I have a potted money tree, it’s spindly and tall, and when I look at it, I wonder — why is it called a money tree at all?
Well, enough with the rhyming, and down to some unearthing! Did you know that the money tree is steeped in history, and is also tied to several Chinese and Taiwanese legends?
Let’s take a look at its intriguing backstory, and discover what makes this plant so lucky.
We find that there are quite a few old stories connected to these auspicious plants, proving their cultural importance. Here are two popular tales:
The first story tells of a poor farmer who hit upon hard times. He wandered his fields worrying about what would become of him, and prayed for better days. Unexpectedly, he stumbled upon a plant he’d never seen before. Intrigued by its beauty, he brought it home and propagated it, producing many more of these lovely plants. Equipped with a pioneering mindset, and a newfound sense of luck, he pulled himself out of poverty by selling the plants in what became a profitable enterprise.
The second fable tells of a sculptor who was down on his luck. Searching for supplies for his next project, he came upon an unusual tree. He desperately wanted the tree’s wood but didn’t have access to the right tools to collect it. It was out of this desire that the sculptor came up with a cunning idea — He would deceive his fellow villagers into cutting the tree down for him! With his plan in motion, he set about hanging fake money from the tree’s branches. Surely, his clever ploy would entice some fool to cut the tree down for its false riches. Pompously, the sculptor returned to the site a few days later and was shocked to discover that his plan had backfired. To his dismay, he found that the tree was still intact and that the villagers had attached real money to the tree, believing that it was a sacred sign of good fortune. He had to quickly think of a way to make this twist work to his advantage — So, what did he do? He falsely threatened people to believe that if they didn’t pay him to protect the tree, he’d mercilessly cut it down. Frightened, the villagers paid up, making the ambitious sculptor a very wealthy (and might I say, corrupt) man.
As with most folk tales, there are several versions of these stories, but the ending is undeniably the same — prosperity to the keeper of this lucky plant!
Now that we’ve explored a few of the legends surrounding this common houseplant — let’s take a look at its history.
Surprisingly, the notion of the money plant is exceptionally old and dates back more than 2000 years to the Han Dynasty of China.
Quite different from the money trees we’re familiar with today, these ancient artifacts were not real trees at all but were actually bronze statues.
Often adorned with branches draped in replicated coins and decorated with images of phoenixes, deers, dragons, and other creatures alongside the goddess of immortality, Xiwangmu, these distinctive sculptures held great significance in ancient burial rituals. Predominantly found in tombs, these bronze money trees were used as gifts to the deceased to help pay their way through the afterlife.
Not only were money trees used for the departed, but they were also seen as a symbol of affluence and success — something that still resonates with our view of money plants to this day.
A comparison could be made between the ancient and auspicious bronze money statue and more contemporary Lunar New Year traditions, where red envelopes filled with money are hung in plants such as Mandarin or Kumquat trees to attract good fortune.
So, between bronze statues, Kumquat trees, and a dozen other varieties of prosperity influencing plants, where did our current version of the money tree come from?
Well, unfortunately, that story’s not as romantic or exciting as one might hope. As fact would have it, the trend began in the 1980s when a Taiwanese man created the method of braiding multiple Pachira Aquatica plants together, which resulted in the plant continuing to keep that formation as it grew. Falling in love with the look of this woven potted tree, people began to purchase them as decorative home ornaments. What happened next? You guessed it — his idea transformed into an incredibly lucrative worldwide market.
I wish I’d thought of that billion-dollar idea!
Perhaps you already know that there are quite a few species considered to be money plants, but I certainly didn’t and was surprised to find out.
Although quite different in appearance, all are thought to promote wealth and success in one way or another. With so many variations, it’s hard to keep track of all of them, but let’s take a look at just a few of the popular ones — perhaps like me, you own more than one of these beauties and didn’t realize their luck-bringing attributes!
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): A prolific grower, this plant is also said to grow your wealth. When your pothos is thriving, so should your bank account. Even if it doesn’t actually bring you a gold rush, this plant is still an excellent choice for your home since it purifies the air, not to mention, its viney expanse is a delight.
Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata): Also known as money plant or sometimes dollar plant, this pretty succulent has risen in popularity as a wealth promoter. In Feng Shui, it’s said to create positive energy and is often placed near the entrances of homes and businesses for financial good luck.
Chinese Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides): Although tricky to find in stores, this slow-growing yet easy to care for plant is thought to bring its owner affluence. And, according to lore, placing a coin in its pot will bring you great riches in return.
Kumquat Trees (Citrus japonica): These cute, fruit-bearing trees can grow up to fifteen feet, but also do quite well in pots, remaining much smaller. As mentioned earlier, they’re often used as a symbol of good luck, happiness, and prosperity during Lunar New Year celebrations. For that matter, most citrus trees have a similar meaning.
Guinea Chestnut (Pachira Aquatica): Commonly known as THE money tree, this is by far the most popular and well-known of the money plant crew. With its braided trunk and green canopy, this plant can grow to great heights in a considerably short amount of time. A bringer of fortune and good luck, the five leaves of Pachira Aquatica also happen to match the five elements seen within Feng Shui — providing fantastic harmony and balance within one’s home.
So, how do these auspicious plants work within our home, and, where’s the best place to grow them?
According to the rules of Feng Shui — which is the practice of balancing energy — money trees work best when placed in a south-eastern point within your home since this is the area associated with generating wealth. Do you own a business? Well, if you place your money plant near an entrance, it’s said to attract customers. On the flip side, it’s not a good idea to keep money plants in your bathroom or bedroom, as it will have adverse effects.
In the end though, wherever you decide to place your money plant, always be sure it’s in a location that gets enough light and love, depending on the species you’re dealing with — After all, no one wants a dying money plant!
As we’ve discovered, the idea of the money plant certainly has a curious backstory, steeped in lore and tradition. From its ancient roots as a symbol of an abundant afterlife to the humble plant that sits on my coffee table, it’s no wonder that this enduring token of good fortune remains such a popular gift to plant lovers everywhere.
Now, I can’t help but wonder if my little money tree will hold up to its reputation and bring me some good fortune (I had better pay more attention to it!). And, with a little care, perhaps yours will bring you luck as well.