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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - January 31, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Leaf problems on non-native Pachira aquatica
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Pachira Aquatica. I have had it for 6 months and it has been thriving and growing very tall with nice leaves. Lately some of the leaves have become mottled yellowish green and fallen off. Can you tell me what's wrong? It looks like it has outgrown the pot, so I am planning on repotting anyway, but want to know if I need to do anything else. It is still getting new leaves at the top. Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Pachira aquatica, as this site from Floridata will tell you, is a tropical wetland tree native to Central America and northern South America.  At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the use, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America, but to the area in which they are being grown. This plant is, therefore, out of our expertise and experience. We can tell you that it is hardy to Zones 10 and 11; in Austin, we are in Zones 8a to 8b. Obviously, that is why it is often treated as a pot plant, but it will outgrow that pot, and it can't survive our winter weather outside. It is accustomed to actually standing in water, especially when the water will recede from time to time to allow the plant to access some oxygen. Since this plant will, of course, not appear in our Native Plant Database, we found an additional site, rareflora.com, on Pachira aquatica, with some pictures of it both outside and in containers.
 

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