Here’s a re-cap on the second Root Awakening column for the month of October 2009. As usual, answers to three gardening questions were provided.
The first question dealt with the Indian holy basil. It is known locally as kemangi which is botanically known as Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum tenuiflorum. Two versions are available in Singapore in large nurseries. One has light green leaves whereas another features purplish leaves. To grow this herb from seeds, use fresh seeds as they have the best germination rate. As they are small, they can sprinkled on the soil surface and covered over using a very thin layer of soil. Seeds that are buried too deep will fail to germinate. Plants are best under direct sunshine and in moist, well-draining, fertile soil that is supplemented with organic matter such as compost. You can fertilise plants with a water-soluble fertiliser solution made up according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Prune plants back occasionally to control growth, rejuvenate and to keep plants compact-looking.
The second question was on the topic of growing the English ivy which is a common houseplant sold here in tropical Singapore. They are mostly imported from Holland and Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. The English ivy plant (Hedera helix) is a plant that can be difficult to grow in Singapore due to our heat and high humidity. Plants either succumb to rot or attacks by spider mites. They do better in a cooler environment such as a bright windowsill in your air-conditioned office.
The third and last question dealt with the growing of cycads in Singapore. Cycads can be troublesome to grow here as they are commonly attacked by the cycad blue butterfly which lay eggs on plants and after the caterpillars hatch, they eat up young, developing fronds inside the trunk of the plant. When the damaged leaves emerge, they will appear ‘bald’. One can opt to spray a pesticide indicated for chewing insects (i.e. caterpillars) at the tip of the trunk when butterflies appear to fly around the plants. For non-pesticide approaches, one may want to protect plants via a netted mesh.
Plants may also be attacked by scale insects whcih appear as white scaled scabs on the plant and these can be eradicated via repeated applications of white summer oil or white oil. Cycads, in general, require a well-draining location to grow. Make sure the location where a plant is grown is not waterlogged as water at the roots can cause plants to die. If the area is too wet, one may want to transplant a cycad to grow inside a raised bed or a large flower pot.