What Does the Money Tree Have to Do With 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. In feng shui, the money tree is a symbol of wealth and good fortune. 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, particularly 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," e-mails 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."


"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 to 5 foot [1.2-1.5 meter] specimen," adds Rebecca Bullene of Greenery NYC via e-mail.

Chinese money tree plants are some of the most popular indoor plants 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."


Why Are Money Trees Lunar New Year Gifts?

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 plant is a popular gift for Chinese or Lunar New Year.

Feng shui practitioners believe money trees can bring good luck and positive energy into your home.


What Does the Money Tree Plant Symbolize?

According to feng shui principles, the braided 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 braided money trees near their cash register or in the southeast corner of their house.


Caring for Money Trees

Also known as the Guiana chestnut, the money plant is an easy indoor plant to maintain, provided it has enough light.

Money trees thrive in bright, indirect light (such as in front of a a south-facing window), in a spot with high humidity. They 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 pebble tray. This will re-create the humid atmosphere of the plant's native Central and South America.

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. If your tree starts to drop leaves, it may be too dry or getting too much direct sunlight.

Given the right conditions, you can expect new leaves to appear in the warmer months, which is also the ideal time to fertilize your tree. Prune your tree in the winter, when its dormant. This will encourage new growth.

Keep your tree away from drafts, and don't put it near an outside door or air conditioning vent.