Tips to weed well, saving a plant from fertiliser burn and more

Remove roots, seedlings of weeds promptly and thoroughly

What grass species (photo 1) is this and how do I maintain it? I have also been trying to get rid of a few weeds. One seems to weave itself into the grass and beneath the blades. It is difficult to remove it without uprooting the surrounding grass. It has tiny white and purple flowers (photo 2). Another weed usually manifests with branches that look like grass but with red stalks (photo 3). What are they and what is the best way to remove them?

Tan Yew Meng

The turf grass species looks like Zoysia matrella, commonly known as Manila grass and Siglap Grass.

The weeds you have include Lindernia crustacea (photo 2). Its common name is Brittle False Pimpernel and it has small purple or violet flowers. The weed with white flowers (photo 3) looks like Oldenlandia and can be either Oldenlandia herbacea or Oldenlandia diffusa.


PHOTOS: TAN YEW MENG

The best, non-chemical way of removing weeds is by hand. It is important to remove the roots of the plants and young emerging seedlings - you have to do this consistently and regularly. Weeds spread quickly if they are not promptly or thoroughly removed.

You may want to consider hiring the services of a turf management specialist to maintain your lawn.

Mowing, feeding of the grass and removal of weeds are required regularly. Top dressing - adding a thin layer of soil over your lawn - with washed sand is also necessary to obtain an even lawn which is comfortable and safe to walk on.



PHOTO: WILSON WONG

Tip: Prune Sweet Almond Bush to keep it tidy

Aloysia virgata, also commonly known as Sweet Almond Bush and Incense Bush, is a rewarding shrub to grow in a garden - it produces a constant supply of intensely fragrant flowers.

It prefers to be grown under direct sunlight and in the ground outdoors with space around it, so its stems can grow and spread. The plant can get a little messy as the stems grow long and entangled. Careful pruning is required to keep it tidy.

Its numerous tiny white flowers, produced at the end of stems, are associated with new growth. Hence it is not advisable to prune the shrub constantly. It can tolerate some drought and does best in fertile, well-draining soils.



PHOTO: SHARON LIM

Medicate with toxic Prickly Lantana only with expert help

What is the name of this plant? I have heard that its leaves and flowers can be boiled to treat skin problems such as eczema. Is this true?

Sharon Lim

The plant is a cultivar of Lantana camara. Its common names include Prickly Lantana, Shrub Verbena and Tick Berry.

It is a popular and common ornamental plant that is used widely in local landscapes and butterfly gardens as the flowers provide nectar for butterflies.

This plant is used traditionally to treat a wide number of ailments, including eczema. But note that this plant is also toxic. It is best not to self-medicate with this plant without professional guidance.



PHOTO: KELVIN LIM

Ti plant has fertiliser burn

My plant's leaves have turned brown and are withering, even though I have added fertiliser and watered it. Is there any way to nurse it back to health?

Kelvin Lim

The plant is commonly called the Ti plant and its scientific name is Cordyline fruticosa.

From your description, you may have overdosed it with fertiliser, resulting in fertiliser burn. This is why your plant is experiencing the symptoms you have described.

Wash out the soil with plentiful amounts of water to leach out excessive fertiliser salts. If the damage is not excessive, new growth should resume.

It also appears that your plant is lacking sunlight. Its stems are long and weak. The colour in its leaves is not as vivid.

The Ti plant needs direct sunlight to grow well. In an apartment, place it where it can receive at least four hours of direct sunlight daily.

Its pot is also overly small, so you may want to move it to a larger pot. The long lanky stems can be cut and potted up as stem-cuttings. The stump that is left will produce new growth.


Mint needs ample sunlight to grow well

I bought a pot of peppermint plant from a nursery. Within three weeks, it died without growing. I would like to get another one. How should I care for a peppermint plant?

Ng Hee Tong

In local nurseries, the mint is likely a type of spearmint, which is characterised by its oval-shaped leaves that emit a sweet, minty scent and flavour.

Mint prefers to grow in a sun-lit place. In an apartment, place it where it will get at least four hours of direct sunlight daily.

In an outdoor garden, it may be beneficial to grow it in a cooler area with filtered sunlight for at least half a day.

This herb demands constant moisture at its roots. Drought conditions for a short period can lead to the plant wilting and slow growth. Never allow the plant to dry out.

Under tropical conditions, mint grows quickly and turns woody fast, leading to less vigour and decline.

Hence it is good to propagate and start new plants from stem- cuttings regularly. Take tip cuttings and root them in water.


• 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 March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Root awakening: Remove roots, seedlings of weeds promptly and thoroughly'. Print Edition | Subscribe