Aglaonema spp. Plants for partial shade. The simple rule to follow for these slow-growing plants is this: the lighter the variegation, the more light it needs. They have large oval leaves on short stems.

Do not expose the Aglaonema to direct sun. It should be planted in a humid area and watered often. A slow-release fertilizer should be given regularly. Aglaonema can be divided during repotting. Small shoots can be potted as individual plants.

Aglaonema plants are poisonous due to calcium oxalate crystals. If ingested they cause irritation of the mucous membranes, and the juice can cause skin irritation and painful rash.

A. commutatum is native to the Philippines.

Aglaonema commutatum ‘Pink Petiole’

Plant for partial shade. This Aglaonema has pinkish leaf stems (leaf stems). It has oblong-elliptical leaves and bears flowers that resemble small greenish-white callas followed by yellow to red berries. It is grown primarily for its foliage. Endemic to the Philippines.

Aglaonema commutatum ‘Red Gold’

Plant for partial shade.

Aglaonema commutatum ‘Silver Queen’

Plant for partial shade.

Aglaonema ‘Snow White’

Plant for partial shade.

Aglaonema commutatum. Variety unknown

Plant for partial shade. The green of the leaves of this plant is much darker than that of the other Aglaonema I have. The plant itself is rounded in shape and is more compact than my other Aglaonemas.

Adenium obesum.

Desert Rose. According to Warren, this succulent plant, a native of arid Arabia and East Africa, grows to 1 meter. It has a swollen, pale grey trunk. Its leaves are glossy and club-shaped. It bears trumpet-shaped flowers almost continuously. It has a highly toxic sap. As can be expected from a native of dry Arabia, it does not like too much water and should not be grown in moist places. It is often used as a decorative pot plant.

Adiantum raddianum.

Delta maidenhair. Origin: tropical and subtropical South America. The maidenhair likes full shade in a humid area and moist but well-drained soil. Despite its fragile looks, this is a hardy plant under proper growing conditions. Dead and damaged fronds should be removed to enable new ones to grow.

Aglaia odorata. Aglaia pinnata. Cinamomo, sinamomong sunsong (Tagalog).

Chinese perfume plant. Mock lemon. Cultivated as an ornamental tree or shrub and for its fragrant flowers. Introduced to the Philippines from south-eastern Asia. If allowed to, it can grow to a height of 6 meters. Its upright and bushy growth makes it suitable for use as a hedging plant. It is easy to grow; likes rich, well-drained moist soils, and warmth and humidity. It is tolerant of partial shade but prefers the full sun. Propagated from semi-ripe stem cuttings. Even with little maintenance, this is the kind of plant that becomes an enduring friend. Very easy-to-grow. Propagation is by cuttings or air layering.

It flowers several times during the year. The tiny yellow flower balls are fragrant in the evening; dried, they are used to perfume clothes and cigarettes, and to scent teas. In Asia, Infusions of the roots and leaves are used to treat fever, convulsive illnesses and menopausal problems.

The leaves last long in flower arrangements, though they are perhaps better suited to looser, more ‘natural’ arrangements than to the more formal ones sold by flower shops. (Photo source: www.parks.

Allamanda violacea

Purple allamanda. Vine or climbing shrub with year-round 8 cm funnel-shaped flowers that are reddish-purple fading to pink. While it can cover a trellis or clamber over a wall, it can also be pruned into a free-standing specimen. Regular pinching will keep it in bounds, but too much pinching removes flower buds which form on new growth. All parts of the plant are toxic.

The allamanda grows in full sun. It is propagated by woody cuttings, but grows best when grafted on A. cathartica (Yellow Allamanda). I have two varieties: one is more vigorous than the other, has bigger flowers and is more floriferous (photo on top).

Althernanthera ficoidea

Cucharita (green and white). After nearly two years, my cucharita grew leggy and was fading away under the shade of the palmeras where they had been planted. My gardener took some cuttings, put them aside overnight and stuck them in the soil the next day. They have now taken root and were doing well in mid-December 2004. They are still thriving.

Alpinia purpurata

Red ginger. According to Madulid, the red ginger, native to the Pacific Islands, is a recent introduction to the Philippines. Its bright red bracts cover small white flowers. It likes full sun or partial shade, moist but well-drained soil and requires protection from strong winds. Propagated by root division. By December 2004, my plant has disappeared completely: probably defeated by the strongly-growing raphis among which it had been planted

Alpinia vittata

Plant for moderate light conditions. A member of the ginger family, A. vittata is native to the Bismarck Archipelago in the Solomon Islands. It is a plant of the forest understory which is hot and moist climate all year round. A clumping plant, it can rise to 1.5 meters in height outdoors and has 20 cm long lance-shaped leaves edged and banded from the centre to the margin with cream or white stripes. It can bear pendulous pink flowers but rarely does so in cultivation.

