08 Sep 2019


Cineraria | Photos by the writer
Cineraria | Photos by the writer

Q. I have planted Alstonia scholaris about five feet away from the main wall that has a strong base, including iron. Is it okay to let the tree grow or should I change its place, although that would be difficult now?

A. You omitted to mention the age/size of the tree. But, difficult as it may be, if at all possible the tree should be relocated. Alstonia scholaris can eventually reach a height of as much as 40 metres and develop an extensive root system to support its height and width. These attractive trees, especially when in flower, are well-known for breaking up footpaths and road surfaces. Even a strong wall with a reinforced base will not stand up to the determined tree roots for an endless length of time. Please transfer it to a location where it has the space it needs both above and below the ground, ensuring that it will not interfere with any underground pipes/cables either. To minimise transplantation shock, it is best not to move it until the weather cools down towards the end of the year.

Q. My son planted a mango seed in a small bed outside our house a few years ago. It is now about eight feet tall. I am being told that it should be cut down otherwise its root system will destroy the wall and the drawing room floor. Please advise on what can be done.

All your gardening queries answered here

A. It would be preferable to move the tree to a different location where it has plenty of space to grow to maturity and, hopefully, provide a seasonal bounty of delicious fruit in time. Please read the answer to the preceding question and follow the same advice.

Q. I work at Jhimpir site in Sindh and want to grow indigenous varieties of trees there. We have already planted about 150 trees, including neem, gulmohar and neel gum but they grow very slowly. Please recommend some fast-growing species.

A. Peepal, jamun, Alstonia scholaris immediately spring to mind. You may also like to consider the following: Albizzia lebbek (siris), Melia azadirachta (neem), Cassia siamea, Thespesia populnea (tulip tree), Acacia varieties, Cassia marginata (red cassia), Bombax malabaricum (silk cotton tree), madre, ashok and Cassia grandis (horse cassia), plus, check with the closest forest nursery to see what they have available.

Q. I bought an umbrella plant (Schefflera arbricola) last year. Despite being watered three times a month, it didn’t grow any new leaves for six months. When I began watering it once a week, the leaves rotted and the plant died. The same thing happened to the one I bought to replace it. How can I grow this plant indoors in a pot?

Mature Alstonia scholaris
Mature Alstonia scholaris

A. This type of umbrella plant requires watering regularly — at least twice a week throughout the summer and once a week in winter — in order to thrive. They also need lots of natural light. They do well in pots providing the soil does not become waterlogged, so please ensure that the drainage hole in the base of the pot is doing its job. These air purifying plants are usually very easy to grow and maintain, and I hope you have will better luck next time.

Q. Last year you mentioned that raspberries may be available via an internet plant business in Lahore. Please provide details. I am also looking for blackcurrant plants or seeds. I reside in Nowshera.

A. It is against this paper’s policy to name businesses in this column. Please look for a supplier in the advertising section of the newspaper. If this fails to provide a solution, join one of the numerous social media gardening pages specific to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and request its members for the relevant information.

Q. Please advise on some beautiful flowering plants that I can grow outside my window, in pots, in Islamabad. The location gets two hours of sunshine, from 1-3 pm. I tried rose bushes but whilst they were full of leaves, they failed to flower.

A. Roses need at least four to six hours of sunlight each day in order to bloom, hence the lack of flowers on your plants. The location you describe is not sunny enough for the majority of flowering plants but you may like to try begonias, Impatiens (busy lizzies), fuchsia, lobelia, primula varieties, rudbekias, salpiglossis, anemone corms, sweet scented violets, cineraria and hostas and coleus for their ornamental leaves. Jasmine is worth a try, too. All of these should be available in Islamabad nurseries over the coming weeks and months.


Q. I have long been puzzled as to why questions with attachments are not accepted. Surely, it would be of great help if people can submit photographs showing the problems they have with plants.

A. Yes, it would be helpful but problematic, too. The photographs would each need to be published alongside the questions. This would, unfortunately, greatly impinge on column space. Plus, photographs need to be of a reasonable standard and clarity and, judging from past experience, this is rarely the case.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened.

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 8th, 2019