Root Awakening

Foliage plant is known as Angel Wings.
Foliage plant is known as Angel Wings.PHOTO: LOKE SHEE YEE
Bougainvillea leaves may be cut by leafcutter bees.
Bougainvillea leaves may be cut by leafcutter bees.PHOTO: LUCINDA LEE
Sago palm needs sunlight to thrive.
Sago palm needs sunlight to thrive.PHOTO: VINCENT CHOONG

Foliage plant is known as Angel Wings

I have had this plant for a long time, but have been unable to identify it. What is it?

Loke Shee Yee

The plant is commonly known as Angel Wings and its botanical name is Caladium bicolor.

With extensive breeding, there are numerous cultivars with very attractive leaves available for sale in nurseries.

It grows best under filtered sunlight and the media should be moist, well-drained and aerated. Avoid growing the plant in heavy clay soil or soil that is waterlogged as such conditions will cause the plant to rot and die.

Depending on the cultivar, some plants will go dormant where leaves will die down. The rootstock should be kept barely moist to avoid drying it out totally. After a month or two, new growth will usually commence.

Bougainvillea leaves may be cut by leafcutter bees

My bougainvillea has weird bites on its flowers initially. But now, it seems the leaves are not spared too. I have sprayed neem oil twice these two weeks, but there is no improvement. I have been observing the plant every day, but have not seen anything unusual.

Lucinda Lee

The damage could have been caused by leafcutter bees.

These insects use the cut leaves to line their nests, which help to protect their eggs.

Note that bees are important pollinators and they should be protected.

If their activity bothers you, you may want to build a fine netted enclosure around your bougainvillea.

Sago palm needs sunlight to thrive

I bought this plant two years ago. There were no shoots, but it did not dry out. However, new shoots started to appear last month. Does the plant flower and how do I maintain it? It has been kept indoors. Does it need sunlight and, if so, how much and often?

Vincent Choong

The plant has many common names, including sago palm and Japanese sago palm. Its botanical name is Cycas revoluta. It common name is misleading as the plant is not botanically related to palms.

In an apartment setting, the plant is best grown under direct sunlight for at least six hours daily.

The new leaves on your plant appear to be very long and stretched, which indicates that the plant lacks sufficient sunlight.

The plant is still young, judging from its size. It is a slow-growing plant and produces male or female flowers on separate shoots.

The plant has flushes of new leaves from time to time and should be sprayed with a pesticide such as Dipel when new leaves appear. This pesticide eradicates caterpillars, which can defoliate the plant and this will set back its growth.

• 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 We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2020, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Subscribe