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Question: Pachira aquatica
I was given a pachira aquatica plant as a gift in September. At first the plant seemed to be fine, but now it has lost many leaves and the new ones are a light green color and are practically born withered. I live in Rome, I keep the plant in a moderately lit room, at a temperature of 18/20 degrees. I water it once a week. I recently tried to give her the fertilizer for green plants, but to no avail. Can you help me? I would be sorry for the plant to dry out, because it was given to me for my wedding by a person close to me. Thanks. My e-mail address is [email protected]
Answer: Pachira aquatica
We thank you for contacting us about the question about Pachira through the Expert column of "giardino.it".
We first wish her for the wedding and then inform her that, currently, not much information is available on this type of plant.
Le Pachira, Pachira aquatica also known as Bombax aquatica, belongs to the Bombacaceae family (such as the Baobab), which reaches high dimensions in its natural state in the equatorial areas, but can also be cultivated in pots.
It is characterized by large (30 cm) and green leaves made up of 5-9 oval leaves. It also produces fragrant flowers with long, slightly pink pistils. It produces edible fruits in the period February - August (but in the country of origin Mexico and Central America). It is a fast-growing tree and even reaches 20 meters.
It should be treated like a classic green house plant.
Therefore watering in the winter period must be reduced, no stagnation of water must be created and leaf nebulisations must be made to compensate for the excessive dryness of the air caused by the radiators on.
It should be placed in illuminated places, it does not go into direct contact with the sun's rays, but not even in excessively shaded places.
The fertilizations must be regular, making macro and microelements to avoid leaf yellowing. It is advisable to make periodic fertilizer additions even in winter, preferably complete with all the nutritional elements.
The Pachira aquatica is not particularly demanding in terms of soil, provided it has excellent drainage (I would avoid peaty soils). It prefers quite high temperatures, even if it bears, if kept dry, minimum temperatures of 12-14 ° C.
The combination of water stagnation with low temperatures, which causes yellowing and premature fall of the leaves, is very dangerous.
The repottings must be done every 2-3 years.
In summer it can be placed outside, in bright but not too sunny positions (the ideal is an area facing east where the sun beats in the morning);
How to repot the Pachira
Pachira is a plant that, if it finds the right conditions, is able to grow quite quickly. When a houseplant grows rapidly it may be that in a short time it may need more space and new soil ... in practice a repotting. Let's see for a moment how to repot the pachira and what are the precautions to be taken in this important cultivation operation.
First of all, let's remember what the needs of the Pachira are in terms of land. This plant does not require particular soils to grow properly and a neutral substrate is fine as long as there is no water stagnation. In fact, this plant suffers from water stagnation in an important way and for this reason it needs a soil that drains quickly.
For repotting it is always better to get universal soil to which we will add sand and peat in similar quantities. The important thing, as mentioned above, is to avoid clayey soils with strong water stagnation or that in any case retain too much water.
Description and origins of the Pachira
The Pachira aquatica is a tropical tree originating from the humid regions and swamps in particular of Mexico and northern Brazil. In the areas of origin it is also nicknamed Guyana chestnut or Malabar nut.
The name Pachira probably comes from Creole and refers to an animal that feeds mainly on its fruits.
It belongs to the Bombaceae family and for this reason it is genetically close to the baobabs.
It is a tree with an enlarged trunk that can reach, in its natural habitat, even 18 meters in height. As a houseplant, however, it can reach a maximum of 3 meters. Its bark is smooth and green in color.
As for the other members of its family, the trunk has a tendency to take the shape of a bottle, that is, it is swollen at the bottom and thinner at the top. The stems are initially very flexible and can therefore be twisted.
The leaves are webbed and a nice bright green. The diameter of each one measures about 30 cm and are structurally composed of 5 to 9 elliptical leaves.
From December to March it produces very showy and fragrant flowers whose diameter measures about 20 cm. The petals are long and lanceolate and open like banana peels to finally show the yellow-orange or white stamens with red ends.
The fruits appear from February to June. They have the same shape as cocoa beans, reach 30 cm in length and about 12 in width, fleshy and initially green in color. Over time they lignify and then contain round and edible seeds.
The species of pachira most known are: the aquatic pachira, the pachira glabra and the pachira insignis. Only the former is known and cultivated as a houseplant.
Cultivation of the Pachira
The cultivation of Pachira is not at all difficult if you respect some general rules. We keep in mind that the well-being of the plant is assured if it is possible to reproduce an environment as similar as possible to its original one. In particular for the pachira we are talking about substropical rainforests. So the temperatures must never be too high or low, the ambient humidity instead must always be quite high. The lighting must reflect that of the undergrowth, therefore intense, but never too direct.
In almost all of Italy, the pachira can be considered exclusively a houseplant. In fact, temperatures should preferably not drop below 10 ° C. In reality it is able to withstand even lower temperatures (usually up to 0 ° C): however, it will certainly lose the leaves and labor for a certain period before recovering.
