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The genus Pachira has some species of evergreen plants, widespread in Central and South America; in nature these are large trees, up to 15-20 meters tall, with wide and thick foliage; in the places of origin the pachires produce large flowers with white petals and long yellow or reddish stamens, very fragrant; in autumn they ripen large fruits similar to large elongated apples, brown or black, containing some large edible seeds. At our latitudes the pachiras are mainly cultivated as houseplants, since it is preferable to keep them at temperatures no lower than 10 ° C all year long; in this case they hardly bloom, and the cultivation in pots keeps them not larger than 2-3 meters in height. These are quite voluminous plants; in the apartment they tend to have thin and flexible stems, difficult to lignify, so that in general they are sold specimens with 3-5 twisted stems; the foliage is roundish, not too thick, consisting of large roundish leaves, consisting of 5 large 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. Given that as a young man the trunk is very flexible it is common to sell several united specimens, with the braided trunk. In this way, its beauty and particularity are further increased. In the 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 ruin 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 they can be placed outdoors throughout the year. In the rest of the peninsula they are cultivated only in apartments. In nature they grow in tropical forests, so they need a warm and very humid climate; remember to keep the soil constantly moist, but not soaked with water; when the growing medium tends to dry on the surface we water the plant, remembering to repeat this operation regularly: in summer every 3-4 days, in winter once a week or even less.
In addition to moisture in the soil, it is important for pachiras to have good environmental humidity, so we intervene often by vaporizing the foliage, 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
24 ° C
Frequent from spring to autumn, moist soil, but never wet
Daily, from April to October
|Type of terrain|
Rich, but well-drained. Sand + peat + soil. Subacido
Once a year
Bright, but no direct light
Characteristics of the aquatic pachira
This tree is native to the American continent and in particular 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 trunk diameter of 90 cm, which is cylindrical and solid. The outer part of the bark is gray and slightly cracked. The inner part, on the other hand, is about 1 centimeter and a half thick and is cream-white in color, very laminated and heterogeneous, where it is possible to highlight parenchymatous areas and orange inclusions. The leaves are composed of 4 to 7 elliptical leaflets. This tree grows well in fertile soils, from sea level up to 1300 meters. Average temperatures must be around 24 ° and annual precipitation 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 scent. They can also be used to make a drink, very nutritious and tonic, or to prepare an oil. The 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 no fibers. The seeds are oval in shape and measure about 3 cm long, of a dark purple color. The fruits, when ripe, release the seeds that, in the right conditions, germinate in about 1 month. The growth is initially very fast (the seedling reaches 40 cm in height within two months).
To obtain beautiful and luxuriant pachires every 10-15 days, we mix a small amount of fertilizer for green plants with the watering; or every 4-6 months we spread a slow release granular fertilizer on the surface of the soil. The foliage is glossy and leathery, the cultivation in the apartment tends to make it greyish and opaque, so let's remember to periodically clean the leaves, using a slightly damp microfibre cloth. In this way we will also remove any parasites, such as cochineal and mites, which develop very easily in the warm and dry climate of the apartments. Over the years these plants tend to enlarge the foliage, remember to remove the damaged leaves and to guarantee the plant the right space to develop without problems.
Pachira as a houseplant
The aquatic pachira is part of the Bombacaceae family.
As we said when they grow in the open ground and in places of origin, they can become very large trees. In all of South America they are widely used as street trees or for public parks. Indeed, they combine a certain ease of cultivation with extreme elegance.
Temperatures for pachira
In general we can say that the plant is cultivated almost in all of Italy as a vase specimen. The ideal temperature to always keep the leaves should go from 15 to 26 ° C. So in homes it should never have problems. Please note, however, that in some areas of our peninsula it is even possible to grow it outside without causing any damage. In fact the pachira is capable of withstanding temperatures even around 0 ° C, for short periods, with the only consequence of losing the leaves (and then producing them again in the spring). It can therefore be safely affirmed that it can be placed in the middle of the whole of southern Italy, especially in coastal areas. In this way it will give us good satisfactions 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 surely be beneficial by encouraging the growth of larger leaves and a brighter color. Please note also that they do not like stagnant air. It is therefore important to ventilate the rooms frequently, while avoiding dangerous cold drafts (which can cause sudden leaf yellowing).
