Why Does My Money Plant Leaves Have Holes? [ANSWERED]
Even though money trees are classified as ‘easy’, they can be susceptible to disease and pests when general husbandry responsibilities aren’t maintained, leaving their owners scratching their heads asking questions like “Why does their money tree have holes in its leaves?“
There are a variety of reasons that can result in holes in money tree leaves:
- pests like mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites have infested your money tree,
- your plant is stressed and has developed a disease, or
- you may need to improve the conditions that your money tree is in (like better lighting).
Welcome to today’s feature article at the Garden Bench Top, where we are going to help you troubleshoot the reason why your money tree is developing holes in its leaves. As mentioned above, there could be a variety of reasons for the holes. We’ll teach you how to identify the cause of your ailing money tree and finally how to treat your money tree.
So grab a coffee and let’s get into troubleshooting mode – we have a plant to save!
What is Eating My Money Tree Leaves? Pest Identification
Money trees (Pachira Aquatica) are growing in popularity amongst plant enthusiasts, due to their low maintenance requirements and ease of care. They brighten any room they inhabit, with their upright stature and lush foliage.
However, just like other indoor plants, pests can crash the party, causing damage to your plants and jeopardizing their health.
Let’s take a look at the common pests that could be causing the holes in your money tree’s leaves.
Are Mealy Bugs Causing Holes in Your Leaves?
Okay – we’ll be upfront here. It is unlikely that mealy bugs are causing holes in your leaves. Mealy bugs don’t eat leaves, choosing to suck the nutritious sap from your plant instead. That said, they may be indirectly causing the holes, by weakening your plant so much that it has succumbed to a disease that has caused the holes (more on diseases later).
Mealy bugs drink the sap of your money tree plant, and do not eat holes in leaves.
If, however, you do spot these furry looking creatives climbing on your money tree, it generally means trouble. Mealy bugs love to feed on the sap of plants, slowly sapping (pun intended!) your plant of the vital nutrients it needs to survive.
You can identify when mealy bugs are present because they will appear as if someone has spread white cotton wool on your plants’ leaves and stems. You may also see a sticky substance appearing around these white masses. This is called honeydew and is secreted by the mealy bugs as they drink the plants’ sap.
If a mealy bug infestation wasn’t enough, the honeydew they produce compounds the situation because it can attract a particular type of disease called sooty mold fungus.
How to Get Rid of Mealy Bugs
The best way to get rid of mealy bugs is:
- dab a cotton bud into rubbing alcohol and rub it on each visible mealy bug. The rubbing alcohol will kill the mealy bugs, and they should fall off shortly after.
- Next, create a mixture of 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with 4 -5 drops of Dawn dish soap (or any other dishwashing soap) and 1 liter of room temperature water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and mix thoroughly. Alternatively, if you would rather use a commercial product, any organic insecticide that contains neem oil works just as well.
- Proceed to spray the entire plant from top to bottom. Don’t forget to spray the undersides of the leaves. This will help to get those mealy bugs you didn’t see, as well as protect from future infestations.
Are Spider Mites Causing Holes in Your Leaves?
Unlike mealy bugs, spider mites do attack the leaves of money trees. They do so by piercing the leaf and drinking the fluids from the leaf cells. This damage can lead to tiny spots and holes developing in your money plants’ leaves.
The damage and holes are quite noticeable, because it will look like your money tree’s leaves have been attacked by hundreds of little hole punchers.
You will also be able to recognize the work of spider mites, because there will be thin like cobwebs spread around your money plant. Webs will also appear along the stems, under leaves and even in the crevices where the spider mites will be hiding for safety.
How to Treat Spider Mites
Because these guys are so small, and they generally congregate in their hundreds (if not thousands), the easiest and most effective form of treatment is with an organic insecticide like neem oil.
It is important to note, spider mites are generally resistant to generic forms of pesticides. So if you decide to buy commercial products, make sure it is a pesticide that is specifically produced to target spider mites.
Are Aphids Causing Holes in Your Leaves?
Aphids are another common indoor plant pest that belongs to the leaf attacking group of insects. Like spider mites, aphids love to penetrate the leaf’s surface to suck the sap from the cells. As the aphids constantly feed, the damage leads to rot and holes in your money tree’s leaves. Without intervention, the money tree will eventually become weakened and fall ill with a disease, and ultimately die.
Aphids are easy to see on your indoor plants, because they huddle around each other along the leaves and new growth of the plant. They do so, because the surfaces of your money tree’s new growth are much easier to pierce than older, more mature growth.
How to Get Rid of Aphids
If your aphid infestation is small, manual removal is the best approach. To get them off your plant, scrape the aphids from the plant and make sure to catch them in a container (or on some paper) below. You can also use a strong stream of water to loosen their grip and dislodge them from the plant. This is best done outdoors, so they can’t find their way back onto your money tree.
Larger aphid infestations may require a stronger approach with an organic insecticide like the neem oil suggested above. The reason being aphids breed extremely quickly. So missing just one aphid during the treatment process will allow them to recolonize the plant, and you’ll be back to square one within a few weeks.