Alpinia vittata thrives in medium light or filtered direct sunlight. Keeping it in too dark a position will reduce variegation and make the leaves greener. Prolonged direct sunlight can cause foliage to scald, brown or bleach. High humidity is essential. The plant should be watered regularly but should be allowed to dry out between waterings. It is moderately drought tolerant when established.

This Alpinia grows vigorously and where they outgrow their allotted space, rhizomes should be dug up, split and replanted. The tallest stalks can be trimmed off to keep this plant to a lower size.

The rhizomes should be planted as soon as possible. It is recommended to establish the plant in a pot before planting it in garden. The rhizome should be planted with the top up, no more than 3-4cm under the soil. Avoid planting them too deep to prevent them from rotting. Also, freshly planted rhizomes need oxygen to grow new roots and will die if the planting medium is too dense or too wet.

Companion plants: Alpinia vittata makes a striking contrast when planted in along with: Cordyline species, Schefflera arboricola (Green Arboricola), Nephrolepis biserrata cv.’Macho Fern’ (Macho Fern), Brugmansia species (Angel’s Trumpet), Strelitzia nicolai (White Bird of Paradise), Tibouchina heteromalla (Silverleafed Princess Flower) and Agapanthus species. (Source:

American rose

Plant vendors in the Philippines have no idea what the scientific names of these roses are and sell them under the all-enveloping term “American rose”

Antidesma bunius. Bignay

Have you got a bignay in your garden? Let us know what birds come round to feed on it.

Description (Madulid; Fernando). This is a small to medium-sized tree, growing to 10 m tall. Its glossy 20 cm long leaves are oblong with an acuminate tip and a rounded base; their petioles are stout, up to 1 cm long. The small flowers, in drooping racemes about 10 cm long, are yellowish-white, male flowers sessile, female flowers with a small stalk. The edible fruit, about 1 cm in diameter, is deep red to bluish-violet when ripe.

Seedlings are occasionally sold at garden centres and garden shows; I have also seen them at a UPLB (University of the Philippines Los Baños) nursery. Photo:

Attractive to many birds which eat the fruit and the insects living off it. Among the birds that have been observed feeding on the tree are: common garden birds like Pied Fantail (Maria Capra), Yellow-vented Bulbul (Malipago), Black-Naped Oriole (Kiyaw; Kilyawan); Red-keeled Flowerpecker; and forest birds such as Philippine Bulbul, Yellow-Wattled Bulbul and the spectacular Luzon Hornbill (Tarictic).

Aptenia cordifolia

Baby Sun Rose. A native of the coastal plains of South Africa, this plant makes an excellent ground cover. It reaches a spread of 2 feet or more and a height of 4 to 6 in. It blooms throughout the year and its flowers are 1 in across, purplish red and resemble daisies. Its leaves are small and thick.

Aptenia cordifolia needs full sun and well-drained soil. A drought-tolerant (and salt-tolerant) plant, it should be watered only when it is thoroughly dry. An internet source does not recommend the use of fertilizer with this plant. Stringy stems should be removed to promote growth.

In addition to its use as ground cover, it makes a good pot plant and can be used at the foot of taller plants in pots and allowed to climb over the pot rims. (Info sources: various interset sites)

Artabotrys hexapetalus (L.f.) Bhand

Climbing ylang-ylang. Described by internet sources as a woody climber with a spiny trunk. Bears fragrant six-petal fleshy flowers that are greeny yellow at first, turning yellow-green as they age. The leaves, up to 15 cm in length, are dull green. Also said to bear fleshy yellow berry-like fruit in clusters of up to 25.

Synonym: Artabotrys odoratissimus.

Ylang-ylang climber; hara-champa. Described by the Web as a 2-3.5 metre woody climber which climbs with a curved hook developed from flower stamens. Can be allowed to become a dense evergreen shrub bearing fragrant light green flowers which turn yellow with age. Main flowering season: summer and the rains. Needs the full sun to flourish. Propagated by seed or ripe cuttings.

Asplenium musifolium

Giant bird’s nest; dapong babae, pakpak lawin babae. Epiphytic fern similar to A. nidus but with much longer and much wider leaves. (My plant has leaves that are about 170 cm long and 23 cm at their widest point.) Will adjust to full sun but prefers light shade. Tolerates a dry spell but does best with frequent watering. Propagation is by spores, which often sprout in moist areas around the parent plant.

Asplenium nidus L

Bird’s nest fern, dapong lalaki, pugad lawin. Epiphytic fern. Requires abundant moisture and shade for optimum growth. Propagated by spores. Garden centres say that they can get used to the sun.

Atriplex halimus

Silver dust; Mediterranean saltbush. The variety that is known as ‘Silver Dust’ in the Philippines has attractive silver-grey leaves and small light purple flowers. It is drought resistant and can be pruned quite closely.