Provision Tree/Pachira Aquatica
This strange plant is native to the river estuaries of Mexico and tropical South America: the Provision Tree is an uncommon houseplant in the UK. But occasionally it can be bought as a cane cutting. From this ‘stick’ emerges a top knot of attractive, palmate leaves. In the wild, Pachira aquatica can reach an impressive 18.5m (60ft), with up to nine leaflets on each leaf; the leaflets may be 30cm (12in) long. The enormous flowers extend to 35cm (14in) and sport numerous stamens, giving the genus the common name of the Shaving Brush Tree. The blooms are short-lived and do not appear on plants in the home. Full-size plants are used in the tropics and in Florida as amenity trees, but in the home, the Provision Tree is more of a novelty plant.
Grow this plant where temperatures do not drop below 5°C (41 °F): higher temperatures are preferred, with adequate ventilation required above21°C (70°F).
Pachira aquatica prefers good, bright, but indirect light: avoid any direct sunlight which may scorch the plant’s leaves.
This plant needs theto be moist throughout the growing period: however, do not saturate the compost, as the roots need a balance of air and water. In Winter, if temperatures are low, keep the compost just moist.
The water requirements of the Provision Tree will ensure that the plant has plenty of humidity around the leaves. In very warm weather, however, it will benefit from a light misting of the leaves.
Feed this plant every two or three weeks during the growing period, using a proprietary houseplant food at half strength. Allow caneabout six weeks before giving any feed.
Grow the Provision Tree in a peat-based compost, to which has been added up to a quarter by volume of horticultural grit. Only repot when pot bound, and repot in late Spring.
Use capillary matting under the pot of this plant to make sure that the compost does not dry out in Summer: it is essential to keep the matting moist at all times. Avoid saturation by watering the matting to the point at which it glistens without swimming. Check, too, that the pot enables the compost to make contact with the capillary matting: some pots have a very deep ‘lip’ around the base which prevents this – the capillary action only works if the compost is in contact with the matting at all times.
Aphids: Like many houseplants, the succulent new shoots of this plant are those most at risk from Aphid attack: treat any infestations as soon as possible, using an appropriate insecticide.
Dry air can shrivel the leaves: keep temperatures cooler during Winter to reduce this risk. Otherwise, increase the air humidity with a strategically-placed bowl of water.