The genus pachira counts some species of evergreen plants, diffused in Central and South America; in the wild they are big trees, tall up to 15-20 metres, with wide and thick foliage; in the places of origin, the pachira produce big flowers with white petals and long yellow or reddish stamens, very perfumed; in autumn, they ripen big fruits similar to big elongated apples, of brown or black colour, containing some big edible seeds.
At our latitudes, the pachire are mainly cultivated as apartment plants, as it is preferable to keep them at temperatures not lower than 10°C throughout the year; in this case they hardly flower, and the cultivation in pots keeps them no larger than 2-3 metres in height.
However, they are quite voluminous plants; in apartment, they tend to have thin and flexible stems, hardly lignified, so much that, usually, specimens with 3-5 intertwined stems are sold; the foliage is roundish, not too thick, formed by big roundish leaves, formed by 5 big elongated leaves. In the lower part, the stem is bare for about two thirds of the height of the plant, above the stem develops the foliage.
In Italy it is commonly found on the market and is used as a houseplant. Since as a young man the trunk is very flexible, it is used to sell several specimens joined together, with the trunk woven. In this way, its beauty and particularity are further increased. In an apartment these plants should be placed in a well ventilated and bright place, but away from direct heat sources, windows and especially sunlight, which could irreparably damage the foliage.
They can withstand temperatures even below 10°C, but in this case they lose their leaves during the cold period, to produce new ones in spring; only in areas with very mild winters can they be placed outdoors throughout the year. In the rest of the peninsula they are only grown in apartments.
In the wild they develop in tropical forests, therefore they need a warm and very humid climate; let’s remember to keep the soil constantly humid, but not soaked in water; when the substratum of cultivation tends to dry up on the surface, let’s water the plant, remembering to ripen this operation regularly: in summer every 3-4 days, in winter once a week or even less.
In addition to the humidity in the soil it is important that the pachire have a good ambient humidity, so we intervene often vaporizing the canopy, using demineralized water.
Every year we repot the plant, in autumn, providing fresh and very well drained soil.
Family and gender
0°C, with loss of leaves
Frequent from spring to autumn, soil moist, but never wet
Daily, from April to October
Type of terrain
Rich, but well-drained. Sand + peat + soil. Subacid
Once a year
Bright, but no direct light
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PACHIRA ACQUATICA real plant
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Characteristics of aquatic pachira
This tree originates from the American continent and in particular from the tropical area. It is characterized by deciduous leaves and a small to medium size. It can reach a maximum height of 17 meters and a maximum diameter of 90 cm of the trunk, which is cylindrical and massive. The outer part of the bark is grey and slightly fissured.
The inner part, on the contrary, is about 1 and a half centimetres thick and is cream-white in colour, very laminated and heterogeneous, where we can see parenchymatous zones and orange inclusions. The leaves are composed of 4 to 7 elliptical-shaped leaves. This tree grows well in fertile soils, from sea level up to 1300 meters. Average temperatures should be around 24° and annual rainfall between 1000 and 2000 mm.
It is considered an excellent ornamental species as it blooms abundantly and spectacularly. The seeds it produces have a taste similar to that of chestnuts, especially if they are toasted. They can be used to prepare products similar to chocolate whose taste is excellent, but some do not like the smell. They can also be used to make a drink, very nutritious and tonic or to prepare an oil. Young leaves are also edible. Trees begin to bloom in spring from 4 years of age.
The flowers, usually olive green with pink or red shades, measure up to 31 cm wide, with five petals and are velvety to the touch. The fruit is orange, elliptical and measures about 20 cm by 12. It is divided into 5 valves with a fleshy consistency and without fibres. The seeds are oval in shape and measure about 3 cm in length, dark purple in colour. When ripe, the fruit releases the seeds which, under the right conditions, germinate in about one month.
The growth is initially very fast (the plant reaches 40 cm in height within two months).
To obtain beautiful and luxuriant pachire every 10-15 days we mix a small amount of fertilizer for green plants with the water of the watering; or every 4-6 months we spread on the surface of the soil the granular slow release fertilizer. The foliage is shiny and leathery, the cultivation in apartment tends to make it grayish and opaque, so let’s remember to clean the leaves periodically, using a slightly moistened microfiber cloth.
In this way we will also remove any parasites, such as cochineals and mites, which develop very easily in the hot and dry climate of the apartments. As the years go by, these plants tend to widen their foliage, remember to remove the damaged leaves and to ensure the right space for the plant to develop smoothly.
Pachira as an apartment plant
The aquatic pachira belongs to the family of the Bombacaceae.
As we said when they grow in the open land and in their places of origin, they can become very large trees. Throughout South America they are widely used as road trees or for public parks. They combine a certain ease of cultivation with extreme elegance.
