Below are answers to three questions for the Root Awakening column published on 3 April 2010.
The first question asked why the leaves of mint and basil started to curl with the presence of ants around the plants. Note that the curling of these herbs’ leaves is a sign of aphid or mealy bug infestation. When leaves are distorted, they cannot regain to their normal look and form again. What is recommended is to trim the affected parts away to the nearest node on the plant. The plant will regenerate with new growth with application of fertiliser. Control the population of ants and look out for any remaining infestations. Spray plants thoroughly with dilute soap solution, white summer oil or neem oil. Mint demand a sunny location with soil that is kept moist at all times to flourish. The hot and dry season with winds can cause plants to dry out quickly. Check that plants are not pot-bound as this will restrict their uptake of water and nutrients. Water plants well to keep them hydrated during this time.
The second question was about the growing of the recently introduced ‘lucky’ plant called the ‘Little Bird Plant’ which is a drought-tolerant plant from Central America and one should avoid overwatering it. Soil should be well-draining and kept barely moist at all times. It likes a sunny spot to grow well and situate it in a location with direct sunshine for at least half a day. For more information, look up via its botanical names – Pedilanthus coalcomanensis or Euphorbia coalcomanensis.
The last question was about the growing of a durian seedling. The reader described that the seedling started to turn brown after transplanting. What the reader did probably disturbed/damaged the roots of the durian seedling when you are trying to transplant it into a larger pot. The seedling can experience transplant shock if the operation was not done properly. Seedling should be well hydrated before transplant and if possible, the entire root ball should not be disturbed and transplanted whole into its new pot. After which, the plant should be located in a cool, bright and windless place soon after transplant for the plant to recover for at least 2 weeks. Also, soon after transplant, avoid adding fertiliser right away and this can be done about one month after transplant. When applying fertiliser, avoid placing the pellets too close to the plant’s roots and stems as they can burn the tender plant tissues.