Root Awakening: Chilli plant has fungal disease, plant is Pom Pom Asparagus and more

A cherry tomato plant (left) and pom pom asparagus plant.
A cherry tomato plant (left) and pom pom asparagus plant.PHOTOS: LIM KIM HONG, VERNON KANG

Hand pollination may help with fruit production

I have been growing this cherry tomato (above) in a mix of potting soil and quality compost, and ensure the water is well drained from the base of the pot. I am using a combi- nation of organic fertiliser and black bone meal. The plant is grown in the open but partly shaded. Yet the flowers have dried up and no fruit has been produced. What is wrong?

Lim Kim Hong

Try hand pollinating your tomato flowers to improve fruit production. Different gardeners have used tools such as a soft paintbrush to transfer pollen from one flower to another. Others have used an electric toothbrush to shake flowers from the back to help with the pollination process.

Pom pom asparagus mainly grown as an ornamental plant

I bought this plant from the wet market. It has fine, needle-like leaves. I thought it was dill or fennel, but the leaves have no discernible smell. The plant has started to flower. What plant is it?

Vernon Kang

Your plant is botanically known as Asparagus retrofractus, and its common names include Ming Fern and Pom Pom Asparagus. It is grown mainly as an ornamental plant for its fine foliage. As it has sharp spines, handle it with care.

This plant grows best under filtered sunlight and well-drained soil, and can be propagated by dividing it.

Hairy crabweed is a weed in Singapore

This plant is growing in the same flower pot as my potted palm tree. What is it?

Diana Tan


The plant growing in the flower pot is Fatoua villosa and also known by common names such as Hairy Crabweed and Mulberryweed. It occurs as a weed in Singapore and can reproduce and spread rapidly, colonising an area in a very short time.

Chilli plant may have fungal disease

My Ghost Pepper plant has had translucent concentric leaf spots appearing on its leaves. The number of leaves with these spots has increased in just a few weeks. Is the plant sick? It looks healthy, and has had new leaves and even flowers grow.

Xueting Chia


From the picture and description, it appears that the leaves of your Ghost Pepper (a cultivar of Capsicum chinense) have been infected by a fungal disease. Infected leaves will not recover and you may need to remove them to prevent the spread of the disease.

Wet weather can increase the incidence of the disease, so it is best to protect your plants during rain. A clear plastic shelter usually helps, as it allows sunlight to get through and keeps rain out.

Ensure the plant receives plenty of sunlight and air circulation.

Sweet prayer plant needs more water

My plant's leaves are turning yellow at the corners. It receives indirect sunlight indoors, and direct sunlight twice a week for six hours each time when it is taken out for watering. Is this due to insufficient sunlight or water? There are no visible signs of a pest infestation.

Lincy Mary George


The burnt leaves of your Sweet Prayer Plant (Thaumatococcus daniellii) may be due to a dried-out root zone, excessive fertiliser salts at the root zone or usage of tap water to water it. Ensure your plant is well watered and moist at all times.

Avoid over-fertilising with chemical fertilisers as nutrients that are not absorbed can build up over time. Organic fertilisers with lower nutrient content, such as seaweed extract and fish emulsion, may be beneficial in this situation.

The use of tap water containing fluoride can burn leaves, as plants in the Prayer Plant family (Marantaceae) may be sensitive to it. Some gardeners use collected rain water to water such plants to reduce the incidence of this problem.

Your plant seems to have filled its pot, so you may want to transplant it into a larger pot. A larger soil volume will reduce the likelihood of the roots drying out.

Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist, parks manager and ISA-certified arborist. He is the founder of Green Culture Singapore and an adjunct assistant professor (Food Science & Technology) at the National University of Singapore.

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