Root Awakening: Shedding leaves due to insufficient light, water

Shedding leaves.
Shedding leaves.PHOTO: JANICE HENG

Shedding leaves due to insufficient light, water

When I bought this plant, it had lots of leaves. However, the leaves fell over time. I add fertiliser and do not water the plant often. Still, new leaves do not grow. Why does this happen? The plant has been in this state for about nine months.

Janice Heng

The plant is a type of fig. It is probably the Chinese banyan - its botanical name is Ficus microcarpa - that has been grafted onto a swollen rootstock.

Your plant is probably dead. To check if it is alive, break the branches to see if there is live, green tissue inside. If the branches are dry and brittle, you will not be able to revive the plant.

The leaves could have shed for two reasons.

The plant loves the sun and it might be placed in an area that is too shady, compared with when you first bought it. The sudden change in light conditions could have led to the loss of leaves. Give it at least four to six hours of direct sunlight daily.

A lack of water could have also caused the leaves to shed.

The plant should be watered thoroughly with water allowed to drain out from the holes at the base of the pot.

The plant should be kept moist at all times and not allowed to dry out.


Tip: Stingray Elephant Ear has pointy leaf tips

The Stingray Elephant Ear can be a conversation piece in a garden.

Botanically known as Alocasia macrorrhizos "Stingray", the plant got its name as the tip of each leaf resembles the long and narrow tail of a stingray.

Like the common Alocasia macrorrhizos, this plant has similar needs. Grow it outdoors and in the ground, so that it can grow big. If it is grown in a pot, the plant tends to be small.

It also demands a sunny spot and fertile, moist soil. It can be grown next to a pond as it tolerates waterlogged conditions.


Many uses for Broom Weed

I found a new plant (above) growing in one of my pots. Another plant was growing there before it died. What is this new plant? Tay Mei Mei Botanically known as Sida acuta, this plant has common names such as Broom Weed, Common Wireweed, Teaweed and Ironweed.

It is a shrub that can grow up to 2m tall. Its stems are used to make brooms, ropes, canvas and fishing nets. Some also use the plant to treat ailments such as fever, indigestion and dysentery.

Consult arborist before pruning tree

About 25 years ago, I bought a pine tree sapling that was about 90cm tall and planted it in my garden. Now, it has grown almost as tall as a four-storey building. I am worried the tree may snap during a storm. Should I prune it?

Suzy Wong

It is best to consult an arborist about the care and proper pruning of trees. You can check with the National Parks Board's Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology, which has a list of certified arborists on its website ( Listing-of-Certified-Arborists).

Topping a pine tree may not be advisable. It will destroy its elegant and natural growth form. The tree may also become unhealthy if it undergoes pollarding, where the upper branches of a tree are pruned.


Mealy bugs behind growths on plant

What are these growths (above) on my plant and how do I stop the spread to other parts of the plant?

Belinda Charles

Your plant is infested by mealy bugs, a sucking pest. For a small infestation, you can wash away the insects with a strong water jet.

You can also use neem oil or summer oil which are available at nurseries. These are environment- friendly remedies that suffocate the pests upon contact.

To prevent the pests from returning, grow plants under the right conditions.

Otherwise, plants can become stressed. This makes them more likely to be attacked by pests and they can easily succumb to diseases.

•Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore ( He is also an NParks-certified park manager.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe