CNY plants: From the classic to the quirky

For the Year of the Monkey, retailers get creative with chic jars and new arrangements

Every Chinese New Year, there is a corner in plant nurseries reserved for novelty, animal-themed products to coincide with the zodiac year. (Dragon-shaped bonsai, anyone?)

For the Year of the Monkey, sellers get creative not with the types of plants on sale, but with playful plant decorations and interesting jars. Think monkeyshaped pots and cutesy monkey figures.

As for the plant breeds on offer, florists are sticking to the classics.

These include citrus plants such as kumquats and limes, pussy willows, money plants and kalanchoes, which are popular for their auspicious-sounding names or colours.

  • Choosing Chinese New Year plants

  • With 15 days to go before Chinese New Year, here are some tips to help keep your plants fresh and blooming during the festive period.

    • If you want flowering plants, find out how long they will take to bloom. As it gets closer to the first day of Chinese New Year, pick plants which have partially opened flowers so they will bloom in time.

    • For those who do not have a green thumb, opt for hardier plants, such as kumquats, that require minimal care. Look for plants that do not need much watering and do well in little sunlight.

    • When choosing citrus plants such as four seasons lime and dragon lime plants, the fruit should be rather firm to the touch, not soft or squishy.

    • The stalk of the plant should be upright and its flowers should not droop. Choose one with lush foliage and blooms and no brown bits around the edges of its leaves and flowers.


    • Sources: World Farm, www.greenculturesg.com

Prices are generally the same as last year, say businesses The Straits Times interviewed. Customers have already started heading down to nurseries earlier this week to see what is available.

Mr Lee Meng Kwan, general manager of World Farm nursery in Sembawang, says most Chinese New Year plant buyers are creatures of habit.

"They are traditional when it comes to buying plants, so even if we have the same ones every year, they will still come."

While the offerings remain the same, these plants are getting jazzed up with chic jars and new arrangements.

Candy Floriculture in Thomson Road has fashioned a hipsterfriendly terrarium with a red, single tropical pitcher plant encased in a glass jar and decorated with moss monkey figurines and tassels.

Nyee Phoe Group, which has a nursery in Neo Tiew Crescent and a pop-up store in Paragon shopping centre, is opting for contemporarylooking pots such as hand-drawn lacquered pots featuring cherry blossoms. They are a cheery addition to a house that would last beyond Chinese New Year.

The Straits Times checks out the traditional and quirkier plants sold this festive season.


Quirky selections

LIMITED-EDITION GOLD SERIES TABLE GARDENS

Golden monkey figurines and plush toys are used to decorate these pots. The plants used in each pot are a mix of indoor and festive plants such as fittonias and zamioculcas, which is known as the Gold Coin plant.

Price: From $98 a pot

Where: Far East Flora, 555 Thomson Road, tel: 6254-6662, www.fareastfloragarden.com


CHERRY BLOSSOM BONSAI

Welcome spring with some pretty sakura. This little bonsai would fit nicely on a tabletop. Its pink flowers grow in clusters, unlike the regular blossoms on big trees, which are spread out.

Price: From $48 to $280 at Candy Floriculture and from $68 at Far East Flora

Where: Candy Floriculture, 567 Thomson Road, tel: 6256-6788 and Far East Flora, 555 Thomson Road, tel: 6254-6662, www.fareastfloragarden.com


ONCIDIUM ORCHIDS

With their tiny yellow petals, these orchids look like they are sprouting gold coins.

Price: From $28 to $88

Where: Candy Floriculture, 567 Thomson Road, tel: 6256-6788


TITHONIA GRANDIFLORA

This plant grows daisy-like flowers that bloom in an auspicious bright-orange hue. The hot favourite, which is grown in Singapore, is back with more pots on sale after nursery World Farm sold all of it 100 pots last year. There are 500 pots available now.

Price: From $18 to $38

Where: World Farm, 15 Bah Soon Pah Road, tel: 6257-4437


RED CYMBIDIUMS

This year, Far East Flora has brought in more red cymbidiums, or boat orchids, which are prized for their large and elegant blooms. Its colour has spurred the Chinese name hong pao, which means red cracker. Just as auspicious-sounding are the yellow cymbidiums, which are called huang jing, or yellow gold, in Mandarin.

