Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening: They’ve got it made in the shade

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

PHUKET: Planting some ground cover plants is a practical move that will add exceptional interest to your garden. For now, I’m going to pass on the most common ground cover plants in Thailand, such as the spider lily and the spiral ginger, both of which attain heights of over 50 centimeters and are practically employed in undercover environments all over Phuket.

Instead, I will describe those unobtrusive plants that hug the ground, and rarely trouble their loftier neighbors.

Ground cover plants are valued for several reasons. They look decorative; they provide a sort of natural mulch by aiding the retention of moisture; and, most importantly, they perform a valuable function in carpeting those bare and unsightly areas in shrubberies and borders. They can also be used in containers where their foliage provides an attractive contrast to the grander incumbents of pots such as Euphorbias or desert roses, shrubs which reach skywards, unimpeded.

Common throughout the tropics is Tradescantia spathacea, a member of the spiderwort family, and more familiarly known as ‘Moses in a boat’. It has characteristically dense rosettes of lance-shaped leaves that are dark green and often glossy above, and purple underneath.

Though it hails from Mexico, this vigorous grower is available in garden centers everywhere in Phuket, usually potted in small plastic containers. The fleshy root system is shallow, and the plant can easily be propagated from cuttings, especially if you remove a small piece of root with the stem.

Because it’s an understory plant from the tropical woodlands, it likes moisture and some shade, though the leaves may lose their purplish underside in very low light. This is hardly a problem in Phuket, but it’s an issue sometimes when the spiderwort is grown as a house plant in temperate areas, as it often is.

Here in Phuket, it can be grown outdoors, singly or in clumps, and its neat habit makes it suitable as a border plant, or for edging pathways. By the way, it got its name because the small, white, three-petaled flowers appear between boat-shaped bracts in the axils of the leaves.

As with so many plants, hybrids are beginning to appear in garden centers in Phuket. Look out for a pretty, variegated cultivar with striped foliage in shades of yellow, pink or deep purple.

The purple heart, or Tradescantia pallida, is another much cultivated member of the family. Again, it may be a familiar houseplant to European and American readers. Its leaves are a similar lance shape, but are a striking shade of smoky purple. It has small pink flowers, but it’s also grown for its foliage.

It is less durable than its relative, has brittle stems, and a trailing habit. The other small drawback is its attractiveness to slugs and snails – you may need to protect your new plants with slug bait.

As with ‘Moses in a boat’, it needs some sun to produce its most attractive hues. However, it’s even easier to propagate from cuttings, so beg a few snapped off stems from a friend if you want to introduce it to your garden. Given the right conditions, it will spread quickly. Yours truly has many flourishing in pots alongside their bigger brethren.

A less widely known plant is Hemigraphis alternata which comes from Indonesia. Like the purple heart, it has a trailing habit and is often seen in hanging baskets. The oval leaves are metallic green on top and purple below.

Already, cultivars are appearing, one with turned down leaf edges (exotica), and another with long, notched foliage (repanda). To discover them though, may require some undercover detective work in local nurseries.

Gardening Tip of the week

EVERY Thai garden should have its share of orchids. They are the biggest and perhaps oldest single group of perennial herbs, and have arguably the widest range of forms and colors of any flowering plant.

Contrary to popular belief, orchids are relatively easy to cultivate. They have aerial roots and they are mainly epiphytic – their natural tendency is to anchor themselves to forks and crevices of tree limbs. Only a few terrestrial orchids grow in conventional soil, so, not surprisingly, they need relatively little water, and most thrive in filtered sunlight.

Of course there are variations. Orchids with thick, leathery leaves need more sunlight than those with long, thin foliage. The former retain moisture by means of a waxy cuticle which limits evaporation. In the garden, they are best grown in hanging baskets which offer some similarities to their natural conditions.

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

📱 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

image

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:

Drugs2 mins ago

Marine police seize 30 kilograms of methamphetmine from squid fishing boat

Thailand5 mins ago

Thailand News Today | Bars defy bans, Sandbox ‘still on’, vaccine rush | July 28

Thailand2 hours ago

Thailand to apply for Guinness World Record for longest petrified log

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!

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Koh Samui bar and club finds 16 Covid-19 infections

Best of3 hours ago

Kanchanaburi’s 5 coolest hotels

Thailand3 hours ago

Thousands of inmates granted royal pardon on HM the King’s birthday

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 16,533 new cases; provincial totals

Best of4 hours ago

5 of the most amazing hotels in Koh Chang

Best of4 hours ago

The best steakhouses in Pattaya serving juicy steak

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Girls infected with Covid after mother dies at home; public criticises healthcare system

Coronavirus Vaccines7 hours ago

Crowds rush to Bang Sue for vaccination ahead of walk-in registration ending

Coronavirus Thailand7 hours ago

Thai PM predicts current Covid crisis will be over in 2 or 3 weeks – 4 at the most

Coronavirus Vaccines7 hours ago

Health Ministry says all frontline medical workers will get donated Pfizer doses

Coronavirus Vaccines8 hours ago

Study confirms mixing AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines as good as 2 mRNA doses

Coronavirus Phuket8 hours ago

Officials reluctant to cancel Phuket sandbox, lifeline for desperate locals

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

Thailand6 months ago

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

Thailand6 months ago

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

Thailand6 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

Trending