Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening: The ‘who’s hue’ of ornamental leaves

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Foliage plants, as we noted last week, are cultivated mainly for their ornamental leaves. But such a bald statement requires qualification. After all, many flowering plants also have attractive foliage, and this is especially true in the tropics where the tendency is for most leaves to be evergreen and glossy. Nor am I thinking of foliage plants, which originate in the forest understorey, and which feature primarily as tropical container plants – both outdoor or indoor.

Indeed, if these are to be effective in open gardens, they will need not only regular irrigation, but a carefully chosen position in filtered or deep shade.

Such plants – aglaonemas, dieffenbachias, anthuriums, philodendrons, the whole family of ferns, are not my concern today. They have been given plenty of space elsewhere.

Rather, I am talking about foliage plants that can and do grow cheek by jowl with flowering shrubs, plants that can provide a backdrop to rioting blossom, and can add a contrasting range of interesting textures and shapes to flower beds. In the case of variegated or multi-hued foliage plants, they will also add year-round color, particularly when other flowering shrubs are on strike.

It was for this reason that I opened the account last time around with acalypha wilkesiana, with its splendidly multicolored leaves. Though it is related to A hispida (the chenille plant), with its long tassels of red blooms, wilkesiana is grown entirely for its foliage. Combinations include bronzy green mottled with red and purple, yellow and green edged with purple, stippled red and orange.

So colorful are the masses of crinkly leaves that acalypha will outdo many flowering shrubs.

Jacob’s Coat or copper leaf is, moreover, shrubby and compact, and will certainly survive in full sun. Indeed, when established, it may reach five or six feet and will provide a certain amount of shelter for smaller plants. It is amenable to clipping, and Thais often use it as a hedge or low barrier. A newish variety, with mostly deep crimson and bronze leaves, is proving popular. It is fairly tolerant of dry conditions.

Another Thai favorite, though totally different in appearance from Jacob’s coat, is cordyline terminalis. Often referred to as the croton, its large, glossy leaves sprout from a single erect stem. Leathery and deeply veined, they come in a remarkable spectrum of colors. Like most variegated plants, this one probably began life as an all-green form and only gradually developed the huge range of variations we see today.

There are many leaf shapes, varying from long, narrow, lance-shaped ones as in the varieties “Stoplight” and “Yellow Johanna Coppinger” to the larger ovate foliage of the orange and red “Chief”, or the widely grown green and yellow “Stewartii”. Some have smooth margins, others have lobed edges. It is not hard to see why this plant was a sensation when it first arrived in Western drawing rooms; nowadays, however, it is grown in the tropics mainly as a spectacular garden plant where it can achieve the dimensions of a small tree.

It looks particularly effective in group plantings, or as a backdrop to a border with smaller plants in front. While the croton approves of well-drained soil and plenty of sun, it will soon show its displeasure by drooping its leaves if it lacks adequate water.

Prolonged drought will cause the lower ones to drop off, giving the plant a rather gaunt appearance. And it will need feeding. It will certainly grace a container outdoors, and with regular watering and feeding will grow to a height of several feet.

Despite its earlier popularity as a house plant, the codiaeum does not enjoy air-conditioning and deep shade. Better in the open air.

Tip of the week – Garden pests: Caterpillars
Unlike many pests, caterpillars are normally visible. The larvae or grubs of butterflies, moths and some beetles, they feed voraciously on chosen plants.

Normally they hide under the foliage and consume the leaves from below, but they will also attack young shoots. Their attacks, rarely terminal, are nonetheless disfiguring, and it may take plants time to recover.

Caterpillars are especially common in gardens because adult insects can find a range of host plants on which to lay their eggs.

The dilemma? Do you kill them, or put up with their ravages, knowing that attractive butterflies and moths will later populate your patch?

Personally, I try to keep them, especially ones which will turn into hawk moths or varieties of monarch butterflies.

Shrubs of the apocynaceae genus are favorite targets. Also Indian milkweed. Do not handle hairy caterpillars. They can produce a nasty skin rash. Instead, cut off the affected shoot.If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email the author here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages or join our Facebook fan page 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:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

20 year old arrested for online alternative vaccine scam

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Delta variant now the predominant strain, 78% of Thai infections

Coronavirus (Covid-19)8 hours ago

Controversial food delivery only rule faces criticism

Sponsored16 hours ago

Tour Phuket’s Islands with 5 Star Marine

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!

Drugs10 hours ago

Expat arrested on drug charges allegedly claims to be a local “Robin Hood”

Thailand10 hours ago

Thai Airways selling 10 properties to raise capital

Best of10 hours ago

The 5 Best Cafes in Koh Samui

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand11 hours ago

Thailand News Today | record Covid deaths, ban on ‘mass gatherings’ | August 4

Coronavirus (Covid-19)11 hours ago

Vaccine updates for expats; hospital extends hours to accelerate vaccinations

Guides12 hours ago

8 things to do correctly in Thailand

Best of13 hours ago

Thailand’s 5 most absolutely luxurious hotels

Myanmar13 hours ago

Myanmar envoy updated to Brunei’s 2nd Foreign Affairs Minister

Thailand14 hours ago

Thailand’s national parks ban the use of some sunscreens containing particular chemicals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 20,200 new cases, provincial totals

Guides14 hours ago

Visa Exemption Rule – 56 countries to enter Thailand without a visa

Coronavirus (Covid-19)15 hours ago

Third phase testing successful for Vietnam Covid-19 vaccine

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

Thailand7 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