Why Do People Give Money Trees at Lunar New Year?

By: Alia Hoyt & Kathryn Whitbourne  | 

man watering money tree
The Chinese money tree is popular because it's easy to care for and is important in feng shui, as a symbol of wealth. Sean Justice/Getty Images

The Chinese money tree (Pachira aquatica) is a popular gift for those celebrating Lunar New Year. Who doesn't want a little good luck, especially of the cash-related kind?

"The belief around this plant is that it can bring luck into your life, especially during a big life milestone, such as opening up a new business," emails Rebecca Lee, registered nurse and founder of natural health resource Remedies for Me. "They are also given to friends or to new neighbors as a symbol of friendship."

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"This plant is actually a Malabar chestnut tree that in the wild can get to be 50 feet [15 meters] tall, but in the houseplant world we usually see them as desktop plants of maybe a 4-5 foot [1.2-1.5 meter] specimen," adds Rebecca Bullene with Greenery NYC via email.

The Chinese money tree is one of the most popular houseplants in the world according to Lee. "They are very easy to care for and can last for years. They are widely used in the Chinese culture during feng shui, the cleansing of your house in order to live in harmony with the surrounding environment."

Legend has it that a poor man prayed for prosperity and soon came across the tree. He took it home and was able to grow many more trees from its seeds. This made him a wealthy man, which is why the money tree is a popular gift for Chinese or Lunar New Year.

According to feng shui principles, the twisted trunk of the money tree is said to trap luck within its folds and the five leaves typically found on a stalk represent earth, wind, fire, water and metal — the five elements of balance. That's why many people keep a money tree near their cash register or in the southeast corner of their house.

Caring for a Money Tree

The money tree is a pretty sturdy plant and easy to grow. Place it in bright, indirect light, in a spot with high humidity. It can also do well in fluorescent light, says plant company Bloomscape. It does best in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27 degrees Celsius). If your house has low humidity, Apartment Therapy suggests filling a shallow tray with small rocks or stones and adding water to partially cover the rocks; then set the plant on top on the tray. This will re-create a humid atmosphere for your plant when it's growing.

Plant your tree in a pot with good drainage, using potting soil. Water infrequently — when the top 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of soil are dry — but thoroughly, until the water runs out of the drainage holes. This will prevent root rot, according to Bloomscape. Keep your tree away from drafts, and don't put it near an outside door or HVAC vent.

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