Starting a new bonsai tree can be exciting with all of the plant options you can cultivate.
And believe it or not, you can bonsai a money tree, shaping its branches to match the unique design of its braided trunk.
To bonsai a money tree, you’ll first need to start your bonsai after getting some bonsai potting mix and a small bonsai container.
Afterward, you’ll prune, wire, and shape your tree to your liking.
Lastly, you have to fertilize, train, and care for your bonsai long-term.
To learn how to do all of these steps in detail, continue reading as I share my best tips for using the bonsai method on money trees.
I’m also going to teach you how to choose the best fertilizer and care for your plant on a daily basis.
8 Steps to Bonsai a Money Tree
1) Select Your Money Tree
Since money trees (Pachira aquatica) grow quite large naturally (up to 50 feet or more), you’ll need to start with a young seedling or propagations.
You have to begin with these small plants to ensure your bonsai remains small.
And to get one of these tiny trees, you can either plant your own seeds, start with cuttings, or buy a young plant.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding how to start your plant.
For instance, you should know that if you grow the money tree from seed, it may not be as strong as a young money tree you buy from a nursery.
Money tree cuttings also need some time to take root in their new container once you’ve propagated them.
So, based on this information, you need to decide which method you prefer to start your money tree.
2) Choose a Bonsai Potting Mix
Once you have your money tree starter – whether that’s a seedling or cuttings – I suggest finding a quality soil mixture.
Generally, although money tree plants like to stay pretty wet, you still want the soil to drain well.
So, you’ll want a soil mix with a decent amount of humus, as well as perlite, sand, and peat moss.
Yet, at this point, don’t worry about adding fertilizer to the soil, as that step will come later, after pruning and shaping.
3) Transplant Your Money Tree
If your tree is not already in a small container, you’ll want to transplant it into one to keep the root system compact.
Many bonsai growers suggest using a container no larger than about one gallon when you are making a new bonsai tree.
Then, when you’ve got your pot, transplant the money tree with your soil mixture and water it.
You should now let the plant rest for several days while the roots take hold and the soil dries a bit.
4) Prune Your Money Tree
The next step is to prune your money tree, which you can begin doing after you have collected your tools.
When pruning bonsai trees, many people suggest you use bonsai cutters, which can get into small spaces to make pruning easier.
However, you don’t necessarily need those since a pair of small garden shears, or quality scissors will work, too.
Yet, whichever pruning tool you use, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned it first with isopropyl alcohol.
This solution will sanitize the blades so that they don’t spread fungus, disease, or other bacteria to your plant.
You should also make sure your cutting tools are sharp before you start pruning.
When to Prune
Money trees often take on new growth and offshoots in the spring – especially those you’ve bought from a plant nursery.
Because of this, you want to prune your plant before it starts to grow rapidly and gets too big.
Thus, I suggest pruning a money tree bonsai in the later winter months – just before spring.
Where and How to Prune
To prune a money tree, take the following steps:
- Begin by trimming off dead leaves and branches as well as other unnecessary matter.
- Next, prune some of the longer and thicker branches, clipping them at an angle just above a node to encourage new growth.
- Keep pruning until you’re satisfied and have left behind several smaller branches to shape.
- Be careful not to over-prune your money tree.
5) Wire Your Money Tree
After you’ve pruned to your satisfaction, you can wire the branches so that they’re malleable enough to shape.
Wiring for bonsai trees comes in several suitable forms:
- Copper wiring
- Aluminum wiring
- “Bonsai wiring”
You might also want to use a pair of thin-nosed pliers to help you wrap the wire around branches.
How to Wire Your Money Tree
Before you start wiring, pre-cut your wires for each branch you plan to shape (about ⅓ longer than the branch).
Then, I suggest holding an end of the wire against the base of a branch with one hand while beginning to wrap the wire with your other hand.
You’ll coil the wire around the branch in an upward/outward motion – away from the money tree’s trunk.
But, try not to coil the wire so tightly that it cuts into the branches.
You should also remember to leave some space between each coil.
Overall, you can wire whichever branches you want, but you’ll have more luck with the thinner and more supple branches.
6) Shape Your Money Tree
After wiring a money tree, you can start shaping and bending.
If you want your tree to take on a particular style or design, I suggest looking up reference photos online before you start.
You can use these pictures as a kind of guide as you choose which branches to shape and which directions to move them.
Popular bonsai styles include:
- Upright and informal upright
When bending the branches of a wired bonsai tree, my best tip is to have patience with the process.
Bend a branch too hard or too quickly, and you may end up snapping it and ruining its bonsai potential.
You also want to avoid putting too much stress on the tree at first, keeping in mind that you can always do more training sessions in the future.
7) Maintain Your Bonsai Money Tree
After potting, pruning, wiring, and shaping your money tree bonsai, it’s time to let it settle into its new form.
It will take some time for new growth to appear and for the branches to start growing in the way you’ve shaped them.
But, after waiting a couple of weeks, you can take the following steps to care for your money tree bonsai.
Fertilizer for Money Tree
Fertilizer is vital for bonsai trees, and most of them need a balanced blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Manufacturers usually call these mixes NPK fertilizers, and they typically have a 1-1-1 ratio of nutrients or something more powerful.
If you’re keeping your bonsai outdoors, you’ll want to use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the spring and something more balanced in summer and fall.
For indoor bonsai, you can keep a relatively similar fertilizer plan going year-round.
You will need to fertilize your money tree about once a month or less often if you use a slow-release fertilizer.
Sunlight and Temperature for Money Tree
The environment also makes a huge difference for money tree bonsai plants.
Full sunlight (about 6-8 hours daily) is the ideal setup for a money tree bonsai.
Thus, if you keep your tree indoors, you might need a grow light to ensure your plant stays healthy.
Also, I suggest keeping your bonsai in a location where it won’t experience temperatures below about 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 C).
So, don’t leave your tree outside in late fall or winter if you live in a deciduous region.
Watering Your Money Tree
Similar to a succulent, you don’t want to water money trees until the soil has completely dried.
If you water this bonsai too frequently, you’ll cause the roots to rot.
But, when the soil does lose its moisture, you want to give your money tree a thorough watering or immersion watering for the roots.
Long-Term Training for Money Tree
Finally, keep in mind that as new growth forms, you’ll have to keep pruning and shaping the branches.
Typically, you should cut back just one or two pairs of leaves at a time when it comes to maintenance pruning.
And keep in mind that you will need to prune the leaves more often than you will the branches.
8) Re-pot Your Money Tree
After the first couple of years of caring for your new bonsai, you’ll need to re-pot it.
To perform this step, move the plant into a slightly smaller, well-draining container with fresh soil, pruning no more than 25% of the root system.
Keep re-potting about once every two or three years to keep your bonsai thriving.
If you didn’t know how to bonsai a money tree before, I hope you’ve got the gist after reading my tips.
It can be tricky to make these part-evergreen, part-deciduous trees into bonsais, but with the proper care, you can definitely do it.
Just make sure to start with a seedling or cuttings and prune and wire your money tree carefully in a well-draining, small container.
Then, over time, with proper care and fertilization, your tree will take on the shape of a beautiful, ornamental plant.
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