Last updated: 22/01/2020
This article is the first in a series of festive plants in tropical Singapore. The second part will be published soon..
With the Lunar New Year celebrations arriving, garden centers and nurseries are preparing for the busiest period in the entire year with festive plants to match the occasion. From the dozens of plants on sale now, it's often difficult to decide which one to buy.
So that's why we've written a handy guide to those that will give you the best value for your money. After all it's both disheartening and discouraging if you welcome a new member into your plant family only to discard it later when it starts declining, when all of this can be prevented with knowledge of the plant's habitant and growing cycle.
It's useful to classify festive plants broadly into two categories: short-term/seasonal display plants (throwers) and long-lasting houseplants (keepers) simply because it is the latter that is the most beneficial for your wallet and the environment. With climate change at the forefront of pressing issues lately, I have to confess that I do not see any point in purchasing plants only to throw them away a few weeks later, no matter how festive an atmosphere they provide.
Even though short-term display plants provide the most eye-catching displays, they need constant replacing once they're spent as most of them require specific conditions such as a cold winter or short days to bloom again. Read on to find out which can be purchased here but should be avoided...
Cherry & Peach (桃花，樱花）
Cherry and Peach trees are a familiar spring blooming plant so much so that it has become somewhat of a tradition to have one at home for display. These plants are usually imported from China or Japan, and do not adapt to the tropical weather well. It is a temperate plant that requires the period of winter as a stimulus to bloom in the following year. Without this stimulus, blooming will be sporadic (if it happens at all) without the flush of blooms on display seen now.
Camellia japonica cultivars/hybrids
Only seen on sale during the lunar new year period, these plants are winter-blooming trees native to east Asia with beautiful rose-like flowers in various shades of white to red. You will encounter them in a wide variety of forms like bonsai, kokedama or as a potted shrub, however it is exceedingly rare for them to bloom here with the tropical climate unless given special treatment.
Boat Orchids （蕙兰）
Imported from eastern asia, these cool-growing terrestrial orchids require lower than tropical temperatures to bloom again. Although they come in a wide variety of colours with showy stalks of flowers and an equally eye-popping price, it's almost impossible to see their flowers again with our climate.
Hyacinthus orientalis cultivars
Native to southwestern Asia and the Mediterranean, Hyacinths have a long history of cultivation with over 2000 varieties bred and the Netherlands as the center of production. While these bulbs are grown for their intensely fragrant and colourful flowers, they require a period of cold dormancy or vernalisation as a flowering stimulus and hence will not bloom again unless given a period of cold dormancy.
Widely cultivated in east Asia, there are hundreds of chrysanthemums hybrids and varieties available today in a multitude of colours and forms. While this genus has both annuals and perennials, and are easily propagated from seeds, cuttings or divisions, many showier varieties flower in response to shortening days and longer nights which are not present in equatorial regions. As a plant native to sunny temperate regions, excessive heat, humidity and rainfall leads to a host of problems such as fungus and heat stress when grown in the tropics.
Christmas Kalanchoe （万紫千红）
A succulent with thick fleshy leaves, this plant is commonly sold during Lunar New Year with an abundance of red, orange, yellow or even pink flowers. While many members of this genus can be grown locally, this plant requires at least 6 weeks of 14 hour nights for blooming. Unlikely to bloom again with such vigour in an equatorial climate like Singapore, this plant is frequently discarded after the festive season.
Flowering or Japanese Quince （海棠花）
Chaenomeles japonica, C. × superba and C. speciosa
Another late winter or spring blooming shrub, this plant has flowers in shades of red, pink or white in single- and double-layered forms. You may sometimes encounter this plant as Begonia Flowers, but that seems to be a misnomer as 秋海棠 refers to the genus Begonia. Since this plant also requires vernalisation for flowering, the chance of reblooming here is almost nil.
This wraps up the first article on plants to avoid if you want to save your wallet and the planet. Keep your eyes peeled for Part II on plants that are worth buying.