Possible Diseases on Your Money Tree
Is Leaf Spot the Cause?
Leaf spot is a fungal disease that is easily recognized by the slow appearance of discolored spots on your money trees’ leaves. They will generally be yellow spots, but advanced leaf spots can also show shades of brown.
Eventually, the discolored spots will form holes in the leaves, with rings of yellow and brown around the holes.
Potential causes of leaf spot are overwatering leading to soggy soil. As well as a lack of air flow in and around your money tree.
How to Fix Leaf Spot
Because leaf spot is a fungal disease, it can spread. For this reason, we recommend pruning off the affected leaves and discarding them in the rubbish (do not compost the infected leaves).
In addition to pruning your money tree, check the moisture levels of your soil. If you find the soil is too wet, we recommend repotting your money tree into fresh potting mix.
While you are inspecting your money tree, move it to an area that receives good air flow. However, do make sure the money tree isn’t exposed to any strong drafts.
Once you have all the above checked off, it is time to treat your money tree with a fungicide. This is insurance to make sure no other leaves become infected and spread to the healthy parts of the plant.
Does Your Money Tree Have Powdery Mildew?
Powdery mildew is another fungal disease that usually appears on the leaves of plants. It is very common in moist environments and can have adverse effects on your money trees’ health if not attended to.
Powdery mildew looks like the leaves of your money tree have been dusted with icing sugar, and like leaf spot, can cause spots on your leaves to develop.
Ways to Prevent Powdery Mildew
As mentioned earlier, powdery mildew thrives in moist environments, like bathrooms. When this is combined with a lack of air movement, it sets the scene for some good fungal breeding grounds.
With this in mind, move your money tree into rooms with good airflow. Also, make sure to open windows to allow fresh air in and encourage air circulation.
Finally treat your money tree with a good fungicide, and ensure you spray the underside of the leaves.
Is your Money Tree Suffering from Sun Spot
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a disease, however it is still a possible consideration for the cause of the holes in your money trees’ leaves.
Sun spots occur when your money tree has been exposed to direct sunlight for too long. It is essentially your plant getting sunburned, and appears as yellow or brown spots on your leaves. If left untreated, these spots form holes in the leaves.
How to Stop Sun Spots
There is an easy solution for sun spots – move your money tree!
Find a position that receives 6-8 hours of indirect sunlight. Your money tree will be able to tolerate small periods of direct sunlight in the early morning or late evening. However, any afternoon sun is too intense.
How To Prevent Holes in Money Tree Leaves?
By far, the best way to protect against any future holey leaves is to shower your money tree with care and attention (a little TLC if you will).
By keeping up with your husbandry responsibilities, like regular watering and feeding, and ensuring the environment is optimal for growth, your money tree will stay strong and healthy. And as we all know, a healthy plant results in your money tree withstanding any attacks from disease and pests.
Here are our care recommendations to successfully grow healthy money trees.
Fortunately, money trees are quite drought resistant once established. They only need to be watered once every 2-3 weeks. Because they are drought tolerant, they do not like sitting in wet soggy soil. So overwatering your money tree is something to watch for.
To avoid the over watering problem we recommend using the soil moisture finger test. We have a detailed instruction guide on the steps for performing the moisture test HERE. It is convenient, budget-friendly and extremely reliable. To be honest, we wish someone had told us this technique towards the beginning of our gardening journey – it would have saved us a lot of headaches.
Money trees love to bathe in bright indirect light for 6 – 8 hours of the day.
In their natural environment, money trees grow in the shade beneath the canopies in tropical forests. They can live in spotted sunlight, however prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will cause leaf burn and dehydrate your plant quickly.
They will be able to tolerate being near a window that receives early morning or late evening dappled sunlight. However, we do recommend avoiding midday to afternoon sunlight.
Fertilizing your money tree once a fortnight during the growing seasons will help to ensure it has the nutrients necessary to grow strong and resist disease and pests. We recommend using a liquid fertilizer mixed in with distilled water in a 1:1 ratio.
During the off seasons, reduce your fertilization to once a month, or even every two months (depending on how cold it gets in your region).
The key is to make sure the soil in your money tree’s pot doesn’t get too wet and soggy.
Another factor that makes money trees low maintenance is the low repotting requirements. Unless root rot sets in (again as a result of wet soil), money trees only need to be repotted once every 3 years.
The important aspects you need to consider when repotting your money tree include:
- choosing a pot with good drainage,
- a good quality potting mix that has sufficient drainage, yet retains enough moisture to supply the root system with enough water, and
- try repotting your money tree in early spring, before the growing season really kicks off.
Key Takeaways for Money Tree Holes in Leaves
Spotting holes in your money tree’s leaves is not a sight you want to be confronted with too often. It is easy to panic at first, and jump to conclusions that your money tree is close to the end.
However, by working through the possible problems in our article above, such as pests or diseases, you will quickly be able to troubleshoot the cause of your holey money tree leaves.
Once identified, it is an easy fix to implement the remedies suggested beneath each cause.