Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening – beautiful bauhinias

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: I was recently asked to offer my advice about landscaping the entrance area to an up-scale estate. After studying photographs of the site area and making a long list of possible plants, I paid a visit to my favorite nursery to discuss tactics, availability and prices with the Thai owner. She knows what she is talking about as her garden center has been responsible for planning and maintaining a number of landscape projects in southern Phuket. Anyway, among other things we were discussing flowering shrubs and trees and she expressed surprise that my list contained no bauhinia (orchid tree).

I knew why. One planted years before had taken ages to settle and had finally given up the ghost. But she insisted the orchid tree was both easy to grow and quick to develop. Furthermore, on my initial visit to the resort in question, I noted a number of orchid trees in full flower along the road from Patong to Kamala. It is a real favorite elsewhere too, for example in Hawaii and many parts of California. So, despite my negative experience, the bauhinia definitely deserves an honorable mention in these columns.

The genus is large with well over 200 species, including both vine and dwarf varieties. Most are confined to the tropics. The most spectacular and desirable small tree is blakeana (Hong Kong orchid tree), so named because it is the floral emblem of Hong Kong. Often grown as a shrub, this cultivar possesses the unusual, heart-shaped, twin-lobed leaf which characterizes the entire genus – grey green in this case. However, the real attraction resides in the large, scented, paper-thin, five-petalled, purple, magenta or maroon flowers. They do indeed resemble orchids and are profusely borne on terminal sprays, or in the leaf axils. And they are large – maybe five inches across. If allowed to grow into a mature tree, blakeana can reach twenty feet, but is not likely to aspire to such heights in Phuket. This variety, unlike many of the cultivars, is reliably evergreen and can be pruned to encourage a denser and more shapely form. But it is sterile and needs to be propagated from cuttings.

Bauhinia forficata is a somewhat smaller tree and shares the common name of butterfly bush with the buddleia. Native to Brazil, it has a short trunk, spreading canopy and smaller orchid-like flowers that vary from white to pale pink. A good choice for a patio, it is cold-hardier than blakeana, but that means it is not as good in consistently hot climates such as ours. Galpinii is sometimes referred to as the red bauhinia, since it has brick-red or orange flowers that look as spectacular as any bougainvillea. However, like the bougainvillea, it is thorny and sprawls somewhat, so it is better against a wall, especially if trained as an espalier. Lunarioides is smaller with tiny round leaves and white flowers that bloom several times during the year.

The most frequently planted bauhinia is variegata: indeed this was the aforementioned variety growing at the side of the mountain road north from Patong. It is often cultivated as a many-stemmed shrub, but if staked and pruned, becomes an attractive tree up to thirty feet in height.

Downsides? Not many it would seem. Best cultivated in slighty acid soil and full sun; it dislikes salt-laden wind. Moreover, as a legume (caesalpinia), all bauhinias produce masses of messy pods after blooming. Trim them off to improve appearance and speed up new growth. Ideally, bauhinias like a cool spell (which they are unlikely to get here), but they are both easy-going and flamboyant. Not a bad combination.

Phuket Gardening tip of the week – local use of chemical controls

THERE is an increasing and disturbing trend in Phuket and it concerns the use of herbicides.

Drive along any road and you will see the evidence -ugly and unsightly patches of dead or dying vegetation.

Chemical controls are definitely not recommended and certainly not for use in gardens where you grow fruit or vegetables. Beyond the risks they pose to health and the wider
environment, cheap ones are often non-selective.

When these herbicides are sprayed indiscriminately to control weeds or undergrowth in larger areas, they will damage or kill all desirable plants in the vicinity, including native wild flowers. Worse, their effects will persist in the soil for long periods.

If you must use them, consult the label to ensure that they are appropriately selective – whether they work on narrow-leaved, grass-like plants or on broad leaved ones. Better still, don’t use them. Hoe or hand weeds out instead.

Phuket Gardening is Phuket Gazette columnist Patrick Campbell’s feature of all things flora.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


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:

Best of7 hours ago

Phuket’s 5 most family-friendly resorts

Transport7 hours ago

Transport Company announces bus services are suspended until August 31

Thailand9 hours ago

Thailand News Today | 29 provinces now on curfew, booze ban in Phuket

Welcome back to Thailand!

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

Insurgency10 hours ago

Volunteer ranger killed in grenade attack by suspected insurgents

Best of10 hours ago

Top 5 Spas in Koh Samui

Thailand10 hours ago

Hemp ice cream hits the Thai market

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Chon Buri11 hours ago

Chon Buri sets local order, restaurants in malls to only offer food for delivery

Thailand11 hours ago

Samut Prakan man dies in fire, possibly self-inflicted

Thailand12 hours ago

Royal Thai Police say bitterleaf can’t cure Covid

Coronavirus (Covid-19)12 hours ago

Tuesday Covid Update: 18,901 new cases, provincial totals

Thailand12 hours ago

Air Asia technician arrested for allegedly stealing electronics

Pattaya13 hours ago

“Pattaya Move On” reopening likely to be postponed as Covid cases surge

Thailand13 hours ago

3 metre long python caught near family’s house in Phuket

Thailand14 hours ago

Government says not to buy Favipiravir/Avigan online, says it might be fake

Phuket14 hours ago

Phuket bans alcohol sales at restaurants, issues order amid rise of Covid cases

Thailand5 months ago

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

Tourism5 months ago

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

Phuket5 months ago

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

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

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

Tourism5 months ago

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

Thailand6 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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