Root Awakening

PHOTO: CAROL LEE

Floppy plant could be due to lack of water

I have been growing this plant for a month with healthy stalks holding up leaves well. But last week, all the leaves turned floppy (above), despite staying green. What should I do?

Carol Lee

The plant is commonly known as Angel's Wing or White Vein Arrow Leaf. Its botanical name is Caladium lindenii. The wilting issue could be due to a lack of water or inability of the plant to uptake water.

Do note that this plant needs to be grown in soil that is moist at all times. Depending on the soil type and growing environment, the frequency of watering can vary.

Whenever you water, ensure you do so thoroughly until water comes out from the drainage holes of the flower pot. Water again when the soil below the surface feels slightly dry.

You may need to protect the plant from excessive wind. A constantly windy spot will cause the soil to dry out quickly.

Next, a plant can wilt if the roots have rotted or died, which leads to the plant being unable to uptake water from the soil. Check that the soil is not soggy as wet feet can cause the roots to suffocate and die. Overly dry soil can lead to roots drying out totally and dying.


Mugwort is a common medicinal herb


PHOTO: VIONA YEO

What plant is this (above)? I received it from my husband's colleague, who plucked it by the road and said it is edible. I place it in full sunshine for a few hours on most days. The leaves at the lower stems tend to turn yellow/brown and after I prune them, the plant grows new shoots. How should it be grown?

Viona Yeo

The plant is commonly known as Mugwort and its botanical name is Artemisia vulgaris.

It has aromatic but rather bitter leaves and is generally considered a medicinal herb. It grows easily from stem cuttings and needs direct sunlight to grow well. The soil should be fertile and well-drained.

From your picture, it is advisable to take the pot back indoors - it is dangerous to leave it at the window ledge and it can result in killer litter.

A common way to consume this plant is to make an omelette with its finely chopped leaves.

Mugwort is used to treat health issues related to the digestive and female reproductive systems.

It should not be consumed in large quantities as it is reported to be slightly toxic. Also, it should not be eaten by pregnant women.


Cat's Whiskers grows best under direct sunlight


PHOTO: ALICE TAN JOO NOI

I have had this plant (above) for nine years. It bloomed only recently. What is its name and does it have medicinal properties?

Alice Tan Joo Noi

The plant is known via common names that include Cat's Whiskers, Java Tea and Misai Kucing. Its botanical name is Orthosiphon aristatus. It grows best under direct sunlight, but tolerates semi-shade as well.

The lack of flowering could be due to insufficient light at the growing area or frequent pruning. Soil should be rich in organic matter, moisture-retentive and well-drained.

The plant propagates easily from stem cuttings. It is a common medicinal herb and its leaves are usually used to make tea.

It is used to treat a variety of health issues, notably diabetes. But many of such herbal remedies are anecdotal. Seek professional advice before attempting to treat health issues with medicinal plants on your own.


Florist's Gloxinia different from


PHOTO: LINDA LOW

African Violet I got a leaf of this plant (above) many years ago from a former colleague. Is this plant the African Violet? Why does it grow so long? The plants I see in shops are different in shape. How can I grow this plant in the pot?

Linda Low

The plant is commonly known as the Florist's Gloxinia (botanical name - Sinningia speciosa). It is usually sold in local nurseries.

It is regularly mistaken for the African Violet (botanical name - Saintpaulia ionantha). Both plants are related and classified in the same family.

The reason for the long, lanky growth is a lack of sufficient light. Unlike the African Violet, this plant requires brighter light conditions to stay compact.

It thrives in a spot where it can get at least four to six hours of filtered sunlight. You can grow new plants with stem or leaf cuttings and under the right light conditions.

• Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist and park manager. 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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe