Root Awakening: Sap of Chinese Evergreen cultivar can cause skin irritation

Chinese Evergreen.
Chinese Evergreen.PHOTO: GERARD TAN

Sap of Chinese Evergreen cultivar can cause skin irritation

Is this a poisonous plant?

Gerard Tan

The plant is a cultivar of the Chinese Evergreen. Like many plants from the yam family (Araceae), such as the money plant and common edible cocoyam, this one contains minute calcium oxalate crystals in its sap and tissue.

People with sensitive skin should avoid touching its sap and tissue as these can cause skin irritation. Do not eat it as this can cause inflammation of the mucous membranes in the body.



PHOTO: WILSON WONG

Tip: Buddha Belly plant's blooms and lobed leaves are the star

The Buddha Belly plant, botanically known as Jatropha podagrica, is admired for its swollen, bottle- shaped stem. Its large, lobed leaves and clusters of vermilion flowers are also attractive.

It grows best in well-drained soil in a sunny location and can tolerate semi-shaded conditions too.

For apartment dwellers, the plant can be displayed in an ornamental pot. However, avoid contact with its milky sap because it is poisonous.



PHOTO: LILY LIM

Grow Philodendron selloum by planting its top

My selloum plant will soon be taller than the height of my balcony. How do I stop it from growing taller and can I propagate it? I live on a high floor where the apartment gets strong wind and rain at the end of the year, and strong afternoon sun. What plants should I grow to shield the sun and absorb some of the heat?

Lily Lim

The Split-Leaf Philodendron (its botanical name is Philodendron selloum) can be propagated by planting the top of the plant.

You can cut the entire growth, leaving some roots below and plant it in another pot. There may be a need to remove some lower leaves, so that the plant does not lose water from the many leaves.

You need to protect the propagated plant from excessive winds and direct sunlight. When roots have formed, you can then move the plant to other areas.

For your apartment, you may need to grow plants in heavy large earthenware pots so that they do not get toppled by strong winds. Also, avoid growing plants with large leaves as their leaves will catch the wind and get damaged.



PHOTO: MARIE GOH

Short lifespan of Mexican Petunia's blooms is normal

The flowers of this plant fall off a few hours after they bloom. Why does this happen?

Marie Goh

The plant is a cultivar of Ruellia simplex. One of its common names is the Mexican Petunia and it is often grown in wet places such as at the edge of ponds.

The short lifespan of its blooms is characteristic of the plant. They open in the morning and last, at most, until early afternoon.

With the right growing conditions - under direct sunlight and in moist soil - the plant flowers all year round.


Edible berries

Can these wild berries (below) be eaten?

Linda Tan


PHOTO: LINDA TAN

Commonly called the Koster's Curse, the shrub's botanical name is Clidemia hirta.

It is an exotic, invasive plant that often grows near the edge of Singapore's forested areas. It produces bluish-black, hairy, edible berries that are popular with birds, which help disperse its seeds.

• 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 22, 2017, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe