Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening – Covering a lot of ground



PHUKET: The many virtues of ground cover plants were have already been discussed: their contrasting textures and colors; their capacity to act as a retaining layer by protecting the topsoil during tropical downpours, or as a natural mulch that absorbs much of the sun’s heat and inhibits the growth of weeds. Most importantly, they cover bare and unsightly areas.

No ground cover plant is better than Wedelia trilobata or creeping daisy (kradum thawng). Originally imported from the Caribbean, it grows like a weed in Phuket, rapidly covering patches that have been churned up and left for dead. But nothing stays dead for long in this part of the tropics, and Wedelia is one of the first to recolonize such places. Indeed, such is the success of the creeping daisy that it is classified as an invasive species in some Pacific regions.

A member of the aster family, it has shiny, dark green, trilobed leaves, and yellow flowers that resemble daisies, with up to a dozen petals. The reason it spreads so quickly is due to their creeping stems – they put down roots from their leaf nodes as they explore new terrain.

If you want to grow Widelia in your own garden patch, simply pull up some rooted stems and replant them where you require cover. Since it tolerates sun or shade, and most soil conditions, Wedelia will do the rest on its own. It does particularly well under trees: in one area of my garden it has provided denser cover than the original Malaysian palm grass. Since it has a naturally trailing habit, it also does well in raised containers. However, it can become straggly, so trim when required, especially if the stems invade border areas – and it will. Nothing will cover the ground faster or more effectively than this plant. In the right conditions, it will form a dense green mat that’s constantly adorned with yellow blooms.

Tithonia diversifolia, or bua thawg, is another bright bloomer that also takes up a lot space. It doesn’t lie low, but instead forms spectacular clumps. Naturalized in parts of Northern Thailand, it may cover whole hillsides with its orange flowers from September to December. The flowers are huge – up to five inches across – hence its common name, Mexican sunflower. Although it’s more of a screening shrub than a ground cover agent, it’s definitely worth growing should you need to blot out any unsightly objects or spaces in your garden.

The same can be said of Lantana montevidensis, another hardy shrub which provides a useful cover for sunny parts of the garden. It has rough, dark green foliage, and constant clusters of pinkish-mauve flowers. Nowadays, many hybrids are available in Phuket’s nurseries, often with different combinations of colors on the same plant. Since Lantana spreads by means of creeping stems, it covers the ground effectively and rapidly and needs little attention apart from liberal doses of sun and well-drained soil. It dislikes waterlogged conditions, but it’s not likely to encounter this in most Phuket gardens.

Cuphea hyssopifolia is a much smaller shrub (about 50 centimeters high) with tiny, evergreen leaves and a multi-branched habit. With its low spreading growth and small mauve flowers, from a distance it looks like a heather, hence its common name, false heather. A popular plant for border edges when planted en masse, it can carpet a whole area. Don’t put it in deep shade – it will die back.

What do these shrubs have in common? Well, they all come from Central America, they all provide ground cover, and oddly enough, they have all been labeled “invasive” in other parts of the globe.

Gardening tip of the week

A microclimate is defined as a small area which has a climate that differs from that of the surrounding area. It may be wetter, drier, warmer, colder, sunnier or shadier.

Even a small island such as Phuket has distinct climatic variations. From May to November, the prevailing winds come from the southwest – from the Indian Ocean – which result in heavier rainfall on the west coast. From December to April, northeast winds arriving from China bring cooler, drier air. Since Phuket has a backbone of hills, the windward side is more affected by these climatic patterns.

Some microclimates exist because of inland water, forests, or shorelines. Urban areas are hotter than ‘green’ spaces because of the generation and retention of heat and carbon dioxide.

If your garden undulates, the south-facing slopes will get more sun, so you need to select plants that will tolerate its full effects, for example euphorbias, ixoras, bougainvilleas, or pereskias.

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

If you have a garden that you would like featured on this page, please email Patrick by clicking here.

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

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

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.

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand11 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Opposition to extending nightlife to 4am

Crime11 hours ago

Police officer who shot noodle vender sentenced to 25 years

Road deaths12 hours ago

Truck overturns in NE Thailand, driver dies, losing 1.5 million baht of beer

Sponsored2 days ago

British International School, Phuket: Reflecting on 25 years of world-class education

Transport12 hours ago

Thailand Transport Ministry seeks foreign loans for new bridges

Central Thailand12 hours ago

Elephant calf stamped to death in central Thailand

Chon Buri13 hours ago

Mountain B Pub’s real owner surrenders while police guard venue

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Road deaths13 hours ago

Motorcycle rider killed in multi-vehicle pile-up near Bangkok

Crime13 hours ago

Hong Kong man goes to Thailand to meet ‘lover,’ gets trafficked to Myanmar

Thailand13 hours ago

A monk dies in yet another day of Buddhist shame in Thailand

Economy14 hours ago

Electricity prices soar 18% to 4.72 baht per unit next month

Best of14 hours ago

Top 5 Boarding Schools in Thailand (2022)

Crime14 hours ago

Four national park officials indicted over Karen activist’s murder in western Thailand

Thailand14 hours ago

100 Consecutive Days of food handouts to the homeless of Bangkok

Protests14 hours ago

Nearly 1,000 locals protest over fatal road in central Thailand

Insurgency15 hours ago

Landmines kill 1, injure 10 in Deep South of Thailand

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

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

Tourism1 year ago

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

Phuket1 year ago

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

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

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

Tourism1 year ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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