The ST Guide To... picking plants for Chinese New Year and how to care for them

Pots of mandarin oranges at a nursery. ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Preparation for Chinese New Year is often a frenzied time. There is much to do, including decorating your house in theme for the festivities.

Chinese New Year plants that come in a myriad of options are a quick way to create the right mood. And this weekend is the perfect time to start buying plants that you want as nurseries are already stocked with a good supply. Wait any longer and you might be left with the rejects.

Those born without a green thumb often fret about keeping these plants fresh throughout the 15 days of celebrations. Here are seven tips to keep in mind as you shop for plants and care for them after.

1. Countdown to the new year

If you want flowering plants, find out how long they will take to bloom. As it gets closer to Chinese New Year, pick plants which have partially opened flowers so they will bloom in time for the festivities.

2. Hassle-free plants

For those who do not have a green thumb, opt for kumquats, that require minimal care. Look for plants that do not need much care.

Do remember not to create stagnant pools of water around your plants as these may attract mosquitoes.

3. Touch before you buy

When choosing citrus plants such as four seasons lime and dragon lime plants, the fruit should be rather firm to the touch, not soft or squishy.

4. Check the health of the plant

The stalk of the plant should be upright and its foliage and blooms and no brown bits around the flowers.

5. See the plant in the flesh

Go down in person to pick out the plants you want yourself. The variety of plants is huge and nurseries often jazz them up with fancy pots and decorate them with accessories such as ingots, ribbons and tassels. When you see the plant up close, it will be easier for you to make decisions about a suitable plant. Do you have space to accommodate the pot? Would you prefer flowers with brighter-coloured petals or a taller plant?

6. Ask for care tips from the nursery

Many nurseries often have information sheets or cue cards on how to care for plants. At Far East Flora in Thomson Road, for example, general care tip flyers are given to shoppers. Even if they do not hand them out, ask around at the nursery. Those who work there are often expert gardeners who deal with Chinese New Year plants every year. They are always more than willing to dole out advice.

7. Visualise the location of plants in your home

Take note of where you intend to place the plant when you get home - it will help you decide which plant to get. For example, if your home does not get much light, opt for the kalanchoes which do not need direct sunlight or the jade plant which only requires a semi-shaded area.

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