Connect with us

Thai Life

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

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

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

 

Want more from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Thaiger Talk Forums.

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:

Tourism11 hours ago

Pattaya October reopening hampered by obstacles

Coronavirus (Covid-19)11 hours ago

Thong Lor again: 31 arrested in club violating Covid-19 rules

Coronavirus (Covid-19)13 hours ago

Pfizer vaccine application received, review process begun

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

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

Sponsored by image

Visa16 hours ago

Covid-19 prevention leads to 14 arrests of longterm overstays

Coronavirus (Covid-19)16 hours ago

Covid UPDATE: 3,277 new infections and 29 deaths, provincial totals

Thailand16 hours ago

Red tape and restrictions suggest a slow Phuket reopening

Phuket17 hours ago

UPDATE: Tourism Minister reportedly says July 1 ‘sandbox’ won’t happen

Tourism17 hours ago

Koh Samui eyes August 1 reopening, “Samui Sealed Route”

Weather19 hours ago

Village need rain? Have you considered a giant penis?

Coronavirus (Covid-19)22 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Saturday: 3,277 new infections and 29 deaths

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

8.3% of Thailand’s 50 million vaccine target reached so far

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Site launched for June 14 vaccine signup for all foreigners

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Free quarantine accommodation for arriving Thais to be cancelled

Thailand2 days ago

Thailand News Today | Sandbox – bar, clubs closed? Local AZ problems, Sex toy arrest | June 11

Drugs2 days ago

UN report: Changes in Southeast Asia drug trafficking during the pandemic

Thailand3 months ago

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

Tourism3 months ago

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

Phuket3 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

Thailand5 months ago

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

Trending