Root Awakening: Common weed has folk medicinal uses

Emilia sonchifolia.
Emilia sonchifolia.PHOTO: LUCINDA LEE

Common weed has folk medicinal uses

A plant has sprouted in the pot that I grow eggplant in. What is it?

Lucinda Lee

The plant is a common weed that belongs to the Daisy family (Asteraceae). Botanically known as Emilia sonchifolia, it is also called Cupid's Shaving Brush.

Despite being a common weed, it has folk medicinal uses.



PHOTO: WILSON WONG

Tip: Lady of the Night's scented blooms change colour as they age

This shrub is known as the Lady of the Night (its botanic name is Brunfelsia americana) and belongs to the same family as the tomato (Solanaceae). It is also related to the Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow plant (Brunfelsia pauciflora).

The Lady of the Night produces scented flowers (above) where the perfume gets more intense at night.

Its flowers also change colour as they age - from white to amber.

It has a moderate growth rate and does best in a sunny location outdoors and grown in fertile, well- drained soil.

It is highly suitable for a themed garden designed around fragrant flowers.



PHOTO: ALICE YAP

Coconut Magnolia a slow-growing shrub

What is this plant? Its white flowers bloom for only two days before they fall off. Why does this happen and how do I get the plant to have bushier growth?

Alice Yap

The shrub is commonly called Coconut Magnolia (its botanical name is Magnolia coco). It grows slowly and is a shy bloomer as it produces a few flowers periodically in tropical Singapore.

To grow it well, plant it in moist, well-drained soil and expose it to at least six hours of filtered sunlight. Eventually, it will be able to adapt to direct sunlight.

With time and if it is planted in the ground, it can grow tall enough to become a tree.



PHOTO: SAMANTHA SIE

Loquat seldom produces fruit in Singapore

What is the name of this tree ?  I notice that it does not have fruit.

Samantha Sie

The tree is probably the loquat tree, which is known botanically as Eriobotrya japonica. It is a common tree planted around Singapore.

While it flowers here, it is not known to produce fruit. It could be that the tree, which originates from cooler, temperate regions, is not used to the climate here.



PHOTO: NORHAYATI RAZAK

Flame Violet may have rotted at its base

The leaves of this plant withered two days after I bought it.

Norhayati Razak

It looks like your Flame Violet (its botanical name is Episcia cultivar) has rotted at the base.

It also seems to be grown in a coconut peat-based medium, which is a common growing medium used by commercial nurseries. However, it holds a lot of moisture.

This plant likes to grow in a moist but open growing mix, where its roots can grow through quite easily.

You should use a medium that drains well, with coarser materials incorporated into it. Common materials include coconut husk chunks.

This plant is said to be shade- tolerant, but it still needs some sunlight. In an apartment where sunlight is limited, ensure this plant gets four to six hours of filtered sunlight for it to thrive.

• 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 April 15, 2017, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe