Root Awakening: Nightshade species is toxic; other plant may be chilli

The plant in the foreground appears to be a species of nightshade, while the plant in the background may be chilli. PHOTO: RICHARD YONG

Nightshade could be toxic; other plant may be chilli

A few months ago, I seeded some chilli, expecting a type of fruit similar to cherries. Instead, the plant in the foreground produced tiny beans. Is this chilli? The plant in the second pot flowers a lot but rarely bears fruit.

Richard Yong

Looking at the fruit, the plant in the foreground appears to be a species of nightshade (Solanum nigrum). Nightshade plants are well known to be toxic. There are, however, versions that produce edible berries and leaves.

The plant in the background may be chilli. The lack of fruit could be due to flower drop, which occurs when there is insufficient or excessive watering. Ensure your plant's root zone is kept moist at all times, but not too dry or wet.

You may need to hand-pollinate the flowers to transfer pollen. Grow your chilli plant in a spot where it gets sufficient sunlight and has some air circulation. This will modulate ambient humidity levels in the growing area.

Rubber plant needs sunlight for optimal growth

Grow your rubber plant in a spot which receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. PHOTO: LEE SAU CHING

I have had this rubber plant for two months. However, I have not seen any growth. I water it twice a week and have placed it in my balcony, which gets afternoon sun for at least two hours a day. My other rubber plant has been producing a few new leaves. Could the first plant be dead?

Lee Sau Ching

The lack of growth in your rubber plant (Ficus elastica) may be a sign that the plant is not getting the sunlight it needs to thrive. Its growing location in a corner appears to be in deep shade.

Large rubber plant specimens have grown into trees in Singapore's parks and gardens as they get direct sunlight throughout the day. In an apartment setting, grow your plant in a spot which receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.

Dracaena is infested with scale insects

The plant has likely been infested with scale insects, a common sap-sucking pest. PHOTO: CHUA LI LIAN

These spots started to appear on the leaves of my plant a few months ago. What is happening?

Chua Li Lian

Your Lucky Bamboo plant (Dracaena aubryana) has likely been infested with scale insects, a common sap-sucking pest. Check for the pests by lightly scratching the leaves' surfaces.

You can use a soft toothbrush to remove them and then spray summer oil, a low-toxicity pesticide available for sale in most nurseries, which will suffocate the remaining pests. Repeated, thorough applications that cover all parts of the plant are needed to keep the pest population under control.

Pepper plant can be propagated via stem cuttings

Take several stem cuttings of the pepper plant and try to root them in a moist, well-drained potting mix before cutting down the tree. PHOTO: ANIL KONDATH

I have a pepper plant growing on a Wild Jack tree. As I am going to cut down the tree, how can I save the pepper plant? What precautions should I take to prevent damaging the plant, and what type of soil and fertiliser should I use?

Anil Kondath

Before you cut down the tree, take several stem cuttings of your pepper plant and try to root them in a moist, well-drained potting mix. Once it is rooted and produces new growth, the pepper plant - which grows as a vine - will require support to climb on. As can be seen from the growth on your tree, pepper plants produce aerial roots that attach themselves to a moist and porous surface.

To encourage cuttings to produce the same aerial roots as the plant grows, the new growth can be led to climb on a long, narrow wooden plank or coconut-husk pole that is moistened from time to time.

You can fertilise your pepper plant using balanced fertiliser pellets, which can be bought at most plant nurseries.

Plantlets can be potted separately

Wait for the plantlets to grow large enough to handle before separating and potting them individually. PHOTO: DERRICK WONG ONG EU

As Gloxinia is similar to the African Violet and can be propagated from the base of a mature leaf, I tried to propagate a plantlet directly from such a leaf. Instead, a new plantlet started to grow at the tip of the leaf's main stem. How can I transplant it into the soil? The plantlet does not appear to have roots.

Derrick Wong Ong Eu

You can wait for the plantlets to grow large enough to handle before separating and potting them individually.

To encourage roots to form and to reduce stress on the plantlets, place a clear plastic cup over them to reduce moisture loss. Make a few small holes in the plastic cup for air circulation and to reduce heat build-up. The potting medium should be moist and not soggy.

Once growth starts and roots form, you can open the cup to expose the plantlets slightly to their external environment. This process is called hardening.

After several weeks, when the plantlets have acclimatised to the external environment, the cup can be removed and the plants grown in a location which gets four to six hours of filtered sunlight daily.

  • 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.
  • 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. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

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