This article is the second in a series of festive plants in tropical Singapore. The first part is available here.
In this second part of this series on festive plants we focus on those that can be grown here easily, bringing you joy and a sense of satisfaction even long after the festive season.
In temperate climates, these are plants that complete their lifecycle from seed to vegetative growth and to flowering and setting seed within a year's growing season. They last from usually from spring to autumn or winter and are either killed by frost or die after setting seed. In tropical climates they usually complete their lifecycle within 3-6 months owing to the year long warm temperatures.
Most of them will appear tired and old once flowering is over as it takes up the majority of the plant's energy, so they are either restarted from seed or from cuttings taken early before the plant's vigour starts to decline.
African Marigold （万寿菊）
Native to Mexico, it is widely cultivated for its bright pom-pom-shaped flowers and has some medicinal properties. However if you are thinking of harvesting the flowers for tea, it is not recommended to use those bought during this period as they are likely to have been sprayed heavily to ensure perfect growth. As an annual, the plant starts to decline once flowering is over, and is best discarded. This plant can be propagated by both seeds and softwood cuttings. For the latter, it's best to take them early before the blooming starts to ensure a higher chance of success.
Celosia argentea varieties
A commonly grown plant widely used for many occasions that need some colour, they can be found in a few shades from magenta to red and yellows in crested or uncrested forms. While the flowers themselves last as long as eight weeks, once they start to fade it's time to throw this away as it's an annual plant that completes its lifecycle in one growing season. Plants may sometimes set seed and can be harvested to be sown again, or cuttings can be taken early for a higher chance of success
Related to sunflowers and daisies, zinnias are a favourite among gardeners for their gushes of colourful single- to double-flowered blossoms that are attractive to pollinators. An sun-loving annual originating from the americas, this plant is easily propagated by cuttings and seeds.
These are plants that will continue growing year after year and are probably the best because you only have to buy them once. If their growing preferences are met, they will reward you with plenty of lush growth, flowers and even fruit.
Dendrobium biggibum hybrids/cultivars
Widely hybridised and cultivated for both potted plants and the cut-flower industry, this orchid is native to New Guinea and the tropical areas of North Queensland. Several different types are available, from mini ones with a maximum height of about 20cm to medium ones about 40cm and even larger ones above 60cm. Prized for its long lasting flowers, ease of cultivation and being rather floriferous if given the right conditions, these plants are relatively easy to grow and will bloom several times a year.
Moth Orchids, Phalaenopsis （蝴蝶兰）
A standard indoor plant that you will encounter in many hotels and shopping malls, moth orchids are well known for their long lasting blooms, some times up to 2 months or more. Most of the ones available are grown in Taiwan or China and imported here for sale. These orchids are commonly discarded after flowering as they bloom only once a year or every two years, but they actually do make a beautiful houseplant with their glossy large leaves and thick white roots.
Kumquat （金柑, 金桔, 四季桔）
Kumquat Fukushu （龙胆桔）
Citrus japonica 'Fukushu'
Giant Golden Citrus （虎头柑, 大砂柑）
Citrus aurantium 'Hutou Gan'
Finally, what would Lunar New Year be without the abundance of potted citrus? This is the perfect time of the year to buy them if you are looking for one. Large quantities are imported usually from China laden with fruit and trained into a variety of pleasing shapes in different sizes.
All they need is an abundance of sunshine and protection from the citrus butterflies that love to lay their eggs on these plants.
A word of warning, it's best not to consume any of the fruit on the plants as they may have been treated with agrochemicals to ensure an unblemished appearance. Instead harvest the next crop as the treatments should be gone by that time.