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The joy of growing hassle-free plants
Published on: Sunday, January 23, 2022
By: Eskay Ong
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IT IS a fact that gardening activities are personal choices where previously they arose mainly due to interest in plants, and recently due to good money making potential. Just like in the good old days where every home had something growing, nowadays, plants are cultivated by gardening enthusiasts more for enjoyment and personal satisfaction than for anything else.  

Of course, there are many enterprising people who see it as an opportunity to rake in a few bundles per month just so that there is sufficient food to put on the table, considering that the Covid pandemic is still inflicting untold suffering and losses on countless families. 

It is not difficult to imagine the disadvantaged on one end of the spectrum scraping by on shoestring or even zero budgets, while on the other end can be found the other extreme.

When it is a personal choice to cultivate something inside or outside the house, it is also affected by whether the plant lover is able to spare a few minutes per day.  

This is because some people can truly be so busy day in and day out that they claim the God-given 24 hours per day is still not enough to get things done. Therein lies the dilemma, that is, to save the rice bowl or pamper the little potties.

 

A Jatropha plant seen from the top.  

The fat bulbous structure of a Jatropha can store a lot of water, and also a lot of good luck.         

A Ficus plant is perfect as a potted ornamental.  

 

The best alternative would be for everyone to be able to earn handsomely while at the same time, being able to enjoy the little that life has to offer, such as going for weekend fishing, nature hiking, sipping a few tipples from several bottles, gossiping, or just plain old and simple gardening.

With the easy availability of many new varieties of plants with some being priced sky high, it is understandable why some gardening enthusiasts are not willing to continue adding new varieties. This burden of looking for funds is one factor that determines whether an existing collection of plants may be expanded to include the classy and more mature plants, or simply to forego them and instead go for the tiny but cheaper ones.  

As not all plant lovers are able to splurge lavishly to meet their wants, there are practical ways to end up in a win-win situation. As aforementioned, this may include buying the smaller but cheaper plants.  

Another way is to ask for some handouts from gossip groups, aunty-aunties, uncle-uncles and old acquaintances by sweet-talking them into parting with some samples.  And yet another way is to barter or sell some plants, and with the cash available, it is thus possible to do the purchase of new varieties.

Apart from costs, another factor that influences plant lovers when deciding to buy one or more new plants is the available of space.  As is well known, landed city dwelling units have limited garden areas.  

Even most bungalow units do not have expansive spaces for garden activities, but out-of-city units normally have very spacious compounds which can triple as a house, a store as well as a mini farm too.  Such a situation is perfect in cases where exotic-looking plants that are of a large size and in equally large but expensive planting containers are required.

Go for hassle-free plants

And yet another factor is the ease in which the preferred plants can be handled and taken care of without much hassle. In this respect, there are so many varieties that are not only hardy, but also require little care and maintenance. At least, such plants are able to sustain itself when facing neglect and struggling to get by each passing day.  

The negative consequences may include drying and shrivelling of leaves, drooping of terminals, premature dropping of fruits, inconsistent flowering pattern, substandard quality flowers, with an overall image of the plant being scrawny, haggard and straggly.  

Nevertheless, despite the want of tender care, such plants normally do not die away outright, but it may just hang on for a long period of time, unless the weather enters an extended period of drought. This scenario often occurs in Sabah, with KK city especially hard hit with plenty of bush fires, tinder dry grasses, and many shallow-rooted ornamentals succumbing.

 

Zamioculcas spp.  

In a large jar, a Ficus plant can grow to more than two metres tall.

 


Many varieties of plants, such as small ornamentals, shrubs and trees, are easily available for cultivation that are not only tough and hardy, but also easy to look after. Such plants are most suitable for the busy people who want to grow something green or colourful to break the monotony of concrete, steel and plain green turf.  

Within this group of easy plants can be found the commonly planted varieties such as hibiscus and bougainvillea with their numerous hybrids, and cassias, dracaenas, peacock flower, immortal flowers, ficus plants, sansevierias and pandan, among others.

These are very relaxing plants to take care of, which is in fact as easy as just breezing through the garden with a cuppa or bottle in hand.  

Their maintenance rounds need not be strictly according to schedule, for if one is busy, then such tasks like pruning and fertilising can be postponed to a later date without much harm to the plants.  But sometimes, removal of chewing pests such as caterpillars may not be able to wait for long as the pesky critters are able to chew off a whole head of young tender shoot overnight.

Hassle-free means light and easy

In growing plants, particularly if the gardening enthusiast is just a casual hobbyist, the best thing to do is to take a sufficiently balanced approach in which the availability of flora is balanced by the ease in which the plants can be maintained.

The formula is: little/no time or little/no money = little or no plants.

This does not need a PhD graduate in plant science to see the practicality and applicability of the short formula, as in reality, everybody is endowed with plants irrespective of whether they are plentiful or few, the big or small ones, flowering or leafy or fruiting or non-fruiting types.

It is thus easy for gardening enthusiasts to realise that looking for plants, or for that matter, acquiring them, is but a small matter.  

The bigger matter is to look for ones that do not create headaches or disappointments along the way, which means going for the hassle-free plants to fulfil new year plans for the garden.

There are plenty of hassle-free plants that are available everywhere. For example, Jatropha podagrica is a very tough and hardy ornamental that can withstand a fairly long period of minimal watering. It has tri-and penta-lobed leaves are unique with its long leaf stalk that can stick onto the plant body even though it is already golden yellow.  

Mature plants produce a lot of seeds but for propagation purposes, it is easier and faster to dig up the small seedlings from around the base of the plant and then transplanting them into small pots or polybags.  

Starting this variety of plants from seeds is easy too but it may take quite a long while before the plant becomes suitable for display.

Ficus elastic is also another truly hassle-free ornamental that is suitable for any location except the very dark and flooded cellars.  

It is a beautiful leafy ornamental with large oblong leaves that tend to stay on the plant for years. Multiplying them is a stroll in the park as the cuttings can be rooted easily without any hassle.  

Usually terminals measuring from 60-100 cm in length are taken and then rooted in nice pots where each cutting may achieve a height of about three metres within two to three years.  In posh homes, they look very elegant and majestic when placed strategically either indoors or outdoors.

Another hassle-free ornamental is Zamioculcas zamifolia, a leafy succulent plant that is believed to generate good feng shui by practioners of the ancient art.  A large porcelain jar measuring 40-60cm across is able to grow a big beautiful cluster for about 10 years without repotting.  

As the cluster ages, it grows thicker and taller often reaching a height of one metre.  

If the jar is rotated several times a year, the plants contained within the central whorls are able to grow vertically while the rest may spread out evenly thus giving an image of a very neat and well-managed plant.

And yet another hassle-free ornamental is the ‘bringing luck plant’ or aglaonema. Together with the pink aglaonema, they are popular as colourful and leafy ornamentals that are suitable both for the indoors and outdoors. 

While soggy soils may not be damaging, dry conditions for short periods also do not do much harm except for a few drooping and flaccid leaves. Well-watered plants carry firm and erect leaves that display their colours conspicuously.  With aglaonemas, a single planting in a large pot may easily sustain the plant for eight to 10 years or even longer.

There are many more easy and hassle-free plants to toy with, and the only way to start planting and enjoying is to get cracking now.

So folks, what are you waiting for? Jom, ini kalilah!

- The writer can be reached at: [email protected]

 

Potted Aglaonema.



A well-rooted aglaonema can be separated to start many new plants.

 





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