Root Awakening: Plant is the Skeleton Fork Fern

This fern-like plant is commonly called the skeleton fork fern, or whisk fern (botanical name: Psilotum nudum). PHOTO: THOMAS TAY

Plant is the skeleton fork fern

This “leafless” plant was extracted from a potted mandarin orange plant years ago. What is it and how should I care for it?

Thomas Tay

This fern-like plant is commonly called the skeleton fork fern or whisk fern (botanical name: Psilotum nudum). It lacks both leaves and roots, and its green stems are responsible for photosynthesis and gas exchange.

It is an epiphyte that thrives when exposed to filtered sunlight for six hours a day. This plant can be propagated via division, and requires moist and well-draining growing media.

Coleus should be pruned regularly to keep it compact

The coleus plant needs sunlight to thrive. PHOTO: PAMELIN HO

How should I keep my coleus plant healthy? It is growing quickly even after being transferred into bigger pots. Should I trim the upper foliage off to keep it under control?

Pamelin Ho

To achieve a healthy growth habit in your plant, ensure that it gets sufficient sunlight. Pinch off the growing tips periodically to encourage branching. This will lead to the production of lateral stems and give the plant a fuller appearance. It needs a large pot and regular watering. A dried-out coleus will lose its lower leaves and look “leggy”.

Protect fruit with a wire cage

I have a young jackfruit tree about 3m tall. It is beginning to bear small fruit. Once the fruit grow to about 2cm to 5cm in length, they are eaten by squirrels. How can I protect my fruit long enough for them to mature?

John Tan

Squirrel damage is difficult to prevent. You may want to construct cages using wire meshes, such as those used in barbecues, to protect the developing fruit. The cages can be small at first and, over time, you can build larger ones to accommodate the fruit. Ensure that there is sufficient space between the mesh and the fruit so the squirrels cannot reach them through the wire mesh.

Rose plant needs sun, well-draining soil

The rose plant requires a moist but well-draining growing mix to thrive. PHOTO: CINDY CHAI

My rose plant has very few leaves and does not look healthy. What is wrong?

Cindy Chai

The rose plant requires a moist but well-draining growing mix to thrive. It does not tolerate wet feet, which are often a result of growing in heavy and compacted soil. You may want to incorporate some coarse gritty amendments, like pumice or expanded clay pellets, to improve the drainage and aeration of the growing mix.

Grow it in a spot which gets direct sunlight for at least six hours a day, as it is a sun-loving plant and does not thrive in the shade.

Roses are also prone to thrips, a type of rasping pest that is difficult to manage. They damage young leaves and flower buds, causing them to drop prematurely. You can use Spinosad, or another microbial pesticide based on the beauveria bassiana and metarhizium anisopliae fungi, to get rid of thrips on your plant.

Use shadecloth to protect plants from the sun

This plant has been affected by a recent change in the direction and intensity of sunlight. PHOTO: TONY NG

My dragon plant thrived for the past six months or so, but the upper leaves recently turned yellow and died. It gets more sunlight at this time of year, as the sun shifts slightly and shines on its location all day. Also, my hibiscus’ leaves are turning yellow and the plant is shedding buds before they can bloom. What is wrong?

Tony Ng

During the period when the sun did not shine directly on your balcony, your plants adapted to the lower light levels. The recent change in the sunlight’s direction and intensity could have put strain on the plants, bleaching the leaves and causing them to dry out faster due to the higher temperature and rate of transpiration.

You can put up a lightweight shadecloth to create shade for your plants and reduce their exposure to direct sunlight. Ensure that they are thoroughly watered. Over time, your plants will gradually adapt to the higher light levels and the shadecloth can be removed.

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

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