Temperatures for pachira
In general, we can say that the plant should be grown almost throughout Italy as a pot specimen. The ideal temperature for it to maintain its leaves at all times should be between 15 and 26°C. Therefore, it should never have any problems in the houses. Let’s point out, however, that in some areas of our peninsula it is even possible to grow it outdoors without any damage.
In fact, the pachira is able to withstand temperatures even around 0 ° C, for short periods, with the only consequence of losing the leaves (and then produce again with the spring). We can safely say, therefore, that it can be inserted in the open land throughout southern Italy, especially in coastal areas. In this way it will give us good satisfaction and can reach dimensions similar to those of the areas of origin.
From spring to autumn, in any case, it is good to move the specimens outside, if we have a balcony or a garden. This will certainly be beneficial by encouraging the growth of larger leaves and a brighter color. We must also bear in mind that they do not like stagnant air. It is therefore important to ventilate the rooms often, while avoiding dangerous cold currents (which can cause sudden leaf yellowing).
As we have pointed out, this is a plant from the tropical forests. Not being a dominant tree, in nature it grows in a very bright shade. We will therefore have to try to reproduce these conditions also in our houses or in our garden.
It is therefore ideal to be positioned near a window facing south or east. From spring to autumn, however, it is advisable to screen the light using light curtains. Excessive exposure, especially if prolonged, can cause burns on the leaf sheet. Of course, the afternoon sun is more dangerous than the morning sun and therefore we should be more cautious during those hours.
Soil and repotting pachira
This sapling is not particularly demanding in terms of substratum. Generally a good soil for green plants will do the case. If we want to compose it personally, however, the suggestion is to assemble it in such a way that it is well drained (therefore with a good quantity of sand), quite rich and neutral or sub-acid. Usually it is composed of 1/3 of sand, 1/3 of peat and 1/3 of garden earth (possibly not too clayey).
If we want, we can add also some agri-perlite to make the whole thing softer, aerated and draining.
At the time of repotting (which must be done all have in spring) will create a layer of expanded clay on the bottom and, after cleaning and opening the roots, reposition the specimen, leaving between the potting soil and the edge of the container a few cm so that the water does not escape.
When the pot becomes too big to do this we can just hoe the surface layer and remove as much soil as possible and then replace it with the new, rather rich.
This tree needs large quantities of water. Its natural habitat, in fact, is often located near ponds.
The soil must therefore always be moist, but let’s avoid that it remains excessively soaked so as not to cause rottenness or radical asphyxia.
Since in tropical areas rain always provides very pure water, it is better to avoid using the tap water, which in our country is often very heavy. It could damage the root system, forming crystals that would gradually obstruct it.
We can equip ourselves by collecting rainwater (avoiding the first downpours after long periods of drought) or by purchasing the reverse osmosis water that is generally used for irons.
Of course, during the winter period, the number of interventions must be significantly reduced.
Should the plant be vaporized?
The pachira, like all tropical plants, needs a strong ambient humidity to grow well. If it is deprived of it, besides growing less, it can react by drying up the leaves.
It is therefore advisable, especially when temperatures are high, to intervene once a day, always using demineralized water to avoid obstructing the stomata.
Otherwise you can use sub-plates filled with glass beads or expanded clay always kept moist or a good layer of mulch based on sphagnum or wet peat.
Usually we proceed once a month with a liquid fertilizer for green plants. But we can also dilute the product a lot and distribute it every time we water.
On the market there are also excellent foliar fertilizers that are particularly appreciated by this type of plant, especially if distributed at the same time as the vaporization.
Pruning of the pachira
In this respect, pachira requires very little attention. We will only have to intervene in the case of dried, yellowed or damaged leaves. These should be cut at the base using always tools well sharpened and disinfected (with bleach or possibly flame).
They are rather resistant plants, but they can be attacked by parasites.
The main ones are the cochineals, the aphids and the red spider mite.
For the former it is good to use systemic insecticides combined with a mineral oil. For aphids we can use milder products, such as pyrethrins. The red spider web is combated by increasing the ambient humidity.
In the countries of origin, the plant can be reproduced both by gamic and by vegetative way, seen that it is very easy to find the seeds. In Italy, however, it is very rare that the pachira can flower and even more so that it can bear fruit. The only way to go is therefore the cutting. We proceed by cutting, with a very sharp scissor, a portion of stem, long about 25 cm, immediately under a knot and taking care that it is provided with at least two other intermediate knots.
Let’s put it in a very light and draining compound, made of peat and coarse sand (or peat and agri-perlite). If available, it is best to first dust the cut with a rooting powder (or use similar products, but liquid, to be mixed with water for irrigation). We close everything with a transparent bag so that the humidity remains high and currents are avoided. The jar should therefore be kept at an average temperature of 20°C, ventilating it daily.
When the portion begins to vegetate we can move it to a slightly bright position and wait for the rooting to continue. Then we will proceed with the repotting using the utmost delicacy.
- The plant of Pachira looks like a plant that tends to grow in eastern countries where there is heat and its altez
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