Pachira (Pachira aquatica)

The pachira is an ornamental tree

Image – Flickr/Roberto Castro-Cortes

The pachira is a tropical tree that in Spain we usually grow indoors, due to its lack of resistance to cold. However, it is important to know that it is a plant that can far exceed ten meters in height, so if we want to have it at home we will be forced to prune it if we do not want it to touch the ceiling.

But when the climate is tropical, that is, warm throughout the year, it is more interesting to have it outdoors, planted in a garden since it is not a tree that likes being in a pot too much.

What is pachira?

The pachira is a big tree

Image - Wikimedia / mauroguanandi

The pachira, also called Guiana chestnut, is an evergreen tree native from Central America to northern South America. It reaches a height of 20 meters, and develops a dense canopy between 4 and 5 meters wide. composed of palmate leaves with 5-9 green leaflets and leathery texture.

Its flowers are yellow and pink, and can measure about 30 to 35 centimeters long. Once they are pollinated, the fruits, which will end up as hard brown capsules, begin to ripen. The seeds are round, brown, and 1-1.5 centimeters long.

What uses is it given?

Guava chestnut used as an ornamental plant, both inside and outside the home. In cool or temperate climates, it is one of the most loved indoor trees, as its huge leaves add a tropical touch to any room. But, you did not know that it has other uses?

The fruits can be eaten raw., freshly picked from the tree, or well cooked. Those who have had occasion to try them say that their flavor resembles that of peanuts. In addition, they are also ground to make a flour, which is used to make bread.

Last but not least, as a curiosity you should know that It is a protected species in Mexico.

What are the care of the Pachira aquatica?

The pachira is an exotic, tropical tree that requires minimal care to be beautiful. For this reason, we are going to explain which ones so that you can keep it for a long time:

Where to place the pachira?

The answer to that question will depend on the climate in our area. Being tropical, it is very sensitive to cold, so if temperatures drop below 15ºC we will have to keep it indoors, at least during the winter, although it is possible to have it throughout the year. It will be placed in a room where there is a lot of light, without drafts, and with a high ambient or relative humidity; if it is low, that is, if it is less than 50%, the leaves will have to be sprayed with water daily.

However if the temperatures stay above 15ºC always, then we can take it outside, for example on the patio or terrace, or better yet, in the garden, where it will look great as an isolated specimen, in a sunny area.

How is a pachira watered?

The pachira is a fruit tree

Image - Wikimedia / Forest & Kim Starr

Although its last name is »aquatica», when the climate is temperate we cannot treat it as if it were an aquatic plant, since if we did we would soon lose it. So, we have to let the earth dry out a bit before watering it again.

Therefore, I advise watering every 2-4 days in summer, and less in winter. In any case, if you have doubts, it is preferable that you do not water until a couple more days have passed. If you have it in a pot, you can know if it needs more water if you take it after watering, and again after a few days, since the soil weighs much less when it is dry than when it is wet.

Should it be kept in a pot or on the ground?

Again, it will depend on the temperatures in the place where we grow it, as well as whether we have a garden or not. The most advisable, in the case of a tree that can measure 20 meters in height, is to plant it in the ground as soon as possible, but this is only viable if the climate is tropical., that is, if there are never frosts and temperatures are high, above 15ºC.

In the rest of the cases, as it happens for example in a large part of Spain, we have no choice but to have the pachira in a pot. Now, if we want to enjoy it in the garden, even if it is only for a few months, we can plant it with the pot in the ground, and take it out when the cold arrives.

What land do you need?

the pachira need fertile land, fluffy and light. For this reason, if it is going to be in a pot, good quality substrates should be put on it, which, although they may be a little more expensive than conventional ones, will help our plant grow in better health. For example, we have brands like BioBizz, fertiberia o Flower, which produce very, very good substrates that do not easily become waterlogged and that allow the roots to develop normally.

If you are going to be in the garden, should be planted in soils rich in organic matter, and that they have good drainage so that the water is absorbed quickly.

Which pot is the most suitable?

Anything that has holes in its base and is about 5 to 10 centimeters larger than the one you have right now will do.. The material with which it is made does not matter much, since whether it is plastic or clay, the pachira can be perfect, although it is true that if it is made of clay, the roots will be able to "grab" better, something that it influences growth but that you really don't see much with the naked eye unless you can compare it with another that is growing in a plastic one.

When should the pachira be transplanted?

If it is potted, it will be done as soon as it is bought as long as it is spring, and we will do it again every time the roots come out of the drainage holes. And if we want to plant it in the garden, we will do it in spring-summer, when temperatures exceed a minimum of 18ºC.

When and how is it pruned?

The Pachira can be kept in a pot

Image – Wikimedia/DC

If we are going to keep it in a pot throughout its life, either because we want to or because we have no choice but to have it inside the house if we want it to survive the winter, we will have to prune it from time to time, in spring. As long as he is young and is no more than 1-5 meters tall, it will not be necessary to do anything to him. But when it begins to exceed that height, I advise pinching the branches.

Pinching is a type of pruning that involves removing the newest leaves. This makes the plant branch more. And once those branches have finished their development, we can start to shape the crown, trimming them so that it looks natural, with a slightly rounded shape.

Anyway, you have to be patient. It will always be much better to prune a little at a time, than removing entire branches in one sitting, because in the latter case there is a risk of losing the plant.

What are the diseases of the Pachira aquatica?

It is not a plant that usually gets sick, except if it is watered more than necessary, in which case, by having the soil very wet and for too long, the pathogenic fungi could cause a lot of damage, such as rotting of the roots and/or brown spots on the leaves. sheets. If it is suspected that it may be sick, or of having watered it excessively, we recommend applying a systemic fungicide spray. as soon as possible, in order to prevent your health from getting worse. Also, it has to be watered less frequently.

Now, yes it can have pests, such as spider mites, aphids and mealybugs, especially the cottony mealybug. We will find these on the underside of the leaves, but we can eliminate them by cleaning them with water and neutral soap, or with a specific insecticide or acaricide.

What did you think of the pachira?

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