Root Awakening, Home & Design News & Top Stories – The Straits Times


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Some white moss-like or fungal infection has grown on my plant. It is attracting insects. How can I get rid of it?

Ng Siew Fan
Your Indian Rue plant appears to be infested with mealy bugs. They suck sap from the plant and, in large numbers, they can weaken it.
Regular inspections and prompt treatment of infestations are key to growing pest-free plants. For small infestations, a strong jet of water is usually sufficient to wash off the bugs.
You can spray your plant with summer oil, neem oil or a castile soap solution, which suffocate the pests. Good coverage of the plant and repeated sprays are required to keep the pest population low.

Test any spray on a small part of the plant to assess whether it reacts adversely and apply only during the cooler part of the day, such as in the evening.
Our periwinkle was doing well before its leaves and flowers started wilting, then drying up. We water it well and place it in a spot that receives a few hours of sunlight daily. Could its decline be due to the fertilisers that we use weekly?
Tan Kok Hiang
The fancy cultivar of the Periwinkle plant (Catharanthus cultivar) is highly susceptible to stem or root rot, which are brought about by wet, poorly drained soil and overwatering. Once a plant starts to wilt, there is nothing that can be done except to discard it.
These plants must be grown in a sunny location in well-draining soil, as they need direct sunlight to thrive.

Avoid using a growing mix which is heavy with clay or one that has too much organic matter, such as peat moss or cocopeat.
Water when the mix feels dry, protect the plant during the rainy season and avoid growing plants too close to one another.
Are these plants medicinal or weeds?
Tan Ling Ling
The plant with round, serrated leaves is the Spreading False Pimpernel. Its botanical name is Lindernia diffusa. It has a creeping growth habit and reportedly has uses in traditional medicine. Do not self-medicate without the guidance of a medical professional.
The plant with three leaflets is botanically known as Cleome rutidosperma. Its common name is Fringed Spider Flower. Its leaves can reportedly be eaten as a cooked vegetable or added to soup, but they taste bitter.

The leaves are also fed on by the caterpillars of the Striped Albatross, Psyche and Cabbage White butterflies. Both plants commonly occur as weeds in outdoor flower beds, turf and flower pots.
I live in a terraced house with a narrow strip of soil in the backyard. The soil area measures around 6m by 1m to 1.5m. I would love to plant trees, but am not sure which trees are suitable and have non-invasive roots.
Jane Tan
Your choice of tree will depend on the purpose of planting them in your backyard. Tree maintenance includes pruning and other tasks in order to ensure they are safe for you and your neighbours. Note that you need to be able to access and maintain the trees regularly, and be aware of the costs involved.
A suitable area for tree growth would be at least 1.5m wide. Common screening trees tend to have a tall, conical canopy. Depending on the species, they need to be spaced accordingly to achieve a screening effect.
You can consider Kelat Oil (Syzygium myrtifolium), Yew Pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus), Seashore Ardisia (Ardisia elliptica) and False Ashoka (Monoon longifolium var. pendula). Cluster palms such as Acai Palm (Euterpe oleracea) and MacArthur Palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii) also work well for screening purposes.
Avoid those in the Ficus family as they can grow quite large and some species have invasive roots.
My helper found this plant when it was just a small shoot and started growing it in a pot. What is it and should we keep it?
Sandra Tan
This plant could be the Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis). Did your family members or helper throw in some seeds obtained from the fruit previously?
As the plant grows and matures, it has distinct juvenile and adult vegetative stages with variations in the size, shape and geometry of its leaves, which may eventually take on a lobed shape. The plant grows into a large vine, and it needs space and a strong trellis to support it.
• Join two free online talks on gardening hosted by Jurong Lake Gardens. Growing Grapes And Blackberries In Singapore is next Saturday from 2 to 2.45pm.
Register at Jurong Lake Gardens is also hosting its monthly Gardening Q&A on the same day from 3 to 3.45pm. Register at 
• Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist, parks manager and ISA-certified arborist. 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 [email protected] We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

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