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Periwinkle may lack nutrients
What is this plant and its expected lifespan? I fed it with AB synthetic nutrients at a low EC (electrical conductivity) level of 0.8. It was growing well, but lately, the leaves have been turning yellow and more ants are appearing on the plant's surface. What can I do to improve the plant's health?
Your periwinkle plant (Catharanthus roseus hybrid) may have a nutrient deficiency. The older, yellowing leaves may indicate a lack of mobile nutrients such as nitrogen and magnesium. A closer examination of the plant, as well as a better understanding of the growing conditions, will allow for a better diagnosis of the problem. You may want to increase the dosage and application of the fertiliser.
Prune your plant periodically to promote branching and encourage a more attractive, compact growth habit. Tip cuttings can be rooted to obtain new plants.
Finally, the appearance of ants may indicate the presence of sap-sucking insects like aphids and mealy bugs. Check the exposed parts of your plant for these pests. Ants also like to nest in growing media. A soil-less mix of peat moss, coco peat, vermiculite and perlite is particularly attractive to these critters. You may want to soak the pot in water to drive the ants out and destroy nests.
Soil mealy bugs that infest plant roots can inhibit nutrient uptake. You can check by removing the plant from the pot and see if the roots have white, cotton-like patches. These mealy bugs are difficult to control and must be eradicated by drenching the soil with chemical pesticide.
Red-leafed plant is mainly ornamental
What is this plant and is it edible? What pests might be attracted to it and how can I prevent such attacks?
Suat Neo Ang-Chng
The plant you have is likely a hybrid of Coleus scutellarioides and Perilla frutescens. Its cultivar name is Gage's Shadow.
It is often confused with the Red Shiso plant, which is a culinary herb. If you rub the leaves, you will not smell the characteristic scent of the Shiso.
Your shrub is generally grown as an ornamental plant appreciated for its attractive leaves, so it is not usually eaten. Direct sunlight is essential for it to develop its intense leaf coloration.
Common pests that affect this plant include aphids and mealy bugs. Ensure that you grow the plant under optimal conditions - direct sunlight for at least six hours a day and in well-drained soil.
Inspect plants regularly and act early to tackle any issues. These sap-sucking insects can be easily removed with a jet of water if the infestation is still small, but more severe infestations must be addressed with pesticide.
Pomegranate leaves may be browning due to pest attack or chemical damage
My plant's leaves are browning. What is wrong?
The tender young leaves of the pomegranate plant are prone to pest attacks. They may be infested with broad mites and other small sap-sucking insects that distort the leaves and kill some of its cells. You can spray the plant with environment-friendly pesticides like summer oil if these pests are the culprits.
On the other hand, the leaves may be sensitive to chemicals. Oil-based pesticides, if applied in too high a dose or during hot weather, can burn the leaves. You may need to reduce the pesticide's dosage and apply it only during a cooler time of day.
Note that fertiliser solutions applied in too high a concentration can affect the health of new leaves.
Finally, protect the leaves from heavy rain, as strong water flow can damage leaves.
Plants have a range of ornamental, medicinal and edible uses
I found these plants in my garden. What are they and what can they be used for?
The first plant is commonly called the Brazilian spinach and is known by its botanical name, Alternanthera sissoo. Its leaves need to be cooked thoroughly to destroy the calcium oxalate in them, and to improve their texture. The plant is easily propagated by stem cuttings and makes a good edible candidate for gardening beginners to grow.
The second plant is a medicinal one with a number of common names, such as Matchweed, Creeping Lip Plant and Spatulate-leaved Frog-fruit. Its botanical name is Phyla nodiflora. It has been used to treat issues like constipation, knee pain, boils and ulcers. It grows well in moist places and makes a good groundcover plant, and its flowers attract butterflies.
The third plant is an ornamental plant called Creeping Charlie and its botanical name is Pilea nummulariifolia. It is commonly mistaken for mint and can be grown as an ornamental plant or a groundcover plant for shady areas.
The fourth plant is an unidentified Gynura species. Although a number of Gynura species are grown for use as leafy vegetables, avoid consuming this. Gynura can contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are toxic to the liver. It is not known how much alkaloids can be found in this particular species.
Finger lime plants grow slowly
My finger lime tree, which I grew from seeds, is about a year old. It is still tiny and thorny, though it appears hardy. How can I help the plant thrive? I use organic fertilisers and the occasional liquid fertiliser for green leaves.
Finger lime plants are slow growers and can take at least three years to flower.
Depending on where the parent plant was growing, the seed may be a result of a crossing with related citrus plants nearby. As its parentage is unclear, it is difficult to predict when your plant will flower.
In terms of growing conditions, finger lime plants thrive under direct sunlight outdoors. They need to be grown in a well-draining spot and are best planted in pots, as many growing sites in Singapore have heavy, compacted clay-based soil that can become waterlogged during wet weather.
This plant needs to be kept moist at all times; do not let it dry out completely. It can be fed with compound fertiliser granules, which can be purchased from most plant nurseries here.
Check the formulation of the fertiliser you are using or planning to buy. Ensure it contains the range of nutrients your plant needs for healthy growth. Most organic fertilisers tend to be rich only in nitrogen.
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 stli[email protected] We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.
Join Dr Wong at two free online talks: Growing Media Basics For Edible Gardens (April 23, 2 to 2.45pm, register here) and Gardening Q&A (April 23, 3 to 3.45pm, register here). Registration is required for both talks.
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