Price: From $98 a pot

Where: Far East Flora, 555 Thomson Road, tel: 6254-6662 or go to www.fareastfloragarden.com


NEPENTHES

This tropical pitcher plant is often called Monkey Cups as monkeys have been observed to drink the liquid collected in the pitchers. Its long cups have also been likened to money bags (called qian dai in Mandarin). It is said that the more pitchers a plant has, the more luck and fortune its owner will enjoy.

Price: From $8 to $38 at Candy Floriculture and$19 to $23 at World Farm

Where: Candy Floriculture, 567 Thomson Road, tel: 6256-6788 and World Farm, 15 Bah Soon Pah Road, tel: 6257-4437



-- PHOTOS: NYEE PHOE GROUP, ALICIA CHAN, FAR EAST FLORA, WORLD FARM, NATASHA ANN ZACHARIAH

MONKEY POT SERIES

Thumbs up for this delightful cartoon monkey-shaped pot that comes in a few colours. Fill it with plants such as pussy willows or phalaenopsis orchids.

Price: $68 for a pot that comes with either pussy willows or orchids

Where: Nyee Phoe Group, 240 Neo Tiew Crescent, tel: 6793-6500 and Nyee Phoe Group Pop Up @ Paragon shopping centre, Basement 1, 290 Orchard Road, until Feb 4


Traditional choices

CHRYSANTHEMUMS

With their bright gold or purple hues, chrysanthemums are an auspicious choice for the season. The plant is said to symbolise longevity, while those with gold blooms represent wealth and prosperity.

It grows well when placed away from the sun or in shaded areas. Water twice a day till water flows out from the bottom of the pot. Avoid watering the flowers directly as they are fragile.


KALANCHOES

Known as wan zi qian hong - meaning thousands and millions of red and purple in reference to its small flowers - the kalanchoe is an easy plant to grow and is said to bring wealth and prosperity.

The succulent, whose flowers grow in a cluster, thrives well indoors and prefers indirect sunlight. It should be watered once a week and should not be left in wet soil as this will cause its roots to rot. Use pesticides, such as cypermethrin or malathion, regularly to keep pests away.


JADE PLANT

This South African native, which is also known as crassula, is often in demand because of its emerald green leaves, which resemble the shape of a jade stone. The plant is regarded as a symbol of prosperity, wealth and fortune. It requires very little moisture - water sparingly every alternate day. Place it in a semi-shaded area.


PUSSY WILLOW

Pussy willows signify the start of spring. Also known as catkins, this plant with furry buds needs a change of water twice a week if it is in a vase. If it is potted, water twice a week. Fresh water ensures the plant lasts longer and prevents mosquitoes from breeding.

As Singapore's climate is hot, it may be difficult for the plant to grow new shoots after it blooms. It is best to place it in a shaded area.


PHALAENOPSIS

Known as hu die lan in Mandarin, this plant is a popular festive plant as its petals resemble the wings of a butterfly, symbolising happiness, spring, vitality and longevity.

Water moderately twice a day. Flowers discolour or turn translucent with overwatering. When this happens, stop watering for a few days or reduce the amount of water used.

To keep the plant healthy, use fertilisers with a high phosphorus and potassium content once a week. To maintain a glossy look, apply leafshine aerosols to the plant's leaves. To prolong the life of these pretty blooms, place them in a shaded, cooler area.


LUCKY BAMBOO

Bent, twisted and twirled into various shapes such as the number eight, the lucky bamboo is the Chinese symbol for strength. The plant is decorated with red ribbons and lucky ornaments, and the number of bamboo stalks in one pot represents different things. For example, two is said to be an expression of love, while seven stands for good health.

The plant requires little care. Just stick the stems in fresh, clean water and anchor them with pebbles. Change the water every seven to 10 days.


• Sources: Gardenasia, World Farm, Far East Flora and Sing See Soon Floral & Landscape

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Monkeying with plants'. Print Edition | Subscribe