Moneywort (Water Hyssop) Facts, Care, Benefits, & Hardiness (Bacopa monnieri)
Bacopa monnieri has many names including moneywort, herb-of-grace, waterhyssop, brahmi, thyme-leafed gratiola, baby tears, and Indian pennywort. It is one of the nearly 3,000 species members of the family Plantaginaceae, which also contains foxgloves and snapdragons. Moneywort can be found in marshy areas and along the banks of slow moving streams throughout the tropics and subtropics. It is believed to have originated in Asia and Australia, but is currently found in parts of Africa, Europe, North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Moneywort has bright green, thick leaves that grow densely along light brown or green stems. These plants are relatively small, with 1 to 2cm (0.4 to 0.8in) long leaves, and an average height topping out around 10cm (4in). They produce flowers from April to September, although they may flower year-round in some tropical areas near the equator. These flowers have four to five white or light blue petals that surround a yellow center.
Does Moneywort Have Any Benefits?
Moneywort flowers are known to attract butterflies, including the white peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae), for which this plant serves as its nursery, or larval host.
Outside of ponds, Moneywort, has been widely used in Ayurveda—a holistic form of healing originating in India thousands of years ago. In classic Ayurvedic literature, Bacopa monnieri is called brahmi. This name references the Sanskrit word meaning “of the energy of Brahma,” the force of creation and universal consciousness. Over the centuries, brahmi has been used to treat everything from epilepsy, to blood disorders, to mental illness. However, its popularity in Ayurvedic medicine has been due to its purported brain-, memory-, and cognition-boosting properties. Interestingly, several modern studies have found the biochemical explanation for this Ayurvedic practice.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that a mixture of saponins (bitter chemical compounds commonly found in plants that lather like soap when exposed to water) called bacosides A and B are the cause of its memory-saving properties. Another study found that brahmi helped preserve memory and enhance learning in elderly individuals with non-dementia related memory loss. So not only is moneywort a beautiful addition to your water garden, it also has a storied history and promising future as a medical treatment.
Moneywort Growth, Hardiness & Wintering
Moneywort is a moderate to fast grower. Although they can only reach a height of around 15cm (6in), they can spread to form excessive mats of over 1.2m (4ft) under the right growing conditions. Moneywort prefers direct sunlight but will tolerate partial shade. Most importantly, moneywort requires an overabundance of water and loves environments with high humidity (65-80%). In fact, these plants can grow hydroponically, or without soil in nutrient-rich water. Beyond that, the plant is fairly flexible in the quality of water. Moneywort can grow in acidic, neutral, or alkaline water, and even grows well in brackish environments. It grows best from 22 to 28°C (72-80°F), but can survive in temperatures up to 42°C (108°F). Moneywort is not winter hardy and often does not do well in more temperate climates.
How to Plant Moneywort (Waterhyssop)
Moneywort can be planted from seeds or cuttings. Seeds should be planted in pond margins, an area with low drainage, or a container during a time of year when the temperature is at least 16°C (61°F), but no greater than 28°C (80°F). Plant divided cuttings up to the lowest leaf height so just the bottom of the stem and roots are covered. If you establish a new colony from only a stem cutting, submerge the bottom of the stem in water. Change the water daily, and plant once new roots form. In all cases, moneywort likes heavier soil such as loam and clay. Again, it is important to keep your newly planted moneywort consistently watered and warm.
How to Care for Moneywort (Waterhyssop)
As long as the soil around your moneywort remains damp, these plants are quite forgiving. If applying fertilizer, only a half-dosage is necessary as these plants have shallow roots and are not considered heavy feeders. Yellowing or whitening of your plant usually indicates that your plant is suffering from an iron deficiency. Apply an iron chelate, which can be found in most gardening and outdoors shops, to bring the brightness back to your brahmi.
Interestingly, mats of moneywort are fairly resistant to breakage and mechanical injury. You can plant them in moderately foot-trafficked areas and even use a mower or weed whacker to trim the plant. However, regular trims and biannual pruning should be enough to keep moneywort in check within most backyard gardens.
How to Winter Moneywort
Moneywort is not winter hardy and cannot tolerate frost. You may want to consider planting it in a pot or basket for easier transport over cooler months. Also, if you live in a particularly hot environment, it may be wiser to keep your moneywort in partial shade. This will help reduce evaporation and keep your plant’s thirst quenched.
Is Moneywort Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?
Moneywort is completely nontoxic. Interestingly, it is only classified as an endangered species in the Cayman Islands. Moneywort’s frost intolerance and high water needs likely keep it from expanding uncontrollably into non-native regions.
Will Koi, Goldfish, & Animals Eat Moneywort?
Moneywort is edible, but most animals do not enjoy the taste. The compounds that make this plant medically valuable also make it unpalatable to other organisms. Scientists believe that these bitter compounds act as a pest and predator deterrent. For this reason, moneywort is moderately deer resistant. However, some gardeners do make tea, salads, and even pesto out of their moneywort in an effort to reap its brain-boosting benefits.