Root Awakening: Mulberry leaves used to make tea

Mulberry plant
Mulberry plantPHOTO: NEO SIK KHOON
Elephant Ear Fig Tree
Elephant Ear Fig TreePHOTO: CHENG YAM SAN
Musical Note Plant
Musical Note PlantPHOTO: WILSON WONG

Mulberry leaves used to make tea

What is this plant (pictured)?

I have seen people plucking its leaves.

Neo Sik Khoon

It is a mulberry plant, known botanically as Morus alba.

Its fruits are edible when they are ripe and red.

The leaves are harvested, dried and infused in hot water to make tea.

The drink is believed to have an anti-diabetic effect and said to lower blood cholesterol level and triglycerides.

However, do consult a qualified medical practitioner before using the plant for health reasons.

Elephant Ear Fig Tree's fruits are edible

Is this a fig tree (pictured) and are its fruits edible?

Cheng Yam San

The Ficus auriculata has common names such as Elephant Ear Fig Tree and Giant Indian Fig.

Its leaves are one of the largest among fig tree species - each leaf can be used as a plate.

Its fruits are edible and they can be harvested when they turn reddish. They are eaten raw or cooked and used in jams, drinks and curries. Its leaves also have medicinal uses.

Tip: Grow Musical Note Plant for fun

The Musical Note Plant (pictured) - botanically known as Rotheca incisa - produces flower buds that resemble written musical notes.

The plant needs to be grown in full sun for it to thrive and flower well. It needs fertile, moisture- retentive and well-drained soil. It can be propagated easily from stem-cuttings.

Having the Musical Note Plant in a garden injects some interactive fun, as visitors can guess how it got its name.

It can also be planted in a fragrant-themed garden as its flowers emit a scent.


Too much light, too little water for red ginger

Am I exposing my plant to too much sunlight? Why are its leaves not a darker shade of green (left)?

Chew Lee Lian

You may be right.

Overexposure to direct sunlight can cause leaves to bleach, where they turn slightly yellow.

This often happens when a plant was grown in a shadier location and then moved to a brighter spot.

Your plant, known as the red ginger or Alpinia purpurata, can adapt to higher light levels, provided it gets sufficient water.

Another reason for the yellow leaves could be a lack of water.

Ensure the plant is not pot- bound, which occurs when its roots fill the pot completely.

The plant's source of nutrients and water is quickly exhausted.

Move it to a larger pot with well-drained soil that is fertile and rich in organic matter.

Ensure you fertilise the plant promptly during periods of rapid growth.

Compost coffee grounds before using as fertiliser

Should I use coffee grounds as plant fertiliser?

I used to get coffee grounds from a hawker centre, but it was mixed with tea leaves.

Can I still use it on my plants?

Lee Chee Chee

Coffee grounds and tea leaves are good sources of organic matter, but they need to be composted before they are used.

Do not apply large quantities of fresh coffee grounds or tea leaves directly onto the soil as they will leach substances into the root zone that will affect soil properties, and take away some growth nutrients from the plant.

•Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore ( 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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Subscribe