Root awakening: Grow banana trees in a sunny spot

Grow banana trees in a sunny spot.
Grow banana trees in a sunny spot. PHOTO: BAKAR MOOSA
Collecting Desert Rose seeds.
Collecting Desert Rose seeds. PHOTO: RAVEEN SHAHDADPURI
Grow climbers in filtered sunlight.
Grow climbers in filtered sunlight. PHOTO: KEL LIM
Dried flower is Bird's Nest Banksia.
Dried flower is Bird's Nest Banksia. PHOTO: CHANG CHE HSIEN
Red Leea.

Grow banana trees in a sunny spot

I have a few banana trees in my garden and all their trunks turned brown. The trees bear two or three bunches of fruit. As they grow, the trees have to be supported or they will collapse. What is the problem with their trunks?

Bakar Moosa

The banana plants you have look normal to me as some bananas have pigmented pseudostems.

Stem rot in bananas often appears as softened tissue that will often smell. When stem rot occurs, there is nothing you can do to save the plant. Avoid planting banana trees in the same spot.

Depending on the variety, some banana cultivars also have abundant fruit, even though the stems have problems supporting the heavy load.

It is not unusual that extra stakes are required. Banana cultivars such as the Pisang Seribu (Thousand Finger Banana) and Pisang Tanduk (Horn) are two examples that often require staking.

To grow robust banana plants that produce a good yield, it is essential to grow them in a sunny spot in fertile and well-draining soil.

They respond well to regular feeding, which is required to get robust growth and good fruit yield.

Collecting Desert Rose seeds

I have a Desert Rose plant, also known as Adenium obesum, that has been in our family home for nearly 30 years. Last year, I moved the plant for the first time to a bigger pot and a seed-like pod grew. What is it, is this common and can I grow a plant from the seed pod?

Dr Raveen Shahdadpuri

What you show in the picture are the fruit of the Desert Rose plant. They form if there are pollinators such as moths in the surroundings.

You may want to use a fine net to cover the fruit. When the fruit is mature, it will split open to reveal many seeds that have some white "fluff" attached to them. When this happens, you can open the bag to collect the seeds. If the ripe fruit is not bagged when it splits, the seeds will be carried away by the wind.

Grow climbers in filtered sunlight

I started growing these two hanging plants in my corridor and was told that they do not need much sunlight or maintenance. What are they? Also, I am new to growing plants at home. My home does not have direct sunlight, so what plants should I grow?

Kel Lim

The two plants you have are climbers from the genus Dischidia in the frangipani family (Apocynaceae). The one with variegated leaves is Dischidia oiantha "Variegata", while the other one, with inflated, purse-like modified leaves, is Dischidia vidalii.

They do best in a location with filtered sunlight for at least four hours daily. These plants may slowly decline if placed in a spot that is overly shady. They are epiphytes and do not like to be grown in heavy, soil-based media, so it is common to see them being sold in pots containing coconut husk-based media.

The root zone should be kept moist and you can put the pots in a pail of water for half an hour to let the coconut husk soak up water. Avoid keeping the roots in a soggy state or allowing them to dry out completely.

Dried flower is Bird's Nest Banksia

I found this dried flower, which appears to be real. What is it and where does it come from?

Chang Che Hsien

From the dried leaves and the appearance of the inflorescence, this dried flower appears to be a flowering stalk of the Banksia baxteri , or Bird's Nest Banksia.

The plant grows on sand plains and sand dunes on the southern coast of Western Australia, between Albany and Esperance.

Tip: Red Leea helps with local biodiversity

A member of the grape family (Vitaceae), the Red Leea is a beautiful native shrub that has vivid red stems which contrast against its lush green foliage. Its botanical name is Leea rubra.

It grows best in an outdoor location with direct sunlight for most of the day. This plant can grow up to 3m tall and will require some form of support if it reaches that height.

Because of its height, the Red Leea is best grown as a background plant in an outdoor garden. It can be propagated via stem cuttings or seeds. This plant helps the local urban biodiversity scene as its flowers provide nectar for butterflies and bees, while its ripened fruit are food for birds.

• 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 January 02, 2016, with the headline '(No headline) - NZROOT02'. Print Edition | Subscribe