Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in March / April 2018 – (Countdown: 17)

So, what have I learnt after seven years of seaside tropical garden pot gardening?  I would need to read all my blogs on this topic to recall.  Here are a few things, though.

  • So far I haven’t found anyone or anything that can offer good advice.
  • Get some plants from your neighbours if you can – if they grow next door you can probably grow them.
  • The plants that grow quite easily for me in pots and with sea air are:
    • Torch Ginger
    • Pandan
    • Hibiscus
    • Bougainvillea
    • Mock Orange
    • Duranta
    • Lemongrass
    • Lime tree
    • Blue pea
    • Papaya
    • Basil
    • Passion fruit
    • Canna lily
    • Mother-in-law tongue
    • Pumpkin
    • Neem
    • Curry plant
    • Aloe Vera
    • Plumbago
    • Roselle
    • Ginger
    • Tumeric
  • The plants I have had little luck with include:
    • Tomatoes – they grow from the compost, but at best supply one fruit, and then wilt and die. The one tomato is delicious, though.  Packets of seeds I have bought never did any better.
    • Rosemary – we kept plants for quite a whil, but some black bugs kept on attacking it, and it eventually succumbed
    • Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes
  • Some plants are only happy growing at ground level – others don’t mind balconies higher up etc.
  • Some plants seem to follow the northern hemisphere planting seasons
  • Composting works, so you can grow organically
  • Deliberately putting seeds into the compost is a good way to get them to germinate.  Particularly pumpkins and passion fruit.
  • Some plants don’t mind being transplanted, but some do. Papaya are better to seed where you want them to grow, for example.

We expected it to rain while we were away, but it didn’t so some plants suffered a lot and required heavy pruning and a lot of watering to help them recover. One of the lime trees was the most affected, and had to be the most heavily pruned. One basil plant died.  Others have all recovered.

Here are some of our plants:



mini-eggplant tree

crepe ginger

lemon grass

kobu lime

rosemary and grape, which grew out of the compost

basil and mother-in-law’s tongue


aloe vera

plumbago – pruned a lot due to dryness of weather


I don’t knw the name of this one


grape vine

various plants in lane

various plants in lane – citrus, mock orange, crepe ginger…


crepe ginger, curry plant…

papaya and citrus

lemon grass

small papaya

Bougainvillea and others

aloe vera

I don’t knw the name of this one, but it’s easy to grow and survies not watering well


lemon grass

I don’t knw the name of this one




young crepe ginger

crepe ginger

mostly mock orange

Canna Lily

lime tree

pumpkin vine

mung beans trying to germinate passion fruit

aloe vera




mock orange

lime tree


Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in January/February 2018

The four month cool and wet spell lasted into January, and then at last it warmed up as we approached Chinese New Year.  Thereafter it was hot and rained only occasionally of an evening. I have to water the plants almost every day now.

Canna Lilies happily grow and bloom all year.

this I grew from two cuttings from another crepe ginger – now there are over 10 stems

a young lime tree – some of its first fruit – still small

plumbago seems to be happy in this spot

I normally prune the passion fruit vines at this time of year – dry the cuttings in the sun, and then put on top of the soil to add nutrition back

I had put a lot of pumpkin seeds in the compost, so now in places where I’ve put the compost sometimes pumpkin plants appear. Then I transplant them. This grew from a tiny transplanted plant.

Another pumpkin plant I recently transplanted.

Lots of baby lines on my original lime tree

Over 60 passion fruit are on the vines now

I’m growing several papaya on the roof – today the first flower opened

Aloe Vera like this spot – I should harvest soon. They always have little babies growing nearby so there is always another crop coming

bought from Cold Storage – this plant is struggling

Basil is OK here

Mock Oranges are usually doing well

some of the many passion fruit growing

passion fruit I recently picked – or fell to the floor

these are very easy care – just water occasionally

some more crepe ginger plants


Duranta are happy if they have plenty of water


mini-eggplants. Great in soup.

So many mini-eggplants grow on one tree in a big pot

We’re spreading crepe ginger all over the place. So easy to care for and they look great.

