Root Awakening: Sedum is best grown in a sunny spot

Sedum treleasei
Sedum treleaseiPHOTO: TAY YI XUAN, SHARIE
Elephant Bush
Elephant BushPHOTO: GOH SIEW TIN

Sedum is best grown in a sunny spot

I first purchased this plant, known as Sedum treleasei, at a supermarket. During its first few months of growth, it seemed to be thriving well and its leaves were full and round. However, I observed recently that its leaves are drooping and some have dried up. Its original lively appearance had turned into a solemn look overnight. What is happening to the plant and how can I save it?

Tay Yi Xuan, Sharie

Sedums, like many other succulents, need to be grown in a sunny spot to do well. The lack of sunlight, coupled with a moisture-retaining growing media, can cause plants to decline - first with the dropping of leaves and the rotting of the stem may also occur, leading to the death of the plant.

Many succulent hobbyists in Singapore change the plant's growing media to one that is very well-drained, such as one that has coarse materials like pumice or volcanic sand.

Many succulents imported into Singapore are grown in cocopeat or peat-based media and such materials do not dry out fast enough under local conditions.

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Water the plant only when the media feels slightly dry, but never allow the roots to dry out totally.

Avoid watering from the top as this may remove the powdery bloom layer on the leaves and cause them to lose their beauty.

Note that some succulents need lower temperatures at night to thrive and such a requirement can make the growing of some species difficult in Singapore.

Elephant Bush requires direct sunlight to thrive

My succulent is not growing well. I have placed it in the balcony with no direct sunlight and watered it once every few days. How can I save it?

Goh Siew Tin

The plant is the variegated version of the Elephant Bush. Its botanical name is Portulacaria afra.

Typical of the succulent group of plants, it requires direct sunlight to do well. A daily exposure of at least six hours of sunlight will be needed to grow this plant. The lack of light will lead to low vigour and lanky growth.

It appears to be difficult to save the plant. What you can do is cut the tips and root them in a pot of well-drained soil and under semi-shaded conditions.

Once the cuttings have rooted, move them to a sunny spot.

• 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. We reserve the right to edit or reject questions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2019, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe