Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening: Papering Over the Cracks – plants to cover the ground

Published

 on 

Thaiger deals

PHUKET: In my humble opinion, the two best ground cover plants are purple leaved spiderwort (tradescantia spathaceae) and purple heart or purple queen, now known botanically as setcreasea pallida.

Naturally there are many other choices for the tropical gardener. For instance, I use pandanus pygmaeus as an edging plant: grass-like in appearance, it is very tough, grows in clumps and has long narrow leaves bordered with bright yellow. The only problem is that the foliage has saw-like edges – a bit like pampas grass. So it should be handled with care. Another choice might be the similar looking ophiopogon or lillturf, which has prominent white margins. Both prefer sun.

Wedelia trilobata, with shiny, evergreen leaves and small daisy-like yellow flowers, is the most vigorous coverer of space. It has a creeping habit and stems that root as they carpet the ground. Especially good-natured, it occupies the spaces in my garden where the Malaysian grass fears to tread: on waste ground it often crops up unannounced. But it is untidy and that is where my top choices score: they are neatness personified.

Purple heart (setcreasea) is very common and extremely easy to grow – once it is established. This Mexican native is cultivated for its neat, trailing habit and distinctive, deep purple, lance shaped leaves. Slightly hairy, it is their rich hue and matt surface that renders them especially attractive. Growing only a few inches tall, the plant nonetheless produces a dense, colorful display that will completely envelope the immediate surroundings. Given a chance, its exotic foliage will cascade prettily down the sides of a pot.

The succulent stems are very brittle and snap easily. On the other hand, the roots are deceptively tough. So don’t make the mistake, as I did, of introducing cuttings into containers occupied by other shrubs. It will work if the other occupant is hardy, but less sturdy companions will find themselves losing the competition for food, water and space. I am planting purple heart where its beautiful carpet of foliage can be appreciated alone and for its own sake.

The other and in some ways similar tradescanthia or rhoeo spacthaceae is even more ubiquitous in Phuket: it is employed everywhere as a ground cover, on rock gardens, or to border pathways.

Despite its Central American origins, almost every garden center has a supply. Even neater than purple heart, it has short stems and soft but spiky rosettes of lance-shaped leaves that are green below and greenish purple above. It grows no more than a foot tall and forms an orderly and uniform mat or cushion Years ago, I planted a clump in a border some feet from the pool; it soon spilled over the edges of the confining sand-wash and is steadily advancing towards the water.

Unlike purple heart, this fellow has surprisingly shallow roots. In fact you can gently lift a portion from the edge of a cluster and transplant it elsewhere in shallow soil. It will probably survive. In fact it can be propagated from seeds (it has small white flowers),but clump division is the normal method. If you are planting specimens in a border as an edging plant, place them eight or ten inches apart: in favorable conditions, they will soon bridge the gaps.

There is an even more attractive variegated form of tradescantia with striped purple, green and white foliage. As with most variegated plants, it is less hardy than the standard version, and will only perform well in a sunny environment. But I have one happily sharing a container with an adenium. Share and share alike. No sweat…

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured you can email me at: drpaccampbell@gmail.com. Further information about this gardening series and Patrick’s other work can be accessed at: patrickaccampbell.wordpress.com

— 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.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

Transport35 mins ago

Last jumbo – the last Boeing 747 leaves the gate

Weather36 mins ago

Bangkok could hit lows of 18°C next week

Thailand43 mins ago

Geminids meteor shower predicted to hit Thailand on December 14 

Sponsored1 day ago

Top 5 Backlink Agencies in Bangkok for Your Business

Crime57 mins ago

Kuwaiti overstayer busted in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Thailand1 hour ago

What next for Bali as Indonesia bans sex?

Thailand1 hour ago

Jailed politician erects billboard to wish voters Happy New Year

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

Beastly reptile crocs the world of small village in southern Thailand

Pattaya2 hours ago

Pattaya officials continue to struggle with homeless problem

Thailand3 hours ago

Thaiger Unfiltered Ask Us Anything

Crime3 hours ago

Fifteen drug smugglers shot dead after gunfight with Thai soldiers in Chiang Mai

Lifestyle3 hours ago

Bird watching event coming up at Thai forest park

World3 hours ago

Public executions return to Afghanistan

Thailand4 hours ago

TABBA requests 4am closing time during festive season

Press Room4 hours ago

Ayasan Service application provides one-stop home-cleaning services at the tip of your fingers

World4 hours ago

Czech man behind trans Thai refugee attack avoids Paris trial

Thailand1 year ago

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

Thailand2 years ago

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

Tourism2 years ago

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

Phuket2 years ago

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

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

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

Tourism2 years 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

Trending