In winter they should be kept indoors, possibly in a room that is not too heated with temperatures from 12 to 15 ° C.
During the summer, however, they can even withstand 30 ° C on condition of being well positioned and being in an environment with high atmospheric humidity.
In some regions of our peninsula (such as Sicily, southern Sardinia and other islands located even further south) it is possible to grow it outside, even in the open ground.
The pachira needs a very bright exposure, but it must not be exposed to direct light, especially during the summer months. This could cause severe irretrievable leaf burns up to the birth of new vegetation and therefore to the total renewal of the crown.
At home it can be placed near a large window. The direct light of the first and last hours of the day usually does not cause problems. From 11 to 17, however, it is good that it is filtered by light-colored curtains.
During the summer it is preferable, if possible, to place the plant outdoors. In fact, to grow at its best, the pachira needs good and abundant air circulation. A stagnant air environment can cause cryptogams, pest attacks, and slowed growth.
We can therefore place it on a terrace or directly in the garden. The ideal is that it be sheltered under deciduous trees. In this way the light will not be too intense, but not too dim either.
If we do not have this possibility we can create a small shelter with thin reed mats.
During the vegetative period the pachira requires frequent interventions. The substrate, in fact, must always be humid (but never full of water).
Given its origin from the rainforests, it is undoubtedly advisable to use little or no mineralized water. This could, over time, cause the formation of microcrystals on the roots and drastically reduce their ability to absorb nutrients from the substrate.
Rainwater is ideal: however, let's avoid that fall in the first hours after a long drought. In fact, it is often heavily compromised by the smog present in the air.
The water from dehumidifiers and air conditioners is equally good. Otherwise we can use the one suitable for irons.
In winter, with the rest period, irrigation can be delayed: we only intervene to prevent the soil from drying out completely.
The humidity present in the air is very important for the health of the plant.
The pachira is able to withstand even very high temperatures (above 30 degrees) as long as the air is full of water vapor.
It is therefore essential that, in the apartment or outdoors, we commit ourselves from this point of view.
A simple way to stimulate humidity is to place a saucer full of expanded clay or glass marbles under the container. In this, there must always be water which, by evaporating, will create the right habitat. We only make sure that the roots never come into contact with the liquid because this could cause rot.
If we keep the plant outside, in addition to this precaution, we can also intervene several times a day by abundantly wetting the ground or the paving around the pot. Evaporation will do the rest.
The ideal environment can also be favored by the juxtaposition of a large number of plants.
Soil and repotting
The pachira from this point of view is not very demanding. Virtually all soil for green plants that can be found on the market are suitable. In general, we underline that we must avoid too compact and clayey substrates which would compromise the drainage of the water and could give way to rotting of the underground system.
The ideal pot consists of a good drainage layer on the bottom, made up of gravel or expanded clay. The soil instead must be produced by combining 1/3 of humified soil, 1/3 of peat and 1/3 of draining material such as sand or perlite.
The pachiras have a rather fast growth. Consequently, repotting must be carried out approximately once a year, preferably at the end of winter. This operation, in addition to replacing the earth and expanding the space available to the plant, is useful for checking the state of the roots. These must be reduced and a remediation of any parts compromised by rot must be carried out.
In any case, it is advisable to carry out some treatment with fosetaluminium or propamocarb.
Fertilization must be done during the vegetative period, intervening about once a month. All liquid fertilizers for green plants are suitable, possibly well balanced.
The pachira does not require pruning. We only intervene to eliminate old leaves or leaves compromised by parasites or any burns.
If we want to get new pachira seedlings we can choose whether to proceed by cutting or by sowing.
We will illustrate the cutting procedure as it gives faster and more certain results as well as not being subject to genetic variability. Furthermore, the seeds are difficult to find here because the plant rarely manages to bear fruit.
We proceed in spring by taking a portion of the stem at a node. The segment taken must be at least 10-15 cm long and be characterized by the presence of at least two nodes.
We sprinkle the part with a rooting product and insert the part deeply into a mixture of peat and sand (or, better still, peat and agri-perlite). Always keep the substrate moist (also inserting a mild fungicide in the irrigation water) and keep the container in an environment with about 20 ° C and shady. Rooting occurs rather quickly (usually takes no more than a month).
Once the first shoots appear, we can expose the cuttings to a brighter light. Towards the end of the summer we will be able to move them into single jars with substrate suitable for adult plants.
Aquatic Pachira: Parasites and diseases
These are generally quite healthy plants.
The most common parasites are
- The scale insects, manifest themselves with the appearance of spots on the back of the leaves. Observing you will certainly notice the presence of these insects. If a few can be eradicated by removing them manually and passing alcohol on the part. Otherwise it is good to use a mineral oil activated with a possibly systemic insecticide
- Red spider or yellow is manifested by a rapid decay of the plant and bronze coloring of the leaves. It is fought with specific acaricides and by increasing the environmental humidity.
- Aphids they appear on the apexes and feed on the sap, then producing honeydew. They fight with insecticides.