One of our pandan collection

The original crepe ginger plant, from which we’ve cultivated about 15 pots

just starting cultivating more crepe ginger plants – it takes a few weeks.

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in September/October 2017

Well, it rained most days during September and the first half of October, with floods sometimes in parts of Penang. And then it stopped raining – except for once a week or so. Thus today, Sunday is the first sunny Sunday for a while.

Another quiet couple of months, then.

Not all that much happening in the back lane garden

This papaya almost died – when there is heavy rain one papaya sometimes dies. As I can’t get any seeds to germinate there at the moment, eventually, as has happened over the years, all papayas die. One smaller one did die. So only three left

Crepe Ginger very healthy

Crepe Ginger very healthy

the grape vine still OK

the grape vine even has a few grapes

pandan trees doing well

we can harvest some mini-eggplants every week – great in soups and curries and stews

the neem tree is getting huge

cuttings from crepe ginger to cultivate

these are so easy to cultivate and care for we’re cultivating more

rosemary gets attacked sometimes by a black bug or fungus

my attempt at cultivating crepe ginger is working out

papayas germinated from seed

basil is happy

papayas germinated from seed

my oldest papaya has had its trunk attacked so may not survive another year. Being in a pot it never fruited, but it looked nice

Passionfruit really need sun to ripen, and there has been so little for months due to rain.

So now some passion fruit are just dropping to the ground without the skin changing colour much if at all. But inside they are often ripe and yummy.

Some passion fruit seeds from different fruit to germinate next February

growing some food and medicines at home in Penang

Being very near the sea, and growing plants mostly in pots it’s not so easy, but gradually we’ve been able to learn to grow food and some medicines at home.

There’s also aquaculture and vertical gardening to look into sometime, but the former costs more for the equipment, and both probably need more or less daily maintenance.

Here is what we’re growing at the moment:

tiny eggplants growing

tiny eggplants – great in curry – they taste a bit like bitter peas, but they are generally about 50% bigger

Pumpkin vine growing – no pumpkins yet this year,but we got quite a few previous years

crepe ginger sprouts growing

I collected a lot of sprouts this morning – good raw sprinkled on salads or curry

passion fruit on the vine – so far this season the squirrels haven’t attacked them, so I can let them ripen on the vine

a few ripe passion fruit

passion fruit growing

lime and neem



small limes

neem – to deter insects

pandan – use for wrapping food

a medium size lime

keffir lime – both the fruit and the leaves are useful. The leaves for mojitos and baths, the fruit for shower gels


roselle – jam etc.

lemon grass – tea, in baths etc.

basil – in pasta, stews

aloe vera – to drink and to put in home-made shower gel

rosemary – in stews, pasta etc.

more lemon grass

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in August 2017

It’s rained often on consecutive days, and then not rained also for several days – but overall it’s quite cool and there hasn’t been so much sun.  The plants mostly soldier on.

At the moment what we can eat from the garden are the ginger poker sprouts – nice in salads or desserts; rosemary, basil, passion fruit, limes, mini eggplants, aloe vera, roselle… and I’m hoping for papaya reasonably soon, and lemons sometime. Pandan is growing well here and there, so we’ll be able to do something with that, too.

back garden

papaya growing

tree getting taller

citrus in the sun growing fast

a small papaya has come up – a lot of competition so it is growing slowly

the grape vine survives

the white Bougainvillea is particularly happy


Canna Lily having a bit of a rest

after repotting the citrus is growing a lot on the previously bare lower branches

I left the limes a bit too long on the tree – they are yellow

It’s supposed to be hot, but instead cool and wet – so we have flowers and many unripe fruit

passion fruit flower

I have to pick them green or the squirrels get them

some limes I picked

birdie breakfast

birdie breakfast

birdie breakfast in the compost

birdie breakfast in the compost

birdie breakfast in the compost

the bird comes every day for the open compost container

papaya earlier in the month

papaya in a pot – it won’t fruit, but it’s decoration

plumbago battle on

ginger poker propagation

one of the many ginger poker around our place



rosemary – after a battle with bugs

we eat the sprouts in salads

and we eat the little eggplants from this plant

the citrus in the sun grow quickly


the pumpkin vine is growing fast – often where I don’t want it to grow

the bird often leaves leftovers lying around after it’s eaten

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in June-July 2017

Over these two months it’s rained a lot and every day sometimes, and otherwise just once every few days.  Recently the latter.

