Difference between water lily and lotus


Water lily is an amazingly simple plant to grow.  I picked up a small pot from the nursery and put it in my small garden pond. It started to grow new leaves and sprout several beautiful purple flowers within a month.  Its a pity that the flowers do not last many days.  Nurseries carry a special round fertiliser tablet from Thailand. The trick is to bury one in the pot every 2 weeks and the plant will continue to thrive.  However, if you have expensive koi fish in the pond, you may want to elevate your pot.  Water lily also grows well under hot sun.  The three water lilies featured yet are found in Botanic Gardens. There’s an obscure corner in SBG near the Ferns Garden, with different varieties of water lilies.  This photo was sent by a friend. Thank you!

Its easy to confuse water lily and water lotus.  The leaves of the water lily rest on the water surface whilst the lotus leaves rise above the mud and the water. 


The Chinese has a saying that the lotus is able to rise above the mud and yet not tainted by the mud. The analogy is one born of dubious environment, and yet not tainted by the corrupt values of the times.  The full softness of the water lotus leaf carries a tranquil image. In the morning, when a dew drop rests in the centre of the leaf, one gets the feeling of being transported into a blissful state.   Be careful of strong winds, and silver worm, which attacks the paper-thin leaves.  The lotus plant here is from my personal collection. Flower doesnt seem to bloom. 

After the bud opens, the water lotus blossom will open, with layers of pinkish-white delicate petals – like the English rose.  Especially in the hot summer sky, a water lotus blossom is a sure delight. When the petals drop off,  a fruit pod is left behind, with tiny edible lotus seeds.  My lotus seeds are too small (because the pod is small), to be eaten.  Otherwise, the lotus seeds is used in hot desserts such as red bean soup.  The root of the lotus is also harvested.  Scrubbed off, and sliced section-wise, its boiled with pork-bones to make Lotus root soup.  My mom swears by this soup, which can help douche the fire in the belly and “cleanse the blood”.   Once, I had such bad acne attack where visits to the “beautician” for facials didnt help. My mom got advice to boil this soup every other day for me. After one week, the acne cleared.  Believe it or not.


Dracaena Marginata Tricolor


Our dracaena marginata tricolor was getting straggly. I had to tie branches to poles  as otherwise they topple over after the rain, weighed down by the strong wind and rain-water.  Unsightly.

L told me to just saw the straggly parts off. I'd no idea if he knew what to do, or one of his weird brain experiments.  Within a month, lovely pink shoots, of a more vibrant color than the original, grew from the sawn off parts. 



Of the sawn pieces, I cut off the leaves, and stuck them into a pot of burnt soil. Gave a good watering and left in the sun, subject to only rain water.  Viola, now another pot of dracaena (picture here) after 5 weeks.   The roots grow out from the side of the stems, and take about 3 weeks.  So dont make my mistake of pulling the stems out, even if you do not see shoots and only 2 dry sticks.  Thankfully, this hardy plant didnt mind my abuse, and continued growing happily, after I pulled the stem out and stuck it back again on seeing the lovely side root formation.  


Alocasia Macrorrhizos

Alocasia Macrorrhizos Metallica at the nursery.  The large elephant leaves look like mini umbrellas, and I imgaine children in the tropics, running home in the rain, with one of these leaves, whilst caught in a sudden downpour. I like the ones with black stems – the metallica rather than the more common green stem ones although both stir my heart. 


IMG_0029 Nursery didnt say anything about plant not suitable for roof-top gardens until I surfed the net.  Its a long way before our nursery in Singapore can advise on plants. Someone once commented that if your plants survive too well, then nursery will have no business.  Enough said.  Alocasia Macrorrhizos are not suitable for roof-top gardens or anywhere with strong winds because the wind tunnel will tear at the leaves.   On the second day, the wind tore a small hole in the centre of the elephant leaves and ripped sides.

Magnificient and stately standing in the sunset.  However the strong sun caused the leaves to turn yellow and often I've to amputate the limbs.  I'm pleased to say that the leaves grow back quickly.  The hollow curvature of the stems collect water, so have to put some mosquito repellant stuff especially when NEA comes to visit.  They visited me once this year already.



 Probably due to the stress of amputated limbs, my alocasia often produces araceous flowers, about 4 times this year.  Because it grows by the tuber system, if you grow it in a pot, make sure its a huge pot. This also means that vines and other wild plants share the space.


Alocasia gives the tropical retreat feel and can grow to about 2m in height.  





Give it a big enough pot, and the tuber root system will reward with lots of baby alocasia.  I've removed one of them 3 days ago to repot in a smaller pot. Lets see if it works.








Variegated Alocasia Macrorrhizos, somehow the varigated form reminds me of a designer bag and the picture on the right.  Horses-optical-illusion

Herb Garden


My own herb garden for an otherwise roof garden exposed to too much sun. 