As we have stated, it is a vegetable from tropical forests. Not being a dominant tree, in nature it grows in a very bright shadow. We will therefore have to try to reproduce these conditions even in our homes or in our garden.
The ideal is therefore the positioning near a window exposed to South or East. From spring to autumn, however, it is advisable to shield the light using light colored light curtains. Excessive exposure, especially if prolonged, can cause burns on the leaf blade. Of course the afternoon sun is more dangerous than the morning sun and so we will have to be more careful in those hours.
Soils and pachira potting
This tree is not particularly demanding in terms of substrate. Generally a good soil for green plants will do for us. However, if we want to compose it personally, the suggestion is to assemble it so that it is well drained (therefore with a good amount of sand), fairly rich and neutral or subacid. Generally it consists of 1/3 of sand, 1/3 of peat and 1/3 of garden soil (possibly not too clay). If desired we can also add a bit of agri-perlite to make it softer, more aerated and draining.
At the time of repotting (which all must be done in spring) a layer of expanded clay will be created on the bottom and, after having cleaned and opened the roots, the specimen will be repositioned, leaving a few cm between the soil and the edge of the container so that the water does not leak out.
When the vase becomes too large to carry out this maneuver we can simply hoe the surface layer and eliminate as much earth as possible and then replace it with a new, rather rich one.
This tree requires large amounts of water. In fact, its natural habitat is often located near ponds.
So the soil must always be moist, but avoid excessively soaking to avoid rotting or radical asphyxia.
Since in tropical areas the rain always supplies very pure water, it will be good to avoid using the tap water which, in our country, is often very heavy. It could in fact damage the root apparatus by forming crystals which, gradually, would obstruct it.
We can equip ourselves by collecting rainwater (avoiding the first showers after long periods of drought) or by purchasing one deriving from reverse osmosis which is generally used for irons.
Of course, during the winter period interventions must be significantly reduced.
Does the plant need to be vaporized?
Pachira, like all tropical plants, needs strong environmental humidity to grow well. If it is deprived, in addition to growing less, it can react by drying the leaves.
It is therefore good, especially when the temperatures are high, to intervene once a day, always using demineralised water to avoid blocking the stomata.
Otherwise it is possible to resort to saucers filled with glass or expanded clay balls kept always humid or a good mulching layer with wet sphagnum moss or peat.
Generally we proceed once a month with a liquid fertilizer for green plants. We can also dilute the product a lot and distribute it every time we irrigate.
On the market there are also excellent foliar fertilizers which are particularly pleasing to this type of plants, especially if distributed together with the vaporisations.
Pruning of pachira
In this respect the pachira requires very little attention. We will only have to intervene in the case of dry, yellowed or damaged leaves. These should be cut at the base using always well sharpened and disinfected instruments (with bleach or eventually to the flame).
Diseases of the pachira
They are rather resistant plants, but it can happen that they are attacked by parasites.
The main ones are cochineals, aphids and red spider mites.
For the former it is good to use systemic insecticides combined with a mineral oil. For aphids we can use more mild products, such as pyrethrins. Red spider mites are fought by increasing environmental humidity.
In the countries of origin the plant can be reproduced both by gamica and by vegetative way, since it is very easy to find the seeds. In Italy, however, it is very rare for the pachira to flourish and even more so for it to bear fruit. The only way to go is therefore the cutting. One proceeds by cutting with a very sharp scissors a portion of stem about 25 cm long immediately below a node and making sure that it has at least two other intermediate nodes.
Set it in a very light and draining compost, consisting of peat and coarse sand (or peat and agriperlite). If available, it is good to first dust the cut with a rooting powder (or use similar products, but liquids, 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. Later we will proceed with the repotting using the utmost delicacy.
The Pachira plant is presented as a plant that tends to grow in eastern countries where there is heat and its height
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