at last a lemon is growing

so many little eggplants


another citrus and others


mother-in-law’s tongue

aloe vera

this mock orange first appeared in another pot, and now is happily growing bigger

this was the original ginger poker, which our neighbour kindly gave us. Now we have propagated it and have lots growing in all our gardens

this was the original ginger poker, which our neighbour kindly gave us. Now we have propagated it and have lots growing in all our gardens

this was the original ginger poker, which our neighbour kindly gave us. Now we have propagated it and have lots growing in all our gardens



another ginger poker




cultivating ginger poker

you can see the babies coming up

Canna Lily – always one blooming



a papaya

passion fruit growing

this citrus needs repotting as it’s grown big

leaves are drying before composting

a tiny mock orange that appeared in the garden

aloe vera

the back garden –  on the right a papaya has appeared

one of the cultivated ginger pokers – now it’s big


roselle plants grew quickly

hibiscus – the only surviving one at the back


this papaya has really grown = mealy bugs are their enemies, and I have to clean them off sometimes

tiny papaya fruit on the way

the citrus support the papaya until the papaya grow bigger, and then the papaya support the citrus

a couple of citrus

passion fruit flower


Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in May 2017

I have written 888 blogs so far. This is the 889th.

This month it has rained every second or third day, sometimes only a little, but sometimes heavily.

There appears to be some water works being done somewhere, and the water pressure at home has often been very poor, making it hard to water the garden when I have no rain water left.  So the best way has been to fill a big bin with water and come back five or ten minutes later when it has finally become full, and then use a ladle and or bucket to water.  This is actually a very quick way.

Our neighbour created a garden at the back, and we have filled it with plants.  This has been the main gardening activity this month. It’s so much easier for plants to survive in the ground, and much less work to maintain them.

grasshopper – only one, so I left him alone – he didn’t eat too much

grasshopper – only one, so I left him alone – he didn’t eat too much

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

part of the new back garden – just starting to fill it with plants

more plants

more plants – there are mock orange, mother-in-law tongues, aloe vera, Canna Lily, ginger poker, citrus (planted after photo) and a couple more plants I can’t name

I planted a tiny citrus plant – the next day it had totally disappeared.

I planted a tiny passion fruit plant – the next day it had totally disappeared.


We moved the grape vine to where it could grow more – and in a bigger pot

passion fruit are growing

growing new papaya trees

the lime tree has a lot of limes, now – it took a few years before it fruited well

duranta is happy so long as it has water

rosemary – not too much water – but it doesn;t want to be too dry either

mini egg plants – growing in a pot

aloe vera growing

aloe vera picked for juicing


aloe vera growing

Bougainvillea has kept blooming through everything

ginger poker are so nice

this plant is easy to propagate, has shallow roots and survives easily with little maintenance


Canna lily keeps on blooming


basil – have to water every day

papaya getting bigger

Plumbago seem to like semi-shade and water. They are very happy in their present position

A neighbour gave us some pandan. We’d been hoping to get some for a long time.

the egg plant plant – had to cut off the top half as something decimated its leaves

This citrus wasn’t happy upstairs, with yellow leaves, so I transplanted it into the back garden

papaya growing strongly – some have flower buds already

lemon grass was attacked by something – this was where the little passion fruit plant disappeared from

I put in a lot of blue pea flower seeds. Some have germinated now and have started growing.

Borapet plant?

something attacked this plant

I got a few cherry tomatoes from this plant, but it was riddled with mealy bugs and I had to pull it out, sadly

So it’s been a busy month, and what with rain and sunshine plants are generally growing well.