Versatile plants yield maximum benefits
Published on: Sunday, January 17, 2021
By: Eskay Ong
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WITH the spiralling cost of living these days, it is generally becoming a little harder for more people to continue to maintain a high standard of living, despite the thicker wads that go into most people’s pockets at the end of each month.  And, for an increasingly greater number of people everywhere, scraping by just to make ends meet is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

And yet another alternative, for the few who are at the end of the rope, is to look out for some dedak from some agencies that are splashing largesse within their friendly neighbourhood.

However, there are a number of ways in which one can keep abreast or even ahead of inflation and higher costs. Some of the most common means include slogging harder on double or triple jobs so as to be able to rake in more.  Another way is to use one’s ingenuity to create desirable items or delicious foodstuffs for sale, which, nowadays, is so much aided by plenty of printed or electronic communications media such as facsimile, internet, email, phone, etc.  The opportunities to earn more, for both good and bad guys as well as those with good schemes and bad scams, are actually limitless. 

Alternatively, it is possible to stretch each and every ringgit in one’s pocket by appreciable degrees, meaning to say that if a ringgit can normally purchase a chicken, the same ringgit, after stretching and haggling, may be able to fetch two chickens, with the second one most likely a small chick or an unwanted old cock.  Another analogy may be seen in people spending only on immediate necessities but not to buy them for future use.

This goes to show that wise spending and prudent utilisation of a limited source of funds can really go a little longer to keep the rice bin full till the end of the month.

The principle works the same way in gardening.  If it is possible to extract the last ounce of benefit from each ringgit invested in the garden, why ignore the possibility of having additional gains and enjoying more rewards?  It is not a matter of being tight-fisted, as the crux of the matter can be summed up in three words: reap maximum benefits.

That being the case, exercising care in correctly selecting the most useful and applicable plants for use in the garden can go a long way to yield maximum benefits.

The choice of such plants is virtually limitless.  There are perennials and annuals, among which are woody, semi-woody and herbaceous plants.  There are also tall standards, shrubs, climbers and creepers, ground covers, surface huggers such as mosses, etc.  Most of these can be worked into different forms and shapes such that the endless combinations can be a great source of inspiration, artistry and pride.

Not all plants are versatile

While it is true that some plants are the so-called multi-purpose types, however, not all are versatile enough to be of use both indoors and outdoors, or can be grown with or without soil.  Some plants can even be grown either with water supply or without the need for even an occasional water application, as is the case of air plants where water is imbibed from the air.

While growing in air is not a problem, it is even easier to cultivate without any solid medium such as soil, sand, pebbles, beads or granules of artificial materials. Hydroponics and aeroponics are widely accepted and practised as means to grow something beneficial which usually refers to higher value plants.  

The latter system is known to be quantitatively and qualitatively more productive but is more dependent on a system of medium tech hardware that regulates a fixed cycle of intermitten feeding to the root system within a pest-free environment.

With that, a versatile plant is thus taken to mean that it is any member of the plant world that has the capability to grow in air or water, and with or without any physically solid substrate or liquid. This therefore opens the door to the availability of countless numbers of plants that can benefit all situations especially if they are handled by skilful fingers.

Such category of plants is remarkable indeed in that they can easily and quickly be started in as simple a medium as water or air, without requiring other aids such as rooting powder. They also do not need any alteration of particular environmental conditions, which means such plants can be started and cultivated practically anywhere.

A great number of plants can be used both indoors and outdoors, as well as to supply terminal or sectional cuttings for rooting in vases, but certainly some of the most popular varieties include many members of Dracaenas, Scindapsus and Pleomeles, etc. 

These plants serve beautiful purposes as colourful and attractive leafy ornamentals that can be cultivated and displayed in just about any location.

Usually, the common varieties provide useful terminal or stem cuttings that can be most easily and successfully rooted by simply inserting their cut ends in water.  

When placed in beautiful jars or vases and strategically arranged in a proper composition within the sitting room, bedroom, dining room, study, etc., such plants can be most striking and eye-catching, and they certainly do add a great deal more green to an otherwise artificial environment of concrete and steel.

Many versatile plants such as those mentioned are nowadays considered an absolute ‘must’ in most offices and homes.  In fact, where there are people, there are such plants being grown and maintained in different ways, that is, either on the ground outdoors, in pots indoors or outdoors, or simply as cuttings in vases and jars indoors.

There are many more varieties of lovely plants out there that growers would love to treat as versatile, but unfortunately, many of these plants thrive well only outdoors. For instance, zinnias, Marigolds, Hibiscus and Bougainvilleas, and many other ornamentals, only do well outdoors, enjoying an abundance of sunshine and dew.  Put them indoors, and the first thing to be affected is flowering.

On the other hand, shade-loving plants when grown outside, may remain perpetually bleached to varying degrees if not sunscorched or even roasted into a crispy crumb. 

Moreover, many of these kinds of ornamentals cannot simply be rooted in plain water.  These cuttings or sections of stems may just remain idle and rot away in due course.  Therefore, to use such materials as vase-based ornamentals may turn out to be a lose-lose choice.

Rooting terminal cuttings

This is the simplest task that one can think of – no sweat, no heat and no messy soil or manure, and as such, taking terminal cuttings and starting new plants from them is a breeze indeed.

It is important to select vases or containers that are not only beautiful and attractive to look at, but also fit the planting materials in terms of stability and suitability of size. This means an oversized jar obviously does not fit tiny cuttings, and vice versa.

Cuttings taken for insertion into vases or jars must be checked to ensure that they are disease and pest free.  It is amazing how fast scale insects or mealy bugs can spread within such a contraption, and the subsequent disfigurement of the plant can be downright disappointing.

Before insertion, all cuttings should be cleaned and washed to remove foreign matter such as lumps of clay or mud, which, unless removed, may result in murky waters within the container later on. At the same time, it is necessary for all old, bleached, torn or dead leaves to be removed to give a fresh and pristine image to the set-up.

When these are done, fill the vase to a suitable depth. In this respect, it is not even necessary to exceed the lower third of the depth of the container as subsequent inspections and top-ups on a regular basis need to be carried out. 

Just make sure that only clean tap water is used, although the use of rain water, if available, is preferred. Better still, fresh mountain stream or spring water from undisturbed lands, is the best choice.

Once all these are ready, the cuttings should be given a last and final cut, preferably in an oblique manner, before inserting the cut ends into the container.  

Before insertion, it is important to select the cuttings that are hard, straight and rigid, instead of the soft and crooked types.  Soft sections usually spell trouble in the days ahead as they may turn mushy or rot away within a short time.

The entire outfit may then be placed in a sufficiently bright and stable location within the house or office for rooting and establishment to take place.

All hail to the green fingers.


Japanese Bamboo is one of the most versatile of all ornamental plants. It can be grown on the ground, in a pot of soil or other substrate, or simply cultivated in water.

A dracaena grown on the ground.

Arrow Leaf pond weed can also be grown in semi solid substrate in containers and placed indoors.


A thick dracaena stem section rooted in water which is great for display in a shallow pot filled with pebbles.  

Scindapsus grown in water.

In soil as cascade plant.

Japanese Bamboo rooted in water.    


Dracaena stem cuttings in pots sprouting new shoots.  

A tall cluster of Japanese Bamboo grown on the ground.


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