Connect with us

Thai Life

Gardening: Caring for plants in dry weather

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: This is the time of year when the prolonged dry weather stimulates certain flowering trees to bloom as if their very lives depended on it.

In a sense this is literally true, since an exceptional drought will probably mean that fruits may not form, and even that mature trees may shed so many leaves that they die.

Already the present dry season is one of the most severe on record and much of Thailand is suffering from an acute shortage of water.

Some plants benefit from dry conditions, for example bougainvilleas, Rangoon creepers, tecoma stans or yellow bells, tabebuias, plumerias, poincianas, lagerstroemias or crape myrtles and golden rain trees.

Among smaller shrubs, crotons, cordylines, durantas, hamelias, jatrophas, orange jasmines, oleanders, scheffleras and allamandas possess considerable powers of drought resistance.

What most of these plants have in common are mechanisms which allow them to access water deeper in the soil and/or efficient resistance to moisture loss through foliage. Since evaporation is heavier in direct sunlight, many are shade tolerant.

A tree down the road from my house fits this bill, since it always seems to give off its best in dry weather. It grows right by a road dense with traffic fumes, but seems to pull out the stops every spring. It is a kapok tree, and right now its branches are covered with what look like clumps of cotton wool. Ceiba pentandra – to give it its botanical name – is native to the Americas and West Africa, but like so many plants, it has found its way to Southeast Asia.

It is a very substantial tree and produces hundreds of pods. These large green capsules split into five segments to reveal seeds embedded in masses of fluffy fiber. This floss-like material is light, durable and resistant to water, and when I was a child, it was used as a substitute for cotton wool, or down, for stuffing toys, pillows, life-jackets, and used as insulation.

Nowadays, kapok has been largely replaced by synthetic fibers, but the tree is still grown commercially in Asian rainforests. The flowers, which hang from bare branch tips before the new leaves appear, are an important source of nectar and pollen. Even the bark has its uses as a diuretic and possible treatment for diabetes. The tree possesses large spines to deter the unwary. A close relative is ceiba speciose, a popular ornamental in California and Australia, with large, distinctive deep-pink flowers.

Of course, cotton proper is produced by a completely different plant related to the Asian hibiscus. It has been a staple crop in the American south for centuries. It is not grown much in Thailand – the country ranks 72nd among growers – although there are moves afoot to change all that.

Tip of the week:

As the rains continue unabated, you may have a problem in your garden with poor drainage.
This causes water to remain in the pore spaces and air, necessary both to roots and beneficial soil-dwelling organisms, is unable to infiltrate the soil.

Soil texture, or a low-lying location will contribute to this. Phuket has more than its fair share of clay, which often drains poorly.

To improve matters, work in plenty of organic material, or place your plants in raised beds which have well-drained soil. Drainage pipes to carry away excess moisture are another possibility.

If none of these solutions are possible, consider adapting your garden, or at least the poorly-drained parts, to the existing conditions, and grow plants suited to moist areas.

These might include gingers, heliconias, canna lilies and various varieties of iris, ferns, hostas and gunneras.

If you have gardening or environmental concerns contact Patrick at Many of his creative and academic publications can be found at his website: Green galoshes WordPress.

— Patrick Campbell


Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

World31 mins ago

Rare, giant barking deer makes appearance in Cambodia

Coronavirus (Covid-19)35 mins ago

Anutin says health system won’t collapse despite shortages

World1 hour ago

Fire at Chinese martial arts school kills 18, mainly kids

Phuket Sandbox July 1st


Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand2 hours ago

Man allegedly steals almost 300,000 baht from monk

Thailand3 hours ago

Illegal cigarette shipment busted, valued at 30 million baht

Thailand4 hours ago

Pair arrested for allegedly stealing prepaid phone cards worth 240 million baht, take home almost 150

Best of5 hours ago

Top 5 Indian Restaurants in Bangkok

Phuket5 hours ago

A Korean restaurant catches fire at a Phuket shopping centre

Best of6 hours ago

Top 10 Provinces to visit in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for emergency use in Thailand

World6 hours ago

1 dead 99 unaccounted for in Florida building collapse

World6 hours ago

Airlines participate in trials of IATA Travel Pass app

Best of6 hours ago

Top 8 Street Foods in Thailand

World7 hours ago

A bed in the sky: Shanghai opens world’s highest luxury hotel

Thailand7 hours ago

GMT Live | Bangkok Covid situation, Klongtoey slums, Sandbox squabbles

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8