feeding the Guiana chestnut should be discontinued in any case.
It can be propagated both by seeds and cuttings. In the first case, it should be remembered that its seeds quickly lose their germination, and it is not possible to get fresh ones at home, since the plant does not bloom in the apartment. If there is an opportunity to buy freshly harvested Pachira seeds, they are planted superficially, the nuts are barely sprinkled with earth. Watering should be regular and abundant, but without stagnant moisture (high-quality drainage should be provided). From above, the container is covered with a film and placed in a place where it will be provided with a small bottom heating (for example, on a not too hot heating radiator). You need to air the container daily, you will have to wait about a month for the first shoots.
The easiest way to reproduce Pachira occurs with the help of cuttings, the cutting of which is done at the end of summer. The main condition for success is the use of heel cuttings. The rest of the rooting procedure remains traditional. It occurs most successfully in conditions of high humidity and temperature range + 26 … + 28C.
At a young age, the tree needs an annual transplant, the optimal time for which is March. In this case, the height of the pot may remain the same (assessed visually), and the width is taken a little more than the previous one. But given the fact that the culture grows very slowly, the increase in capacity should also be negligible.
Pruning is not a prerequisite for grooming, but it can help shape a prettier tree. At the site of the cut of one shoot, several new ones begin to grow at once, while the height of the branching should be thought out immediately, even before the very first pruning.
Due to the fact that Pachira grows extremely slowly, it is an excellent candidate for growing bonsai, but in this case, pruning is done according to a special principle.
Possible growing problems
- Leaves turn yellow and fall. There may be several reasons, and before deciding what to do in this case, you must install it correctly. Both overflow and lack of moisture are possible. When buying a new specimen, it may have been left to grow in the shipping soil, which is unacceptable. Too dry air can also cause loss of foliage. But, if the process takes place in late autumn, and old leaves turn yellow and fall off, there is nothing wrong with that.
- The trunk began to rot. Apparently, it has been repeatedly exposed to water. The draft could hasten the putrefactive process.
- Leaves curl and lose color along the edge. The reason may be a discrepancy between night and day temperature and air humidity, poor watering, frequent drafts.
- The appearance of spots on the leaves is too bright light.
- Pulling shoots to the detriment of their thickness – lack of light.
How to braid Pachira?
In order to get a specimen with intertwined trunks, you need to plant 2-4 seedlings in one container and, as they grow, while the shoots still retain flexibility, braid them in a spiral or pigtail. The bizarrely decorative trunk will take about 3 years to form.