Three ‘Hard to Kill’ Plants in Our Garden
Japanese Bamboo (Dracaena surculosa)Click thumbnail to view full-size
If there’s one plant I admire the most in our backyard it’s our Japanese bamboo (Dracaena surculosa). I have separated a few cuttings and rooted them in several pots and then gave them away to a few relatives and friends, but this plant just keeps on giving and thriving.
Japanese bamboo seems to be a staple in the gardens of many Filipino households maybe because of the so-called ‘fortune’ they bring when their flowers are in season. This is one of the reasons why other folks call it ‘fortune plant’ and why they are abundant and a favorite among home gardeners.
I have seen our own plant flower each year for, I guess, more than two decades or so. Yep, the Japanese bamboo or ‘fortune plant’ can last for so many years with very little care and unnecessary fuss. They produce white flowers which bear fruit afterwards. New shoots come out of the soil every now and then, as well as leaves from cut stems.
My mother initially planted it (mother plant) in a huge clay pot with loam soil which has since run off the pot holes when watered and when it rained. I have amended the soil with a much coarser and lighter potting mix a few years ago to help re-establish the roots over time.
I never thought of appreciating this humble and very sturdy plant like I do today. It has withstood the test of time, dozens of typhoons and extreme summer temperatures, but still standing and producing shoots and allowing me to propagate a few cuttings once in a while.
We never really used any special treatment other than fertilizing it at least once a year with slow-release fertilizer. We also did not have any special regimen other than appropriately watering during the hot summer months and watering only when the soil is dry during the rainy season.
Exposure to sunlight varies for our potted Japanese bamboo because we have one in partial shade, one (mother plant) under full sun and rain, one under a DIY UV plastic canopy (together with my succulents) and another one (new propagations/cuttings) on a windowsill with bright indirect light. I guess this is one of the reasons why Japanese bamboo is hard to kill – it can survive in various light conditions without problem. The only difference when I put one small pot of cuttings is that the leaves are lighter in color compared to the more exposed mother plant and propagations.
Ti Plants (Cordyline fruticosa)Click thumbnail to view full-size
I am sure many Filipino readers here and also tropical plant owners abroad are familiar with this plant – it’s often found planted in large terracotta pots in home gardens in the provinces. Some are planted in the ground along the sidewalk or in pots that line the fences outside of houses.
The Ti Plant (Cordyline fruticosa) is another example of ‘hard to kill’ garden plants because it is quite robust and so easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Ti plants are prolific given the right conditions and will produce new plants shooting out of the main stem.
They prefer a sunny location or ‘full sun’ to achieve the wondrous colors on their leaves. However, if you have scorching summers like ours here in the Philippines, do watch out for possible sunburns on your Ti plants’ leaves. If you can add netting in your garden during the hottest months, better do so to save your precious plants from sunburn.
For many years, we have two ancient Ti plants in our backyard. When we decided to add more plants and turn the small area into a garden, we made sure these age-old plants are kept alive. Though neglected for years, they never cease to produce leaves that change colors when relocated. Under a shady area, the leaves are green with magenta pink margins.
Currently, we only have two varieties of Ti plants – the old one which has big, long leaves that turn into dark brownish-red under full sun, and a younger dwarf variety with greenish-brown striped leaves. Both are excellent for propagating and for adding color in our garden.
Do try to Google ‘Ti Plant’ or its scientific name Cordyline fruticosa to see its wide variety. I am not quite sure if they will thrive in countries in the Northern hemisphere, but do try to get hold of one from your local garden store if they sell them, and see how it goes. The key is to keep them in full sun, but with a bit of protection (e.g. garden net) from intense sunlight to prevent sunburns on their leaves.
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)Click thumbnail to view full-size
My first-hand experience with the hardy pothos was way back late 1990’s. We’ve had several pots of these plants at the corner of our small front garden, just beside the windowsills. It came to a point that we had to cut the long vines and throw them away because they’ve become unruly and untidy to look at. That’s how tough and resilient they are; and like many plants, they love being trimmed.
I was the one who almost wiped them out of existence in our garden. I just had enough of their untidy appearance that I had to throw several cuttings in two consecutive months. But thanks to garden shops, I was introduced to variegated types which grow slower than the regular pothos.
The most bizarre is when our good old pothos developed variegated leaves on their own. It took them more than a decade to mutate, but it was definitely a surprise and a welcomed one. By mid-2000’s, I stuck with pruning moderately the regular pothos plants we have and just let the mutated ones grow.
These plants are listed as one of the toughest to kill and get rid of, and they also have air-cleaning capabilities which make them among those indispensable and more reliable house plants. They love indirect light and shaded areas (i.e. partial to full shade, with bright indirect light).
I am not sure if these plants will thrive without any exposure to natural light. I have seen on the web quite a number of pictures of pothos indoors – in bathrooms, in offices, in any indoor setting without a nearby window. But I have not tried keeping them in those places here at home because I know any plant will require proper lighting and the best one should come naturally.
In my experience, our pothos enjoy a shady area with natural, indirect sunlight. They thrive in these conditions and require ample watering just to moisten the soil. I tried putting a few hanging pots in our backyard were some direct sunlight would hit the plants in the morning until noontime. However, the leaves got toasted in the summer and the plants became dehydrated.
For those who are just starting to grow plants at home, pothos is a good starter plant because it can grow in shady, but well-lit areas in and out of your home. If you have a covered patio, you can place a few hanging baskets of pothos and see how they grow overtime.
I use a good potting mixture that’s readily available, but any soil that can retain moisture and drain excess water is a good starting mix. Overtime, you can make your own potting soil based on how your pothos will react and grow under your micro climate, sun exposure and overall weather.
I guess I could say that these are my trifecta of ‘hard to kill’ plants since they have been around for so many years despite the extreme weather conditions we have here in the Philippines.
© 2019 ChelletL