Passion fruit in the foreground – grown from seed of a fruit purchased from NTUC Fairprice, curry leaf –  grown from cutting from my mom – chilli plant – grown from seed and Thai basil.

If you notice the tiny black flower on the Thai basil, it needs to be removed to prevent the Thai basil from becoming too woody.   You dont want it to focus too much energy on flowering and producing fruit.


 All plants pictured here are sun loving and needs lots of water.

Dill used in steaming/ grilling fish.  Also pretty as hedges or cover hideous pipes.

Rhoeo Spathacea “Moses in a basket”. The Chinese IMG_0168[1]boil the purplish leaves and drink it.However, only after the brackets or clam-like structures appear, is it edible.  Be careful when you break off the leaves as the sticky sap causes itchiness to your skin. When I was young, my mom would take about 5 leaves and boil with water until its purplish-pink, add rock sugar.  We drink this when the weather is extremely hot, as it helps cool the body.  


On right of the Thai basil, I’ve planted some laksa leaves. The scent of the Thai basil can be over-whelming and left undisturbed, can grow quite bushy. I’ve to trim it down so that the laksa leaves get more sun.  Otherwise, white fungus like mould can be found under the leaves.





Other suggestions for herb garden – pandan leaves grown in sand or water.  Here, they’re grown in an ikea vase in water, as part of the water feature.  We’ve fighting fishes in the pot and L has installed an ingenious filter system with use of lava rocks.



Cat whiskers or Orthosiphon aristatus also known as Java tea. We got to plant this because someone recommended it as an old remedy for treating kidney stones.  Flowers are either white or purplish.   Apparently, the leaves contain potassium and glycosides orthosiphonin believed to dissolve uric acid, phosphate and oxalate from the body.  Take the fresh leaves and boil with 1 litres water until half left. Drink 3 times a day until stones are passed out.   L’s brother who’s into Chinese medicine didnt mention about this plant, so probably this is a peranakan medicinal concoction.

Limau Purut is another plant I’m getting next. The first limau purut I bought from world farm didnt survive. The roots were not established.  Paid $15 amd it was probably a cutting and I left it in full sun with no water.  When I dug up the soil, I found that there were no roots.    After my Egypt trip, I’ll get another limau purut. I love the smell of the leaves. 


Would you believe that this huge creeper – coral vine (also known as antigonon leptopus; there is also one with white flowers known as antigonon leptopus “album”) grew out of 5 seeds like this, after 5 mths? IMG_0391 When they’re sufficiently brown, harvest and soak in water for 48 hours.  (I’ve experimented with just putting the seeds into ground, or using cuttings of the stems, soaking stem cuttings in water and then planting, all of which didnt work.)  I’m happy to give you my seeds… Or you can buy a mid-sized plant from the nursery for $18.

The trick is of course, to always repot.  I wasted 3 mths of non growth because I refused to change pots. After a while, the pot became too small for the vines.  The roots take a few weeks to form but on the surface, nothing seems to be happening.  (Why did I refuse to repot? Too many of plants died of water-log because the over-sized pots retained too much water than what the roots can take.  On hindsight, coral vines love water, so water log wouldnt be an issue? )  With nth time nagging from L, we repotted it, and viola, rewarded with an explosion of brilliant shocking pink.  Coral vine needs daily watering and good sunshine.  Another good plant to have for sunny roof-top gardens.


My most favourite creeper and flavor of the month – the bleeding heart vine, clerodendrum thomsoniae in full fireworks display.   No fertiliser, just sun and burnt soil and occasional watering. 

I first saw this plant in Paris, walking from the Sacred Coeur through some neighbourhood streets with Claire.  Her version of the story was that, an innnocent priest was martyred and out of the droplets of blood sprang up this beautiful plant as a witness to his innocence.   Claire is one amazing lady who knows her plants. Her general knowledge is superb and I shall at some point post pictures of the lovely tropical botanical garden hidden near the Paris Open, where she brought L and I last year.

IMG_0243L was earlier under the impression that its a shade plant.  For the longest time, it refused to flower no matter how often we fertilised it.  Eventually the leaves grew gigantic from the fertiliser and sickly yellowish green from the lack of sunlight, pictured here with the regular leaf (after we moved pot to a brighter corner but still under trellis) of the clerodendrum.  We moved the pot to a different spot and changed the soil media to burnt soil and was rewarded with almost instant blooms (within 2 days).   It didnt seem to like full sun though and didnt do too well, so I moved it back under the trellis but in a sunny corner.   Plants are like humans. If at first it doesnt flower, try changing the environment.


Ideas for roof-top gardens

IMG_0360[1] Finally a water feature design which both L and I can agree on.  Our roof-top garden gets much sun and this design at the hort park is both economical on space as well as uses local plants readily available.  The plants seem to be thriving under the heat with some shade plants by the side and a hanging basket of portulacas.