Root Awakening

Palm may be affected by a fungal disease.
Palm may be affected by a fungal disease.PHOTO: LOO LEE HWA
Princess Epiphyllum produces pink fruit.
Princess Epiphyllum produces pink fruit.PHOTO: JIMMY WEE
Basket Plant spreads via runners.
Basket Plant spreads via runners.PHOTO: KAREN PANG
Madagascar periwinkle thrives in sunny spot.
Madagascar periwinkle thrives in sunny spot.PHOTO: ASHOK KUMAR

Palm may be affected by a fungal disease 

I have a few yellow and red palms in my garden. They are at least 20 years old. For the last few years, some have been "dying" slowly - they are rotting from within. The fronds started to decrease in number, the trunks began to shrink and soften and, eventually, the plants would topple over. Now, even the new ones are dying and drying up. But this is happening only to the plants growing in the front of my house. The ones at the back still look healthy. What is the cause of the problem? 

Loo Lee Hwa 

Your sealing wax palm (Cyrtostachys renda) may be affected by a fungal disease called the Ganoderma butt rot.

To confirm whether there is an infection, look for fungal fruiting bodies at the base of the clump that resemble the lingzhi fungus. Affected stems will also show an internal discoloration when cut.

There is currently no effective way to manage the disease. As the fungus survives in the soil, planting another palm in the same location is not recommended.

It is best to practise "crop rotation" by planting another unrelated plant species in the affected site.

Princess Epiphyllum produces pink fruit

This potted plant outside my flat always produces flowers, but for the first time, I found this red oval that grew after a flower had withered. What is it and what can I do with it?

Jimmy Wee

The plant is botanically known as Epiphyllum pumilum and goes by its common name, Princess Epiphyllum. Its scented flowers are produced in abundance and remain open during the day. The pink ball, produced at the end of the flattened stem, is its fruit.

You can harvest the fruit and grow new plants from the seeds within, although propagation via stem-cuttings is still a faster method.

Basket Plant spreads via runners

I took home this plant which was discarded by someone a few years ago. It was in a very bad state, but I managed to nurse it back to health. I left it along the corridor outside my flat and watered it twice a day. It grew very well and now I have several pots of the plant. However, I have not seen it flower before. What is the name of this plant?

Karen Pang

This plant is botanically known as Callisia fragrans. It has a number of common names such as Basket Plant, Chain Plant and Inch Plant.

It prefers fertile, moist and well-draining soil and should be exposed to filtered sunlight for at least six hours a day. The lack of light will lead to floppy leaves as pictured.

It sends out stolons, which are also called runners - stems produced on the soil surface that sprout a new young plant along the way. The young plants can be cut and potted separately once they are large enough and have produced some roots on their own.

The Basket Plant serves as a good candidate to introduce plant propagation via stolons to children and new gardeners.

Madagascar periwinkle thrives in sunny spot

What is this weed in my garden? Does it have any medicinal uses?

Ashok Kumar

The young plants are probably those of the Madagascar periwinkle. The botanical name of this plant is Catharanthus roseus.

This plant grows best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. It is an ornamental plant that is grown for its attractive flowers.

There are medicinal uses for the plant, but it is not recommended you self-medicate as the plant is highly toxic.

• 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe