Root Awakening: For flowers, put Flaming Katy in closet

Mussaendas.
Mussaendas.PHOTO: ANAND DANANI
Senecio ampliflorus.
Senecio ampliflorus.PHOTO: JAN YEO

For flowers, put Flaming Katy in closet

What is this plant (pictured) and how do I care for it?

Clement Chai

The plant is commonly known as the Flaming Katy. Its botanical name is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana and it is a new variety that has double-petalled flowers.

As the plant sometimes is produced under shadier conditions, growing it under direct sunlight in Singapore may cause it to burn. So it may be more suited to semi-shade conditions here. Gradually, it can be exposed to moreintense sunlight, but it must be protected from rain.


PHOTO:
 CLEMENT CHAI

To get flower buds, the plant needs "short days and long nights" - where its daylight exposure is less than 12 hours daily. You can move the plant into a closet in the late afternoon for at least six weeks and take it out to a high light environment each morning. Flower buds are expected to form after this duration.

Grow itin a well-draining mix as excessive moisture can lead to rot.


Tip: Bat Lily is a shade-loving plant

The Bat Lily is a botanical oddity. It produces an inflorescence that looks like a bat in flight. Its bracts look like wings and the flower has hanging whiskers.


PHOTO: WILSON WONG

There are two species that can be found on sale locally: the Black Bat Lily, which is botanically known as Tacca chantrieri (pictured); and the White Bat Lily, which is botanically known as Tacca integrifolia.

Both are shade-loving species. They prefer a location where they can be exposed to at least six hours of filtered sunlight daily.

Soil should be rich in organic matter, moisture-retentive and well-drained.


Mussaendas flower under direct sunlight

I planted mussaendas, known for their pink flowers, about nine months ago. However, flowers have yet to bloom. What is wrong with them?

Anand Danani

The mussaenda is best grown under direct sunlight, if you want a profusion of blooms. From the picture, the plants look like they are shaded by trees.

Also, when the plant produces new flowers, it is important not to constantly prune it.

Avoid feeding the plant with excessive nitrogen-rich fertiliser as this will lead to lush foliage instead of flowers.



PHOTO: JAN YEO

Medicinal properties of plant not proven

My sister was given this plant (pictured) and told that its leaves can be used as a cure for sore eyes or eye diseases. Is this true?

Jan Yeo

The plant is botanically known as Senecio ampliflorus. Its local Chinese name is "Chuan Lian".

Its medicinal properties have not been systemically studied and proven by science. It is best to proceed with caution and consult a doctor for illnesses.

Nevertheless, its silvery-green leaves make it an attractive foliage plant. Grow it under semi-shaded conditions.


Pot for curry plant is too small

I have had this curry plant for more than 10 years. It was healthy until it stopped growing two months ago. What is the problem?

Edwin Lim

Your plant looks like it is grown in a pot that is too small. This could mean the roots have filled the entire soil volume.

Nutrients needed for healthy growth are likely to be exhausted and the amount of water the plant can absorb is also limited due to the small soil volume.

Move the plant to a larger container and add fresh soil.

The curry plant likes to grow in a sunny location with fertile, well- drained soil.

•Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore (www.greenculturesg.com). He is also an NParks-certified park manager.

•Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2016, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe