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story.lead_photo.caption In its marshy native habitat, money tree (Pachira aquatica) grows 60 feet tall. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Q I received a money tree plant when my mother passed away in March. She was an avid gardener, which makes having a plant in her memory very special. So far it has been very happy in my sunny kitchen, putting on many new leaves. It is currently 22 inches tall in a 6-inch pot. My question is, does it have to be repotted at some point to keep it healthy? I wouldn't mind it staying small but definitely don't want to risk it dying. Help!

A Money tree is one of the common names for Pachira aquatica, a tree that is native to Central and South America. In its native environment, it grows in marshy wetlands where there's plenty of moisture and high humidity, and it can grow to be 60 feet tall. Since the plant is obviously thriving now, I would leave well enough alone. Indoor winter conditions can be tough on houseplants as heat is very drying. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most humid rooms in the house, so it is happy. In the spring, I would upgrade the pot to an 8- or 10-inch container to give the roots some room to grow. Otherwise, it could get a bit top-heavy. You don't have to keep increasing pot size if you are OK with limited growth, but every two years or so, change out the soil to keep it from getting root-bound.

Q I read with interest your story on the mushroom kits last weekend and have ordered one for my son, who loves mushrooms. He lives in an apartment but I am hoping it will grow there as well. Should I give him any pointers to make sure it is successful? Thanks for the idea, I never know what to buy him.

A I am sure he will love it. The kits come with pretty detailed instructions on how to care for the plants. Their compact size makes them ideal for growing on a kitchen counter or a spare room, so an apartment should be just fine. The kit will come with some type of substrate that has been inoculated with the mushroom spores. They usually come in a plastic bag that needs to have a hole cut in it and then it will need to be misted with a spray bottle, but again, that should all be spelled out in the instructions. If he has any questions after he gets it, let me know.

Q I have a 20-foot-long hedge next to my driveway that was planted about 35 years ago. This summer one or two of the plants had leaves that turned brown and fell off. I removed the affected branches, but the problem continues. I did check the cambium layer before removing and it seemed good. I don't know the name of the plant. I was told it is a holly, but it doesn't have any berries. The leaves are small, ovoid shaped and remain dark green even in winter. I need to trim it every year to control the size. I would appreciate your help very much. Losing this old friend would be sad.

A At this point, I would suggest some investigation. There are many hollies that are used as hedge plants, but other evergreens are as well. I would get some close-up pictures of the leaves to get a proper identification of the plant. If there are still any of the damaged branches, take some pictures of those too. Follow one of the damaged areas back to the main trunk of the hedge and see if you see any growths or damage on the trunk — a canker growth or a split or crack in the trunk. Look at the underside of the leaves to see if there are any scale insects. If you do have some of the damaged plant tissue, take a good sample of dying/dead and also of some healthy stems. Take this to your local county extension office. They can send it to the disease diagnostic lab for diagnosis, and advise you of control measures. Hopefully it won't be anything serious and you can nip it in the bud.

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email jcarson@arkansasonline.com

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