Root awakening

Burnt leaves in Sweet Prayer Plant likely due to fertiliser salt burn or fluoride in water
Burnt leaves in Sweet Prayer Plant likely due to fertiliser salt burn or fluoride in waterPHOTO: SEE SOO ENG
Livid Amaranth is an edible weed
Livid Amaranth is an edible weedPHOTO: ROB CHEONG
Strange structure on Desert Rose is its fruit
Strange structure on Desert Rose is its fruitPHOTO: PATRICIA LUM
Indian Borage may be lacking in sunlight and experiencing wet feet
Indian Borage may be lacking in sunlight and experiencing wet feetPHOTO: THERESA PAY
Corky Passionflower is a weed that has ecological value
Corky Passionflower is a weed that has ecological valuePHOTO: RITA TONG

Burnt leaves in Sweet Prayer Plant likely due to fertiliser salt burn or fluoride in water 

My plant is placed at the edge of the living room, near the balcony. It produces new leaves constantly, but the edges eventually turn brown. I water the plant thoroughly once a week. I tried doing it twice weekly but see water collecting on the plate it is placed on.

See Soo Eng

The plant is commonly called the Sweet Prayer Plant and its botanical name is Thaumatococcus daniellii. The brown edges on the leaves indicate that the plant may be damaged by salt burn. Damaged leaves will not recover and will be taken over by new leaves over time.

How long has the plant been growing in the current pot of soil? Long-term growing in the same container of growing media can lead to excess fertiliser salt build-up. You can flush the soil with water to remove some of these salts and repot the plant in fresh growing media. Take care not to disturb the root ball too much as that can lead to transplant shock.

Also, prayer plants in general are sensitive to fluoride found in Singapore's tap water. Some gardeners collect rainwater to water their prayer plants to avoid the occurrence of this issue.


Livid Amaranth is an edible weed

Will you be able to help identify the plant? A few of them appeared in my pots. Is it a weed?

Rob Cheong

The plant is commonly called the Livid Amaranth. Its botanical name is Amaranthus blitum ssp. oleraceus. It occurs as a weed where it will grow and self-sow in surrounding areas. The young shoots and leaves can be eaten.


Strange structure on Desert Rose is its fruit

What is this thing that is growing on my Desert Rose? Must I cut and discard it?

Patricia Lum 

The structure on your Desert Rose is actually its fruit, which come in pairs. You can wrap the fruit in a net to catch the seeds when the fruit matures and splits open.

The seeds can be sown and you may get new plants with interesting features. Give away seedlings if you have too many of them.


Indian Borage may be lacking in sunlight and experiencing wet feet

I have been trying to grow Indian Borage without much success. I perform stem cuttings and, once the roots grow, I transfer them to potted soil. However, their green leaves soon turn yellow and look burnt. They also look infected. The plants used to get morning sun, but I have moved them to a shaded area. What should I do to grow Indian Borage?

Theresa Pay

The Indian Borage can grow under direct sunlight and tolerate some drought.

It appears that the lower leaves are yellowing and dying due to disease. This often occurs when the plant is grown under too much shade or in an overcrowded environment.

Under shade, the soil which the plant grows in may not dry out fast enough and that can make the roots and lower parts of the plant prone to disease. You may want to move the plant to a brighter location for better plant health and growth.

The soil should also be the more porous and aerated type which has good drainage.


Corky Passionflower is a weed that has ecological value

I notice that this plant growing in my pot has started to climb. Is it a weed? Should I discard it?

Rita Tong

The plant is commonly called Corky Passionflower and Indigo Berry and its botanical name is Passiflora suberosa. It is a climber which commonly arises as a weed in flower pots and planted beds.

It is of ecological value in the landscape where it is both a nectar plant for butterflies as well as a host plant for caterpillars of various butterflies.

The plant is well known for the variable shape of its leaves. Its flowers are small and greenish, which develop into roundish fruit.


• 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 stlife@sph.com.sg. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2020, with the headline 'Root awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe